Sunday, April 26, 2009

Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually

Today is a time of widespread economic crisis. Some feel the effects stronger than others. Some have lost their jobs and/or their homes and some are still employed and have a manageable mortgage. While certain of these effects from the difficult economic times could not and cannot be avoided by some people, many of the effects certainly could have and can be avoided.

The Lord has counseled us to live within our means, to avoid excessive debt, and to not covet or surround ourselves with many wants. Below are listed talks given by the Lord's prophets, apostles, and other general authorities.
These are talks devoted at least in part to counseling about debt and living within our means and I could list more. This does not include single statements made by prophets, seers, and revelators on the same topic. To see the numerous times the prophets and apostles have counseled against excessive debt, just search "excessive debt" in General Conference on the LDS.org search.

This week's article of the week is also about provident living and helps us learn how we can live well and be secure during the current economic times. The talk is entitled, "Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually," and was given by Elder Robert D. Hales at the most recent General Conference; the audio/video is found here.

Also, here is the link to the Church's provident living website which provides information and helps concerning such topics as emplyment, food storage, family finances, physical health, and emergency preparedness.

These current economic times affect each of us differently yet the Lord provides help and answers to each of us in our own unique situations. No matter what happens and no matter our own plight, our Father in Heaven loves us, watches over us, and cares for us. If we turn to Him, our troubles will not seem so harsh and if we do as He asks, we will not be so adversely affected by the troubles of the world.

Jeremy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Way of the Disciple

General Conference two weeks ago produced many phenomenal talks. Indeed, the counsel given us--the world--last conference is God's direct counsel to us for the next six months, the counsel given us that we may have peace in these confusing, perilous times.

In this world of changing values and shifting morals, we must build upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God (see Helaman 5:12). That when the rains descend, the floods come, and the winds blow, we fall not, because we have built upon the rock (see Matt 7:24-27). The Lord gave us His Gospel which has "the answers to our problems, to all of our problems. The gospel is not a secret, it is not complicated or hidden. It can unlock the door to true happiness. It is not someone's theory or proposition." Indeed, the Gospel is truth.

Living the gospel and receiving the associated blessings requires action, it requires that our discipleship be active and in this week's article, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf beautifully illustrates how we may become better disciples of Christ and what blessings active discipleship brings. The talk is entitled, "The Way of the Disciple" and was given two weeks ago today in General Conference. The link to the audio/video is here and this talk can be found in the Sunday morning session. I encourage you to not only read but listen to this talk.

One of my favorite parts was the story Elder Uchtdorf told of his friend who desired to strengthen his testimony. Elder Uchtdorf gave some suggestions to which his friend replied a week later. His friend said something to the effect of, "I tried what you suggested, it didn't work, what else have you got?" To which Elder Uchtdorf replies to all of us, "we have to stay with it. We don't acquire eternal life in a sprint; this is a race of endurnace. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them a part of our normal life."

Faith is active, the gospel is active, discipleship is active. What can we do to strengthen our testimonies of the Lord and His gospel and help others do the same?

Jeremy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday's Article of the Week

Today is Easter Sunday. Today, almost 2,000 years ago, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ arose from the grave and became the "firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor 15:20). This past week, almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, the greatest of all, suffered even that He did tremble because of pain, and did bleed at every pore, and suffered both body and spirit (see D&C 19:18). He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, He was wounded for our transgressions, and He did all this so that by His stripes we are healed (see Isaiah 53:4-5).

I would that all of us better understood the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; heaven knows I don't but that's what we're here for, to progress and learn how we can better apply the Atonement in our lives.

This week's talk certainly helps us with the goal of better understanding the Atonement. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave this talk just a week ago in the most recent General Conference. The talk is entitled, "None Were with Him" and is definitely one of the most powerful talks given at that conference. The link to the audio/video is here and I very strongly suggest listening to/watching this talk as opposed to simply reading it. Elder Holland speaks with such conviction and you will be able to feel the Spirit so strong as you listen to the apostle speak.

