Sunday, May 30, 2010

When the Lord Commands

I love the article this week. It is very clear cut and well explained with well-defined blessings. Read it.

During the most recent General Conference (the semi-annual event in which the Prophet, the apostles, and other General Authorities all gather together and speak to the Church and the world) Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the Seventy gave a talk entitled, "When the Lord Commands."

Elder Carlson spoke about how, "occasionally we believe that there must be an easier way, a shortcut or modification of the Lord's commandments that will accommodate our individual circumstances." He then went on to teach that:

"Our partial or selective compliance with God's laws will fail to bring the full blessings of obedience."

"Obedience to the Lord's commands, in spite of how trivial or unimportant we believe them to be, will surely bring His promised blessings."


"Faithful obedience, regardless of the apparent size of the task, will bring the Lord's guidance, assistance, and peace."

I have learned that "when the Lord commands, do it." I know that the Lord gives us commandments so that we may learn, grow, and be happy. When we do as He asks, we are blessed and we live happier, more full lives. Yes, it is that simple. Perhaps not easy, but simple. And very worth it.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Isn't the Bible Enough?"

The article this week comes from the March 1986 Ensign. It was written by A. Edward Carlson, Jr., a member of the Church who worked on offshore oil rigs all over the world. He wrote about an experience he had on an oil rig off the coast of England and his article, entitled, "'Isn't the Bible Enough'," was published in the Ensign.

Read this story and figure out how the events described relate to your own life. James had a real friendship with His Father in Heaven and prayed daily to Him to show his love. James also understood the importance of scripture and had made the Bible an important part of his life.

After meeting Edward, James realized that the Book of Mormon is not simply a good book but that not detract from the Bible, but was, in fact, comparable to the Bible and is Holy Scripture together with the Bible. Like James, we too can petition God to know truth. Just as James fasted and prayed to know whether the Book of Mormon is true, so can each of us. Our Father in Heaven hears and answers our prayers.

The faith James showed by acting on the answer he received blessed the lives of him and his posterity. Learn from this story-there are many more just like it. Learn the truth for yourself, by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

All Things Work Together for Good

No General Conference would be complete without at least one solid “trials” talk. In the most recent General Conference, Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy gave a talk entitled, “All Things Work Together for Good.” In his talk, Elder Martino said, “Each of us will face trials and tests, . . . it is how we react to those difficulties that will determine our success and happiness. Each of us will face adversity no matter where we are. We are taught in the scriptures that there ‘must be . . . an opposition in all things.’ (2 Nephi 2:11) We will each face times of difficulty, and the question is not when we will face them but how we face them.”

Each of us knows this to be true. We each have our own trials, some experienced by many and some experienced by us individually. Many are suffering because of a downturn in their financial situations. Many are suffering because of natural disasters. Many deal with perpetual physical limitations. Everyone has lost someone dear. And we each have our own irritating smaller daily trials that sometimes add together to become more than we think we can handle.

Just as Elder Martino said, the question isn’t when will trials come, but how will we react and choose to deal with our trials. Said Elder Martino, “Our Heavenly Father, who loves us completely and perfectly, permits us to have experiences that will allow us to develop the traits and attributes we need to become more and more Christlike.” Keep in mind that Our Father in Heaven is mindful of you and knows your needs and situation. Each trial serves as a learning environment in which we need to exercise faith in God and rely more on Him and His grace. As we pray more sincerely and strive to learn from our trials, we will grow in understanding and love for our Heavenly Father.

Of course, keeping an eternal perspective during trials is hard. Elder Martino taught, “I realize that it is much easier to look back when a trial is over and see what we have learned from our experience, but the challenge is to gain that eternal perspective while we are going through our tests.” In his talk, Elder Martino gives five things that we can learn from the “last hours of the Savior’s life on earth that can help us to face our own trials” and learn and grown rather than suffer and become bitter.

Read this article, the principles contained therein are principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and will help everyone with any trial. Since trials are one thing that we all have in common, the words of the Lord through His servant Elder Martino apply to all.

We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

In deciding on an article for this week, I realized that much time has passed since we've discussed or read about Joseph Smith.

Joseph is the prophet of the Restoration, the prophet of this last dispensation of the fulness of times. A "messenger sent from the presence of God" told him that "God had a work for [him] to do; and that [his] name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people" (JS-H 1:33). Indeed this is true. Jesus Christ began the work of the Restoration, the work of spreading His Gospel to the four corners of the earth and the gathering in of the lost tribes of Israel by calling Joseph Smith as a His prophet. Christ continues His work today with President Thomas S. Monson leading His work through an unbroken line of priesthood authority.

This angelic messenger also told Joseph of "a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent [the Americas], and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;" (JS-H 1:34).

