Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thanks Be to God

It seems to me that as time progresses, we, as the human race, digress in our understanding of who we really are and our purpose here in life. We rush about, always striving for bigger and better, giving value to things that someone else says are valuable. We want more and newer simply because more and newer exist and not because our lives are truly enhanced and bettered through our acquisition of such things. Or, and perhaps worse, we sit around and do nothing to achieve the potential of which we are capable, wasting time and energy on things of no worth. Today it is possible to live completely vicariously through other people and their feigned "realities," filling our time and conversations by "keeping up" with others' time and conversations. It seems everything these days is focused on "me" yet none of it helps us understand who "me" is.

Honestly I wonder how many people truly ponder the purpose of life or realize that their blessings come from a higher source? The article I have chosen this week directly addresses our eternal potential, the great things our Father in Heaven has done and continues to do for us, and the blessing of expressing our gratitude to Him. In a sermon entitled, "Thanks Be to God," Elder Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the twelve apostles stated, "How much better it would be if all could be more aware of God's providence and love and express that gratitude to Him. ... Our degree of gratitude is a measure of our love for Him."

In order to express gratitude to our Father in Heaven, we must first realize all of the marvelous things He has done for us. Of these things Elder Nelson taught:

"Think of our physical sustenance. It is truly heaven-sent. The necessities of air, food, and water all come to us as gifts from a loving Heavenly Father. The earth was created to support our brief sojourn in mortality.1 We were born with a capacity to grow, love, marry, and form families."

He continued:

"We are part of His divine purpose: 'My work and my glory,' He said, is 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.'2 In order to achieve those objectives, 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'3 That act was a supernal manifestation of God’s love. 'For [He] sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.'"4

Elder Nelson then taught of different gifts we receive from God, physical and spiritual. "Our Heavenly Father loves His children," said Elder Nelson. "He had blessed each with physical and spiritual gifts. ... The many amazing attributes of your own body attest to your own 'divine nature.'"5

Of spiritual gifts, Elder Nelson taught:

"Important as is the body, it serves as a tabernacle for one’s eternal spirit. Our spirits existed in the premortal realm6 and will continue to live after the body dies.7 The spirit provides the body with animation and personality.8 In this life and in the next, spirit and body, when joined together, become a living soul of supernal worth."

...

"The attributes by which we shall be judged one day are all spiritual.9 These include love, virtue, integrity, compassion, and service to others.10 Your spirit, coupled with and housed in your body, is able to develop and manifest these attributes in ways that are vital to your eternal progression.11 Spiritual progress is attained through the steps of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, including the endowment and sealing ordinances of the holy temple."12

In closing, Elder Nelson explained that, for which we should be striving each day. "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but we are not. Each day, ours is the challenge to access the power of the Atonement so that we can truly change, become more Christlike, and qualify for the gift of exaltation and live eternally with God, Jesus Christ, and our families.13 For these powers, privileges, and gospel gifts, thanks be to God!"

The purpose of life is clear. The challenges we face each day are to help strengthen us that we may reach our eternal potential. God has given us the gifts, both physical and spiritual, needed to return to Him to live with Him and our families forever.

Jeremy

Notes
  1. See 1 Nephi 17:36.
  2. Moses 1:39.
  3. John 3:16.
  4. John 3:17.
  5. 2 Peter 1:4.
  6. See Doctrine and Covenants 93:38.
  7. See Alma 40:11Abraham 3:18.
  8. The spirit is in the likeness of the person (see Doctrine and Covenants 77:2).
  9. The spirit, not the body, is the active, responsible component of the soul. Without the spirit, the body is dead (see James 2:26). It is the spirit, therefore, that chooses good or evil and will be held accountable for both the positive and negative attributes it possesses at the Final Judgment (see Alma 41:3–7).
  10. Spiritual attributes also include "faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence" (Doctrine and Covenants 4:6).
  11. See 2 Nephi 2:11–16, 21–26; Moroni 10:33–34.
  12. This is the doctrine of Christ (see 2 Nephi 31:11–21).
  13. “Eternal life … is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Only upon the Principles of Righteousness