A small video made from an excerpt of this talk:




The Lord lives, He suffered for us, He died for us, and He rose for us. That I may so live and stand by Jesus Christ at all times and in all things and in all places is my goal.

Jeremy

Friday, April 3, 2009

Come, Listen to A Prophet's Voice

The 179th Annual General Conference of the Church will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 4-5, 2009. Here is the broadcast schedule.

General Conference is a wonderful thing! Think of the grand opportunity available to the inhabitants of the earth to hear from all of the apostles and numerous other general authorities! Elder Howard W. Hunter said, “Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives—a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors.” (Ensign, Nov 1981, p. 12.) Indeed, General Conference is a wonderful thing and we, as God’s children, are exceedingly blessed for it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Personal Revelation

What is Personal Revelation?

James E. Talmage, an apostle in the early 1900s, defined revelation thus: “Revelation signifies the making known of divine truth by communication from the heavens” (Articles of Faith, pp. 296-313). The distinction should be made between revelation and personal revelation. Bruce R. McConkie taught:

“Revelation comes from God to man in various appointed ways . . . The Lord appears personally to certain spiritually receptive persons; he speaks audibly by his own voice, on occasions, to those whose ears are attuned to the divine wave length; angels are sent from his presence to minister to deserving individuals; dreams and visions come from him to the faithful; he often speaks by the still small voice, the voice of the Spirit, the voice of prophecy and revelation; . . . and he gives his mind and will to receptive mortals in whatever ways seem appropriate as circumstances require.”
(Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1979, pp. 643-4)

Revelation in general is available to all of God’s children and comes to appointed persons such as prophets and apostles to benefit all of mankind. Personal revelation is communication from God personally to His children about personal affairs, questions, and struggles.

Elder McConkie continues:

‘Every devoted, obedient, and righteous person on the earth has and does receive revelation from God. Revelation is the natural inheritance of all the faithful. “No man can receive the Holy Ghost,” the Prophet [Joseph Smith] said, “without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” (Teachings [of the Prophet Joseph Smith], p.328.)’
(Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1979, p. 644)

Personal revelation is God’s way of teaching us whatsoever we righteously desire, both secular and spiritual. I believe that each time I’ve prayed for help on a test in school and the answer has come to me—that is personal revelation. I believe that each time I’ve prayed for help when faced with a decision in my life and felt a prompting what to do—that is personal revelation. And each time I’ve prayed for inspiration and knowledge concerning the things of God and received an answer—that is personal revelation.

Why is Personal Revelation Important?

The Lord establishes His teaching, doctrines, and church through revelation. In every age, including the meridian of time when Christ Himself was upon the earth, God has taught his children through revelation. Because of this, President John Taylor (third prophet of this dispensation) said, “The principle of present revelation … is the very foundation of our religion” (“Discourse by John Taylor,” Deseret News, 4 Mar. 1874, 68). Personal revelation is important because through it we gain a knowledge and testimony that the revelation prophets receive is from God and therefore true.

Personal revelation has been around since the beginning of the world; the scriptures are filled with examples of God speaking with man and people receiving promptings from the Spirit. Indeed, from the time Adam and Eve were driven from the garden and from the presence of God, they “called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them” (see Moses 5:4). The scriptures themselves are God’s word to man, received by “holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). Personal revelation is important because it is one of the avenues by which our Father in Heaven communicates with us, His children.

As discussed above, God is Our Father and He desires to communicate with us, as any loving parent does. Through this communication, God warns us of danger, instructs us as we strive to learn, helps us in difficult times, comforts us when we feel alone, and otherwise assists us in this life on earth and our journey back to Him. Of course, He can accomplish these tasks by speaking through others rather than straight to us, and He sends us revelation by the means He sees fit. When we receive the words of the prophets, ancient and modern, personal revelation is the medium through the Holy Ghost testifies to us the scriptures and words of the prophets are true. Even when we receive revelation and teachings of God through other means, personal revelation confirms the truth of it unto us.