Joseph Smith found the plates and by no other means than the power of God, he translated the record called the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was written for "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page of the Book of Mormon).

The article of the week, entitled "Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon," was written by the apostle President James E. Faust and published in the January 1996 Ensign. President Faust shares his testimony of the divinity of the work of God in which Joseph Smith was involved. He testifies how the Book of Mormon is both proof of and a vital instrument in the work of the Lord.

I add my testimony to that of President Faust. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. He translated the Book of Mormon which book was prepared for us in our day. The Book stands a witness of the divine work of God which began before the foundation of the world and which was restored through Joseph Smith. This I know through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost will witness to any sincere seeker that this is true (see Moroni 10:3-5).


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

This is Zachary again with part four of my five part post on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fourth part of the gospel is the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is the privilege to receive continual guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost.

One may be temporarily guided by the Holy Ghost without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. All truth we learn comes from the Spirit. The ancient prophet Moroni stated: “. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (see Moroni 10:5). I know Jesus Christ lives and loves us and has restored His church today because of the power of the Holy Ghost. All people can know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the Holy Ghost.

Recall in John 3:5 where the Savior taught Nicodemus that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Only after we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands can we truly receive a remission of our sins and be completely spiritually reborn. We can have the Spirit to be with us always. President James E. Faust once stated:

The gift of the Holy Ghost comes after one repents and becomes worthy . . . The Holy Ghost bears witness of the truth and impresses upon the soul the reality of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ so deeply that no earthly power or authority can separate him from that knowledge (“The Gift of the Holy Ghost – A Sure Compass”, Ensign, April 1996, 4)

We may only have the Spirit to be with us as we keep the Lord’s commandments and are faithful to our baptismal covenants. We must also follow the promptings we receive from the Spirit if we desire to be led and guided always. Elder Boyd K Packer taught:

The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as being neither “loud” nor “harsh.” It is “not a voice of thunder, neither … voice of a great tumultuous noise.” But rather, “a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper,” and it can “pierce even to the very soul” and “cause [the heart] to burn.” (3 Nephi 11:3; Helaman 5:30; D&C 85:6–7.) Remember, Elijah found the voice of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but was a “still small voice.” (1 Kgs. 19:12.) The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all . . . Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, “Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.” (1 Sam. 3:10.) (“The Candle of the Lord”, Ensign, Jan 1983, 53)

I saw the influence for good that the Holy Ghost has over those who live worthy and follow it’s promptings as I taught the people of North Carolina. One such woman left a great impression on me. Christine had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints her entire life. She had been fully active in the gospel. Then she had some trying times and slowly stopped keeping some of her commandments. She stopped attending church and therefore stopped partaking of the sacrament and renewing her covenants each week. She eventually lost the companionship of the Holy Ghost. When we stopped by one evening and I met her for the first time, I could tell she wasn’t happy. The Holy Ghost was not in her home. She had a lot of problems and wasn’t sure how to solve them. That evening, for the first time in six years, she listened to the still small voice that told her to let us come back and help her get back on the path. We taught her and her children each week and pretty soon she came back to church, she repented and began once again to keep the commandments. Things didn’t happen all at once, but over time I saw the effects of the Holy Ghost in her life as she obeyed its promptings. Christine was happier, her children were happier, her home was a pleasant place to be. She was receiving wonderful blessings that she had been missing for so long. She told me before I left the area that she had never felt so peaceful in her entire life. The Holy Ghost can always bring peace to our hearts as we are worthy, especially at troubled times.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is here for us as God’s children. Our loving Heavenly Father has given us this gift that we might have a light in this world, a guide to teach us truth and help us make righteous decisions so that we can return to His presence. As we follow the Savior’s gospel and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are showing faith in Him and his everlasting Atonement. We can be led from darkness to light and from misery to happiness.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Praying to Our Father in Heaven

I try not to do two blog posts in one day so that the first one doesn't get lost, but we had a great discussion at church today that I want to share. I really wish that I could've just recorded the whole thing because I'm obviously not going to be able to repeat the whole discussion word for word, but my hopes are that I'll be able to get the main ideas down and that you will benefit in some way too. My goal in this post is to just discuss a lot of what we discussed today and not add any other extra things.

What is Prayer?

Today during one of the meetings, we had a lesson about praying to our Heavenly Father. Prayer is a discussion with our Father in Heaven. It is more than a plea in time of need or wishlist of things that we utter in hopes that some Greater Being might hear it. When we pray, we are, in fact, talking to our Father in Heaven. He hears us. He answers us.

Prayer is a commandment. Indeed, when the Savior visited the American continents after His resurrection, He commanded the people to, "pray unto the Father in my name" (3 Nephi 18:19).

