Personal Online Journal

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miserable

I watched the new Les Miserable movie tonight.  It was wonderfully acted. Such raw emotion and tragedy. The personification of mercy and justice.  Here are some great quotes from the book.

“To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life."

“Let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them.”

“He who despairs is wrong.”

“As for methods of prayer, all are good, as long as they are sincere.”


 




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Enabling Power of the Atonement


I found this talk from Elder Bednar from the most viewed section on speeches.byu.edu.  He gives several examples from the scriptures and church history of how people accessed the power of the Atonement in the difficulties of their lives.
All that I have read thus far is a preparation for the next line from Daniel W. Jones’ journal. It illustrates how those pioneer Saints may have known something about the enabling power of the Atonement that we, in our prosperity and ease, are not as quick to understand: “We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food” (Jones, Forty Years, 81; emphasis added). My dear brothers and sisters, I know what I would have prayed for in those circumstances. I would have prayed for something else to eat. “Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.” It never would have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to what we already had. What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. ("In the Strength of the Lord". David A. Bednar. October 23, 2001. BYU Devotional)
The grace of the Lord can help us in all aspects of our lives,
If I were to emphasize one overarching point this morning, it would be this: I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us. I think most of us know that when we do things wrong, when we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to be made clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean



One of my earliest memories is my mother singing this song to me as she rocked me to sleep. My older sister told me that she would sing it to their children but used each of their names instead of Bonnie. My wife and I have done so with our children too. A few nights ago as I was putting one of my children to bed I asked her if she knew why I sing this song to her.

Years ago as I was singing this song something came to my mind. An image of my child over the ocean and over the sea.  I recognized that I only have so much influence over my child. That their agency, their will, is so paramount that even God would not breech it. Our moral choice is really the only thing we have that is truly our own.  It is the only thing we can give to God. It is granted to us by God and He will never, ever force it from us. It is the root of love. That we are willing to give our heart, might, mind and strength to what we will.

So as I think of my children, over the ocean and over the sea. What I ask the Lord through this song is that He bring them back to me. Or that through His grace, the gospel of peace might be brought unto but not into the hearts of my children. And that through one and many cases the most sacred of moments, that my children will open their hearts and give space for the word of God in their lives. That they will recognize the value of the word and nurture it in their lives. That they will begin to see the word growing in them. Changing their nature from a fallen one to a spiritual one. That it opens a world of gratitude, and love and service throughout a lifetime.

That through their lives they might become the sons and daughters of God. Born again as children of Christ. He being the Father of their new lives. That they give their whole soul as an offering to God and be sealed to him and to each other for ever and ever.

My prayer continues that I might keep myself in remembrance of the covenants that I have made. Of the change of heart I have experienced. That I might preserve this change of heart. This tree of life in my soul that brings me hope and life and light. That I might continue to bind myself to God and to those who love Him. That I might continue in service and love as my wife and children and parents and on and on from generations long ago to generations to come. Joined in a link that connects all the sons of Adam and Eve. Joining all who will Come unto Him. That our hearts will forever be turned towards God and each other.

This is my prayer. This is what my heart yearns for as I sing this song to my children. As I heard it from my mother.

Friday, November 16, 2012

If Thou Endure It Well



If Thou Endure It Well - Marvin J. Ashton - October 1984 General Conference

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Friends

A friend of mine recorded some songs years ago about several virtues.  One of them is picking good friends. What are some good examples in the scriptures that the friends we pick influence us?

- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego "If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Dan. 3:17-18
I think they strengthened each other in standing up for the principles God inspired them to follow.

- Samson and Delilah - That did not turn out well

- David and Jonathon

One part of the song is, "If you have to choose between your friends and your standards, Choose your standards don't ever bend".  We must stand with the principles we know to be true.  We cannot risk our own footing for a friend that keeps us from God.  We must always choose love in these situation.  Be prayerful. The scriptures tell us that pure love will never fail.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

General Conference Impressions

A favorite story of Sara from Conference. A lady had no more food to feed her family. She had two very hard biscuits. She decided to put them in a pot and cover them with water. She remembered the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. She prayed that the two biscuits would feed her family. When it was done cooking, it here was plenty to feed her family.

Josh said (with a smirk) that the biggest thing he got out of conference was that he can go on a mission at 18 years old.

I liked Russell T. Osguthorpe this afternoon when he talked about a group of people they were teaching. He asked how many of them had the Teaching No Greater Call manual. Then he jokingly asked who studied it every day. There was one person who raised their hand. They said that they read their scriptures then read out of the manual to know how to best teach their children

Don R. Clarke told a story of his childhood. He said that when he was a young man his teachers had them fill out a card asking what were they thinking about during the sacrament. I imagine that this was a card that they kept for themselves. Something as a self accountability to see where there thoughts went during the sacrament.

Quentin L. Cook: Two challenges we have are the unrighteousness in the world and apathy among the members. He then referred to Alma 5. Asking if we had felt to sing the song of redeeming love can we feel so now?

Robert D Hales repeated the same story that Elder Holland told in the morning session today. The one about Peter going back to fishing after Jesus died.

I need someone to feed my sheep. Someone who loves me. Ours is not a feeble message. It will change the world.

Phrases I loved: "healing balm".
"would you sell your soul for a nickel?"
"do not leave the storm cellar just as the tornado approaches"
"Condemn me not because of my imperfections"

Dallin H Oaks spoke boldly about the welfare of children. Those forced to fight as soldiers. Children that are denied birth. The replacement rates in Europe and Asia have fallen. Nations hollowed out and cease to exist. Marriage becoming less about the bearing and raising of children. Children becoming shadowy characters in the background of marriage. Same sex marriage is an experiment. Studies of same sex parenting is mixed and politically charged

D. Todd Christopherson Manning Up

Gary E Stevenson. Skirmishes, silent and solitary in front of a screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Be kind to others, even on the Internet

What do you really, really want?

