Sunday, March 18, 2018

2 Timothy 1:7 - The Sprit of Power

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

As I thought about this idea of spiritual power and how we can obtain it, my mind was turned to the first chapter of Moses where it describes how the creation was accomplished.  

     "And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth." (Moses 1:32)

I have often thought about that phrase “the word of my power”   It is used again in Jacob 4:9.  This verse seem to explain it more clearly.

     "For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?" (Jacob 4:9)

All of the things that God has created are obedient to him.  Except for one.  A careful reading of Abraham chapter 4 clearly shows that the elements that came together to form this earth obeyed the word of His power.  As you read that chapter, focus on words like order and obey.  Now go back to Abraham 3:25.  We (mankind) were placed on this earth to see if we would obey.  Unlike the rest of God’s creations who have already demonstrated their obedience to the word of his power (Abraham 4:31), man was given agency to see if he would obey (Abraham 3:25).  

How does that apply to each of us obtaining and using the power of God in our lives?  Let me use this example to illustrate.  When Enoch was called upon to prophesy and cry repentance to the people (Moses 6:27), he listed a series of inadequacies in including his youth, how much the people hate him, and that he was “slow of speech” (Moses 6:31).  However the Lord promised him that he would justify all of Enoch’s words (Moses 6:34) and that he would have the power to move mountains and turn rivers from their course.  Now contrast those initial feelings that Enoch had about his ability to serve with this scripture:  

     "And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him." (Moses 7:13) 

All of this was the working of a young man who complained that he was slow of speech.  What happened?  What changed?  

President Thomas S. Monson clearly teaches this principle:

     "Now, some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling. Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies." (Thomas S. Monson, “Duty Calls”, April 1996 LDS General Conference)

We know that when we are equally yoked with the Lord that he can do far more with us than we can do with ourselves.  The key appears to be that we must cast off fear and doubt and allow the power and love of God permeate our souls, change our hearts, and deepen our resolve.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

D&C 89:18-21 - Am I receiving all the blessings of obeying the Word of Wisdom?

The last 4 verses in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants it provide a set of promises to those who obey the principles contained in the Word of Wisdom.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

I have always taken a very pragmatic approach to obedience and blessings.  Using D&C 132:5 as my reference, I feel that you should be able to easily tie blessings that are specifically promised to the commandment you are obeying. 

5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. (D&C 132:5)

For example, look at the Law of Tithing.  Those who obey that law will almost always testify of the specific blessings they have received because they obeyed.  Typically, those "windows of heaven" blessings are received in both temporal and spiritual blessings.   So, the same pragmatic view of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom would be that if I am not enjoying these blessings, then I must not be obeying the commandment.  Let's look at some of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom and see if we can determine what these blessings mean to us in our day.  

Health in the navel and marrow to their bones
     We are all familiar with the navel as it relates to our body.  The belly button marks the former lifeline between the mother and the baby.  This lifeline supplied all that was necessary for the baby to grow until birth.  Most see this promise as a physical blessing of good health, but there is also a symbolism of spiritual blessings.  It is a reminder for our need to connect regularly with God.  To commune with deity and receive the spiritual nourishment we need as well.   This symbolism implies that God will not leave us alone if we do not cut the cord.  When we obey the Word of Wisdom we receive the blessing of a stronger relationship with God. 
     Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside some bones, such as the hip and thigh bones. This marrow contains stem cells. The stem cells can develop into the red blood cells that carry oxygen through your body, the white blood cells that fight infections, and the platelets that help with blood clotting.  Having healthy marrow leads to healthy blood.   Healthy blood gives us protection from disease.  This promise is a specific promise of improved health. 