Semi in conjunction with my most recent post about teaching children in their youth, I have chosen the article for this week, "Only upon the Principles of Righteousness," (Ensign, May 2012) by Elder Larry Y. Wilson. Elder Wilson spoke at the most recent General Conference about how, "wise parents prepare their children to get along without them. They provide opporunities for growth as children acquire the spiritual maturity to exercise their agency properly."

In his talk, Elder Wilson addresses the balance between helping children make decisions when they are young, and making all the decisions for their children. "If parents hold on to all decision-making power and see it as their 'right,' they severely limit the growth and development of their children." He continued, "If we wait until they walk out the door to turn over to them the reins of their moral agency, we have waited too long." He stresses the importance of helping children learn how to make decisions by learning the process by which we receive help and inspiration from God. "Helping children exercise their agency properly requires teaching them how to pray and receive answers to their prayers,..." he taught, "ultimately [children]...need to depend on the Lord, not on [parents]."

Elder Wilson also talks about "righteous dominion" and influencing others' choices not just in relation to being parents, but also in relation to being leaders and friends. He said, "anytime we try to compel someone to righteousness who can and should be exercising his or her own moral agency, we are acting unrighteously."

We have an immense ability and influence for good in the world if we exercise righteous dominion. I close with one last quote from Elder Wilson, "If we are going to help those in our stewardships make the all-important link with heaven, we must be the kind of parent and leader described in Doctrine and Covenants, section 121. We must act 'only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.'"

Let us be righteous leaders and parents and help those we love develop that ability to communicate and receive help from heaven.

Jeremy

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learn Wisdom in Thy Youth: Two Parents' Efforts to Raise Their Children

A few nights ago I went to dinner with Alyssa at her uncle TJ's house. TJ and his wife Deb have three kids, like four, three, and one or something-probably younger-so dinner was a treat; the four-year-old yelled half the time, rotating through the phrases "I'm a helemet, I'm a bike, my face is on fire!" as he deemed appropriate. And of course at random intervals his older sister, not wanting to miss out on the fun and attention, chimed in too. The one-year-old for whatever reason withheld her comments from the conversation, mostly just staring at everyone wide-eyed from her high chair.

After dinner, amidst the excited childish chatter, TJ and Deb gathered all of us together in the living room for family home evening, it being Monday night. Family home evening is an activity/program established by the modern-day prophets to ensure that we set aside at least one day/evening a week to spend time together as a family that no other obligations can interrupt or distract and the family can grow and be strengthened together unhindered by worldly, albeit necessary, pursuits. Considering the ages and attention spans of the children, this particular family home evening lasted all of maybe 15 minutes but it was one of the most effective, spirit-filled family home evenings I have experienced.

What impressed me most in this brief family gathering was the four-year-old, Sophie, and the obvious effort her parents have exerted to ensure their children are being taught correct principles. She prayed, she sang (as did her younger brother), she answered questions, and she shared a scripture she had memorized. TJ told a story of a fourteen-year-old boy, the same age as one of their cousins, who grew up in a deeply religious family in which the members of the family attended a few different churches and the father did not attend a church at all. Yet they prayed and read the Bible together as a family every day and spoke of God often. This young man wondered which of all the churches of his day was right and which church he should join. With this question, he turned to the scriptures.

At this point in the story, TJ asked Sophie if she knew who this story was about. She answered, "Joseph Smith."

"That's right Spohie, and what did he do?"

"He prayed."

"Yep, he went into the forest and knelt down and prayed. Do you know what happened next?"

"Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him."

"Yes they did. And what did they say?"

"No church was the right church. Daddy, what is the right church?"