My wife was praying tonight that our children would be inspired to do their homework and chores.  A couple weeks ago she said that electronics were no longer available from Sun-Thu.  Now that means no playing Wii, and no entertainment-only flash games on the computer or on the iPad.  Instead, our kids have actually played more with their physical toys.  The problem seems to be that they also have not been as diligent about their chores and piano practice.  Before, we would use electronics as a carrot or a stick for chores or piano practice.  Now that they are off limits, the motivation also seems to be gone.

Two thoughts came to me when I heard her pray.

I remembered this clip from the movie The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmund has been in a political prison for five years when a floor stone pops up and Abbe Faria comes up. He has been in prison for 11 years. For the last five years he has been digging a tunnel to what he thought was the external wall. Abbe had narrowed down the possible directions to the external wall to two and had chosen the wrong one. This is where the clip (0:45-1:30) picks up.



"With two of us, we could dig in the opposite direction. And with both of us together, then of course we could possibly do it in um...oh...8 years. [Edmond laughs] Ohh... and does something else demand your time? Some pressing appointment, perhaps?" Edmund helps Abbe dig for years in return for lessons in reading, writing and more advanced learning.

The second thought was something I learned from "7 Habits of Highly Effective People".   I remembered the difference between dependence, independence and interdependence.  If my children can learn to be independent, for their physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs, they can then freely give of their particular talents and develop more and more talents.  We can join together in a perfect harmony of the music of our lives.  Forever learning new things, sharing what we have learned.  And experience a richness of life we never knew before.

I know that there are many times that I feel how I imagine my children feeling.  That it is not necessarily fun to have to go to work again.  Or have to do my chores.  But what would I rather do instead?  At the end of the next 6 months would I rather have watched 300 hours of TV or would I rather have developed a talent.  Or overcome a weakness or become substantially more like God in any way?

What do I really really want?  Because one thing that I know for sure is that we usually get it sooner.  And it seems we always get it later.

Praying with your Feet

I friend of mine Geoff Nelson posted this. I wanted to make sure to remember it, so I copied it here.

This is a transcript of unprepared remarks by Russell Hancock
1st Counselor, Menlo Park Stake Presidency

to the Valparaiso Ward Elders Quorum
6 May 2012




I’m grateful for the invitation to speak to your quorum.

My objective today is to tell you about my faith journey and offer up some conclusions and observations. I’m going to speak the only way I know how: honestly and with complete candor, nothing withheld. It means making myself vulnerable in front of group I don’t know well (yet), but we think you have a right to know your new stake presidency. If you sustain me as your leader then you need to know exactly what it is you are sustaining. 

So here, for what it’s worth, is my story.

But first: it would appear that there are two types of Mormons, or at least two paths to conversion. 

One set of members base their testimony on some sort of sensory encounter which they describe as a burning in the bosom, a witness of the spirit, or some sort of infallible encounter with the Holy Ghost. They might hear a voice, or have a tingling, or find themselves in tears, or some other such sensory experience. Many people that I trust and admire describe their witness in these terms, and I believe them. I absolutely believe them. If I’m being completely truthful I will also tell you there are others who speak of this, and I wonder if they are confusing the Holy Ghost with something else, something emotional or intentional or overwrought. But I have decided never to judge, to accept their claims at face value, and I do not doubt the possibility of such experiences. 

The scriptures of course describe this. The most famous instance of it is the promise at the end of Moroni where we’re told to test the gospel and seek a manifestation of the spirit. We’re also taught that the manifestation of the spirit will be the Holy Ghost revealing truth to us.

So that’s one way of ascertaining truth. 

Now here’s the true confession: I’ve never had it. This has never come to me. That’s not how I’ve obtained my truth. 

Now, for most of my life, especially while praying, this is something that led to the sense that I was alone, and led me to feel like I was a second class Mormon--second rate because I couldn’t accomplish this sensory, infallible encounter with the Holy Ghost. I thought that there was something wrong with me. 

It came to a head for me when I was in high school and began asking the big question that looms over the life of a young Mormon male: am I going to serve a mission? And by the way, I was born in the church, “born of goodly parents,” and raised to have faith. And I loved the church--loved everything about it. So as that crucial milestone came in my life where I had to decide whether to go on a mission, I wanted more than anything to serve! I wanted to do this, and yet when I was honest with myself I had to confess I didn’t actually know for myself that the Church was true. I was following my parents’ religion and way of life, and the testimony of family, friends, and ward members. 

Here is the next confession that I need to make: I did something I’m not proud of. I began to speak more loudly and in a voice that was more shrill, and I would actually testify. I would stand up in church meetings and say things that I had no right to say, that I didn’t yet know for my own self. But I thought that in the act of saying them--and saying them more loudly--the testimony would come. So there’s another confession for you. 

Well, my public speaking notwithstanding, I did what Moroni challenged me to do. I think I was very sincere. I worked very hard to pray and I approached my Heavenly Father in that prescribed way and I asked for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. And brethren, it didn’t come, I knew that if I was being honest with myself I had to admit I wasn’t feeling any palpable sense of the Holy Spirit. 

So what am I to do? Well brethren, here’s the next confession: I served a mission. You could say I caved. But I wanted to serve, and I think I had righteous reasons, but I should also tell you I felt like it was an important rite of passage. I felt all of the pressure that you feel to serve a mission, knew the opportunities I would be foreclosing if I didn’t, so I submitted my papers and received a call. 

So I get into the mission field, where it started to trouble me that I was saying things to investigators I thought were true but didn’t know were true. That troubled me. So I thought it was crucial to continue this effort, to find out for myself if the church is in fact everything we’re taught. In fact, I would wait for my companion to fall asleep every night, and when I heard his heavy rhythmic breathing I would get up again and spend the night trying to induce this thing. 