Wisdom and great treasures of knowledge
Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught us: 
     "We preach and discuss the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, and usually think of the temporal blessings that will come to us in increased health if we live in harmony with its teaching, that we might run and not be weary and walk and not faint, and the destroying angel should pass us by (D&C 89:20-21) but there is also a spiritual aspect which is more far-reaching and should stimulate us to high purpose. The promise I am thinking of is this:
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments . . . shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures (D&C 89:18-19)
     "What could be so priceless as wisdom and knowledge, even hidden treasures? Surely the treasures here referred to are not those of scientific accomplishments. Such will come revealed as light from heaven discovered through the research of men, but these hidden treasures of knowledge in the revelation are those which can be had only by use of the keys given which are: "Walking in obedience" (D&C 89:18) And while the discoveries in the physical world are very important to us here in mortality, the spiritual discovery of a knowledge of God and his program reach into and through eternity." (Spencer W. Kimball, "Ye May Know the Truth" October 1944 LDS General Conference) 

Run and not be weary and walk and not faint
     As I read verse 20 I ask myself if this is a blessing, or if this is the test to see if we are being obedient.  Again, from a purely pragmatic view, it makes little difference.  If you are otherwise free from disease and are unable to run or even walk without becoming weary and faint, then it is possible that there are additional items in the Word of Wisdom that are not being observed.  This is why it is difficult to imagine that someone who is significantly above the ideal weight is really applying the principles of the Word of Wisdom in their lives.  As I see the obese struggle to even climb one flight of stairs, I try to feel some empathy for them, but I also know, that just like a person who is suffering from emphysema as a result of tobacco use (prohibited by verse 8) could have avoided that disease, the obese can find their solution in the Word of Wisdom (verses 10-17).  This wonderful blessing of strength and stamina comes to those who obey both the "do", and the "don't" the the principles of the Word of Wisdom.  

Protection from the destroying angel
     Marion G. Romney said, "It appears from the Word of Wisdom and other scriptures that there are destroying angels who have a work to do among the peoples of the earth in this last dispensation. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831 that because all flesh was corrupted before him, and because the powers of darkness prevailed upon the earth, these angels were “waiting the great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares that they [might] be burned” (D&C 38:12)." (Marion G. Romney, "Trust in the Lord", April 1979 LDS General Conference)
     Another way to look at this may be the symbolism of the destroying angel.  Just as the destroying angel prematurely took away the posterity of the Egyptians by killing the first born in each home, the destroying angel in our day prematurely takes away life as well.  The top causes of death are largely preventable by following the principles in verses 10-17.  (See:  A careful reading of those verses will lead you to understand that a lifestyle in alignment with the Word of Wisdom is the optimum diet for the best health.   

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ether 8:7 - What do you want?

The other day I had the opportunity to sit and ponder on a profound question.  I asked myself, "What do you want?”.  It caused me to think about what I am praying for.  We often pray to have some trial or stress removed from our life.  We pray for peace and protection so we can avoid the challenges that might come to us.  These are worthy things to pray for.  (see Alma 34:218-27).  But do our prayers really match the desires of our hearts.  What is the greatest desire of your heart? What do you really want?  

There is a great story in the 8th chapter of the Book of Ether about Jared.  Now this isn’t the Jared that has a brother and was at the tower of Babel when the languages were confounded.  This is another Jared.  This is the Jared with the dancing daughter.  As you recall, Jared was forced to give up his kingdom in order to save his own life. Then you find this profound statement:   

'And now Jared became exceedingly sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom and upon the glory of the world.'  (Ether 8:7)

Jared's daughter then put it into his heart to form a secret combination the eventually lead to the murder of the king and Jared being restored to power.  However, this secret combination lead to the entire destruction of his people as well as losing his own life.  With his heart set on power and glory, he was blinded to eternally appropriate heart-felt desires.  

So, back to the questions.  What do you want?  What are you exchanging your life for?

Are our hearts set on the things of this world (D&C 121:35), or is it focused on Jesus Christ? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

Some may think that if they had more money then they would be happy.  What would you do with it?  Money is good for one thing.  It is used to buy things of this world.  Is that what you want?  If you are eventually given all that our Father has, then what good will a few worldly trinkets be?

Remember this advice: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (3 Nephi 13:33) 

Dale Carnegie once said, “If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.”

Finally consider these words by Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf:  

"We know what matters most in life—the Light of Christ teaches this to everyone. We as faithful Latter-day Saints have the Holy Ghost as a “constant companion” to teach us the things of eternal value. I imagine that any priesthood holder listening to my voice today, if asked to prepare a talk on the subject “what matters most,” could and would do an excellent job. Our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience."