"The right church is Jesus Christ's church but that church did not exist anymore so God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and restored His church through Joseph Smith.

"I want everyone to know that I know that God answers our prayers. Sophie remember the time that we were in that parking lot and the car wouldn't start for like an hour and we didn't know what to do? Remember what you suggested we do?"

"To pray!"

"Yes, and you prayed and you asked Heavenly Father to help our car to work and what happened?"

"It worked!"

"Yes, after an hour of trying to get it to work, we prayed and it started right then. Sophie helped me remember that God really does hear and answer our prayers. Sophie, remember that time when we were at papa's and he lost his wallet? And we looked for papa bear's wallet in the house and in the garage and in the car and in the house and in the garage and in the car and in the house and in the garage and in the car and could not find it?"

"Yeah..."

"What did you tell papa bear he should do?"

"Pray!"

"Yes, and you prayed for papa bear to find his wallet and we found it right then."

This entire unscripted, unplanned conversation unfolded as a loving father took advantage of a teaching situation that came about because he was trying to fulfill his role as patriarch of his family. His daughter clearly has been taught about the importance of prayer both in word and through hearing stories of those who have had their prayers answered, as in the story with Joseph Smith.

This whole experience taught me or reiterated to me a few very key things. One, that God does hear and answer prayers and that I need to better have the faith of a child. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children," taught the Master, "ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:3-4).

Another thing that was reinforced in my mind is that we are never too young to learn about the Savior and learn the principles that will guide us safely through this life. A lot of people forgo teaching their children the righteous principles upon which to build stable lives and on which decisions should be based under the pretense of not wanting to force religion on their kids but wanting them to make their own decisions and exercise their agency. I devoted an entire post to this mentality two years ago and I will repeat that the mentality of not wanting to influence the decisions of your children in relation to their faith in God is absolutely ridiculous. If they don't learn it from you, who are they going to learn it from before the world fills their heads with other meaningless, degrading, and harmful things? The proper and intelligent use of agency requires a knowledge of the truth and of things as they really are. If children only know the crap that is out there, if they only know one side-and you know the world does not teach both sides evenly-how on earth are they to effectively use their agency to make the best decisions?

Some would criticize the Church and parents for brainwashing their kids. I had an encounter in Ukraine with a Baptist preacher from Arkansas by the name of Abbey Map who told me the only reason I was out on a mission was because my parents forced me to be there. Ha, he doesn't know the relationship I have with my parents and my knee-jerk reaction to them telling me what to do. But honestly, do any of you think that the above-related conversation between a loving father and his four-year-old daughter was a result of brainwashing or of an overbearing parenting style?

This darling little four-year-old in her fun summer dress and cute, crimped, blond hair already knows something that some of the most educated people in the world do not know, something that most of the world does not know. She knows the secret of success in this life and she, although she does not yet fully understand the import yet, knows that she has a loving Father in Heaven who looks after her and to whom she can turn in times of need. What is she going to do when she finds herself at a questionable party in junior high or high school? What is she going to do when she is pressured by her so-called friends to join in activities that the rest of the world deems appropriate and she does not know how to get out of the situation? Where will she turn when she is lost, afraid, alone, scared, or teased, as most teenage girls are at some point as they try to discover who they are and how to fit in? What will she do when her grandparents die or, heaven forbid, one of her parents or siblings? How will she take hardship and trial at a young age or in her mature years? The same way she is learning to handle trials right now, through prayer. This little girl knows, thanks to her caring parents, that her Father in Heaven will answer her prayers anytime and anywhere. Her faith in that principle will grow as she continues to act upon that knowledge so that when something more severe and more serious than a lost wallet or a broken car happens to her or those around her, she will not hesitate to do the exact thing that will ensure her safety and well-being.