For example, Moroni states in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5.) A prophet writes in The Book of Mormon, in a book full of revelations from God through His prophets, that we should seek personal revelation concerning the truthfulness of the book.

Peter received his testimony and a knowledge of the divinity of the Savior and His mission through personal revelation. “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). Peter did not assume that Jesus was the Christ because he read about it in the generally accepted scriptures of the time or because his family believed the same thing. He knew the prophecies in the scriptures and knew that the Messiah would come, but the reason he knew that the man who called him to be a fisher of men was the promised Messiah was because he received the confirming witness from God through the Spirit that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He atoned for my sins and transgressions. I know this not because it’s recorded in the Bible and taught about in the Book of Mormon but because the Spirit, the Holy Ghost and third member of the Godhead, bore witness and continues to bear witness to me that it’s true. The scriptures and words of the modern prophets and apostles are powerful instruments in helping me develop that testimony; the scriptures contain truth and the Spirit testifies of truth. I feel the Spirit so strong when I study the words of the prophets and therefore know the things they teach are God’s words and will. In addition, we cannot have a testimony of something if we have no previous knowledge of the thing. The scriptures are filled with the knowledge, we learn from the scriptures and gain a testimony of their truthfulness from God through the Spirit.

How Do We Receive Personal Revelation?

God communicates with us through a number of different mediums; He spoke through ancient prophets who wrote His words for us to read, He speaks through modern prophets who speak to us directly, He organized His church with all kinds of leaders to teach us, and He speaks to us personally through the Holy Ghost. Each of the three former ways through which God communicates with His children hinges on the latter; all prophets and other church leaders since the beginning of the world spoke according to the revelation they received and personal revelation affirms that it’s all true.

In the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger shares his experiences with personal revelation as he tells how he received his testimony of Jesus Christ and came to a knowledge of the truth. In the book of Alma, fifth chapter, Alma had already become a prophet and was preaching to the people about the atonement and mission of Jesus Christ. He states:

45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

Alma, in his youth, had seen an angel. He lay in a coma for three days being instructed by the Lord. His father was a prophet also who lead the church for many years. Yet Alma does not say that he knows that the words of the prophets are true because an angel of God appeared to him or because he was raised to believe the scriptures. Instead, he says:

46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

He continues on and testifies that he knows the words of the prophets that came before him are true.

The knowledge Alma possessed concerning the atonement, prophets, and the goodness of Jesus Christ came by personal revelation, after much fasting and prayer, from the Spirit of God. Alma did as Moroni instructs us, that is, he searched, pondered, and prayed.

And so it is with us. As we search the things of God and seek to obtain His word, we must ponder that which we read and learn. After we ponder the things we have received, we must pray to God, in the name of Christ for the personal revelation to know the truth. Jesus taught, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32.) Study and prayer—keys to receiving personal revelation.

How is Personal Revelation Connected to the Spirit?

The Spirit is the medium through which God gives us personal revelation. To receive personal revelation, one must simply seek it, “for [God] granteth unto men according to their desires” (Alma 29:4). Of course, our lives must be in line with Christ’s teachings so that we are in tune with the Spirit. Sin clouds our senses and distracts us from the promptings of the Spirit. This does not mean that only the perfect can receive revelation—not even the prophets are perfect! No, God expects us to strive to do as He asks and to strive to keep our lives in tune with the Spirit. This type of lifestyle is actually an upward spiral; the more we strive to live worthy of the guidance of the Spirit, the more the Spirit will influence us and help us stay away from sin and those things that bring us down. The more we follow the promptings of the Spirit and avoid sin, the more we will be able to recognize the Spirit and so forth.