"Pause for a moment and check where your own heart and thoughts are. Are you focused on the things that matter most? How you spend your quiet time may provide a valuable clue. Where do your thoughts go when the pressure of deadlines is gone? Are your thoughts and heart focused on those short-lived fleeting things that matter only in the moment or on things that matter most?” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “We are doing a great work and cannot come down”, April 2009 LDS General Conference) 

Monday, February 26, 2018

D&C 133:57-59 - Two vs. Ten Thousand

As I read D&C 133:57-59, I asked my self what it means when it says that "two shall put their tens of thousands to flight"

 57 And for this cause, that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fulness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity—
 58 To prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth, and for the Lord’s errand in the day when the weak shall confound the wise, and the little one become a strong nation, and two shall put their tens of thousands to flight.
 59 And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thresh the nations by the power of his Spirit.

What does this passage of scripture refer to?  Is this a specific event or a description of the Lord's support of his children in the latter-days?  What can I learn from this?  As I thought about these question I remembered a phrase from 2 Kings 6:16 that there are more that be with us than be with them.  While we may not see those who stand by us, we are not alone in our mortal struggles. As you think about this story of the prophet Elisha you will recall that in his day, Syria was at war against Israel, and the prophet Elisha counseled the king of Israel in matters of war. The king of Israel followed that counsel and saved himself again and again. This stirred up the king of Syria, who sent by night “horses, and chariots, and a great host,” and surrounded the city. (See 2 Kings 6:15-17)

15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?”
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.  

Elder Neal A. Maxwell referred to eternal equation as "spiritual arithmetic".  We view our on intellectual, physical, or spiritual shortfalls without taking into account that God lives in the eternal "now".  All things, past, present, and future are constantly before him. Our uncertainly does not influence his divine reality.  When he states that "two shall put their tens of thousands to flight" he has eyes that sees the mountain full of horses and the chariots of fire.  Our weakness of faith does not change the reality of the certainty of His divine errand.  We belong to the greatest cause on earth.  We are a part of His royal army.  We are His stripling warriors.  We are the weak and simple.  As we keep the commandments and pray in faith, He will open our spiritual eyes even wider and we will come to see that we are not alone in this great fight for the souls of men.  

With this knowledge of our potential, Elder Holland provides some excellent advice to avoid pride from creeping into our lives.  

"We can be grateful for our health, wealth, possessions, or positions, but when we begin to inhale it—when we become obsessed with our status; when we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings—that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt.
"We are servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not given the priesthood so that we can take our bows and bask in praise. We are here to roll up our sleeves and go to work. We are enlisted in no ordinary task. We are called to prepare the world for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We seek not our own honor but give praise and glory to God. We know that the contribution we can make by ourselves is small; nevertheless, as we exercise the power of the priesthood in righteousness, God can cause a great and marvelous work to come forth through our efforts. (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Pride and the Priesthood", October 2010 LDS General Conference)

I invite you to cross-reference the two passage above with:
D&C 35:13; D&C 1:19,23; 1 Corinthians 1:27

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Efficiency: "The thing that thou doest is not good." (Exodus 18:17)

A painting by Clark Kelley Price of Moses reading to a large group of people from a long scroll.

As I re-read Elder Eyring's April 2017 general conference talk I came across this little gem.  

". . . the Lord’s work is not just to solve problems; it is to build people. So as you walk with Him in priesthood service, you may find that sometimes what seems like the most efficient solution is not the Lord’s preferred solution because it does not allow people to grow." (Henry B. Eyring, "Walk with Me", April 2017 LDS General Conference) 

This statement reminded me of a quote by Stephen R. Covey that I heard a long time ago.  He said.  

“You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.”
— Stephen R. Covey

Remember the story in Exodus 18:12-26.  Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, gives Moses some wise council on effective leadership.  The problem was that Moses was spending his entire day sitting as the judge of the people.  Jethro pointed out to him that "The thing that thou doest is not good." (Exodus 18:17).  Jethro then reminded Moses, that as the prophet, his responsibility was to teach and lead the people (vs. 20).    He could choose "able" men to judge the smaller matters and leaving only the hard cases for himself.  

