Monday, November 13, 2017

The Red Sea and the River Jordan

In 1956, Cecil DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" was released. In 1998, "The Prince of Egypt" was released. These two tell the story, at least part of the story, of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. One of the more iconic scenes from each movie is when the Red Sea parts and allows the Israelites to pass through on dry ground. While this is a true event, it is also an abnormal event; every so often the Lord works by way of parting the Red Sea, but another account in the Exodus shows the Lord's typical pattern.

In Joshua 3, we read of the Israelites' entry into the Promised Land. With the River Jordan flowing well beyond its bounds, there was no clear way for the people to cross into the land. The Lord commanded Joshua to have the Priests carry the Ark into the river. After their feet were wet, the record states, the water stopped, and parted for the people to cross into the Promised Land.

Both of these accounts illustrate two very different ways the Lord works. Sometimes, he parts a whole sea to let the people pass through; more often he requires we get our feet wet before he removes the water. Sometimes, God calms the storm as we call to Him; more often, He waits until the Fourth Watch to calm the storms. Sometimes, a simple prayer of faith removes an addiction; more often, he leads people to friends so they can help each other overcome an addiction. Sometimes, answers to prayers come vividly and immediately; more often, prayers are answered slowly and gradually line upon line until all is known.

Often times, we sit and wait for the Red Sea to part, delaying our lives. We promise we'll move forward as soon as the water is gone and we can walk through on dry ground; until that time, we sit on the banks, overlooking the sea. Once we understand the Lord typically brings us to Jordan, and we have to get our feet wet first, then we truly learn the only thing hindering us is our own holding back because we don't want to get our feet wet. Only by moving forward and getting our feet wet can we truly be prepared to enter our Promised Land, the Celestial Kingdom. So stop staring at the water, and march in.

Valiant for Christ

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Temple waiting for my endowment session to start. I was praying before the session that I might obtain revelation and I participated in the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Life has been stressful lately. I've been busier than I've ever been previously, and it stresses me nearly to the breaking point at times. But the Temple has often been a place of refuge from all that stress. I was wanting to know what I could do to relieve the stress I have during those times when doing a 2 hour session is just not feasible.

While pondering this and praying to know the Lord's guidance, a sentence impressed upon my mind: "Be Valiant for Christ".

I'm not going to say that being valiant for Christ will remove all stress; I'm not going to say being valiant for Christ is going to improve your situation one iota. If we choose to be valiant for Christ, the difference is not in anything going on around us, but we, ourselves, are changed. We are enlarged to have the capacity to accomplish more. We yoke up with Christ, and rely on His strength to get through and ultimately shine through all that we'd previously struggled with.

President Benson said, "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."

When we are valiant for Christ, we live the Celestial Law. Obviously, we will not be perfect. We will make mistakes; we will struggle with some things; we will break down at times. Despite all of this, Christ's enabling power will come to you and me and carry us through. He lifts us to higher planes, and we begin to see as He sees, do as He does, and become as He is.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Principles

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of principles. It is not so much about what my principles are specifically, but rather what principles are and how they help us if we remain true to them.

Principles are packets of truth or opinion that are readily applied in a variety of circumstances. For example, in politics, someone may have a guiding principle of keeping taxes low. This may cause this person to vote against budget increases, against invasions, against tariffs, or for a tax cut. Despite these various votes being seemingly unrelated, this hypothetical person uses his principle of keeping taxes low to make all of these different decisions.

In the gospel sense, principles means something a little bit more than this. I remember growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the topic of the Sabbath day would come up. Often in these lessons big, long lists of what can or cannot be done on the Sabbath filled many chalkboards. These are not principles, these are applications. The principle that President Nelson so clearly taught a few years back was the Sabbath is our sign to God of our honor to Him.

Thinking of the Sabbath as our sign to God influences all decisions we make. If we think of the Sabbath as our sign, our sacrifice, for our God, we won't need to be told the things we can or cannot do on the Sabbath; we will just naturally do these things.

Too often when we notice an issue in our lives, we focus on the application. We need to overcome this thing or that thing. And there's nothing wrong with doing so if you are making positive changes, but it is far easier to make these changes if we actively choose to adopt true principles.

Our principles are a standard to us. As the Title of Liberty was raised in the days of Captain Moroni, our principles should be raised in places and ways that remind us of our covenants. They tell us what we can and cannot do in a variety of circumstances. If we have true principles, then remain true to those principles, we will be spared much hardship and adversity.

