Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decisions, Revelation, and Self-Reliance

Some counsel from Boyd K. Packer. The entire talk is here.
When you have a problem, work it out in your own mind first. Ponder on it and analyze it and meditate on it. Read the scriptures. Pray about it. I’ve come to learn that major decisions can’t be forced. You must look ahead and have vision. What was it the prophet said in the Old Testament? “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18.)

Ponder on things a little each day and don’t always be in the crisis of making major decisions on the spur of the moment. If you’re looking ahead in life, you can see major problems coming down the road toward you from some considerable distance. By the time you meet one another, you are able at the very beginning to take charge of the conversation. Once in a while a major decision will jump out at you from the side of the road and startle the wits out of you, but not very often. If you’ve already decided that you’re going to do what is right and let all of the consequences follow, even those encounters won’t hurt you.
I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Your mind is then fresh and alert. The blackboard of your mind has been erased by a good night’s rest. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in your way. Your body has been rested also. That’s the time to think something through very carefully and to receive personal revelation.
I’ve heard President Harold B. Lee begin many a statement about matters involving revelation with an expression something like this: “In the early hours of the morning, while I was pondering upon that subject,” and so on. He made it a practice to work on the problems that required revelation in the fresh, alert hours of the early morning.
The Lord knew something when He directed in the Doctrine and Covenants,
“Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124.)
I have a friend who bought a business. A short time later he suffered catastrophic reverses. There just didn’t seem to be any way out for him, and finally it got so bad that he couldn’t sleep. So, for a period of time he followed the practice of getting up about three o’clock in the morning and going to the office. There, with a paper and a pen he would ponder and pray and write down every idea that came to him as a possible solution or a contribution to the solution of his problem. It wasn’t long before he had several possible directions that he could go, and it was not much longer than that until he had chosen the best of them. But he had earned an extra bonus. His notes showed, after going over them, that he had discovered many hidden resources that he had never noticed before. He came away more independent and successful than ever he would have been if he hadn’t suffered those reverses.
There’s a lesson in that. A year or two later he was called to preside over a mission in one of the foreign lands. His business was so independent and well set-up that when he came back he didn’t return to it. He just has someone else managing it, and he is able to give virtually all of his time now to the blessing of others.
I counsel our children to do their critical studying in the early hours of the morning when they’re fresh and alert, rather than to fight physical weariness and mental exhaustion at night. I’ve learned that the dictum, “Early to bed, early to rise” is powerful. When under pressure—for instance, when I was preparing this talk—you wouldn’t find me burning the midnight oil. Much rather I’d be early to bed and getting up in the wee hours of the morning, when I could be close to Him who guides this work.
Now, about revelation. We have all been taught that revelation is available to each of us individually. The question I’m most often asked about revelation is, “How do I know when I have received it? I’ve prayed about it and fasted over this problem and prayed about it and prayed about it, and I still don’t quite know what to do. How can I really tell whether I’m being inspired so I won’t make a mistake?”
First, do you go to the Lord with a problem and ask Him to make your decision for you? Or do you work, read the revelations, and meditate and pray and then make a decision yourself? Measure the problem against what you know to be right and wrong, and then make the decision. Then ask Him if the decision is right or if it is wrong. Remember what He said to Oliver Cowdery about working it out in your mind.
Listen to this sentence if you don’t hear anything else: If we foolishly ask our bishop or branch president or the Lord to make a decision for us, there’s precious little self-reliance in that. Think what it costs every time you have somebody else make a decision for you.
On occasions I’ve had to counsel people that the Lord would probably quite willingly approve the thing they intend to do even when they want to. It’s strange when they come and almost feel guilty about doing something because they want to, even when it’s righteous. The Lord is very generous with the freedom He gives us. The more we learn to follow the right, the more we are spiritually self-reliant, the more our freedom and our independence are affirmed. “If ye continue in my word,” he said, “then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32.)
There is great meaning in these words from Carol Lynn Pearson, entitled, “The Lesson”:
Yes, my fretting,
Frowning child,
I could cross
The room to you
More easily.
But I’ve already
Learned to walk,
So I make you
Come to me.
Let go now—
You see?
Oh, remember
This simple lesson,
And when
In later years
You cry out
With tight fists
And tears—
“Oh, help me,
Just listen
And you’ll hear
A silent voice:
“I would, child,
I would.
But it’s you,
Not I,
Who needs to try
(Carol Lynn Pearson, Beginnings, Provo: Trilogy Arts, 1967, p. 18.)
Laman and Lemuel complained to Nephi, “Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken.”
“Have ye inquired of the Lord?” Nephi asked them.
And think of this answer. They said to him, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known to us.”
“How is it,” he answered, “that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts? Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (See 1 Ne. 15:7–11.)
In conclusion, if we lose the spirit and power of individual revelation, we have lost much in this Church. You have great and powerful resources. You, through prayer, can solve your problems without endlessly going to those who are trying so hard to help others.
Now, if you start receiving revelations for anyone else’s jurisdiction, you know immediately that you’re out of order, that they come from the wrong source. You will not receive revelation to counsel your bishop or to correct the leaders of the Church.
If you become so dependent and insecure about prayer and the answer to prayer that you are hesitant on them, then you are weak.
This Church relies on individual testimony. Each must earn his own testimony. It is then that you can stand and say, as I can say, that I know that God lives, that He is our Father, that we have a child-parent relationship with Him. I know that He is close, that we can go to Him and appeal, and then, if we will be obedient and listen and use every resource, we will have an answer to our prayers.
I love when he says, "Think what it costs every time you have someone make a decision for you." I never thought of it that way, but the whole point of life is for us to learn to exercise our agency in righteousness. We lose spiritual vitality when we turn that job over to someone else.
And anyone who knows me knows I need that counsel about sleep =).