Well, it didn’t happen. That manifestation that was promised in Moroni eluded me. So this was a crisis point for me and I actually felt like if I was going to be true and have integrity then I should probably confess these things to my leadership, to my mission president, and also to my parents. So I actually wrote a letter home to my parents saying that I felt I was a fraud: I loved the church, but that I didn’t know it was true through this encounter with the Holy Ghost. 

Instantly, back comes a letter from my mother. You have to know my mother to fully appreciate this. She doesn’t suffer fools. She can be very stern. So back comes her letter, and she says “Rusty, enough of this nonsense. This is pure foolishness. Stop this at once. Stop praying with your knees, start praying with your feet.” And that was a sweet relief for me. It was complete and total liberation. I took her advice and decided “I’m going to stop doing this thing. I’m going to stop holding a gun to the Lord’s head and insisting on a sign. I’m just going to live my life as if the gospel is true.”

So you must understand: what I did upon reading that letter, was that I made a wager. I decided to bet my entire life that the gospel was true. I decided I would wager my life that the church is everything it claims it is and live out my life accordingly. So that is what I’ve done and what I continue to do.

Now, there’s more I need to tell you on the subject because of course, the story doesn’t just end there. The kicker is that in the course of serving and fulfilling priesthood duty, knowledge does in fact come. But for me it has come in ways that were unbidden. Knowledge for me has not arrived because it was beckoned, or because I said ‘give me a revelation.’ For me it has come in ways I can barely describe, and never on command, and I’m not even sure that they’re sensory or palpable. But I can tell you brethren and sisters that I somehow crossed a threshold into an area that I think we can call something more approaching knowledge. When I speak with conviction about our church it’s not merely with hope and with faith but with something that is approaching knowledge. That I can tell you. But it’s never come on my terms and never come to me on my timetable. 

Now here’s what’s striking. Every time I share these experiences I am assailed by people who tell me “that’s my feeling, that’s my experience too.” So I’m starting to draw conclusions that there really do seem to be two sets of Latter-day Saints. The two sets are people for whom these are experiences are forthcoming and those for whom they’re not. That’s a curious outcome, but there it is. I think we can observe it empirically throughout the church. 

Now there is a section in the Doctrine and Covenants that speaks to this, and for some reason it doesn’t get the press it deserves, certainly not as much press as Moroni. It’s section 46, and it says:

13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

That’s me, okay? That’s definitely me. And yet believing on the words of another is described as a spiritual gift--a legitimate spiritual gift. One that we might even seek, to believe on their words. This is me. And today I don’t think that makes me less of a Latter-day Saint, or less of a disciple. Actually I think I can stand before you and make the case that this makes me a gifted Latter-day Saint, and that gift I have is to believe on their words. 

Furthermore, long years later, many years later, I encountered the writings and the talks given by a number of general authorities in the church, and if I could only have known this at the time of my mission and when I was very young, it would have saved me so much consternation, self-doubt, and recrimination. 

I want to share with you the story of President David O. McKay, which I had never heard! But he stood up in the 1968 General Conference and told a story that turns out to be just like mine. I had never heard this from a church leader. Let me share it with you. This is President McKay:
I am going to tell you what happened to me as a boy upon the hillside near my home in Huntsville. I was yearning, just as you boys are yearning, to know that the vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith was true, and that this Church was really founded by revelation, as he claimed. I thought that the only way a person could get to know the truth was by having a revelation or experiencing some miraculous event ... So one day I was hunting cattle. While climbing a steep hill, I stopped to let my horse rest, and there, once again, an intense desire came over me to receive a manifestation of the truth of the restored gospel. I dismounted, threw my reins over my horse's head, and there, under a bush, I prayed that God would declare to me the truth of his revelation to Joseph Smith. I am sure that I prayed fervently and sincerely and with as much faith as a young boy could muster. 
At the conclusion of the prayer, I arose from my knees, threw the reins over my faithful pony's head, and got into the saddle. As I started along the trail again, I remember saying to myself: "No spiritual manifestation has come to me. If I am true to myself, I must say I am just the same boy that I was before I prayed." I prayed again when I crossed Spring Creek, near Huntsville, and again in the evening to milk our cows. 
The Lord did not see fit to give me an answer on that occasion, it wasn’t until I had been appointed president of the Scottish Mission, that the spiritual manifestation for which I had prayed as a boy came. And it simply came as a natural sequence to the performance of duty. 

So that is President McKay. That’s interesting! And I want to read to you this quote from Elder Oaks, which was interesting:
I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom “burn within” them. What does a “burning in the bosom” mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, then I have never had a burning in the bosom.

That was Elder Oaks. Interesting, right? Now here’s Elder Packer:
Some have been misled by expecting revelations too frequently. I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently. Revelations from God—the teachings and directions of the Spirit—are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. The people I have found most confused in this Church are those who seek personal revelations on everything. 

Let me read you another one, this from Elder McConkie:
Some people postpone acknowledging their testimony until they have experienced a miraculous event. They fail to realize that with most people—especially those raised in the Church—gaining a testimony is not an event but a process. Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous that they get written up in the scriptures. As far as the generality of the members of the Church are concerned, conversion is a process; and it goes step by step, degree by degree, level by level, from a lower state to a higher, from grace to grace, until the time that the individual is wholly turned to the cause of righteousness.

Boy, that’s me! That describes my experience precisely. I wanted to share that for what it’s worth. 