This story reminds me that as a priesthood leader to be careful when I start to think that it may be quicker and more efficient if I simply take the responsibility and do the work myself.  It often takes longer to teach someone what to do than it is to simply get it done.  But as Elder Eyring reminds us, in priesthood service our goal is to help people grow.  We may find ourselves starting to look beyond the mark (Jacob 4:14) if we think that we are responsible for the hastening of the work.  Re-read the verse about hastening the work carefully:

 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time. (D&C 88:73)

Who will do the hastening?  He will.  It is his work.  If he wants it done more efficiently, then he will teach us and show us the way.  Our responsibility is not to create and run the most highly-efficient organization, our focus is elsewhere.  From that same talk, Elder Eyring made it clear how we should participate in the work. 

"Remember that God’s work and glory is not simply to run an effective organization; it is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”  (Moses 1:39) This is, after all, why He gives His priesthood authority to flawed mortals like you and me and invites us to participate in His work. Our progress is His work!" (Henry B. Eyring, "Walk with Me", April 2017 LDS General Conference) 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Luke 14:28 - Scripture Study: Counting the Cost is a great website for me to select good books to read and to track my reading.  Each year they have a reading challenge.  Members of the site are encouraged to set a reading goal for the year and post that goal on the site.  At the end of the 2017 I noticed that the percentage of those who finish their goal is very small.  Here are the statistics.  

Books Pledged144,787,640
Books Finished45,833,780
Avg. Books Pledged45
Challenges Completed504,764

You will notice that only about 1.6% of the people completed the challenge that they set for themselves.  So, do we say that 98% of the people failed?   I don’t think so.  If you look, there were over 45 million books read.  This is fantastic!  I wouldn’t call anyone a failure that set a goal, read some books, and came up short of their goal.  The real failure would have been not starting at all.  Perhaps the average goal of reading 45 books in a year is much too high.  Many people can read a book a week, but for some of us, we can’t get through that many.  If each person sets a realistic goal based on their circumstances then, as they work toward that goal, they are winning.  

This reminds me of the scripture in Luke 14:28 which says:  

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 

For many of us, we don’t sit down and out the cost before we set our goals.  Can we realistically expect to read for an hour a day?  Some can, but many can’t.  What is the solution?  Perhaps it would help to set shorter term goals.  Is it better to set goals quarterly? monthly?  or daily?  We could avoid some of the personal guilt or frustration that comes when we fall short of our goals if we will simply “count the cost” before we begin.  Many of us think we can accomplish more on a day to day basis than we really can, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in a year if we have daily habits that contribute to our goals.   

Some people use the acronym SMART when they set goals.  The “R” in SMART reminds us to set reasonable/realistic/rational goals.  Part of what makes a goal reasonable is for us to look carefully at what it will take to meet that goal and evaluate if we really have time each day to do those things which will develop into habits that will lead to success.  

How do we apply this to scripture study?  Elder Richard G. Scott said:

"Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!" (Richard G. Scott, "Make Exercise of Faith Your First Priority", October 2014 LDS General Conference)

It all comes down to this simple phrase:  Win the Day! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

D&C 107:27 - Unanimity, Presiding, and Counseling Together

Recently I had an experience that caused me to reflect on this idea of unanimity, presiding, and counseling together.   As I searched the scriptures and conference talks related to this topic I came up with several quotes.  These quotes are below, followed by some of my own thoughts.

     "It is possible to rise to the lofty standard set by the Lord for priesthood holders in making decisions in quorums. It is possible when there is great faith and love and the absence of contention. Here is the Lord’s requirement for His endorsement of our decisions: And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other-- D&C 107:27” (Henry B. Eyring, “Learning in the Priesthood”, April 2011 LDS General Conference)

This idea of unanimity in counsels intrigues me.  How does counseling together until unanimity is reached ensure that we are in alignment with the Lord’s will?  In his October 2014 conference talk, Elder Nelson made it clear.