Tell me that what TJ and Deb are doing is brainwashing their little girl. Tell me that instead of teaching her of Jesus Christ, they should just let her only learn whatever the world has to offer through "reality" TV. Tell me that the way the world portrays high school and reality is the best way to live and that it brings happiness. Tell me that she will learn how to best handle tough situations from TV shows, movies, and her peers. No. It is the Savior who said, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30). He is the way, the truth, and the light (see John 14:6).

I repeat the words of a modern-day apostle, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, partially-quoted earlier:

"I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous, multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness.

"Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him and His omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that 'wickedness never was happiness' (Alma 41:10)." ("Moral Discipline," Ensign, Nov 2009.)
We all learn of the world purely by virtue of living here. But in order to make intelligent, educated decisions, we must also learn of truth. And we learn of truth by striving to follow the example of Jesus Christ. He 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).

The truth shall make you free. How beautifully simple.

It is the solemn and sacred responsibility of parents to "train up a child in the way he should go," (Proverbs 22:6) that children are properly prepared to not only survive in this world of shifting and changing values, but also to be able to make the choices that will bring true and lasting happiness. Parents who love their children and understand the responsibility that accompanies the sacred and wonderful blessing of being able to bear and rear children will do all that is in their power to ensure that their children are taught correct principles and truth just as TJ and Deb are striving with their young family.

God is our Father in Heaven. He hears and answers our prayers. He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, that we may have a way to repent and try again when we fail and that through our strivings we may have a way to return to Him to live with Them forever. The family is the central unit in the plan of God and in the family we are to learn and grow and progress and feel of His love.

Jeremy

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Temple Covenants: The Ultimate Sacrifice


 This weekend in Logan I ran a little jump rope workshop for two days as a fundraiser with the Just Jumpin' jump rope team. The workshop was small but it was a lot of fun, as it always is with that team.

Friday evening after the workshop, Alyssa and I went on a hike with the Mickelsons, my wonderful adopted second family. Cache Valley is one of the most beautiful places I've seen and this hike was no exception. We put together a picnic and drove about 15 miles up Logan canyon to a trail that led to an old sawmill where the builders of the Logan temple cut the trees they used to construct the temple. The trail is 3.2 miles one way and leads along a beautiful creek lined with beaver dams and felled trees. We actually drove a bit further up the canyon, hiked over a meadow, and met up with the trail about halfway up which no one complained about missing the first part of the trail, especially after jump roping all day.

At the end of the trail lies a monument constructed to the workers who sacrificed so much to provide the wood for the construction of the Logan temple. At that site along the creek, devoted volunteers built a sawmill and a few other buildings used for worship services and housing. They lived up there year-round from 1877 at least until the temple was completed in 1884 and paid workers lived there until the mill was destroyed by fire in 1888.

Throughout the course of our adventure, the drive, the hike, the time we spent at the top, and the return trip, I thought a lot about what the experience would be like without the modern amenities of roads, KFC, watermelon, M&Ms, and good weather. In the heat of the summer or in the chill of winter (it's Utah and Cache Valley is higher in elevation than Salt Lake so the winters there almost without exception involve more snow and colder temperatures) these people walked the almost twenty-mile trail from the sawmill to the temple site and then back again for years, transporting wood that was needed to build a structure worthy to be called the house of the Lord. Although the mill had a few paid employees (making $2.30/hour which is actually about twenty cents more than my hourly at the Old Spaghetti Factory...I need a new job), most of the people involved were volunteers, driven by the desire to have a temple in which they could make eternal covenants with the Lord and be sealed to their beloved families for eternity. Honestly, although the hike was not hard or steep at all, there were places along the creek that were definitely not big enough for a wagon and I don't know how they navigated a wagon of trees down that canyon. Not to mention the other 15+ miles that are paved now; who knows what that terrain looked like back in 1880.