Now, I also want to point out that the Book of Mormon actually proposes actually two different models for obtaining faith and testimony. This is very important. The one model we’ve covered and everybody knows because it gets all the press, and that model is Moroni 10:4: Ask and have a witness be delivered unto you. That’s a legitimate model; it’s scriptural, I believe that it’s true and that it can take place exactly as described. And yet there’s another model laid out very clearly in the same book, which we must also take as scripture and therefore literal and therefore equally valid. It describes an entirely different path to faith and testimony and it is found in Alma 32, where the gospel is likened unto a seed. It uses an agricultural metaphor.. That one really resonates with me. It describes my own life experience. Here we’re not asked to have this dramatic confrontation with Deity, to seek out something bordering on mystical  and to have it delivered on the spot. Instead, we’re asked to do something altogether different, which is to cultivate a seed, to nurture it through our actions. It’s the horticultural approach, where a testimony is a thing to be carefully planted, cultivated, watered, tested. And what do you test? You test the fruits, right? To me the fruits of the gospel are delicious. They pass my taste test. 

I find that a curiosity why missionaries don’t actually lead with that. I would lead with that if I had it to do over again. This is what I would be asking my investigators to do. I would say “just plant the seed, test it. Try it. You might have to try it over a lifetime, but take a look at this seed and then make your own decision on the merits, whether it is good or not. That’s been my experience. To me the fruits are so beautiful and so good that I’ve been willing to bet my entire life upon it.

So there’s my story, and we your stake presidency feel that you have a right to know us in this way. You have a right to understand our spiritual journeys, how we come by the things that we  say. And I will make you a promise right here, that you will never hear me say anything over the pulpit or in a church setting that is beyond my knowledge. If you listen carefully you will hear me choosing words like “believe” as in “I believe this is true” or “I trust this is true” or “I have accumulated enough evidence to persuade me this is the better path.” I’ll be using words very carefully.

Now having shared my story, I want to make five observations for all of us here in the Menlo Park Stake, each on our own faith journeys. Indulge me in five observations. Here they are; 

First, and I want to say this very clearly: if you happen to be somebody who wonders; if you happen to be somebody who is experiencing doubt about the church or about the gospel or any of the great existential questions, if you happen to be a person who wonders I say: Marvelous! How marvelous that is! This is your home. You belong here with us, and you are badly wanted. I want to be very clear about this, the Stake Presidency wants to have a community of saints who are probing, who are discovering, who are testing, who are faith testing, and who are making serious, critical investigation. We’re not trying to cultivate a stake of passive believers, mouthing platitudes. We are trying to cultivate active seekers. This is the kind of stake that we seek to lead. So that’s the first thing I want to make clear,  that if you are finding doubts or asking questions, this is a safe and appropriate place to do that. And I can say that because my own Hosanna have passed through the crucible of doubt. 

The scriptures make it perfectly clear that there is a place for doubt and for skepticism and that this is part of the journey. Remember in the book of Mark when the man seizes upon the Savior and says “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief,” and how the Savior looked especially kindly upon him. Count me as one of those. 

Observation number two is to issue a challenge to those who are feeling comfortable, or those who are feeling complacent in the faith. We want to root out complacency. We don’t think there’s a place for that in the church. Forgive me, but I think there are a few too many Mormons who have decided that because the church is true, we therefore have all the answers to all of the questions, all of the theological questions that have plagued scholars and theologians for centuries. Disciples have been breaking their heads open over these questions for centuries, but because we have the gospel, we know every answer and there’s nothing left for us to do but to be perfunctory Mormons. We don’t think this stake should be a place where people can be smug. Nobody is excused from this lifelong journey of probing and questioning. An unexamined faith is not worth having. 

Not only that, there is yet so much truth that need to be revealed, that needs to be discovered. Remember we believe in continuing revelation. So there is a great deal more for us to do. I fear that many of us confuse faith with depth, and this we must never do. So the second observation I wanted to make is that all of us have a duty to examine our faith, and to be breaking open our heads all over the great questions that our theology poses. It’s breathtaking if you allow yourself to participate in that kind of an exercise. 

Here’s the third observation that I would like to make. The church is a dynamic organization. By dynamic I mean it changes. The gospel is timeless but the Church is not. I have lived long enough to witness the Church make many great and significant changes in my lifetime. Significant things, things like doctrines, teachings, or practices about women, about priesthood, about the garments we wear, among others. So this is significant. We should all understand that the church is a dynamic thing, and one that will grow and change and mature, and we will witness it in our lifetimes. 

Here’s my fourth observation. I want to suggest that we have a role to play in that evolution. We should be agents in helping discover truth, agents in helping the church grow and increase and improve as an institution. Now we make distinctions of course between the gospel and the church right? There was a great talk in this past conference about that, the difference between the church and the gospel. Read that and apply it to our stake as well. Over the 9 years of our stake presidency I’m sure you’ll see many things come and go, changes made. We want you to be enlisted in the change. We want you to feel like you are agents in this. We want you to be innovative with us, and entrepreneurial and creative. We want you to bring your best thinking and we want you to help us. 

Here’s the last observation I’d like to make. It’s an invitation to the members of our stake. We hope that you’ll pray with your knees and also pray with your feet. We want you to pray on your knees, we rejoice in those prayers. We seek those prayers, but we also want the stake full of people who are caught up in the work. It’s a work of compassion. It’s a work of saving, one person at a time. It’s a work of sweat and equity in this place where we’re trying to build a portion of the kingdom. And it’s our experience (it’s certainly my experience) that in the act of service, in the act of fulfilling our duty, this is where the greater knowledge comes, the greater light and knowledge. So we want encourage that among all of us. 

