Friday, April 28, 2017 0 comments

They shall take up serpents and other promises

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:16-18)

I have wondered about that promise that those who believe shall take up serpents. I know of at least one Christian denomination that takes this literally and incorporates snake handling in their worship services. It’s enough to make me wonder, “Is this a special-occasion promise for when we have to move snakes?”  We are so isolated from the natural world, especially in developed countries, that occasions for running across snakes are few and far between, and when we find them, we know better than to pick them up. We leave them thoroughly alone.

So why this promise that believers in Christ will take up serpents?

As I thought about this, I seemed to me that Jesus meant it as a physical image to describe a spiritual reality. The serpents can represent temptation. Just like it is dangerous to pick up snakes, it is also a dangerous thing to pick up temptation and hold it without letting it bite you.  Saints prefer to avoid temptation, but occasionally situations may come up when a Saint, in the course of his or her calling or doing his or her duty, must go into a situation of temptation and endure it without giving in.  That is like taking up a serpent.  It is hard to be specific about what the temptation might be.

Apparently Jesus anticipated that the Saints would face these situations from time to time, and His promise here is an implicit reassurance that He will make safety possible. Belief in Him will make it so.

What about the promise that believers will speak with new tongues?  A tongue is a language. How can someone speak a new language and still be understood? If it is new, then it hasn’t been around, and it is unlikely that others would understand it.

I think the Book of Mormon gives a hint when it says angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and speak the words of Christ. Extrapolating from that, speaking a new tongue is speaking by the Holy Ghost, especially because of how conversion makes a person new. 

But what about people who have been in the church all their lives, gained testimonies, stayed faithful, and all that? How do they speak with new tongues if it seems like they’ve always “had it”?

Maybe new tongues can also refer to how believers will keep finding new ways to express their testimony and understanding of Christ’s atonement and what it has done for them. To them it will be as though their language is new, and to those who hear them, it will express newness and life as well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 2 comments

Meeting Fellow Saints by Seeming Chance

D&C 62’s section heading tells of an interesting incident that was the occasion of that revelation:

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, on the bank of the Missouri River at Chariton, Missouri, August 13, 1831. On this day the Prophet and his group, who were on their way from Independence to Kirtland, met several elders who were on their way to the land of Zion, and, after joyful salutations, received this revelation.

When you think about it, Zion and Kirtland were so far apart that there were any number of different routes the two separate parties could have taken that would have resulted in their never meeting at all. And at that time in 1831, the church was so small that the chances of meeting another member were very slim. That being said, with centers in Zion and Kirtland, outside of these two different places there would be a higher chance of meeting other Saints on a line traveling between the two places, but any number of circumstances could have prevented their meeting. So meeting at all was a tender mercy, and I think both parties were probably were aware of that.

In verse 6, the Lord says about their meeting:

Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri. I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie.

The Lord had brought them together to preserve them and so they could rejoice. I think the same is still true today, even if it is not in Missouri. Unexpectedly meeting or finding other Saints is always a joyous occasion, and when they are close friends it is even more thrilling. I can think of a number of times when unexpectedly meeting other Saints—family, friends, member acquaintances—became a tender mercy and even saved me from feeling a bit low or lonely.

Once I went to the temple for comfort about an old friend who had fallen away. In the celestial room I happened to meet another old friend, one whom I had never expected to see again. That joy swallowed up my sorrow.

Another time I was in the Bankok airport alone, feeling a bit lonely, when I ran into some sister missionaries who were traveling home at the end of their missions. Just being with them perked me right up.

Another time my husband and I were vacationing in an out-of-the-way place in Colorado (Silverton), and the restaurant we stopped to eat at was run by a Latter-day Saint who noticed our BYU shirts. We had a great chat with her. That became one of the highlights of that trip for us.

Once my husband and I were on BYU campus attending Education Week when we ran into my cousin Tamera, who was dropping off her daughter for her freshman year. Considering how crowded the campus can be and the myriad of classes and interests Saints can have, I felt it was a great blessing to have bumped into her. (No, I didn’t knock her down. Haha.) We made sure to schedule a dinner get-together to catch up even more, and we included my siblings who lived in the area. The more the merrier!

It is special to me that the Lord wanted Joseph Smith to know this apparently chance meeting with the other group of elders was not chance. The Lord brings us together to strengthen and preserve us and to lift our spirits to rejoicing. We can expect this blessing to continue far into the future.