Many sacrifices were made to build the Logan temple, and the other temples of the time. Like the sawmill used for the Logan temple, the granite quarry for the Salt Lake temple was up in the mountains above Salt Lake City, which was a four-day journey from the temple site before the railroad was built. Remember when electricity was invented? Very small parts of New York City were barely tapping into commercial power at the time the first temples were being built in the territory of Utah. Not to mention that all the people who devoted their time and expertise had just walked across the continent with few possessions, started new lives in a desert, and had families to provide for. We could find as many incredible stories of sacrifice and devotion as there were people who helped build temples in the 1800's.

Why such sacrifice from these devoted saints? Why did they not wait until they had constructed their lives and had built houses, farms, and cities? Why did they need wood and stone of a better quality than that which they used to construct their houses, stores, barns, and sheds? Wouldn't the Lord understand that they were doing what they could with what they had been given? They had just escaped a death decree from their previous governor; lost children and parents and brothers and sisters in the plains of Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming and in the mountains of Utah; and left behind two other temples constructed in equal poverty--one of which was burned down by a mob just after its completion.

There are other stories of sacrifice by saints to get to temples and make sacred covenants, stories involving long journeys undergone and life savings spent to just attend the temple once to be sealed as eternal families. President Thomas S. Monson, prophet and president of the Church today, related a story of the sacrifices made by a pacific islander family to be sealed as together for eternity in the the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, more than 2,500 miles from their island home near Tahiti.



In the same talk, President Monson spoke of the sacrifices of the Amazonian members made to travel by boat and then bus for seven days and nights in order to get to the closest temple some 2,500 miles away. (See "The Holy Temple--A Beacon to the World," Ensign, May 2011, 90.) A temple in Manaus, Brazil was just dedicated this past Sunday for these devoted members.

Kiev Ukraine Temple
I could relate more stories for sacrifices people have made and continue to make in order to have a chance to make sacred covenants with the Lord in His holy houses and be sealed with their families eternally. In Ukraine where I spent two years as a missionary, the members used to save for years to make the 3-4 day journey to Germany to attend the temple. Now they, too, have a temple in Kiev.

Once again I ask: Why? Why did these wonderful disciples of Christ make such sacrifices to be able to visit the houses of the Lord? Why do the members of the Church today continue to make sacrifices of time and money to visit the temple as often as occasion permits?

The answer lies in the covenants made in these sacred edifices to God. In life, at the hand of civil officials, we marry until death do us part with no guarantee of being able to spend any more time than mortality with our loved ones, however long or short that may be. But in the house of the Lord, in His holy temples, we are sealed by the priesthood, the very power and authority of God, for time and for eternity. Through these sacred covenants and our continual efforts to live faithful to them, we are promised that our beloved relationships in this life will be perpetuated beyond the grave.

Think of this promise! To be able to live together with our families forever, for eternity. To live, laugh, and love in this life, knowing that death is not the end but merely another step in our eternal progression. I conclude with the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, living apostle in our day:

"If you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late." ("The Laborers in the Vineyard," Ensign, May 2012, 33.)

His words are to everyone, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or no. God's promises are to all, for He is no respecter of persons. Our ancestors understood the importance of making and keeping temple covenants and made sacrifices accordingly. May we each gain an equal understanding and make the necessary sacrifices in our day and in our lives that we, too, may have the eternal blessings our Father in Heaven wishes to bestow upon us.

Jeremy

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Merciful Obtain Mercy


Every fourth Sunday we spend an hour at church specifically focusing on a particular sermon/talk given by one of the apostles. Of course the other Sundays and hours (along with other days of the week) are filled with learning and instruction, the center of which is always the doctrine of Christ as taught by the prophets and apostles, ancient and modern. But every fourth Sunday a specific sermon from the most recent General Conference is chosen and we discuss it in depth together. A couple weeks ago, the talk chosen was, "The Merciful Obtain Mercy," given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, apostle and counselor to the the prophet.