Well, we’re living in an exciting time, when the church (I think) is asking more and more, asking more of us, asking us to be more like Ammon who served the king, who was willing to serve all his days. The church is asking us to be more like Ammon. The church is asking us to be less like Samuel the Lamanite: declarative, standing on the wall, shouting the truth. There’s a place and time for that, of course, and in stake conference I’m going to speak on this subject. But the church here locally is trying to be a bit more like Ammon, praying with our feet, ministering to the people around us. It’s really exciting, to be a part of this. Our mission, for example, has stopped all tracting, on a pilot basis. Right now we’re not tracting! We’re working with members, and seeking out service opportunities for our missionaries. We’re going to take that very seriously, and it’s a way that we’ll be doing that praying with our feet. So that’s the invitation that we want to make to all of our members.

Thanks again for inviting me. I would love to answer questions and make this a dialogue now, instead of a monologue.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

How a Mormon scholar turned doubter, then believer

Here are some quotes from "How a Mormon scholar turned doubter, then believer"


"I’d thought the chance of a universe fitted for life was something like one in a billion," Bradley said in his speech. "The reality was more like one in 10 to the 200th power."
...

"[Joseph Smith's] early prophetic narratives displayed a complexity, power and intricate relationship with the Bible beyond what I could grasp a teenage boy coming up with"

...

"While looking for reasons to believe that Smith was an opportunist after money, sex and power, Bradley found a number. But when he sought examples of how the Mormon founder benefited others and served religious purposes, he found even more."
...

"Not sure what to do, Bradley met with an unknown neighbor who would be his current bishop. The man was nonjudgmental and welcoming, telling him he would have to answer the questions he had asked in his resignation letter.

Oh, yes, and go through the lessons with 19-year-old missionaries — like Bradley used to be.

Though approaching the experience as a kind of anthropologist, Bradley said, "I experienced something my own investigators had described, that during the discussions and after, there was a light with me."

Five months after Bradley rejoined the faith, he was invited to work on the church’s "Joseph Smith Papers" project, he said. All his temple and priesthood blessings were restored."

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Where Happiness Lies

"Whether we are feeling up or feeling down, the scriptures suggest that the path of rescue lies in the one direction our natural-man tendencies keep us from looking.  As absurd as it may sound, happiness apparently lies not in our trying to feel better about ourselves but rather through our allowing the Lord to help us see truths that at first might make us feel worse.  In these lowest moments - the moments when we give up resisting what we haven’t wanted to see- we are finally immersed in the joy we have always sought but have never found, a joy that comes not because we have lifted our hearts but because we have finally allowed them to break."
(James Ferrell, Falling to Heaven, p xi)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

“His Grace Is Sufficient”

We watched this great talk by Brad Wilcox at the BYU Devotional Jul 12, 2011, "His Grace is Sufficient" (Ensign article Sep 2013)

-

A great story:
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.” (2:43 - 5:54)

I love the analogy of piano practice as learning heaven,
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
...
When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). (7:29 - )

Update 2015-03-12
See also
 - Book Review: Adam S Miller’s Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan
 - Softly and Tenderly
 - A FB thread where I discuss this post and others about grace.
- From "8 Things the Atonement Is Not" by Brad Wilcox
1. The Atonement is not just about immortality and eternal life but about not having one without the other.
2. The Atonement is not just about sins but also struggles.
3. The Atonement is not just about receiving but also giving.
4. The Atonement is not just about earning but also learning.
5. The Atonement is not just about immediate perfection but also eventual perfection.
6. The Atonement is not just a reward for the righteous but the source of righteousness.
7. The Atonement is not because we are good but because God and Christ are good.
8. The Atonement is not just the best way but the only way.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why We Forgive

Praying Rests the Weary



Did You Think to Pray? Hymn 140


1. Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ, our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?

Refrain.
O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life gets dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

2. When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

3. When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was full of sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

(From HymnWiki)

The phrase "O how praying rests the weary" has been meaningful to me lately. What is the rest of the Lord?

On a recent John Bytheway talk he said that we only get weary from not finishing what we started.  I have experienced that. There is energy in completing meaningful work.  Maybe that part of what the rest of the Lord is.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bonds of Anguish, Bonds of Love

Years ago I read Bonds of Anguish, Bonds of Love. A 1995 Manuscript by C. Terry Warner.  I learned invaluable life lessons from it.

I have decided to read it again. Here is a quote that I really love from the beginning of chapter 1.
There are two different ways of being a person. One of these precedes the change of heart, and the other follows it. The first is fearful, anxious, resentful, and alienated from other people; the second, open resonant with others, buoyant, straightforward, and secure.

To the extent that we live the second way, we care about others. We do not see them merely in terms of our own interests, as helping or hindering us. They are real to us; we are as sensitive to their feelings and hopes and needs as we are to our own.

Here is the the published book that came from the manuscript, "Bonds that Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Make us thy true under-shepherds"

To those who aspire to be true under-shepherds.




Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd, LDS Hymn 221

1. Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the sheep of his fold;
Dear is the love that he gives them,
Dearer than silver or gold.
Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are his “other” lost sheep;
Over the mountains he follows,
Over the waters so deep.

[Chorus]
Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens, (4th verse) we’ll hasten,
Bringing them back to the fold.

2. Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the lambs of his fold;
Some from the pastures are straying,
Hungry and helpless and cold.
See, the Good Shepherd is seeking,
Seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing,
Saved at such infinite cost.

3. Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the “ninety and nine”;
Dear are the sheep that have wandered
Out in the desert to pine.
Hark! he is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones,
Off from my shelter astray?”

4. Green are the pastures inviting;
Sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer thee gladly,
“Yes, blessed Master, we will!
Make us thy true under-shepherds;
Give us a love that is deep.
Send us out into the desert,
Seeking thy wandering sheep.”


Monday, June 11, 2012

Learn, Act, Share

Learn, act and share are the three words that sum up the Duty to God program in my church.