Can you tell me of times when you were brought together with other members seemingly by chance (but really by the Lord)?

Sunday, April 23, 2017 2 comments

All the Paths in Lehi’s Dream

28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. . . .
31 And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.
32 And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads. (1 Nephi 8: 28, 31-32)

These verses stuck out to me recently. It was surprising to me to realize that there wasn’t just the strait and narrow path in Lehi’s dream. It wasn’t the only road in the field. There were forbidden paths (probably dangerous) and strange paths (strange probably in the sense of “foreign”).

We don’t know much about how Lehi knew those paths were forbidden or strange. Maybe it was one of those things that you just know in a dream without having to be told.

But all those people took those paths for some reason, thinking the paths would take them someplace they wanted.

1) People headed for the great and spacious building. Why? Because they wanted pride and to feel superior and to look down at and scorn people.

2) People who were at the tree and who were ashamed of partaking of the fruit wanted something else—approval of crowds?—more than the fruit, or love of God.

3) What about the people wandering in strange roads and forbidden paths? What was at the end of those roads that they wanted? We don’t know, but odds are it was something forbidden and strange, respectively.

Among all these different paths, there is the path to the tree of life (love of God). The people who got to the tree and stayed there did it because that’s what they wanted. 

In thinking about all these paths as representations of ways people take to get what they want, it has made me examine my motives and why I do what I do to keep the commandments. Do I do it because I know I should and that’s how I was taught? Yes. Do I do it because I love the Lord and want more of His love in my life? How strong a motive is my love of God and desire to receive His love?  For me I think it is subconscious. Truthfully, I think a bit more about God’s blessings than His love.  Perhaps that’s something I can work on.

So here’s a question to ponder today: what do you want most deep down, and what road are you taking to get it? Do you know why you want it? Whatever you and I want, we think it will make us happy. Will it?  Is God’s love involved?
Friday, April 21, 2017 1 comments

How Lehi Comes to the Tree of Life: A Faster Way?

10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. (1 Nephi 8:10-11)

I was reading through the account of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life, and I suddenly noticed Lehi’s method of getting to the tree is a bit different than the other ways he describes. He doesn’t notice a path or an iron rod. He sees the tree, knows what it offers to him, and he goes forth and partakes of the fruit. It is like he is so focused on it that there are no obstacles, no distractions in his way.

Then, when at the tree, he looks around and wants other people to have it too. Then he begins to see the obstacles and distractions that others deal with. In the case of his family, they don’t seem to know which way to go, so Lehi calls to them to get to the path, and some grab the path and the tree while others want the great and spacious building.

I wonder if this difference in methods tells us that there is a faster way to the tree (the love of God) than the path and the iron rod. It seems like Lehi’s focus on the tree—see, want, get—gets him there faster. It reminds me of some stories of converts who as soon as they hear, they accept, act, and are blessed.  There have been a few gospel principles that I have adopted into my life that way. Others I have had to be convinced of over time through scripture study and my own experience and experimenting on the word.

So, I have to ask myself, do I see an offer of God’s love for me? Do I act to lay hold on it, or am I brought to the love of God through obedience and scripture study? I think I’ve been brought to it more gradually, but noticing this in Lehi’s dream shows me I could try looking for God’s love being offered me and act to respond.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1 comments

Insanely great blessings to those who fear and serve the Lord

5 For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
6 Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.
7 And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
8 Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
9 And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.
10 For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man. (D&C 76:5-10)

I love these verses. I get the sense that Heavenly Father aches for us to know just how much He can bless us if we will serve Him in righteousness to the end.

He promises mercy, grace (enabling power), and honor from God (not necessarily honors of men), and great revelations, even about things to come. 

When you look carefully, four of those verses are spent just talking about the revelations God promises:
--all mysteries
--hidden mysteries of God’s kingdom from days of old and for ages to come
--the good pleasure of God’s will about all the things of God’s kingdom
--wonders of eternity
--things to come
--things of many generations
--great wisdom
--understanding even heaven itself
--enlightenment by the Spirit
--secrets of God’s will
--things no one has seen, heard, or conceived

The rest of D& 76 is an example of this because of how it reveals the principle of the three degrees of glory and explains the status of those who inherit the various degrees.