Personal revelation is available to all who live on the earth. To the honest seeker of truth, the Lord giveth. “And this is life eternal, that they might now thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). How do we know the things of God without the Spirit of God? From Paul:

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
(1 Corinthians 2:10-13)

One reason personal revelation may be somewhat hard to understand is because we do not gain spiritual knowledge the same way we gain secular knowledge. In school and other endeavors, we study, read books written by scholars and other authorities on the subject, attend classes taught by professors who have devoted their lives to a specific subject, and so forth. Generally, when something is published by someone who has credentials approved by man, we accept the publication as truth. No one argues about a US history book or a freshman biology book. In our day and age, even a “publication” such as Wikipedia is often cited as truth.

Quite naturally, this mindset spills over into the process of gaining spiritual knowledge. To a certain extent, this is okay. We must search the words written by the authorities, i.e. prophets and apostles. We must be wary of their credentials, however; one does not become an authority on God and His teachings by going to school and receiving a degree or by intensively studying the Bible. Christ spoke of the events that would transpire in the latter days, “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). Not all “false prophets” intentionally deceive; many are sincere, yet sincerity does not equate authority and truth. Only God Himself can bestow that authority and he does so upon those whom He sees fit, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). Once again, through personal revelation and the Spirit we may know false from true prophets.

In the end, while we study the words the prophets and apostles, we cannot rely on logic, exegetical interpretations of the Bible, or scholars to learn the truth. Remember Paul’s words quoted above? “…the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

Peter taught, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21.)

Scripture came by the Spirit and is to be interpreted by the Spirit, not in any other way. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated in the 1964 October General Conference:

“Prophets gave the scripture, and prophets must interpret it. Holy men of old received revelation from the Holy Ghost, which they recorded as scripture; now men must have the same Holy Spirit to reveal what is meant by the scripture—otherwise there will be a host of private interpretations and consequently many different and disagreeing churches, which is precisely the condition in the religious world today.”

How Can Personal Revelation Help Me?

We can learn many different things through personal revelation. When we are confused, lost, or seeking knowledge, personal revelation can enlighten our minds and teach us what we want to learn.

Remember, James taught that if any of us lack wisdom we can ask God who upbraideth (chastises or criticizes) not and it shall be given us! (See James 1:5.)

Revelation comes to a parent who does not know what to do with a wayward child.

Revelation comes to someone faced with a tough decision and no clear outcomes.

Revelation comes to those who feel as though they are wandering and do not know the source of their unhappiness.

Revelation comes to a spouse who does not know what to do to save or strengthen their relationship.

Revelation comes to those who seek to know truth from error.

Revelation comes to someone seeking a job or deciding which school to attend.

Revelation comes to those who have reached the end of their rope and feel that they cannot go on.

Revelation comes to a new husband and father overwhelmed with the duty of being the head of the house.

Revelation comes to the single mother who does not understand how she is supposed to do the work of two.

Revelation comes to the traveler who has taken a wrong turn and does not know the way back.

Revelation comes to me as I write each blog post and seek to know what you need to hear.

Revelation comes to the boss who needs to keep his company from going under.

Revelation comes the unemployed father who desperately needs to find a job to continue to support his family.

Revelation comes to the widow who does not know how she can suddenly live alone.

Indeed, revelation comes to each of God’s children who need His help. Elder McConkie taught, ‘To the faithful the Lord promises: “Assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive. . . . Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.” (D. & C. 8:1-3; 46:7; Matt. 7:7-8; Jas. 1:5.)’ (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1979, p. 644.)

The above list is, of course, not comprehensive, but simply a start to help you realize the necessity and blessing of personal revelation. Search the scriptures for examples the prophets thought important enough to record. The timing of revelation may not be the timing you desire, but that is another discussion altogether.

The commandment is to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10; D&C 101:16). He hears and answers prayers. He loves us and desires our happiness. He is in control and will help us when we are not.

Jeremy

Related Articles:

Delbert L. Stapley, “The Holy Ghost,” Conference Report, October 1966, pp.111-114

Robert D. Hales, “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 86–89

Charles Didier, “Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 62 (pay attention to the keys)

Jeffrey R. Holland, "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence," BYU Devotional, 2 Mar 1999