I LOVE this talk. Truly it is one of the great sermons on becoming Christlike and full of the charity, the pure love of Christ. The underlying theme of President Uchtdorf's talk came from the words of the sermon taught by Jesus Christ on the mount of beatitudes, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt 5:44). "We simply have to stop judging others," taught President Uchtdorf, "and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children."

A few points that I want to highlight from this talk include the doctrine of forgiveness. President Uchtdorf reminded us of the doctrine behind the need for forgiveness and not judging, saying, "The doctrine is clear. We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him. Christ's Atonement is infinite and eternal. Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions. We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others."

In another part of his talk, President Uchtdorf reminds us that forgiveness includes all men, including forgiving ourselves. "Sometimes, of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive--as well as perhaps the one who is most in need of our forgiveness--is the person looking back at us in the mirror."

Another point--and this is one of the reasons I love President Uchtdorf and the other apostles so much is that they are loving and gently corrective when necessary, but they are also direct and to the point at times also--is what he calls a two-word sermon:

"When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

"Stop it!

"It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters."

And as a help to assist us in applying this two-word sermon, President Uchtdorf expounded:

"We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

"Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?"

He goes on to quote a few scriptures and speak about the example and life of the Savior to illustrate the importance of what he was teaching. Another favorite quote from his talk is, "Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive." And then President Uchtdorf summed up his thoughts with this admonition:

"Lay your burden at the Savior's feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ's Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another."

Read this talk, pray and ponder to know how you can better become a disciple of Jesus Christ and return good for evil. Remember that we are not perfect and the people around us are not perfect. "But part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord's way."

The merciful will obtain mercy.

Jeremy

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life Pt. 2: Words from an Apostle


As I sat down to write about this week's article, the post went in a different direction than planned and did not include the article I had chosen at all. But it was still pretty good so I posted it as part one, a preface to this post which does include the article of the week.

As we discussed in part one, each of us faces difficult and life-changing decisions in life. Relying on the wisdom of the world or simply on our own experience often times is not enough to make educated, correct decisions. However, we are not left alone to make these decisions; we have a loving Father in Heaven who knows our challenges and is willing to help us if we reach out to Him. And when we do, God communicates with us through the Holy Ghost.

Elder Richard G. Scott, apostle of the Lord in our day, gave a discourse on how we can receive help from the Lord in our personal lives. His talk, entitled, "How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life," is published in the May 2012 publication of the Ensign.

"The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey," taught Elder Scott, "When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective, for the purpose of this message, it is inspiration."

Elder Scott then went on to describe a number of things that we can and should do to invite and recognize revelation, starting with prayer. "One of the great lessons that each of us needs to learn is to ask. Why does the Lord want us to pray to Him and to ask? Because that is how revelation is received." He continued:

"When I am faced with a very difficult matter, this is how I try to understand what to do. I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures that will be helpful. That process is cyclical. I start reading a passage of scripture; I ponder what the verse means and pray for inspiration. I then ponder and pray to know if I have captured all the Lord wants me to do. Often more impressions come with increased understanding of doctrine. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures."

In addition to studying the scriptures, we must live in a manner that invites the Spirit. Elder Scott taught, "There are some practical principles that enhance revelation. First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight.

"Another principle is to be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit. A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life."

(I LOVE that he calls humor an escape valve for the pressures of life. Something I definitely need to work on.)

"Another enemy to revelation comes from exaggeration or loudness in what is stated. Careful, quiet speech will favor the receipt of revelation.

"On the other hand, spiritual communication can be enhanced by good health practices. Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation. We will live for our appointed life span. However, we can improve both the quality of our service and our well-being by making careful, appropriate choices.

"It is important that our daily activities do not distract us from listening to the Spirit."

As we pray and strive to live in a manner that invites the spirit of revelation, we should record what we learn. "Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us."

If we falter in our striving to do right and make wrong choices, the Atonement of Jesus Christ  provides a release from the demands of justice for the errors made. The Atonement, said Elder Scott, "is wondrously simple and so incomparably beautiful. As you continue to live righteously, you will always be prompted to know what to do."

