Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Blind Obedience"

Leave it to Elder (a.k.a. Justice) Oaks to make solid distinctions in the knowledge and obedience departments.

In closing, I refer to the relationship between obedience and knowledge. Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.

Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1).

We all act upon or give obedience to knowledge. Whether in science or religion, our obedience is not blind when we act upon knowledge suited to the subject of our action. A scientist receives and acts upon a trusted certification of the content or conditions of a particular experiment. In matters of religion, a believer’s source of knowledge is spiritual, but the principle is the same. In the case of Latter-day Saints, when the Holy Ghost gives our souls a witness of the truth of the restored gospel and the calling of a modern prophet, our choice to follow those teachings is not blind obedience.

-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Testimony," CR April 2008.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hope, Repentance, and Mighty Change

The sixth and final point I wish to make about the process of repentance is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)

We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope.

Ezra Taft Benson, "A Mighty Change of Heart," Ensign, Oct. 1989. Emphasis added.

Book of Mormon Preparation

The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines that lays down contention. (See 2 Ne 3:12) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

-President Ezra Taft Bensen (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve), Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 94-95h

Who We Are

I am sure today in our lives many of us wish that we were something other than we are, thinking likely that their lot is preferable to our own. But Alma said further: 

Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. (Alma 29:2-3)

I believe that we, as fellow workers int eh priesthood, might well take to heart the admonition of Alma and be content with that which God hath allotted us. We might well e assured that we had something to do with our 'allotment' in our pre-existent state. This would be an additional reason for us to accept our present condition and make the best of it. It is what we agreed to do...

We unquestionably knew before we elected to come to this earth the conditions under which we would here exist, and live, and work. So little wonder it is that Alma of old said that we sin in the thought, or in the desire, or in the wish that we were someone other than ourselves. He said further: 

Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth?

For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore, we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.

I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. (Alma 29:6-9)

I have a conviction deep down in my heart that we are exactly what we should be, each one of us, except as we may have altered that pattern by deviating from the laws of God here in mortality. I have convinced myself that we all have those peculiar attributes, characteristics, and abilities which are essential for us to possess in order that we may fulfill the full purpose of our creation here upon this earth.

Once again, that allotment which has come to us from God is a sacred allotment. It is something of which we should be proud, each one of us in our own right, and not wish that we had somebody else's allotment. Our greatest success comes from being ourselves. 

I think that we can console ourselves best by believing that whatever is our allotment in life, whatever is our call in the priesthood, the Lord has been wise and just, and I might add, merciful, in giving to us that which we need to accomplish the particular purpose of our call.

-Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report, Oct. 1952, pp. 71-72

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gratitude, Mother's Day, and The Book of Mormon

Saturday was one of those days. I spent all morning diligently working and cleaning and the house was still a disaster. Loads of dishes, loads of laundry, loads of trash, and still I barely seemed to be scratching the surface. John was off studying for his exam this week, and I started to feel a little frustrated and sorry for myself on this Mother's Day weekend. Then the thought came, "I am going about this all wrong. This Mother's Day I really should focus on celebrating the three beautiful boys who gave and continue to give me the joy and privilege of motherhood."

I have been given a wonderful gift that not everyone has been able to have in mortality though they desired it with all their hearts and certainly merited the gift more than I. And I have been given that gift during an amazing era where those obnoxious daily chores are merely obnoxious and not all-encompassing daily efforts. I can read whatever I want online at my leisure. I have machines that wash my dishes and clothes. I am starting a career and everything I need I have at my fingertips in the comfort of my own home. All of this I have as a sit on a foundation laid by so many mothers before me who did so much with so much less than I have at my disposal.

Why is it that it is so easy to forget our blessings and to be ungrateful? My complaining to myself, viewed in light of all of my blessings and advantages, seems so selfish and petty, and yet I fall into that trap daily.

I think that one of the central themes of the Book of Mormon is gratitude and remembrance. We are reminded both in the introduction and closing remarks of the Book that this is part of its purpose:

Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.  -Title Page

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts
-Moroni 3:3

I can't begin right now to list all the times in the Book of Mormon where the prophets counsel the people to remember how the Lord has blessed them and to live accordingly. In the spirit of that Book which has had the greatest impact in my life, I will make a greater effort to be grateful daily for the amazing blessings which are mine, and to cheerfully do the duty that falls upon me as a recipient of those blessings.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Teach them...

In the last months I have been working and pondering a lot on being a better parent and teaching my children the Gospel more effectively. Tonight's reading of Alma's counsel to his sons was right to the point.

What should I focus on?

[T]each them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity. Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach them never to be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart, or such shall find rest to their souls. O remember my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.
-Alma 37:32-35

How should I go about it?

And I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things.
-Alma 38:10

Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.
-Alma 38:12

This last one was especially poignant as earlier in the evening we had a drawn out conflict with our oldest, who was bent on fighting about everything and being contrary, alternating between throwing a fit in his room and coming downstairs to provoke the fight again. I was on my last strand of patience, and it took all of my self control to keep my voice low and remind him of what we had already told him several times. After several prayers I was able to calm down, get him calmed down, and we had a productive talk about what "Godly sorrow" means and how we behave when we are truly sorry and want to change our behavior instead of starting the fight anew. It required me bridling my passion of anger and frustration for me to be filled with love and to better address my child's need. It's something I need to do more often and more consistently!