Sunday, February 27, 2011

Charity Never Faileth

The article this week is a talk from the most recent General Relief Society meeting by President Thomas S. Monson, entitled, "Charity Never Faileth," (Ensign, Nov 2010, 122).

In his talk, President Monson spoke a great deal on the Savior's commandment to "Judge not, that ye be not judged" as recorded in the seventh chapter of Matthew. The Savior continues, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

President Monson expounded on this commandment, "None of us is perfect. I know of no one who would profess to be so. And yet for some reason, despite our own imperfections, we have a tendency to point out those of others. We make judgments concerning their actions or inactions. . . .

"I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient."

Charity truly is the pure love of Christ and if we are found possessed with charity at the last day, it shall be well with us. The prophet Mormon taught of this most desirable of Christlike attributes, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen" (see Moroni 7:47-48).

Let us oft speak kind words to each other, of each other, treat each other with kindness and respect, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and reach out to those who stand in need. We tend to imagine things ten times worse than they really are. We want to be understood, let us strive to understand and love others as the Savior did.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For the Intent to Do Good

The Book of Mormon tells of a group of young men who served as missionaries among a people called Lamanites. At that time, the Lamanites were described as, “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering . . . , and robbing and plundering” (Alma 17:14-15). One of these missionaries convinced one of the kings of the land to allow him to be the king’s servant. So great and diligent was the service of this young missionary and so great was his faith that he wrought miracles such that the king opened his heart to listen to the message of the plan of salvation. Said the king, “if thou wilt tell me these things, whatsoever thou desirest I will give unto thee” (18:21). This young missionary’s name was Ammon, and the scriptures describe him as “wise, yet harmless” (v.22), a man “of a sound understanding,” who had “waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth,” and who “taught with the power and authority of God” (17:2-3).

Ammon’s wisdom, humility, and preparation allowed him to discern the thoughts of the king and receive strength and revelation from the Spirit to speak with boldness and to know how to teach the king and his household. He was a vital instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing thousands of Lamanites to a knowledge of the truth.

Indeed, Ammon was a great missionary and we can learn much from his example. One thing that Mormon says of Ammon, however, stood out to me as I read this account recently. When the king offers Ammon anything he desires, including one of his daughters and all of his armies, in order to know how Ammon wrought such great miracles, Mormon describes Ammon’s response in this manner: “Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni [the king]: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee” (18:22 italics added).

Ammon being wise yet harmless…

In the scriptures, the attributes wise and rich are often mentioned together when spoken of negatively, and are usually grouped together with other negative traits such as pride and hypocrisy (see 2 Nephi 9:28-30; 28:15; see also the eleventh fundamental in Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Devo, 26 Feb 1980). In a similar manner, the good sides of wisdom and riches can be compared. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob counseled that when we seek for riches, we should seek them for the intent to do good (see Jacob 2:18-19). This counsel can also be applied to wisdom. If we seek wisdom—as we should, for the glory of God is intelligence (D&C 93:36)—we should seek wisdom for the intent to do good, to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish Zion, as did Ammon.*

Ammon had prepared spiritually for the opportunities he had. As we seek first the kingdom of God and obtain a hope in Christ we shall obtain wisdom if we seek it. Ammon could have asked the king for any worldly treasure or power but he was harmless and thus was blessed with the wisdom to answer in the manner recorded in verse 22, “Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee.”

We too can live worthy as did Ammon to be entrusted with wisdom and great treasures of knowledge. In our schooling, in our work, and in our dealings with our fellowmen, if we seek first the kingdom of God by first studying our scriptures and first fulfilling our callings, if we begin our days by first getting on our knees and praying for the guidance and direction of the Lord, and if we first live the standards we know to be true, we shall gain wisdom in both our spiritual and temporal affairs and all things shall work together for our good.

Remember Ammon was strong in the knowledge of truth and he had given himself to much prayer and had searched the scriptures diligently. He was patient, courageous, long-suffering, trusted in God, and he was wise yet harmless enabling him to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord.