When I pray, I strive to think of my prayer as a discussion with my Father in Heaven. I'll admit that I don't always succeed. Thinking of God in the same way that I think of my father is kind of difficult of course but that does not mean that God is any less my Father. But, I do know that when we begin to think of God as our Father in Heaven prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. I want to talk to Him, I want to share my thoughts, yearnings, desires, hopes, fears, and dreams with Him because I know He listens, understands, and cares. And, as I pray more sincerely and work to receive answers, I recognize more the hand of God in my everyday life.

As we recognize that He does hear and answer our prayers, our love for Him will grow, and we will desire more to pray to Him.

When Should We Pray? Part I

The prophet Alma taught:

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.

20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.

22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.

23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.

24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.

25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.

26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.

27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

At church today, we discussed two things that we gleaned from these verses. One, prayer is active! Alma counsels that we CRY unto the Lord. Cry, to me, sounds a lot more intense than simply saying a few words once in a while to God. Crying takes energy and effort and sincere desire is the motive.

Prayer has two parts. One involves the actual prayer but the other involves our actions. If we pray and then sit around waiting for something to happen, God will not answer our prayers. He expects us to do our part. Pray as though everything depends on the Lord and then work as though everything depends on you. He expects us to keep the commandments, He expects us to read the scriptures to search for answers, He expects us to work as hard as we can to make things happen for ourselves, and He expects us to love and serve our neighbors.

The second thing we discussed about the above-quoted verses is when we should pray and petition the Lord for help. In reading these verses, it seems as though we should pray about everything and in later verses Alma does teach that we should counsel with the Lord in all our doings that He may direct us for good (see Alma 37:36-37).

Indeed, the Lord does want us to involve Him in everything we do. And why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we ask for help finding a job, or selecting which job or city is right for us and our family? Why shouldn't we ask the Lord Omnipotent what school would be best for us to attend or for help in taking a test or completing a project? Doesn't He know best how to raise a child, farm potatoes, run a business, lose weight, fix a computer, arrive somewhere on time, travel safely, make ends meet, or get along with a co-worker or family member? Can't the Lord God Almighty control the elements and the traffic lights, quicken our understanding, and more importantly, help us develop any knowledge or ability we seek? When should we pray? Always.

When Should We Pray? Part II

However, the Lord also teaches that it is not meet that we should be commanded or compelled in all things (see D&C 58:26). Praying always does not mean that we should pray for a new Ninja Turtle or to win the lottery. Crying unto the Lord for all our support does not mean ask Him to turn all the lights green or which gas station we should patron. And this principle does not just apply to the seemingly extreme or silly examples I just listed. The Lord has given us agency that we may choose for ourselves. He trusts us to make decisions and, quite frankly, allows us to make our own decisions so that we can learn from making wrong ones.

If we are living as we should, the Lord will direct us for good. We are to use our agency to make all of our small, day-to-day decisions. As we continually treasure up the word by studying the scriptures, strive to live worthy of the Spirit, and let our hearts be full and drawn out in prayer unto Him, the Spirit will guide our decisions and we will make good decisions without waiting for a sign or an angel from heaven. If we are living the gospel the best we know how, promptings to turn a different way on the drive home or to stop by a neighbor's house for a visit will come without praying at each intersection for direction.

In matters of very important or eternally significant decisions, we should absolutely involve the Lord every step of the way. However, the way is not to pray, "Lord these are the options, tell me which one I should choose," but we should study it out in our minds, make a decision, and ask the Lord if it be right (see D&C 9:7-9).

The Lord will not tell us what to do each time a decision arises. To do so would destroy the purpose of agency. We must make the effort and grow in the decision-making process. We should strive to listen to the Spirit but continue forward until we have received an answer. And, if we made the wrong answer, we are promised that if we did everything we could, the Lord will tell us that we made the wrong choice before we are too far down the wrong path.

I have numerous examples of decision making from my own life but I will share this one. When I was recently home from my mission and my time at my current school was coming to an end, it was time to choose an undergraduate program and school. I had a number of options, some more viable and realistic than others, and I prayed and wanted the Lord to tell me where to go. I was striving to live right and wanted to do the best thing so I asked the Lord to tell me what to do. He, of course, did not tell me what to do but instead made me make my own decisions. I continued to pray for guidance, but I did not sit still waiting for an answer. I studied other schools, applied to a few, waited for responses. I weighed the options, the costs, the benefits, the downsides of leaving my jump rope team and friends and family. The time came that I needed to find housing, pay tuition, tell my work what I was going to do, find a job in whatever new city, and otherwise make a decision and the Lord still hadn't told me what to do. I know that the Lord expects us to take a step into the dark before He shines a light in the tunnel, but that way is so hard! I just wanted an angel to appear and tell me what to do.