Read this talk about receiving revelation from the Lord for our personal lives. Each of us faces decisions in life that we cannot adequately decide on our own. Elder Scott is an apostle of the Lord and knows very well how to live in order for the Lord to speak to us unhindered. In closing he said,

"Communication with our Father in Heaven is not a trivial matter. It is a sacred privilege. It is based upon eternal, unchanging principles. We receive help from our Father in Heaven in response to our faith, obedience, and the proper use of agency."

Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of us. He desires our well-being and eternal happiness. He will help each of us on our own journeys through life if we ask Him.

Jeremy

How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life Pt. 1: Prayer*


Many decisions, choices, and avenues exist in life. Some are presented to us on a daily basis and some we potentially face only once in a lifetime. Making the correct decision, choosing the right path, or finding the best choice when multiple options are good, is an extremely daunting task sometimes, especially when the decision appears to have long-term and even eternal consequences. Personally, I am struggling with a number of decisions that, to me, are a huge deal. These are decisions regarding careers, finances, a new business, and relationships. I feel that any one of these would be difficult enough to handle individually, and yet I am faced with all of them together and have been struggling with them for months, some of them for multiple years. None of these life-changing events are in any way negative, but rather, when decided, the outcome will greatly enhance and bless my life. But since these decisions are so important and will affect me and others greatly long-term, I struggle to make the right decision.

So how do I make correct decisions, especially when I cannot see the future and know exactly how my decisions will play out years down the road? Each of us has been faced with life-changing decisions whether they be choosing a school, a job, moving across the country, getting married, starting a family, changing careers, buying a house, committing to follow Jesus Christ, or a host of others. We ask friends and family and those who have gone before us, we are influenced by peers and trends of the world, and we have opposing forces pulling on us in all directions. We may wish that Google or Siri just had the answers for us.

But Google, Siri, the world, and even sometimes those we love and trust do not have all the answers for us. There is, however, One who knows the end from the beginning, who knows what is truly important in life, and how our decisions will play out eternally. And He has a Son who descended below all things that He may know how to best succor us, His people (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:6; 122:8; Alma 7:12).  Jesus Christ works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with Him. We are blessed to have a Father in Heaven who is omniscient, an Elder Brother, "even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before [His] eyes;" (Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2).

In my journey to decide my life, I have relied heavily on one particular thing--prayer to my Father in Heaven. The prophets have taught:

"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings." (Bible Dictionary--Prayer.)

For me, prayer has been absolutely vital in how I make decisions, especially life-changing ones. Very few times has the Lord actually told me what to do in answer to my prayers, contrary to what I might have wished at the time. Rather, He waits until I have made my own decision, helping and guiding me along the way through the Holy Spirit so I have the information needed to make that decision. Then, when I present the Lord my decision, I learn if I have made the best decision or not. The choice is always mine, and my Father in Heaven usually lets me know if I have made the right choice.

Sometimes, however, the choices with which I am faced do not have a negative or less-than-desirable outcome. In those instances, I may not receive an affirmation that I have made the correct decision because both decisions are fine with the Lord and I may go down either path. Either way, the blessings that come from making such decision act as affirmation that I have done right in the Lord's eyes.

Prayer is a wonderful gift and blessing from a loving Father in Heaven to His children. In this life we must walk by faith rather than by sight, trusting in Him who gave us life (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Through the Holy Spirit we receive guidance and direction in all major decisions, and most smaller, seemingly insignificant ones. As we live worthy of the Spirit by obeying the commandments and serving those around us, we will receive answers to our sincere and heartfelt prayers. We will receive the help necessary for our happiness, both here in this life and eternally in the life to come.

Trusting the Lord in prayer when making my decisions has brought me incalculable blessings.

Jeremy

*This originally began as an article of the week and went in a different direction than I planned. See part two for wisdom from Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.