I get the sense that if we were to be blessed how v7-10 were described  it would probably be pretty evident that it wasn’t the kind of thing we could go blabbing around.  We’d have to keep it to ourselves.  Thus, you probably wouldn’t hear anything about other Saints being blessed this way either.  So if we were blessed, we would simply have to have faith that there were others that had those blessings too, rather than thinking we were the only ones. (That “I’m the special one” attitude gets us in trouble eventually.)

I have faith that it doesn’t matter what office a Saint holds in the church or how lowly their station. God is no respecter of persons, so if any of us are faithful, those blessing can be ours, whether we’re in leadership or not.

What do you think it means when it says, “before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught”?
Monday, April 17, 2017 0 comments

Character of the Jewish Elders in Jerusalem in Nephi’s day

There’s an interesting series of observations we can make about the Jewish elders in Jerusalem from the details Nephi provides in his interactions with Laban and Zoram.

First, when Nephi finds Laban drunk, we get this:

7 Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.
8 And when I came to him I found that it was Laban. (1 Nephi 4:7-8)

Laban is in a drunken stupor. Fact.

Then when Nephi is dressed as Laban, we get this detail:

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them. (1 Nephi 4:22)

So Laban has been out by night among the elders of the Jews, and he got falling-down drunk. Is it logical to think that Laban was the only one of the gathering who got drunk? Probably not. That means it was a party of drunk people. And these are the elders of the Jews. They are supposed to be the righteous ones, the decision-makers, the wise ones, the ruling body.  But they are getting together to party and get drunk.  That is definitely the wrong kind of elders’ quorum party right there.

Then we get some other interesting info in some other verses:

24 And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls….
26 And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.
27 And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls. (1 Nephi 4:24, 26-27)

If Zoram had known about the drunken character of the elders’ parties, he would have found this Laban’s sudden interest in retrieving the plates and taking them to “brethren outside the walls” odd, unusual, and suspiciously out-of-character.  Drunken loutish bully has suddenly turned pious and wants to give/show archived scriptures to someone outside the city?  Hmmm…

But Zoram doesn’t seem to have any idea that this is out of character, which means it may be possible that Laban had concealed what was happening with the elders.

What does this add up to? Hypocrisy among the elders.  Meeting to party and drink themselves into a stupor while everyone else thought they were taking care of important business and making momentous, important decisions. They were taking the status of their position and using it to cloak their self-indulgence and decadence.  It seems that part of their wickedness was the fact that they were hiding it and not repenting of it. (This could also explain why Laman and Lemuel later argued against Nephi that the Jews at Jerusalem were righteous and Lehi had judged them unfairly.)

Would these elders be able to handle a real crisis when it comes up? Probably not. They were destroying their character instead of building it up.

I think the lesson for us today is to avoid hypocrisy. If we say we’re busy because we’re engaged in something important, we’d better be doing important stuff and not mucking about wasting time. We'd better be repenting and not hiding our sins.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 0 comments

Nephi gets Laman and Lemuel’s blessings

When Lehi and his family leave Jerusalem, they camp near a river’s outlet to the Red Sea, and Lehi tries to use the geographical features around them to teach his sons how they need to be.

9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart. (1 Nephi 2:9-11)

To me it is obvious that Lehi hoped the way rivers continually run to the ocean would be a good illustration to Laman of how he should continually run toward the Lord.

But I have often been puzzled that Lehi pointed out the desirable qualities of the valley to Lemuel as being firm, steadfast, and immoveable, especially when it would be much more obvious to say the most desirable quality that Lemuel needed most was humility, which perfectly matched the obvious lowness of valleys.

But maybe Lehi hoped that message would go without saying and called attention to other desirable qualities of valleys that he hoped Lemuel would decide to cultivate.

Overall, the characteristics of continually running into the fountain of all righteousness and steadfastness (and humility) are great ones for anyone to acquire.

In that same chapter, Nephi tells of how he cried to the Lord because he wanted to know the mysteries of God and the Lord softened his heart so he believed and didn’t rebel. When he prays for Laman and Lemuel, the Lord commends him with these words:

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. (1 Nephi 2:19)

The very qualities Lehi wanted for Laman and Lemuel, Nephi was acquiring, so Nephi was gaining blessings that his brothers could have had if they had only listened.

Starting today, let’s seek the Lord diligently, with a humble heart.

Thursday, April 13, 2017 2 comments

Seeing clearly with the heart.

President Uchtdorf, in last October’s general women’s session quoted a piece from The Little Prince: “One sees clearly, only with the heart.” I've thought about it off and on since then.