1. I learn what God considers my duty to Him.
2. I humbly accept these duties and begin to act to fulfill them.
3. I share the challenges I have had when I have fallen short. I share the blessings I have received when I am successful.

Rinse and repeat +infinity.  What greater recipe is there?  It points to a fullness of joy and progress and Life Eternal.

"The proud are easily offended and hold grudges"

From Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride” Apr, 1989
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride. 
Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. Contention ranges from a hostile spoken word to worldwide conflicts. The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention.” (Prov. 13:10; see also Prov. 28:25.) 
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. (See 1 Ne. 16:1–3.) They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.

Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
I am amazed at how universally applicable this principle is.  Pride, as defined in the scriptures, is the root of all sin.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Perfection in our Church Leaders


Do we expect too much perfection in our leaders?

One of my church leaders, one I trust and love, made a technical error about the scriptures. He talked about how Nephi went and got ore and melted it to make a new, metal bow to get food for his family. In reality, Nephi made a bow out of wood (1 Ne 16:23). Yet this man went on to teach a great lesson about having earnest prayer and not letting ourselves say unmeaningful, repeated prayers.

So what is the greater truth?  A detail about Nephi's bow and arrow story or persuading each other to have meaningful communication with God?

Another leader of mine made a scriptural mistake. He said that Mosiah was 13 years old when he began to reign as king. Mosiah 6:4 says he began to reign in his "thirtieth" year. He was making the point that the Lord does not regard age when calling his servants. He sometimes calls them when they are very young. What he was teaching is correct, look at Samuel, David, Mormon or Joseph Smith.

These two experiences have caused me to think about the nature of our church leaders. We do not have our  leaders professionally trained to be our leaders. They come from all walks of life. What is more important, a leader that will not make technical mistakes about the scriptures? Or leaders that will not make mistakes about the central, spiritual principles of the doctrine of Christ and its main offshoots?

I will go with the latter. Mormons are about changing the heart and soul and hands and mind of humankind.  Leaders that are imperfect perhaps are more approachable. Perhaps their weaknesses are stumbling blocks to the learned.  I will stand with the good leaders of my church any day. I love them. They have my heart, my mind and my shoulders.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Farmers, Atheletes and Musicians

On the way home from our Priesthood Campout, my sons and I listened to Farm Wisdom for City Folks.  It is one of the best talks I have heard.  My dad grew up on a farm and orchard.  His dad supplemented their income from the farm.  When my dad graduated from BYU in the late 60s he got a job in Phoenix.  We lived there for about 10 years.  One of my dad's concerns was that he raise his children well.  One of the main reasons he moved west to the suburb of Peoria was he could get a couple of acres of irrigated land.  He wanted to make sure his children knew how to work.  And that they would grow to love it.

Some of my best memories with my dad were when we were working.  I was pretty little when we built the house in Peoria.  My dad spent at least a year going into work extra early so he would have time to go out to the property and work on something or another.  He did get contractors to dig the basement, and many other large items.  But Dad helped a lot with the electrical system, all of the drywall, taping and painting and I am sure much more.

The younger brothers and I built the work shed he has.  We would pour a little slab of concrete at a time.  I remember using the electric drill to put in hundred of screws to put up the siding and the roof.  Our family vacations were also work.  I think camping is a way to make work fun.  Coming off of our priesthood camp out, I tell you that it is work.  From the planning, packing, setting up camp, breaking it down and all the hiking around.  I remember when mowing the grass turned from being a chore to having a measure of satisfaction in a job well done.  There were many times that I looked forward to mowing.

John Bytheway mentioned talking to a mission president.  He said that if all his missionaries would be farmers, athletes or musicians, 70% of his problems would go away.  He said that each of these pursuits cultivate a certain character in people.  The law of the harvest is in effect.  You cannot plant seed at the beginning of September and expect a harvest by dumping hundreds of gallons of water on it and waiting a few days to harvest.  The same goes for dedicated athletes and musicians.  You have to dedicate yourself to them and incrementally get better and stronger and more skilled.  You have to learn to continue on when you don't feel the progress happening.

President Benson said it this way.
I have often said that one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.

A second aspect that stood out to me was that we are amusing ourselves to death.  That we are moving generally from a work ethic to an entertainment and welfare ethic.  While I think that it is possible that this is a general trend in our society, there are many, examples that I see of a work ethic and honor in craftsmanship around me.  There are so many that are willing to put in the effort needed to be honorable producers and not just consumers.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moments of Clarity

There are times when life gives you moments of clarity.  Like tonight when Steph noticed that I moved my hand from her arm to her hand.  You see I sweat easily and her skin gets irritated by it.  She noticed it.  But I didn't.  She told me and we had a tender moment.  I could see that in some ways I am becoming the man I aspire to be.  It was a moment to see the direction I am going.  What I am becoming.

I hope to continue on that path.

It reminds me of the moment in The Matrix when Neo recognizes he has complete control over his virtual surroundings.  Or when Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle series recognizes that he must not become faster in his sword skills, he must only wait for the right moment.  Or Nephi as he stood on the shore working to build the ship God asked him to build.  He said that nothing is impossible for the Lord.  If He asked Nephi to command the water that it be dry ground and if Nephi were to give that command, the water would become dry ground.  Or when Gandalf says to the bellowing balrog, "You. Shall. Not. Pass."

Sometimes I feel that power.  The power of God.  The power of Good.  Mostly I don't feel it that strongly though.  Most of the time is spent doing regular things.  Menial tasks.  The laundry.  The homework.  The grocery shopping.

I am reminded of the pilot who saved the flight that was rising out of an airport in New York City.  He said something to the effect that he went through training his entire career.  He practiced the training and over the years he had built up a reserve that he was able to tap.  When he needed it, it was there.  He tapped his reserves and it came out all right.