I conclude with the appeal of another Book of Mormon prophet, “O be wise, what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:19).

May we be wise and hearken unto the counsels of God that we may be instruments in His hands and travel down the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life.


*Indeed, to be learned is good if we hearken unto the counsels of God (2 Nephi 9:29). The Lord counsels that we be wise in the days of our probation, strip ourselves of all uncleanness, doubt not but be believing, come unto the Him with all our heart, ask with a firmness unshaken that we will yield to no temptation but that we will serve the true and living God (see Mormon 9:27-28).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preserving Religious Freedom

A few weeks ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California. His remarks are entitled, "Preserving Religious Freedom."

Elder Oaks is uniquely qualified to address the topic of religious freedom:
  • He is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • He served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court from 1981–1984,
  • As legal counsel to the Illinois Constitutional Convention Bill of Rights Committee in 1970,
  • As a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1961–1971,
  • As law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958,
  • As Editor-in-Chief of The University of Chicago Law Review from 1956–1957.
  • As Chairman of the Board of the Public Broadcasting Service from 1980–1985,
  • As a board member from 1977–1985,
  • And as president of Brigham Young University from 1971–1980.
Prior to his speech, an interview was recorded concerning the remarks he would make about preserving religious freedom. As the article this week, I am posting the video and transcript of the sixteen-minute interview, and the follow-up article from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the interview. This follow-up article also contains other resources and statements from the prophets and apostles concerning religious freedom.

Highlighting favorite parts or notable quotes from this interview is difficult because I believe everything he says is so clear and necessary and he touches on all the integral points of the current religious-freedom issues. However, I did pick out a few things on which I wish to comment.

"Religion teaches obedience to the unenforceable." We rely so much today on laws and regulations and fine points that attempt to cover every possible loophole and we rely on law enforcement and the government to then keep the peace and keep people from doing wrong things. But that approach encourages an ever-increasing amount of regulations and enforcement and resources. Religion teaches obedience to the unenforceable. Think of the implications.

Concerning the warping of the religious-freedom argument Elder Oaks said, "I think we’re seeing erosion when some public figures, for instance, refer to freedom of worship rather than freedom of religion. Now let’s look at that for a moment. Freedom of worship is a far narrower concept than freedom of religion because freedom of religion includes the freedom to act upon one’s religious beliefs, whereas freedom of worship tends to indicate that religion is confined within the church or synagogue, if you choose to go there. Yet we see people beginning to refer to freedom of worship rather than freedom of religion."

In an effort to redirect the focus of the argument back to the true conflict he said, "What I see a conflict in is the freedom, which is part of religious freedom, of a religious leader to say that some particular conduct is sinful, or some particular public policy is not pleasing to God, or something of that nature. And then the person on the other side of that, the person criticized, says, “Well, you’re interfering with my civil right to advocate my position,” or “You’re offending me and I have a right not to be offended,” or “You are criticizing me and I have a right not to be criticized.” That’s where the collision comes." Freedom of speech is the first of the freedoms that the founding fathers listed surely because they felt being able to voice an opinion contrary to another's views held extreme importance.

The freedom of religion is a touchy subject in these latter-days; many "hot" political issues are deeply rooted in religion. The "freedom" to act and do as one pleases is argued against one's freedom to speak out or act against those actions. As religion and God are pushed more and more into the background, society will continue to deteriorate. The Lord has promised us numerous times that, "inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence" (2 Nephi 1:20; additional verses). Religious freedom is key to our success as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation.

Elder Oaks is an apostle of Jesus Christ, he speaks the mind and will of God. The principles he teaches and upholds are the very principles that lead to success, happiness, and peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come for they are the words of Christ.