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Worship

I liked this quote from Bruce R. McConkie:

In other words, true and perfect worship consists in following in the steps of the Son of God; it consists in keeping the commandments and obeying the will of the Father to that degree that we advance from grace to grace until we are glorified in Christ as he is in his Father. It is far more than prayer and sermon and song. It is living and doing and obeying. It is emulating the life of the great Exemplar.
With this principle before us, may I now illustrate some of the specifics of that divine worship which is pleasing to him whose we are?
To worship the Lord is to follow after him, to seek his face, to believe his doctrine, and to think his thoughts.
It is to walk in his paths, to be baptized as Christ was, to preach that gospel of the kingdom which fell from his lips, and to heal the sick and raise the dead as he did.
To worship the Lord is to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, to center our whole hearts upon Christ and that salvation which comes because of him.
It is to walk in the light as he is in the light, to do the things that he wants done, to do what he would do under similar circumstances, to be as he is.
To worship the Lord is to walk in the Spirit, to rise above carnal things, to bridle our passions, and to overcome the world.
It is to pay our tithes and offerings, to act as wise stewards in caring for those things which have been entrusted to our care, and to use our talents and means for the spreading of truth and the building up of his kingdom.
To worship the Lord is to be married in the temple, to have children, to teach them the gospel, and to bring them up in light and truth.
It is to perfect the family unit, to honor our father and our mother; it is for a man to love his wife with all his heart and to cleave unto her and none else.
To worship the Lord is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
It is to work on a welfare project, to administer to the sick, to go on a mission, to go home teaching, and to hold family home evening.
To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of his kingdom, and to make them part of our lives.
It is to pray with all the energy of our souls, to preach by the power of the Spirit, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
To worship is to work, to be actively engaged in a good cause, to be about our Father’s business, to love and serve our fellowmen.
It is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort those that mourn, and to hold up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees.
To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth.
To worship the Lord is to be of good cheer, to be courageous, to be valiant, to have the courage of our God-given convictions, and to keep the faith.
It is ten thousand times ten thousand things. It is keeping the commandments of God. It is living the whole law of the whole gospel.
To worship the Lord is to be like Christ until we receive from him the blessed assurance: “Ye shall be even as I am.”
Sometimes I feel like I am not doing as well at worshiping the Lord when I am caught up in the cares of my family or other things I am doing. But getting caught up in the affairs of a growing family is worship! All those things I am trying to do are part of my effort to keep the commandments and live my life the way that my Father would want me to. Every activity and every choice find me worshiping either the Lord or some other priority, and I hope that it is the former more often than not.
You can read the rest of this beautiful talk here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I love Marjorie Pay Hinckley. I saw this printable and thought I'd share:

You can download it for yourself here.

I was just talking to my husband about how glad I am to feel like I am past needing to prove myself to anyone but myself, him, and the Lord. That is way more than enough to worry about, without having to prove myself to the rest of the world by a standard that isn't my own or my Father's.