That is what I want for my family and friends and community.  I want it to turn out all right.  Ultimately.  Finally. Eternally.  It is so interesting that these destinies come from every day decisions.  That turn into every day habits.  That turn into the character of the people we are.  That determines our destinies.  Our every little decision.  Piled up over our lifetimes.  And eternities before and eternities to come.

My church teaches me that this life is different than what we experienced before.  That in this life, time exists.  There are deadlines.  If you don't meet the deadline, no one saves you.  Or if they do, it's because they have gone above and beyond.  Our lives are messy.  We don't remember our existence before.  We are here to live by faith.  To see through a glass darkly.

We are more mold-able here. We have tabernacles of flesh, maybe that is one reason.  Time causes things to change.  The fall of Adam caused entropy or a tendency for things to go towards chaos.  We must work to retain our lives.

I have not seen the lives we have ahead of us after this life.  I do know that we can improve our lives in the here and now by practicing Goodness.  Be Good according to the dictates of my conscience.  And when I fall short, get, back up and try again.  Allow forgiveness for myself and others.

I have faith in a great life to come.  That never ends for any of us.  We are Eternal beings, spiritually born of The Eternal Being.  Our lives are what we make of them.  The moral choices we make each day.  We can choose happiness or misery.  These don't come in one day but they do come drop by drop, day by day until we obtain an infinity of Goodness by the Grace of God, an exceeding depth of pain and bitterness, or somewhere in between.

So what choose you?  I choose life and life more abundantly.  But each day will be the verifier.  Choose each day to keep trusting in God.  To allow happiness in my tasks.  To lean into the work I have to do.  All with a prayer of gratitude for the chance to experience it and to do my part to pass it on.



Friday, May 04, 2012

Trust in the Lord


Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5)
I love the three things I focus on when life gets hard:
- Trust God
- Be Happy
- Work Hard

Trusting in the Lord means that I expect the Lord to fulfill His promises whether now or in eternity.

Choose to be happy in the situation I am in
Work hard doing what the Lord wants me to do.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Letters to Loved Ones

There were two talks in General Conference this April that spoke about letters to loved ones: "Willing and Worthy to Serve" by President Monson and "Was It Worth It?" by David F. Evans.  I also read a news article recently that asked if our social media makes us lonely.

It has caused me to think of my letter writing habits. Also my social media habits. I asked myself if my interactions were meaningful online. Also if my habits in real life are fostering strong relationships. I have three teenagers now. They will soon be out of my home. Am I creating the relationship I want with them as they become adults? Am I investing in my relationship with my wife so it can blossom and bear good fruit?

There is a lady in our ward that has spoken of letters she received from her grandma. There were a lot of them.  They were encouraging to her. She thought she was the only grandchild to receive them.  Her grandma sent similar letters to all her grandchildren.

I want rich relationships with my family and friends. I have decided to write a few more letters to those I love. And make my time in real life more meaningful. I am grateful for the messages in General Conference and the other things that have led me to this.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment"

"Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment." (Cheryl A. Esplin. "Teaching Our Children to Understand" Mar 31,2012)

A wonderful story of teaching a child to recognize the sweet inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Here is the whole story from 2:28-5:19 in the video.
I’m reminded of a phone call I received several years ago from our daughter, Michelle. With tender emotion she said, “Mom, I just had the most incredible experience with Ashley.” Ashley is her daughter who was five years old at the time. Michelle described the morning as being one of constant squabbling between Ashley and three-year-old Andrew—one wouldn’t share and the other would hit. After helping them work things out, Michelle went to check the baby.
Soon, Ashley came running in, angry that Andrew wasn’t sharing. Michelle reminded Ashley of the commitment they had made in home evening to be more kind to each other. 
She asked Ashley if she wanted to pray and ask for Heavenly Father’s help, but Ashley, still very angry, responded, “No.” When asked if she believed Heavenly Father would answer her prayer, Ashley said she didn’t know. Her mother asked her to try and gently took her hands and knelt down with her. 
Michelle suggested that Ashley could ask Heavenly Father to help Andrew share—and help her be kind. The thought of Heavenly Father helping her little brother share must have piqued Ashley’s interest, and she began to pray, first asking Heavenly Father to help Andrew share. As she asked Him to help her be kind, she began to cry. Ashley ended her prayer and buried her head on her mother’s shoulder. Michelle held her and asked why she was crying. Ashley said she didn’t know. 
Her mother said, “I think I know why you’re crying. Do you feel good inside?” Ashley nodded, and her mother continued, “This is the Spirit helping you feel this way. It’s Heavenly Father’s way of telling you He loves you and will help you.” 
She asked Ashley if she believed this, if she believed Heavenly Father could help her. With her little eyes full of tears, Ashley said she did. 
Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment. These moments are spontaneous and unplanned and happen in the normal flow of family life. They come and go quickly, so we need to be alert and recognize a teaching moment when our children come to us with a question or worry, when they have problems getting along with siblings or friends, when they need to control their anger, when they make a mistake, or when they need to make a decision. (See Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching [1999], 140–41; Marriage and Family Relations Instructor’s Manual [2000], 61.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Illness We All Share

Here is a post that has a link to a 2008 talk by James L. Ferrell given at Southern Virginia University.  There is a link there to an mp3 of his talk. He is the author of The Peacegiver and The Holy Secret. I loved this talk.

He speaks about an illness that all humankind shares and how to overcome it. I will give away the end.  The solution is to Come Unto Christ and be healed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Why is Jesus Important to me?

This seems like such a fundamental question. I am going to try to break down my feelings for Jesus Christ and why He is so valuable to me.