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pollution of the Mind

I love the verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Sow a thought and you reap an action;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

This inspired verse outlines just how important and life-shaping our day-to-day thoughts can be. Almost 40 years ago, Elder Robert L. Simpson (1915-2003), assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk in a General Conference entitled, "Pollution of the Mind," (Ensign, Jan. 1973, 112). In his talk, Elder Simpson spoke very plainly about the potential dangers of not watching what goes into our minds. Said he, "it has been said: 'As a man thinketh, so is he.' The master control center within each individual must be regarded as the key. Signals flashing out to the various parts of the body bring instant reaction; in sum and substance, this center dictates the character, the conscience, the strength, and yes, even the weaknesses of every man."

He spoke against the general degradation of public morals concerning what passes as appropriate literature and entertainment with our media saying, "The gradual infiltration of this mind-polluting material has quietly engulfed us on a wide front. . . . Public attitude against smut has very gradually been lulled into a state of mild resistance—so mild, in fact, that the adversary has already won a major victory whether we are ready to admit it or not." On a side note, I love that he used the word smut, what a great word. We all know this is true whether or not we think it is much of a problem or care to do anything about it.

With so much "smut" perpetually surrounding us, we have to be unfailingly careful to watch what we take in to our minds. If the true measure of a man is how he spends his time when he doesn't have to do anything (thank you President McKay), then we can assess our own level of self-control and self-willpower as we take note of the things we do when not busy. Are we garnishing our thoughts unceasingly with virtue? Are we continually striving to cleanse our inner vessel? Are we bridling all our passions? Are we filling our time with worthwhile activities that we not only cease to be idle but bring to pass much righteousness of our own free will and choice? (see D&C 121:45; Alma 60:23 and D&C 38:42; Alma 38:12; D&C 88:124 and D&C 58:27-28).

I have such a strong testimony of the effect of our thoughts on our actions and our happiness. I have seen the results of thoughts both good and bad and I notice a difference in my life when I strive to control my thoughts versus when I do not. On a personal note, I fall back on the song "I Am A Child of God," when something comes across my path that influences my thoughts not for good. I can promise that the influence of hymns and uplifting music is a very real and very strong power in striving to control our thoughts.

The power of thought is very real and very strong. The Lord will help us overcome poor thoughts if we desire.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Power of A Strong Testimony

In this uncertain world, there are some things that never change: the perfect love of our Heavenly Father for each of us; the assurance that He is there and will always hear us; the existence of absolute, unchanging truths; the fact that there is a plan of happiness; the assurance that success in life is attained through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His teachings because of the redemptive power of His Atonement; the certainty of life after death; the reality that our condition there is set by how we live here. Whether one does or does not accept these truths does not alter their reality. They are the fundamental building blocks of a living testimony. A strong testimony is the unshakable foundation of a secure, meaningful life where peace, confidence, happiness, and love can flourish. It is anchored in a conviction that an all-knowing God is in command of His work. He will not fail. He will keep His promises.

In the October 2001 General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk entitled, "The Power of A Strong Testimony." This is one of the best talks about what a testimony is, how we can gain and strengthen our testimonies, and the blessings that we receive as we act in faith in accordance with our testimonies. Taught Elder Scott:

A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life. It is centered in an understanding of the divine attributes of God our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is secured by a willing reliance upon Them. A powerful testimony is grounded in the personal assurance that the Holy Ghost can guide and inspire our daily acts for good.
For enduring peace and security, at some time in life, in quiet moments of reflection, you must come to know with a surety that there is a God in heaven who loves you, that He is in control and will help you. That conviction is the core of strong testimony.

Everything I do and how I live is based off my testimony of our Heavenly Father's plan and the Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ. I am where I am right now and enjoy the blessings I do because of my testimony. No matter what happens in my life, no matter what part of my life becomes unstable or confusing or unsure, I know that everything will come out alright. Of course even with a deep and abiding testimony that we are children of our Father in Heaven, trials still come, sometimes we lose sight of what is truly important, and we make poor decisions. None of us is perfect and life is full of trial-by-error experiences. However, what I believe greatly strengthens my efforts to be optimistic and greatly shapes the outcomes of my experiences in this life. You have to read this talk and figure out how these principles can bless your life. Pray about it using the principles taught by Elder Scott in this talk. You have everything to gain.