Having no principles will bind us to the whims of the forces around us and in us. Only in remaining faithful to correct principles as we able to truly become free. We often forget we are in the midst of a great war, with real beings bent on destroying each one of us. Only in having true principles and being true to those principles will we have the full armor of God fixed on us.

True principles allow us to have the breastplate of righteousness. They gird our loins with truth. They shod our feet with peace. They give us the shield of faith. They give us greater access to the sword of the spirit. And ultimately, true principles give us the helmet of Salvation. As principles of battle strategy win physical wars, true principles in the gospel are the strategies to give us victory through Him whose blood did redeem us.

Because Christ lived His principle perfectly, He became the beacon to us all. "He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world" (The Living Christ). As this world moves towards His return to this earth, we will each need to stand strong, and be ensigns for those around us to see by living our principles as broadly and unfailingly as we can. We will not be perfect, but we can try, and principles will lead us to be a little taller and a little better each day.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Walk with His Prophets

It's Conference time, which means it's also time for people to make posts about Conference. Most of these posts are good and well, but more and more in the recent years, I have seen posts telling the prophets to repent. Most recently, I saw one in which a Marriage and Family Therapist told Elder Oaks that he needed to listen to President Uchtdorf's counsel and "Stop It" with his talks on the family and The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I am not going to link to it, because I believe it's already getting too much attention and traffic.

As stated by President Eyring this conference, the Prophet Brigham Young was once in a meeting in Kirtland, where members of the church (and many in the upper councils thereof) had gathered to remove Joseph Smith from the office of President of the Church. Then-Elder Young stood, and told these brethren "You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread which binds you to a prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell."

Harold B. Lee taught, "You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6)." But if you question what the prophets are saying, and try and pit the words of one prophet against another, when they are clearly speaking on two different subjects, you have no promise.

Giving strict heed to the counsels and teachings of the prophets will lead you in the way of light and salvation, to the springs of living waters, and to the eternal mansions of the Lord. Doing otherwise will lead you into forbidden paths of darkness, to the unclean waters of hell, and to the great and spacious building. "For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me" (D&C 132:22).

With Joshua of old, I say, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). And that means to walk with His prophets.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Enjoying Switzerland

Yeah...I made a click bait title. Sue me.

I was reading in a textbook on counseling and a hypothetical situation arose. I'm changing the countries because of my personal preferences on where I'd like to travel though. Suppose you got on a plane going to Scotland. You've spent your entire life hoping and dreaming to be among the glens. You dreamed of playing the pipes in your kilt on the Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond. You dreamed of sailing through the Hebrides and seeing the final resting place of Robert the Bruce's heart in Melrose Abbey. You dreamed of being in a land not even Rome conquered, and feeling the Spirit of Scotia in the fibers of your being.

When the plane is descending, the fasten seat belt lights turn on, and the flight attendant says, "We are making our final approach into Bern. Welcome to Switzerland; we hope you enjoy your stay." There has to be some mistake! Right? I mean, you got on this plane, because it was going to Scotland. You saved up thousands of dollars to buy everything for your kilt and your bagpipes. It was all you've dreamed about, but now you learn this plane was going to Switzerland.

Obviously, the first reaction many people would have would be to demand seeing the big boss, and demanding why such a big screw up happened. It was over 1100 miles difference to end up in the land of Lederhosen instead of the land of Kilts; in the land of yodeling instead of the land of bagpipes. But the Alps are often just as beautiful as the Highlands. (Okay maybe not quite as beautiful, but close.

Look below at these two pictures.

Image result for Switzerland

Image result for Scotland

Some may know exactly which is Scotland and which is Switzerland; others may not. Both have beauty. Sometimes in our lives, we are taken to places we never expected nor planned to be. We desire for our whole lives to go to Scotland, but life takes us to Switzerland.

We have a choice. We can either ruminate over the fact we cannot search for the Loch Ness Monster or we can search for the Yetis in the Alps. We can lay in bed depressed we won't go to the Highlands, or we can go climb the Matterhorn.

Obviously, we may still want to go to Scotland. And if we remain true and faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, no blessing will be denied the faithful members.