     "The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. [See  Doctrine and Covenants 107:27] Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity? These 15 men have varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things. Trust me! These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached! (M. Russell Nelson, “Sustaining the Prophets”, October 2014 LDS General Conference)

So, when we follow the Lord’s pattern of counseling together until we reach unanimity, then we can be assured that we have come to know his will.  How does this happen?  President Hinckley describes the process:

     "I add by way of personal testimony that during the twenty years I served as a member of the Council of the Twelve and during the nearly thirteen years that I have served in the First Presidency, there has never been a major action taken where this procedure was not observed. I have seen differences of opinion presented in these deliberations. Out of this very process of men speaking their minds has come a sifting and winnowing of ideas and concepts. But I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. Only then is implementation made. That, I testify, represents the spirit of revelation manifested again and again in directing this the Lord’s work. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “God is at the Helm”, April 1994 LDS General Conference)

Then what is the responsibility of the person holding priesthood keys who sits at the head of the counsel?  It doesn’t appear that he is to act as  simply a person who sits at the head of the table, takes everyone’s input and then go off and makes a decision.  This is not unanimity.  Sure, the counsel may follow him out of respect for the keys he holds, but the danger is that without the desired unanimity, the leader is not assured they have come to know the will of the lord.   The definition of priesthood keys is given in “The Guide to the Scriptures”; "Keys are the rights of presidency, or the power given to man by God to direct, control, and govern God’s priesthood on earth.”  This statement by Elder Ballard helps us understand how those priesthood keys relate to counseling together.

     "Our bishops have heavy demands placed upon them. They—and they alone—hold certain keys, and only they can fulfill certain responsibilities. But they are not called to be all things, at all times, to all people. They are called to preside and to lead and to extend God’s love to His children. Our Heavenly Father does not expect them to do everything by themselves.
     "When stake presidents and bishops allow the priesthood and auxiliary leaders whom the Lord has called to serve with them to become part of a problem-solving team, wonderful things begin to happen. Their participation broadens the base of experience and understanding, leading to better solutions. You bishops energize your ward leaders by giving them a chance to offer suggestions and to be heard. You prepare future leaders by allowing them to participate and learn. You can lift much of the load from your shoulders through this kind of involvement. People who feel ownership of a problem are more willing to help find a solution, greatly improving the possibility of success. (M. Russell Ballard, “Counseling with our Counsels”, April 1994 LDS General Conference)

Understanding the Lord's will is particularly important when we extend callings to members of the ward.  Here is the guidance on extending callings from Handbook 2 Chapter 19:

     "Leaders seek the guidance of the Spirit in determining whom to call. They consider the worthiness that may be required for the calling. They also consider the member’s personal or family circumstances. Each calling should benefit the people who are served, the member, and the member’s family.
      "… In some cases, priesthood and auxiliary leaders are asked to make recommendations to their stake presidency or bishopric. They should approach this responsibility prayerfully, knowing that they can receive guidance from the Lord about whom to recommend. However, they should remember that final responsibility to receive inspiration on whom to call rests with the stake presidency or the bishopric.
     "Stake presidents and bishops should carefully evaluate each recommendation, recognizing that it has been prayerfully considered. As needed, they may request another recommendation.

So what is the proper place of unanimity, priesthood keys, and counseling together when extending ward callings?  D&C 38:27 states: “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine”  Can we seek for unanimity in our counsels and as we discuss callings.  This scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 comes to mind.  "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.”  If we are all listening to the same spirit, shouldn’t we all get the same answer?  Granted during the “study it out in your mind” (D&C 9:8) phase of the quest to receive personal revelation, the Spirit may say to one member of the counsel something that the other members of the counsel are not ready to hear or may not have the background to understand.  So the spirit will "lead you along” based on what you are able to bear or understand (D&C 78:18).

With this understanding, should it diminish your faith when the bishop asks you for suggestions of who should be your counselors and after prayerfully selecting some names, he seems to reject your counsel.  As we participate in the revelatory process, you may come up with ideas that help both you and the bishop move through the process.  As he considers your suggestions, he may be inspired do go another way, but your suggestions got him to where he needs to be to take the next step.  After he comes back to you with some additional ideas, then you have the obligation to take his suggestions and seek confirmation of the spirit.  If that confirmation does not come, or if you feel you have received additional insight, then you should get back with the bishop and work through another round of counseling together.

Eventually, by working through this process, honoring priesthood keys, and seeking inspiration, each person in the counsel will be confident in lending their unanimous voice to the decision of the counsel and we will be confident that we are doing the will of the Lord.