And I can always use some simplifying.

p.s. If you like it better in blue, there is another version of the same quote here.

Evil the hearts of conspiring men

Law school has a substantial writing requirement, meaning that every student must write at least one thirty-page paper supervised by a professor. I wrote my paper on morality and internet governance, overseen by a professor who has done a lot of research on internet governance, focusing on pornography and the internet. She has helped work on the Internet Community Ports Act among other legislation.

In any discussion of law and "morality," people get up in arms about being "controlled" by another person's morality. In many people's view, the burden should be on the individual consumer to avoid offensive or harmful content without any limits upon the producer or other consumers. So I thought that this quote from Revelations of the Restoration (p. 653) was particularly interesting, even though it is originally talking about the Word of Wisdom.

In today's world evil abounds. Greedy and conspiring men seek wealth and power, marketing prostitution, pornography, weapons, drugs, vulgar music, and entertainment offensive to the light of Christ. A prime target for their avarice will always be our children. The tobacco industry markets an addictive and killing poison, knowing it to be such. Profit is their only concern. We have found it necessary to pass numerous laws that protect consumers in the supermarket, yet all manner of destructive influences are available on the streets, in our schools, and even in our homes through television and internet. 

There is no form of wickedness that someone will not make available for a price. To give their evil designs some sense of respectability, they hide them behind weak phrases: "If it offends you, don't buy it." We in turn are expected to be so foolish as to suppose that if we don't buy that which is evil or offensive we will be spared its effects. The logic is threadbare. Our choice not to operate a smelter will not protect us against another man's choice to do so. We all breathe the same air; nonsmoking sections in a restaurant provide precious little protection to the non-smoker. Again, one man's choice not to use alcohol will hardly protect him from drunk drivers.

Gratefully, the spirit and direction of the revelations of the Restoration are such that not only are we warned against the designs of evil men, but a path of safety is marked so that we can--to the extent possible--protect ourselves from their destructive influence in our society.

I really am grateful for the revelations of the Restoration, including the continuing revelation through our current prophets. The traps seem to be growing more pervasive and insidious, but we know how to tread safely.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I need to remember this list when life is getting to me.

When You Have the Spirit
When You Do Not Have the Spirit
1. You generally feel happy and calm.
You may feel unhappy, depressed, confused, frustrated most of the time.
2. You feel full of light.
You may feel heavy, full of darkness.
3. Your mind is clear.
Your mind may be muddled.
4. You feel love for the Lord and others.
You may feel empty, hollow, cold inside.
5. You feel generous.
You may feel selfish, possessive, self-centered.
6. Nobody can offend you.
You may be offended easily.
7. You are very forgiving and kind.
You may usually be on the defensive.
8. You feel confident in what you do.
You may become discouraged easily.
9. You don’t mind others seeing what you are doing.
You may become secretive, evasive.
10. You want to be with those who love you—especially family members.
You may want to be alone most of the time. You avoid others—especially family members.
11. You are glad when others succeed.
You may be envious almost constantly of what others do and what they have.
12. You want to help others be happy, even those opposed to you.
You may want to get even and show others up.
13. You willingly perform Church work.
You may feel hesitant, unworthy, and unwilling to perform Church ordinances.
14. You feel like praying and reading the scriptures.
You may not want to pray or read scriptures.
15. You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.
You may find the commandments of God and rules of the family bothersome, restricting, or senseless.
16. You usually control your appetites and emotions. You are calm and control your speech; you feel no anger.
You may be a slave to your appetites. You give way to strong anger and outspokenness.
17. You generally feel a deep desire to help others—usually in a way no one else will know about.
When you help others, your main desire may be to have your actions noticed.
18. You speak and think good about others.
You are critical of others, especially family members and those in authority.
19. You feel sorrow when others have problems and sincerely desire to help them.
You may often question others’ motives and secretly delight in others’ problems.
20. You realize that your thoughts and your actions are open to God.
You may feel that what you do and think is only your business and no one else knows or cares.
-John H. Groberg, adapted from a seminary outline. Read the whole talk here.

Unsurprisingly, sleep deprivation is sure to throw me into the second column. I think that is one of the refining trials of motherhood: trying to keep the Spirit with you when you body is so exhausted.  We have to rely more heavily on the Lord and remember to invite Him in so that we can be patient with the constant demands on our souls.