Maybe your Scotland is marriage. Maybe your Scotland is a particular job. Maybe your Scotland is having good friends. Regardless of what your Scotland is, if you find yourself where your deepest desires are not quite yet being fulfilled, if you are stuck in your Switzerland, find the beauty around you and enjoy it, despite wishing to be in Scotland. You may just find as much joy in Switzerland.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Behold the Seer

The Book of Moses, coming from the Joseph Smith Inspired Translation of the Bible, expands our knowledge on Enoch. He was highly blessed of the Lord to become mighty in word and in deed. In fact, Enoch was so powerful in the language he used that people would go "yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth." And others declared among the Antediluvians "A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people."

The great prophets of antiquity, Enoch, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John, were in the land, and moved mighty miracles. They did what needed to get done to move forward the work of Salvation for the children of God, as they were commanded by the Lord. They worked miracles; they preached the gospel with the sound of a trump; they caused the elements to move to fulfill their purposes. But their greatest feats were not found in these moments. Moses is known as the Lawgiver. Elijah sealed the heavens by his word. Enoch's words were so powerful the earth obeyed his commands, but was remembered as the leader who led to a people being taken to heaven.

These men did not perform their greatest feats when parting the Red Sea, when calling down fire from heaven, or when they caused mountains to arise when in the midst of battle. Their greatest feats happened when their word brought another soul to Salvation. Each taught the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, and gave the laws and officiated in the ordinances each was commanded to do. And people came for them from far and wide, and each who heeded the words of the prophets received salvation through the blood of the Lamb by the word of their testimony.

In our day, we again have seers in the land. The powerful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in his personal history moved thousands to enter into covenants with God. The Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God has moved millions to enter into these covenants. The covenants have kept people, even when every fiber of their flesh wanted to go another way, they held firm and undaunted.

The seers we have teach of the dangers afar off, to train us and to guide us to greater heights. They speak again on September 30 and October 1 here and in many other languages, including ASL. I invite all to go yonder to hear the seers, for they prophesy today.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Increase in Learning

The scriptures teach if we "teach a just man...he will increase in learning." And in another place we learn "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection." Between these two scriptures, we find the injunction to never cease learning.

I do not believe for a second that our God ever wants us to feel comfortable with the knowledge we have. He wants us to continually grow, and push our boundaries to other areas. It takes 10,000 hours to get to the very tip top of a field. It takes 20 hours to learn a skill well enough we can start self correcting. But in this time we call "mortality", it is impossible to learn everything under the sun. We just don't have the time or capacity to do so.

So what is expected of us? That we "increase in learning".

Imagine how our capacity would increase if we read one research article per week. Imagine how much knowledge we would attain if we spent 10 minutes a day reading a book instead of mindlessly tweeting, watching videos on YouTube, or browsing our news feeds. Imagine how much you would learn if you hopped onto Duolingo instead of flipping tabs.

I am not saying we should not take time to relax. Far from it. We do need time to relax; we do need breaks; we do need vacations. The institution of the Sabbath is proof enough for our need in that regard. But we, as a society, tend to be entertaining ourselves to death. With a little more effort, we could each increase in our learning.

Sure, we can fill our minds with celebrities' lives, with pop culture references, and with the latest media sound bites. And nothing is inherently wrong with that. But what could we be spending our time learning if we didn't focus on these people, things, and events, but focused on history, philosophy, and physics or economics, languages, and cultures?

I'm not saying everyone needs to go to college and get a degree, but we all can get an education through books we can get for less than $5 on Amazon, or books at the library (which is free). We can all do a little bit better to learn a little bit more and "increase in learning" spiritually and temporally every single day.

Not only should we be seeking this learning, but we should be seeking it "by study and also by faith". "Yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118). When was the last time you read a book that wasn't required? When was the last time you read the scriptures? When was the last time you read a book other than the scriptures? When was the last time you watched a YouTube video to get knowledge rather than entertainment?

If we are agents and act to gain knowledge, we will learn more than if we wait for others to teach us. We should be ever learning and ever coming to a knowledge of the truth by seeking learning by faith. This is not to say we shouldn't be skeptical while reading a scientific paper. This is not to say we should stop learning if we aren't getting any closer to the truth. We just may need to change our methods or our motivations.

Surely the Lord wants us to know all that He knows. The spirit can teach you things about your field of study that others cannot. When was the last time you asked for the spirit to be with you as you went to school? I'd recommend it; it will increase your knowledge and your faith in God. The presence of the Holy Ghost will allow you to make connections others do not yet see, and will help you develop the capacity to learn, grow, and progress line upon line, and precept on precept until we obtain a perfect knowledge of truth through the Spirit of the Lord.