Sunday, July 24, 2011

The gift of repentance

I ran across this old journal entry today:

I think it is interesting that when Peter told the other disciples about his vision instructing him to take the Gospel to all, the disciples exclaimed, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance." (Acts 11:18) Funny, they didn't say salvation, but repentance. That is the real blessing - to change, to become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and not just to escape punishment for our wrongs.

Pain and the Atonement

My mom hurt her back a few weeks ago. I read this talk with her today over the phone. I think we both needed it. Warning: it is a tear-jerker.

Kent F. Richards, "The Atonement Covers All Pain," Conference Report, April 2011.

Patience and Discipleship

I love Elder Uchtdorf's talk, "The Way of the Disciple". I was tempted to dump the whole thing onto the blog. I may end up doing it in bits and pieces in different categories. But since my life seems to be keenly focused on teaching me to have patience, I'll start with this:

Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.
Discipleship is a journey. We need the refining lessons of the journey to craft our character and purify our hearts. By patiently walking in the path of discipleship, we demonstrate to ourselves the measure of our faith and our willingness to accept God’s will rather than ours.

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Way of the Disiple," Conference Report, April 2009.

This also reminded me of Elder Lynn G. Robbin's talk, "What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?" He said:

Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am.

-Conference Report, April 2011

That's the problem with trying to develop character traits like patience: by definition you are never done! If you ever stop acting patiently, you are no longer patient. So the lesson is never-ending and will never be over (until your life is over, anyway). Talk about a trial for an impatient person!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For ye are dead...

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
...seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Colossians 3:1-10

This gives new meaning to the saying "dead to the world." That's actually what I should want to be =). I like the verb mortify used here--make every un-Christlike characteristic dead!

The Atonement: Symbolism of blood

We've been attending my home ward for the past few weeks, and a girl that I have been vaguely acquainted with both here and in Long Beach just came home from her mission. During Sunday School, she mentioned that her mission president challenged them to study the Atonement for at least part of their daily study, and she spoke of the way that it helped her to connect the principles of the Gospel. I thought this was a pretty good idea, so I have started by reading one scripture each day from the topical guide about the Atonement in addition to whatever other study I'm doing that day.

The first is Leviticus 17:11:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

The surrounding scriptures forbid the Children of Israel from eating the blood of any creature, because the blood is the life of the flesh. Immediately another scripture came to mind:

O remember, remember... yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.   Helaman 5:9

There is no other creature, no other way that we can be saved, but through the blood (the life!) of Jesus Christ, which He gave on our behalf. I imagine it being very powerful for those early Saints to receive the sacrament, which represents the blood of the Savior, while they were forbidden to drink the blood of any other creature. They were used to the idea of animal sacrifice, but this was that Great Sacrifice to which all others had pointed, and it was the only sacrifice that truly brought them life.

The third scripture in the list goes back to the same symbolism in a different context:

As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.  Zechariah 9:11

I liked this reminder that the covenant between the Lord and His people is based upon and centered around His atoning blood. I think it emphasizes both the fact that it is His blood that saves us as well as the fact that we must keep our part in order to make His blood have its intended effect in our lives.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Peace of God.

I have been loving to study the epistles of Paul. They are kind of like reading a dear Abby column because they address specific problems of particular people and gives counsel about human problems that come up in the Church. Every day there is something new I want to write down, but because of life's commotion lately, I haven't gotten my scriptures and the computer together until tonight.

I am a worrier. Panic and anxiety run in my family, so I try to keep a check on my stress level, but I definitely worry more than needful much of the time. This was so, so needed lately.

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing [or, "don't be unduly concerned about anything"]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things.
...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Philippians 4:4-13

It's really the same lesson I've been taught time and time again - go to the Lord, do what needs to be done, and then let it go. Somehow I feel like letting go of the worry and stress is letting go of control--as if I were really in control of what happens =). But that trust is what it takes to receive that peace which passeth all understanding.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Fast.

John and I were having a discussion about fasting, and I looked up this article that I had read some time ago. I wanted to save it here for future reference.

Fasting is a very personal matter, usually done with a specific concern in mind. Therefore, the purpose of the fast and the special considerations of the individual involved govern the motivation and the nature of the fast.
Most of us fast in conjunction with our membership in the Church and its law of the fast. Generally speaking, there are three purposes for such a fast. First is to increase humility and spirituality of the individual fasting. Second is to provide assistance to the needy by contributing fast offerings equivalent to the value of the food which has not been consumed. Third, physical benefits may be derived personally.

In the General Handbook of Instructions (1968, p. 40), we read, “A proper fast day observance consists of abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending the fast and testimony meeting, and making a generous offering to the bishop for the care of those in need.” Thus, the use of water is excluded in this kind of a fast.

Now, a word of caution—some fallaciously reason that if a little of anything is good, a lot is better. The inadvisability of excessive fasting was explained in some detail in the June 1972 Priesthood Bulletin, “We are informed that some … engage in rather lengthy fasting. It is not advisable that they do this. If there is a special matter for which they should fast, if they would fast one day and then go to the Lord humbly and ask for his blessings, that should suffice.” Moreover, Joseph F. Smith wisely counseled, “Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast. Neither should parents compel their little children to fast.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 244.)

The generous offering to the bishop is understood to represent the financial equivalent of at least two meals. A liberal donation so reserved and dedicated to the poor is ennobling to the soul and helps one develop charity, one of the greatest attributes of a noble human character. (See 1 Cor. 13.)
The personal benefits derived from fasting are substantial. The scriptures tell us that a certain kind of devil goes not out except by fasting and prayer. (See Matt. 17:21.) The supremacy of the spirit over the appetites of the body is affirmed by the mental discipline of fasting. This strength fortifies us in our combat with other temptations prompted by physical appetites that, if uncontrolled, would be destructive to our welfare. While some have physical conditions that preclude fasting, most people are not excluded on this basis. To me, a successfully completed period of fasting from food and drink on fast day brings a degree of self-confidence. Fasting is real evidence to oneself and to his maker of gratitude for the gift of health and strength which permits one to be able to fast. Surely this is a great privilege and blessing.

-Russell M. Nelson, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Apr. 1976.