This reminded me that from time to time I hear the message in movies: “Listen to your heart.”  That message has always puzzled me because growing up in the church I have heard the message “Listen to the Holy Ghost” much more, and I trust that a lot more than a message of “Listen to your heart.”  Why should I listen to myself? I don’t always want the right things.

Recently I figured out what that message of “listen to your heart” is really trying to say, and also that idea of seeing clearly with your heart. 

We all have a place deep down inside that knows what is right and wrong. It’s the conscience, the light of Christ. It tells us with radical, sometimes painful honesty the truth about what we are doing and what we should do.

“Listen to your heart” is about having the courage to face that and admit it is truthful. It takes being honest with ourselves to acknowledge and follow it.

Do we see clearly only with the heart? Yes. The heart--our conscience--tells the truth.

The neat thing I’ve discovered on top of that is that while there is the natural man that whines and complains about not wanting to do hard things, there is also a part of me that resonates with my conscience, that rejoices in what it says and raises a fist and shouts, “Yes!” and is eager to follow it.  That’s the spiritual part of me, the part that is a daughter of God, the part that is fearless and loves the truth. That’s the real me that I want to develop further by doing what’s right.

I suppose that counsel to listen to your heart was developed as a way to give a religious message without sounding religious. I just don’t care for how it sounds too much like advice to listen to your desires rather than your conscience.

In what way do you think seeing with the heart helps us see clearly? What have you seen with your heart that you would have missed otherwise?
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 0 comments

Satan wanted to sift Peter as wheat

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22:31-32)

This little bit happened at the last supper as Jesus gave instructions to His disciples.

For a long time I wondered what was meant by “that he may sift you as wheat” and what was bad about it. In my head it evoked an image of a person with wheat on a screen and trying to force it through to strain out the non-wheat. But that confused me because it seemed more like a purification message. But Satan doesn’t want to purify us. So I knew I wasn’t getting something.

Finally, I realized that Jesus didn’t mean “putting through or filtering,” he meant the “shaking” part.  Because sieves have to be shaken hard to get the wheat through. The image of sifting is that of trying to make us feel unstable in our faith and jerked back and forth by what's going on around us. That made a lot more sense. Satan does want to shake us; he wants to keep us from moving forward in faith.

Also, it was an appropriate time for Jesus to warn Peter of this. Jesus had preached that His followers were to have faith in Him, and then Jesus was about to allow Himself to be taken, tried, condemned, beated, mocked, whipped, and crucified to sacrifice His life.  He knew it might shake their faith. He knew Peter, as chief apostle, would have an especially hard time with it.

The JST has another interesting bit. “Satan hath desired you, that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat.”  This tells us that Satan didn’t just want to shake Peter; he wanted to take possession of him and thereby shake the rest of the kingdom of God. This tells us how important it is for leaders of the church to keep their faith strong so that they can help strengthen the rest of the church.

I think the verses also have two important principles to help when Satan tries to shake us: prayer (praying for ourselves and others) and preventing our faith from failing. Fervent prayer is a great way of re-orienting my wandering or sin-enticed or fearful thoughts toward Christ. Also, I know by experience that if I continue to act—keeping the commandments, doing my duty—that keeps my faith from weakening. Action builds faith, and faith leads to action. “Tis better far for us to strive, our useless cares from us to drive.”  

I can also testify that our Heavenly Father continues to warn us of difficult experiences that we will have to face. I've seen that in my life. I haven't been warned of everything difficult, but I've been warned of enough things that I can testify of it. It has showed me that Heavenly Father knows the end from the beginning, that He knows me, and that He knows when a warning will help me better than allowing me to walk through it blindly. Getting the warning doesn't make me special, it just means that Heavenly Father knows I need it for my salvation and deliverance.
Friday, April 7, 2017 2 comments

A Woman’s Part in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. (D&C 84:33-39)

When I have read these verses, I have usually only read it with reference to men. However, recently I saw this block of verses in a different context that showed me where I and other faithful women fit in it. (Hint: It's not terribly controversial..)

The context was in a flyer our stake leaders handed out at ward conference to highlight the stake theme for the year about ordinances. All the ordinances were listed with a scripture about them. For the Melchizedek priesthood ordinances, v35-38 were given from the block above.  Read just those verses and see how it changes your perspective.