I have felt the consequences of my sin. There have been times when I recognize that I have acted against God's will resulting in the pain and harm of those I love. As I have prayed to know the right thing to do, I have been inspired to how to reconcile myself to God and to those I have offended. When I surrendered to those promptings and asked for forgiveness from the person(s) and from God, I have felt an immediate flood of relief and joy in my heart. It is especially potent when the other person frankly forgives me. 
It feels so good to be right with what I know God would want me to do. 

From the Book of Mormon, the New Testament and elsewhere in the scriptures, I have learned about the fall of Adam and how sin came into the world. I see this life as a chance to choose between right and wrong with only faith and my conscience (or light from God) to guide me. As I have followed that light I have been filled with joy.

That light of God comes from Jesus Christ. He was chosen before the world was created to be our Savior. We all agreed to come from God's presence into this world, so we can grow to be more like our Heavenly Parents. From Jesus comes all Good. He created the earth. All the good you see in this world comes from Him.

Jesus lived a perfect life. He came to earth as the physical son of Mary and of Heavenly Father. Because of that he had power to lay down his life and to take it up again. Because he was the son of Mary, he was subject to the normal ills of life. He grew up as a normal child.  Only he did not choose evil.  Not even once. 

At the end of his life he suffered for our sins. In a garden, he bled from every pore as he willingly allowed himself to feel the consequence of every sin ever committed. Not only sin, but every pain and heartache ever felt by any one on earth or that would ever be felt. He was able to withstand this because he is the Son of God. He was tested to the limits of his abilities. And He succeeded!  In all this pain He never sinned. He died for our sins and then lifted himself up on the third day. He lives again! And because he did, every person will live again in a perfected body.

Why is Jesus so important to me? He is everything that is Good. He has blazed the path for me to be joined forever to that Good if I only will. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

General Conference First Impressions


Here are some first impressions from General Conference.

David S. Baxter on Sat Afternoon
Single mother of 7 children. She had gone across the street to deliver something. As she left she heard several things from her children. “Mother, I need to go to the library. I need poster board tonight” The single mother said a prayer. “Father can I come and stay with you if only for tonight?” She seemed to hear an answer from above “No, my little one, you cannot come to me but I can come to you”

Deiter F. Uchtdorf Sun Morning
"Don't judge me because I sin differently than you"
Forgive others and ourselves.  Remove the scales of resentment.

President Packer
Make the church family friendly.  Make time for family.
Sometimes he hears someone say to him “Wouldn’t it be nice if”, The answer is almost always no. The next thing that comes after this phrase would almost always take time away from the family and not return a greater value to those involved.

Jeffrey R. Holland
Avoid envy Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20). Do not hold grudges. Set them free and be free myself.
The thrill of being merciful is what God loves most about being God.
There is no place low enough where the light of Christ cannot reach.

Larry Y. Wilson
Wise parents prepare their children to get on without them. Avoid compulsion as a leader.  Story of his daughter who wanted to play soccer on Sunday

Sister Esplin
Create an atmosphere where children can feel and recognize the Spirit
Story about Ashley. Ashley prays to ask her brother Andrew to help share with her. As she prayed she started to cry. She felt the influence of the Holy Ghost.

D. Todd Christopherson
The bright dawn of the first vision. The importance of the doctrine of Christ

Donald L. Hallstrom
Can I be active in the church and not active in the gospel?

Elder Paul E. Koelliker
Love one another - Missionaries knock on a door and a man opens the doors and says, “I told you not to come back, I said you you did it would not be a pleasant experience.”  The missionaries left.  As they did the older missionary put his arm around the other as an expression of comfort.  The man has been watching through the door to make sure the missionaries understood and took his message.  He expected them to make light of his curt response.  When he saw the expression of love his heart was softened.  He opened the door and asked the missionaries to come back and share their message.

Thomas S. Monson Sun afternoon
The spirit of contention is of the devil. Settle any differences I have with others.

Richard G. Scott
What he does to increase his ability to receive inspiration and revelation.
I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures.
That process is cyclical.
Cautious with humor, be wary of loud laughter, a good sense of humor helps revelation.
Careful, quiet speech. Aided by good health, exercise, adequate speech.
Revelation given in a dream, strive to capture the content immediately.
Sacred feeling.  People we have great respect will teach us. God will use them so we know we can trust the message.
Messages must be protected from loss or intrusion by others.

David F. Evans
Share the gospel naturally and normally

Julie B. Beck
Align ourselves with the vision of the prophets

Thomas S Monson Sun morning
Wall of skepticism crumbled
Jesus calls, “Come back, Come up, Come in, Come unto me."

Ulisses Soares
You can’t be right by doing wrong. You can’t be wrong by doing right.
Be not deceived, God is not mocked.  Be not weary in well doing.

Russell M Nelson
Elder Nelson wondered about a tropical fish in a fish tank. He asked “Do you know who feeds them? “
“I do”
“Have they ever thanked you?”
“Not yet”
Some live in this life without thanking or acknowledging the God that gave them life.

President Monson Sat morning
**Oppose evil wherever it is found

He quoted Joseph Smith, "The truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." (JosephSmith.net History of the Church, 4:540)

Quentin R. Cook
“Be in tune with the sacred music of faith” It is not up to us to judge.
“Have the courage to refrain from judging” Pres Monson
Do not be too judgemental. Mistakes that are foolish but not sinful.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Unto but not Necessarily Into

A great lesson on what moral agency is and why God prizes it so.
Nephi taught, “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” Elder David A. Bednar noted the use of the word unto: “Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. … Ultimately, … the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter.”  
Why just unto the heart? Individual agency is so sacred that Heavenly Father will never force the human heart, even with all His infinite power. Man may try to do so, but God does not. To put it another way, God allows us to be the guardians, or the gatekeepers, of our own hearts. We must, of our own free will, open our hearts to the Spirit, for He will not force Himself upon us.
("Opening Our Hearts", Gerald N. Lund, April 2008)