Richard Alger

Personal Online Journal

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Covenants of the Endowment

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“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions” (The House of the Lord, James E. Talmage, rev. ed. [1976], 84).
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“We are a covenant people. We covenant to give of our resources in time and money and talent—all we are and all we possess—to the interest of the kingdom of God upon the earth” (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, 35).

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See also “Lesson 4: Receiving Temple Ordinances and Covenants,” Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual (2003), 16–20

Friday, July 20, 2018

Coming to Ourselves: The First Timid Step

I have been listening and reading "Bonds That Make Us Free Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves". This morning I was thinking about how I might introduce the book to my children.

I first read an early form of this book before it was published. I attended a class from the Arbinger Institute around 1997. The concepts in the book were a paradigm shift for me. I recognized how many of my problems were of my own making. After over 20 years, I have not put into practice many of the principles in this book. I hope to instill in my children the principles and practices that this book teaches and causes to inspire.

I hope to further nurture a climate of change and accountability and growth in my family and friends. Part of this is selfish. I know that I have a better chance of changing, being accountable and growing when I ask it of those nearest to me.

The last part of the sub-title stood out to me, "coming to ourselves". It reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
(Luke 15:17-19)
What does it mean to come to myself?

Coming to myself is one of the first steps of repentance. We become aware of what we have created. We resolve to go, confess and accept the consequences. In the story of the prodigal son, he did not think it possible that he could be restored in his relationship with his father. His father showed him immediately that he urgently longed for a restoration. He ran and fell on his son's neck.

Matthew R. Linford describes how the father in this story risks the shame from the community. He loves his child. God rejoices in our turning to him. He runs to us and embraces us regardless what others might think of him.
As Bailey notes, in Middle Eastern culture, a man of the father’s stature would always walk in a slow, deliberate way. He would never run, let alone race. In addition, for a man in robes to run, and especially for him to race, he would need to gather his robes in his arms and expose his legs. Both running and exposing his body would cause him tremendous shame in his community — these would be unthinkable acts. Thus, no doubt to his utter amazement, the prodigal son sees his father take at least some of his shame upon him, racing partly naked through the village. This act would draw at least some of the attention and scorn of the community from the returning child to the benevolent father.
("The Parable of the Benevolent Father and Son", Matthew R. Linford, Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 22 (2016): 149-178, Quoted on www.mormoninterpreter.com)
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While he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that a joyous return is possible for any “who have taken your spiritual inheritance and left.” 
“Note the words of the parable of the prodigal son: ‘And when he came to himself.’ Have you not also reflected on your condition and circumstances, and longed to return? 
“The boy in the parable wanted only to be a servant in his father’s house, but his father, seeing him afar off, ran to meet him and kissed him, put a robe on his back, a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet, and had a feast prepared for him. 
“So it will be with you. If you will take the first timid step to return, you will find open arms to greet you and warm friends to make you welcome.
("Viewpoint: Repent and Return to Christ" quotes "Everything to Gain—Nothing to Lose", Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference Oct 1976. Emphasis added.)
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right"


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In February 1847, nearly three years after the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young and gave him this message: 
“Tell the people to be humble and faithful and sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach [you what] to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right.” 
(Brigham Young, Quoted from "Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Joseph Smith Chapter 7: Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Ghost", Original in Brigham Young, Office Files, Brigham Young, Vision, Feb. 17, 1847, Church Archives.)

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You may surround any man or woman with all the wealth and glory that the imagination of man can grasp, and are they satisfied? No. There is still an aching void. On the other hand, show me a beggar upon the streets, who has the Holy Ghost, whose mind is filled with that Spirit and power, and I will show you a person who has peace of mind, who possesses true riches, and those enjoyments that no man can obtain from any other source.
(Wilford Woodruff, "The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), 46–56, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 5.)
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You will find if ever we seek to do something else besides carrying out the dictates of the Holy Spirit, we will get into the fog and into darkness and trouble, and we shall be ignorant of the way we are pursuing. Every day that we live we need the power of the Lord—the power of his Holy Spirit and the strength of the priesthood to be with us that we may know what to do. And if we will so live before the Lord, the Spirit will reveal to us every day what our duties are; I do not care what it is we are engaged in, we should first find out the will of the Lord and then do it, and then our work will be well done and acceptable before the Lord.
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Through all my life and labors, whenever I have been told to do anything by the Spirit of the Lord, I have always found it good to do it. I have been preserved by that power. … Get the spirit of revelation with you. And when you get that you are safe, and you will do exactly what the Lord wants you to do. 
(Wilford Woodruff, "The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), 46–56, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 5.)
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Every man who receives that Spirit has a comforter within—a leader to dictate and guide him. This Spirit reveals, day by day, to every man who has faith, those things which are for his benefit. … It is this inspiration of God to his children in every age of the world that is one of the necessary gifts to sustain man and enable him to walk by faith, and to go forth and obey all the dictations and commandments and revelations which God has given to His children to guide and direct them in life. 
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Every man should get the Spirit of God, and then follow its dictates. This is revelation. It doesn’t make any difference what the Spirit tells you to do; it will never tell you to do anything that is wrong. 
(Wilford Woodruff, "The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), 46–56, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 5.)
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Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. 
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this Easter Sunday be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly. 
("Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives", Russell M. Nelson, General Conference Apr 2018)
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See also "Learning to Recognize the Spirit,” Family Home Evening Resource Book (1997), 64


Monday, July 02, 2018

Suicide Prevention: Understanding Suicide

From Dale G. Renlund, "Suicide Prevention: Understanding Suicide", Mormon Channel on YouTube. 2 Jul 2018
There's an old sectarian notion that suicide is a sin and that someone who commits suicide is banished to hell forever. That is totally false.
I believe the vast majority of cases, will find that these individuals have lived heroic lives and that that suicide will not be a defining characteristic of their eternities. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

National Memorial Takeaways

The one thing I visited that inspired me more than any other were the quotes in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.


Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC


From https://www.nps.gov/thje/learn/photosmultimedia/quotations.htm
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Inscriptions: 
Rotunda
"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
-Excerpted from a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800.
Southwest Portico
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of a right ought to be free and independent states...and for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour."
-Excerpted from the Declaration of Independence, 1776. 
Northwest Portico
"Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens...are a departure from the plan of the holy Author of our religion...No man shall be compelled to frequent or support religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively."
-Excerpted from A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, drafted in 1777. First introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in 1779, after he had become Governor. Passed by the Virginia Assembly in 1786, while Jefferson was serving as Minister to France. The last sentence is excerpted from a letter to James Madison, August 28, 1789, as he was returning to America to assume his position as Secretary of State. 
Northeast Portico
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan."
-Excerpted from multiple sources: "A Summary View of the Rights of British America," "Notes on the State of Virginia," "The Autobiography," letter to George Wythe (1790), letter to George Washington (1786). 
Southeast Portico:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
-Excerpted from a letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why is the LDS Church Stopping its support of the BSA?

There may be many reasons. I think succinctly,

This is about supporting a program for all of the world. They have been talking about that for many years.

The financial support alone is skewed by our donations to the BSA.

Also, BSA skills/results may not be furthering the missions of the church as much as they think they can do with our own programs.
1. Preach the Gospel
2. Redeem the Dead
3. Perfect the Saints
4. Care for the Poor and Needy

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Practice, Practice, Practice.

I was assigned to speak in Sacrament Meeting today. I was told to speak on the scripture where Jesus told John the Beloved, "Behold Thy Mother".

I searched the phrase and found a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland "Behold Thy Mother" from the Oct 2015 GC.

Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child.

Elder Holland then tells a story.

[A] young man who entered the mission field worthily but by his own choice returned home early due to same-sex attraction and some trauma he experienced in that regard. He was still worthy, but his faith was at crisis level, his emotional burden grew ever heavier, and his spiritual pain was more and more profound. He was by turns hurt, confused, angry, and desolate.
  
His mission president, his stake president, his bishop spent countless hours searching and weeping and blessing him as they held on to him, but much of his wound was so personal that he kept at least parts of it beyond their reach. The beloved father in this story poured his entire soul into helping this child, but his very demanding employment circumstance meant that often the long, dark nights of the soul were faced by just this boy and his mother. Day and night, first for weeks, then for months that turned into years, they sought healing together. Through periods of bitterness (mostly his but sometimes hers) and unending fear (mostly hers but sometimes his), she bore—there’s that beautiful, burdensome word again—she bore to her son her testimony of God’s power, of His Church, but especially of His love for this child. In the same breath she testified of her own uncompromised, undying love for him as well. To bring together those two absolutely crucial, essential pillars of her very existence—the gospel of Jesus Christ and her family—she poured out her soul in prayer endlessly. She fasted and wept, she wept and fasted, and then she listened and listened as this son repeatedly told her of how his heart was breaking. Thus she carried him—again—only this time it was not for nine months. This time she thought that laboring through the battered landscape of his despair would take forever.
 
But with the grace of God, her own tenacity, and the help of scores of Church leaders, friends, family members, and professionals, this importuning mother has seen her son come home to the promised land. Sadly we acknowledge that such a blessing does not, or at least has not yet, come to all parents who anguish over a wide variety of their children’s circumstances, but here there was hope. And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would. But little by little, his heart changed.
 
He started back to church. He chose to partake of the sacrament willingly and worthily. He again obtained a temple recommend and accepted a call to serve as an early-morning seminary teacher, where he was wonderfully successful. And now, after five years, he has, at his own request and with the Church’s considerable assistance, reentered the mission field to complete his service to the Lord. I have wept over the courage, integrity, and determination of this young man and his family to work things out and to help him keep his faith. He knows he owes much to many, but he knows he owes the most to two messianic figures in his life, two who bore him and carried him, labored with him and delivered him—his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his determined, redemptive, absolutely saintly mother.

I know that many mothers strongly dislike mother's day. They feel like they do not measure up. I thought that comparing mothers to Jesus might do this even more.  So I shared this story from Brad Wilcox's BYU Devotional in July 2011, "His Grace Is Sufficient"

A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you? 
 
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
 
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
 
She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
 
She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.
 
She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”
 
She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway.
 
Finally I said, “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”
 
Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”
 
She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.
 
I said, “Wrong.”
 
She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”
 
I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”
 
She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”
 
“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”
 
Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 2 Nephi 2:7; 3 Nephi 9:20).
 
“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”
 
“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”

I was very emotional sharing my talk. I often feel like I am lacking before the Lord. I did not share it, but this same Brad Wilcox talk has what I call the parable of the piano practice. All I have to do is practice, practice, practice. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Friendship and Ministering

As I asked our children and my nieces what was their favorite part of their Millennial Choirs and Orchestras performance weekend. Many of them said that they liked being around their friends.

It made me think about how good a friend I am those that are closest to me. I thought of ministering. How if we minister in the way the Lord did, we become friends. Jesus was friends with Mary and Martha and Lazarus.

When ministering in the church I thought of 3 needs that people have.
1. Being nourished by the good word of God. Being strengthened, encouraged, nurtured.
2. Being needed. People want to know that they have something to contribute that would be missing if they were.
3. Being wanted.

This fits in with friendship. We want to be uplifted by our friendship. We want to feel that we contribute meaningfully. We want to be wanted.

What can I do this week to be a better friend?