I particularly noticed verse 35 & 36. They who receive the priesthood, receive Jesus. And they that receive Jesus’s servants, receive Jesus. As a woman, I read that and I thought, I can’t receive the priesthood. Ah! But I can receive Jesus’s servants who have the priesthood, and that is still receiving Jesus.  I don’t care if the verse says “he” there; I can apply that to myself.

So, I think faithful women have part in the oath and covenant of the priesthood by receiving God’s servants, receiving the ordinances and blessings they can give, and by supporting and sustaining them in that work. Thereby, women can receive Jesus, receive the Father, receive the Father’s kingdom, and be given all the Father hath.  I also see no reason why women can’t then also magnify their callings and claim the blessing of being sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. 

If I were to apply the above verses to women, I would probably read it this way:

33 For whoso is faithful unto the receiving of those who hold these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the daughters of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive these priesthood holders receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For she that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And she that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And she that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto her.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017 0 comments

Increase Our Faith

5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. (Luke 17:5-6)

How does this teach us how to increase our faith? In what way does a mustard seed have faith? What principle is being taught with this parable of commanding a tree to plant itself in the sea?

Let’s think about the mustard seed. It’s very small, insignificant even.  But it doesn’t think about how small it is, or the obstacles it faces, like the weight of the soil over it or the hardness of the ground under it. It simply does what it can, does what is told to do, which is grow upward and send roots downward.  

From this, I think the lesson is that no matter how insignificant a person is or how small, if they just follow the Lord’s instructions, their faith will grow.

What about this telling a sycamine tree to plant itself in the ocean?

I think this one is about the faith that apostles have to have. Apostles (and other church leaders) have to give instructions to the church, call them to repentance, etc. according to what the Lord wants them to do.

Without faith, I imagine there would be church leaders who would wonder if talking to the church members does any good, like talking to a tree. Telling people to repent is like telling a tree to uproot itself and replant in the ocean because 1) there is a high chance of being ignored, 2) and if obeyed, the person has to do it themselves. If a leader gets too worried about being ignored, it would be easy to think there is no point giving instructions at all.  But I think Jesus’s message is if they do and say what they are told (like the mustard seed), they will be obeyed.

I like these principles. They are pretty simple. Just do what you’re asked to do. Do the basics, the simple stuff—prayer, scripture study, church attendance, serve where you can, follow the Spirit--and you’ll grow.

Monday, April 3, 2017 2 comments

Some post-conference thoughts

Before conference started on Saturday, I turned on the TV and watched the introductory footage. In the past I have just sort of been bored by it, but for some reason this time my attention was caught as the camera zoomed in on the men and women interacting among the chairs of the general authorities.

I don’t know why I suddenly became so interested, but I did.  In fact, I was RIVETED, watching general authorities chatting with each other. They put arms around each other, they leaned toward their neighbor to chat with them, they pointed out things in the conference center to each other, they occasionally waved to people in the audience…  I saw the women leaders talking in little groups, some extremely close to each other. They held hands, they grasped arms and wrists or elbows.

I loved to see how friendly and affectionate they were. I could see the love they had for each other and for the members.  It was like a little glimpse into heaven.

Also the morning of Saturday conference, I had a general impression of things I was looking for guidance on, but as the Saturday morning session started, I was suddenly inspired to write very specific questions at the top of my notes.  As it turned out, that session of conference had so much stuff in it that directly answered those questions that I was absolutely astounded.  I’m pretty sure that if I had not written my questions, I would not been as alert to pick out the answers.

This was the first general conference in which I watched the priesthood session at home while my husband went to watch it at the stake center. (Previously, I just waited for it to come out in the May edition of the Ensign to find out what the men were talking about.)  I’m grateful I did, even if I didn’t have to.

The music was awesome, as always.  As a sidenote, it seemed we had an unusually large number of musical numbers consisting of different hymns juxtaposed on top of each other or medleys or overlaid contrasting melodies.  (Think “Love is Spoken Here” and “A Child’s Prayer”.)  I wonder how often this type of musical technique is used elsewhere outside of our church. I really don’t hear it anywhere else.

I loved the spiritually stuffed feeling I got at the end of both Saturday and Sunday after listening to all those talks.  Unlike physical food, where one reaches a point that having more is painful, spiritual food still tastes good, even after hours of it. 