One of my friends at BYU called me wondering what I was going to do because he needed to sign a housing contract for us if I was going to move down there. So I made a decision. I signed a contract and paid a deposit, paid tuition, and got rid of my apartment in Rexburg. Then and only then did I get a confirmation from the Spirit that I had made the right decision. The Lord told me through thoughts in my mind and feelings in my heart that the decision I made was good and would be a great blessing in my life.

Now, I do not believe that the first involvement that the Lord had in this decision was at the end. I believe that He guided and directed me and helped me obtain all the necessary information so that I could make the right decision. I believe that He was actively involved every step of the way, but in ways that I did not recognize at the time. I believe that this is how the Lord works in helping us use our agency to our benefit and blessing.

Before and since that decision I have seen the Lord work the same way with me. Never just giving the answer right away as much as I would love Him to, but guiding me along and waiting for me to make a decision before He tells me yes or no. And I know that He does tell us when we make the wrong decision before it's too late to go back. I had that experience recently; I made a decision and had a stupor of thought just before I was to go through with it. I am so grateful that the Lord loves me enough to let me make my own decisions that I may learn and grown through the process. And I am grateful that He trusts me enough both to make my own decisions and to listen when I make the wrong decisions.

How Do I Receive and Recognize Answers?

This post is much longer than I intended and it is late so I will not continue on much longer. Instead, I'll leave you with a scripture and three links. The first is D&C: 8:2, and is a very concise teaching on how the Spirit speaks to us. The second and third are talks by Elder Richard G. Scott entitled, "Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer," and "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance," both of which have been featured as articles of the week (1) (2) on my blog.

The third is a bit different. It is the link to the PDF of the fourth chapter of a manual called Preach My Gospel, used by missionaries and families churchwide. A section entitled "Learn to Recognize the Promptings of the Spirit" begins on page eight and continues on page nine. On these pages is a box listing various ways the Spirit works and also lists the corresponding scripture references. Take a look at it if you wish, it is an incredible resource.

Our loving Father in Heaven hears and answers prayers. We should desire to pray to Him always. If we live according to His commandments and strive to do many things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness, He will direct us for good. This I know.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness

Today, much is being done to ensure equality among all races, creeds, genders, and economic status. The progress made even in the last fifty years is astounding. We certainly live in an exciting, empowering time.

However, in mankind's quest for equality, we lose some of the more precious parts of who we are and why we came to this earth. In October 1996, Elder Richard G. Scott spoke about our Father in Heaven's Great Plan of Happiness. His talk, entitled, "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness," is one of my favorite articles that we've discussed thus far. The whole article is full of wonderful truths that are continually being lost in the attack against the traditional family.

Our Heavenly Father does, indeed, have a plan for us. In this talk, Elder Richard G. Scott taught that:

Our Heavenly Father endowed His sons and daughters with unique traits especially fitted for their individual responsibilities as they fulfill His plan. To follow His plan requires that you do those things He expects of you as a son or daughter, husband or wife. Those roles are different but entirely compatible. In the Lord’s plan, it takes two—a man and a woman—to form a whole. Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics.

The differences between men and women do not make one gender weaker or stronger. On the contrary, both are weak without the other and both will never be stronger than when they are united together in marriage. Elder Scott continues:

Marriage allows these different characteristics to come together in oneness—in unity—to bless a husband and wife, their children and grandchildren. For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one—to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan.

The world would have the woman think that if she acts according to her motherly, loving, nurturing instincts, and does not do everything that the man traditionally does, that she is weaker and somehow less of a person. This is simply not the case. Again from Elder Scott:

Beware of the subtle ways Satan employs to take you from the plan of God and true happiness. One of Satan’s most effective approaches is to demean the role of wife and mother in the home. This is an attack at the very heart of God’s plan to foster love between husband and wife and to nurture children in an atmosphere of understanding, peace, appreciation, and support. Much of the violence that is rampant in the world today is the harvest of weakened homes. Government and social plans will not effectively correct that, nor can the best efforts of schools and churches fully compensate for the absence of the tender care of a compassionate mother and wife in the home.
Of course, as a woman you can do exceptionally well in the workplace, but is that the best use of your divinely appointed talents and feminine traits? Your presence [in the home] will strengthen the self-confidence of your children and decrease the chance of emotional challenges. Moreover, as you teach truth by word and example, those children will come to understand who they are and what they can obtain as divine children of Father in Heaven.

I will conclude lest I quote the entire article. I do echo the testimony of Elder Scott, for I have seen the blessings of such a lifestyle in my life and my family. The principles taught by the Lord's prophets and apostles do help us attain a fulness of happiness. There is only one way and that is the Lord's divinely appointed way. I know, along with Elder Scott, that:

Obedience to the plan is a requisite for full happiness in this life and a continuation of eternal joy beyond the veil. . . . Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. The family is ordained of God.