Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evils, Designs, and Conspiring Men

Someone posted this article today about how even "pro-organic" entities are cutting deals to allow more genetically modified produce to spread and be marketed. Now I don't know a whole lot about this debate and how all of this works, but the politics behind it remind me that there really are "evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days," in regards to both the positive and negative admonitions in the Word of Wisdom.

This counsel, "And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving," combined with the long-standing instruction of prophets to keep a garden, is really significant and prophetic counsel for these days.

p.s. I am terrible about all of this, but working on it!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Christian Friendship

A friend shared this on Facebook today, and it has been so true of the lasting friendships in my life:

"In Friendship…we think we have chosen our peer. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances.

"A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.' The Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of others."

--C.S. Lewis

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seeking Perfection Without Being a Perfectionist

This article in BYU Magazine was so spot on for me!  You can read it here.

Here are the first two paragraphs as a teaser:

We are all familiar with the New Testament scripture “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The pursuit of perfection is holy, and those who center their lives on this pursuit are blessed. But, as with every good and holy thing, Satan is on hand to sabotage our efforts. BYU clinical professor of counseling psychology Marleen S. Williams (BS ’87) suggests that “because becoming perfect through Christ is a powerful and important doctrine, Satan . . . comes up with a counterfeit. The counterfeit is often set up to look very much like the real thing, but it differs in important ways. . . . Perfectionism is a counterfeit of real spirituality and is easily confused.”1

Satan’s counterfeit promotes the belief that everything must be done perfectly right now. Such an expectation runs counter to the whole purpose of God’s eternal plan—which purpose is for us to gain experiences, to learn from them, and to grow. God’s counsel to the early Saints was to “continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13). Satan’s deceptive and cunning approach is to convince us that if we want God’s approval, we must do more than we know how or are prepared to do. That naturally sets the stage for developing feelings of being overwhelmed and discouraged—by ourselves and often by those around us. In this and other areas, Satan’s strategy does not require that we commit great sins. He just needs to keep us distracted from things of eternal consequence.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Simple Habits and Consistent Steps

Elder Scott's Conference talk coincided very neatly with my thoughts on President Packer's remarks on obedience. A few of my favorite excerpts:

"[S]imple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings."

"When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord. His power is a fundamental component to establishing a home filled with peace."

"We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time."

From Richard G. Scott, "For Peace at Home," CR April 2013.

p.s. Maybe if I viewed my daily tasks the way this guy does, then I wouldn't have such a hard time turning them into habits like I should.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Solving everyday problems through temple worship

More from Elder Widtsoe's talk on Temple Worship:

I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will … [do] the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and … a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly.

Drawing Revelation

From Elder John A. Widtsoe's talk on “Temple Worship” given at a meeting of the Genealogical Society of Utah at the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake on October 12, 1920:

But whether in the temple or elsewhere, how do men receive revelations? How did the Prophet Joseph Smith obtain his first revelation, his first vision? He desired something. In the woods, away from human confusion, he summoned all the strength of his nature; there he fought the demon of evil, and, at length, because of the strength of his desire and the great effort that he made, the Father and the Son descended out of the heavens and spoke eternal truth to him. So revelation always comes; it is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working. 

With reference to the temple specifically, he says,

The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.

I question whether I have ever had the level of desire and effort that Elder Widtsoe has described. If so, it has surely been too scarce, but I am inspired to try harder and seek more after those things that are so eternally important.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Seeing God.

From David B. Haight, October 1990, "Temples and Work Therein":

At Kirtland, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph:

“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;

“… and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.” (D&C 97:15–16.)

It is true that some have actually seen the Savior, but when one consults the dictionary, he learns that there are many other meanings of the word see, such as coming to know Him, discerning Him, recognizing Him and His work, perceiving His importance, or coming to understand Him.

Such heavenly enlightenment and blessings are available to each of us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

In spite of earth.

In one of Elder Haight's discourses, I read this quote by Brigham Young, which he made when he dedicated the cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple, and which has been widely quoted:

Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, . . . and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.

I think that most of the time in which I have read or heard this quote, the last six words were omitted: in spite of earth and hell. I thought about them and why they were there.

The most direct correlation is that Earth and hell represent the two things that keep us from exaltation, save for the Atonement: mortality, or physical death, and sin, or spiritual death. So through the ordinances we make the Atonement effective in our lives, enabling us to enter into exaltation.

But I also thought of these on a practical, everyday level. What are the things that keep us from the temple, from spiritual progress, from living an exalted, celestial life? Of course there is hell--the forces and influences of Satan that surround us, tempting us to break covenants and stray from the path. That is real, and the endowment gives us real power to combat those influences.

But then there is also earth. This beautiful, messy life that brings obstacles no matter how much or little we sin. There are the weaknesses, illnesses, inabilities and disabilities of our bodies. There is the sadness and loneliness of losing others to death. There are the choices of billions of other individuals that weave a complex tapestry of circumstances, both good and bad, which become a part of our reality whether we like it or not. There are forces of nature--the earth itself--that can cause destruction and pain. But in spite of all that, the temple stands as a firm and unmoving symbol, pointing heavenward to our firm and unmoving Savior: He who has overcome the world, and whose grace is sufficient for us to do the same so that we may be exalted as He is.

Special Witnesses

I am currently reading A Light Unto the World, which is a collection of discourses of Elder David B. Haight. The very first excerpt is from his 1989 talk "The Sacrament and the Sacrifice." He shares his experience during a health crisis where he lost consciousness for several days, and, in the interim, had some very sacred experiences, including being "shown a panoramic view of [Christ's] earthly ministry." He goes on to tell details of that ministry and testify of Christ.

Of course I know that the Apostles are called as special witnesses, to be prophets, seers, and revelators, but somehow I still forget sometimes when I hear them or read their words that they really have seen and they really do know. I was reminded of President Eyring's words in this last Conference (April 2013):

I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra.

And of President Packer:

Of all that I have read and taught and learned, the one most precious and sacred truth that I have to offer is my special witness of Jesus Christ. He lives. I know He lives. I am His witness. And of Him I can testify. He is our Savior, our Redeemer. Of this I am certain. 

And, of course, Elder Holland:

These things I declare to you with the conviction Peter called the “more sure word of prophecy.” What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life...

These are examples of what I imagine Mormon meant in Alma 4:19 when he explained why Alma left the judgment seat to testify to the people:

And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.

These are powerful testimonies of the Savior. They pull down pride and craftiness and contention and leave the hearer with one question: They know Him--do I?

I am grateful for these special witnesses whose testimonies have had such a profound and lasting impact on my life. In this increasingly wicked world, it so clear that we need these voices of firmness, of surety, of powerful witness against evil and for good. I am grateful for that simple question that brings me back to what it is all about.