Probably the most uncomfortable talk for me was Elder Renlund’s talk in which he talked about not putting off the Spirit’s promptings and following first impressions. Why was this hard for me? Because I am an impulsive person and I continually worry that my first promptings will get me in trouble somehow.  When I was younger, I did things on impulse that I thought were clever or inspired and journaled about those things, and when I got older I looked back and cringed over them.  So I started to institute delay in order to keep myself from doing something stupid.  So I tend to over-think things a lot now.  However, Elder Renlund’s talk has challenged me and I have more learning to do to tell the difference between the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts. I need more experience.

President Monson’s counsel to read the Book of Mormon resonated with me and actually was a second witness to our stake president’s counsel at our ward conference the Sunday before to read the Book of Mormon. So I’m going to do that.

So much to absorb!

In October 2016 conference, I noticed that up to that point I made notes about the conference talks, but I didn’t often reread the them when they came out in the Ensign. Over the last six months I’ve tried to do better at that, and I think I succeeded. I look forward to reading this conference’s talks.

What stuck out to you?
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 2 comments

Enoch sees God weeping like rain upon the mountains

27 And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? (Moses 7:27-28)

When I was reading this, the phrase “tears as rain upon the mountains” suddenly stuck out to me, and I wondered about it.  Why compare God’s tears to rain upon the mountains?  Why not rain on the plains or rain on the coast?  And what are we to learn from this?

I grew up in the plains in Illinois, and rain there is pretty steady. Usually it starts and goes pretty steadily throughout the day.     Then I came out to Utah to college at BYU, and I noticed rain in Utah had a different pattern. It would drip for maybe 10 minutes or so, and then start raining in earnest. (The dripping time was like a warning to run for the rain gear.) It would rain for a while, and then stop. And I’d think it was over, and then maybe an hour later it would rain again. It might rain several times in a day.  To me that was very peculiar.

It is possible that Enoch was referring to this kind of rain-in-the-mountains pattern—rain…[stop]…rain….[stop]….rain…[stop]—to convey the idea that as God watched the residue of the people—those who hadn’t accepted the gospel—He was moved to weep multiple times.  Like sometimes they are…okay…and other times they do such terrible things that God just cries over them.

Let’s not be the kind of people that God cries over like this. Instead let’s be the kind that He can watch and be pleased with for the whole day.
Monday, March 27, 2017 0 comments

Knowing the Father through Jesus

7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:7-10)

When I was reading this, it struck me that Jesus knew He looked like Heavenly Father, that He was saying what Heavenly Father would say and doing what Heavenly Father would do, so seeing Jesus was just like seeing Heavenly Father.  So everything we read about Jesus doing and saying is just as if Heavenly Father were doing and saying it—the healing, the teaching, the chastising, and so on.

This is striking in this era of individuality, when everyone wants to establish their own identity to separate themselves from everyone else. If Jesus wanted to be His won person, He never said anything about it, but rather spoke often about doing what His Father did, saying what His Father wanted Him to say. He said specifically, “I speak not these words of myself,” meaning they weren’t on His own impetus.

If only we could become more like this ourselves!

Friday, March 24, 2017 0 comments

Symbols of the Love of God

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God. (1 Nephi 11:25)

I was struck by this recently. This is during Nephi’s vision of the tree of life and the dream his father had.

I noticed that it wasn’t just a tree representing the love of God in this vision, but also a fountain of living waters. So I asked myself why both were there. What is it about a fountain and a tree that God wanted to use them both to represent His love?

A fountain flows and overflows continuously. And a tree grows and produces flowers and fruit.  There is motion and life and results from them.  That tells us something about the love of God. It’s active and it grows and it produces results/ fruits. 

I suppose that might be a good guide for what we can look for in our lives.  It also shows us how our love needs to be for our spouse, for our children, for people around us, and especially for God.

Can we say our love is flowing and overflowing and growing and fruiting?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 0 comments

When Callings Feel Hard

I remember the first time a calling started to feel difficult for me.  It was my first year at BYU. I and another boy in my ward were called to be leaders in a family home evening group of other college students.  We pretty much were to make sure family home evenings happened for our group and to coordinate time and place to meet.

I tended to be the driving force behind our group meeting. I don’t know why that was. Maybe my partner didn’t have regular family home evenings growing up and so didn’t feel strongly about it.  Or maybe he had a heavy load of coursework and it weighed on him such that he didn’t feel as urgently about having family home evening. 

Whatever the reason, I was usually the one calling him to plan what we were going to do.  Once we figured that out, I was the one calling members of our group to let them know meeting details.  (This was before cell phones started to become more ubiquitous, and before texting capability, so there was no sending a group text.)

I remember late one Monday afternoon sitting on my bed, eying the phone with distaste, knowing that I was going to have to push together another family home evening when I wanted nothing more than to relax and be the one pulled for a change.

I knew I needed some motivation, so in desperation I reached for my scriptures and flipped it open to some random page and started reading.  Here is the verse that caught my eye:

And now my beloved brethren, I have said these things unto you that I might awaken you to a sense of your duty to God, that ye may walk blameless before him, that ye may walk after the holy order of God, after which ye have been received. (Alma 7:22)

That verse gave me a jolt, like an awakening. It seemed to speak to my situation. What was my duty to God?  It was to make sure FHE happened. 

“that ye may walk blameless before him” – I envisioned Judgment day and how I would feel happy if I could look back and say I had done my duty.  And after all, it looking at it from a distant perspective, my duty didn’t seem so hard after all.  A few phone calls. 

That gave me the motivation to go pick up that phone and start.

I look back at that now and I shake my head at how silly I was.  But at the time I was young and it was a big deal. I had a lot of growing to do.

Here are some other scriptures I like that are closely related—good motivators for callings…

Holiness and foreordination

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (1 Timothy 1:9)

This scripture is probably talking about “holy calling” in the sense of being brought into the church, but I think it also applies to church callings too. They come by revelation. If you are like me, you probably have raised your eyebrows at some callings you’ve been given and thought, I have no idea why I have been asked to do this; there are people who could do a better job than me at this.  That’s when you know Heavenly Father has His own purposes, and the calling didn’t come because of anything we’ve done to deserve it. There’s foreordination in it, and it’s part of the Lord’s plan.

Case in point: I have no idea how my being in charge of that FHE group at BYU fit in the Lord’s plan or what its purpose was, but I have faith that it fulfilled its purpose.  It was the first time I had to push through an aspect of my calling that was hard.

Some of my callings I’ve said to myself, This has to be revelation, because I would not have chosen this. This is not the kind of thing I like.  There was one calling that I was mad about receiving, but I accepted anyway, and it turned out to be a big blessing.  I look back at it now and I see it as evidence that Heavenly Father knew me better than I knew myself. He knew I would love it, and He knew it would stretch me where I needed stretching.

Example: Stripling warriors

And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. (Alma 53:20)

This is about the stripling warriors, but I want that to be about me in my callings. I want to be valiant for courage, be strong, be active, and be true at all times to whatsoever thing has been entrusted to me.

Learning, action, diligence

99 Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
100 He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen. (D&C 107:99-100)

Two principles there: 1) learning our duty and 2) acting with diligence. If we don’t know what we’re supposed to do, we need to get training and get help until we know what we need to do.  Once we know, we need to do it.  Consistently.

Sometimes diligence is our big test.  Maybe we can pull off the big production once, but it is the tasks that must be done over and over and over again that can become a problem for us because we get so tired of them.  Or maybe we’re more into the calling when it is new and strange, but when it is old we might get a little slack at it.  When my callings feel old, I know I’m being trained to be diligent.

All are Needed to Keep the System Perfect

109 Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?
110 Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect. (D&C 84:109-110)

To me this one says there are no unimportant callings and each one is needed.  The image of the head dismissing the need for the feet teaches by negative analogy that leaders should not dismiss as unimportant the members who have the less-visible callings, because if those less-visible callings were eliminated, there would be hurt somewhere.  (“without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?”) 

By the way, I’ve noticed so many church leaders that are so good at thanking people who put together an event. I used to wonder why they took time for all those thank yous, but now I know that they understand this principle that every person’s contribution is important.

In the abstract, callings are a grouping of tasks that have to be done, but from the spiritual perspective, they are opportunities to practice charity and service for others.  They exist because there is work to be done to build the kingdom of God and to keep it running smoothly.  If we don’t think a particular calling is needed, we only need to think about what would be lost if it didn’t exist.

I also like that v110 says that with every member, all may be edified and the system is kept perfect. We all keep the system perfect!  We all edify each other!

Keep it up, Soldier!

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)

Sometimes callings are just hard, and we have to endure it. Good soldiers have to endure nasty conditions, and good Saints will too on occasion. 

What scriptures have helped you keep on with your callings?