Thursday, October 31, 2019

LDS Blogs (13) - You Are Powerful

There is a meme that floats around occasionally on Facebook that contains a very happy thought, and I saw it again recently in my feed.

Here it is:

 powerful quote


There are quite a few variants of this, but the overall message has both a good and bad part.

The good part is its implication that we are spiritual lightyears away from being anywhere near as powerful as God; therefore, He can do wonders for our good, regardless of our weaknesses. The evidence of this is so staggering and obvious that I feel no need to explain it any further here. However, there is one part of the meme that may cause us to forget how valuable and powerful we are with our gift of agency.

In the six month anniversary episode of my podcast, I mentioned the following: Of all the things that Satan failed to acknowledge in the pre-existence — and this is why his warping of the Father’s plan wouldn’t have worked — there is one thing that is perhaps the most important. It is the fact that even if we were to...

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Friday, October 4, 2019

LDS Blogs (12) - Manliness

This article on manliness begins with a few well-researched statistics.

There was a study done a few years back that showed the #1 most common factor in poverty in the United States is a fatherless home. In fact, in the same study, results were gathered for homes with single mothers and single fathers, and in each category, the single-mother homes showed a rate of poverty that was more than 10% higher than in single-father homes and almost double in the ‘never-married’ category.

According to “The $100 Billion Dollar Man,” a study done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s study, “The most recent data available show that 55.2 percent of WIC [the government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program] live in father-absent households.” This same study also revealed that “The most recent survey [2003] of family composition of Head Start households … found that 53.6 percent of Head Start households have a father absent” (emphasis added). For those who don’t know, Head Start is a program run by the Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

This study also found that 48.2% of the entire budget for the Head Start program has gone to single-mother homes.

A third study, “Drugs, Guns, and Disadvantaged Youths: Co-Occurring Behavior and the Code of the Street” reads, “Analysis of the inmate sample shows absent father to be the only individual-level disadvantage variable significantly explaining drug trafficking, gun carrying, and co-occurring behavior both before and after code-based beliefs variable is entered in the model. Before the inclusion of code-based beliefs, having an absent father made an inmate 279% more likely than inmates living with their fathers to simultaneously deal drugs and carry guns. Including beliefs in the model generated some mediation of absent father’s effects on co-occurring behavior, but after such inclusion, even inmates with absent fathers were 267% likelier than inmates who did live with their fathers to have trafficked drugs and carried guns simultaneously” (emphasis added).

Why do I mentioned these statistics? Firstly, as disclaimer. It’s not to compare men to women or fathers to mothers. Neither role can possibly be more important than the other, according to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Aside from that, I include those statistics for two reasons. One is echoed in this article: that there is a war on men which is diminishing their self-esteem and their sense of inherent value as sons of God. The more important reason, which I want to make the focus of this article, is why we need more righteous fathers who are...

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

LDS Blogs (11) - All the --- Things

This article is a follow-up to “The Small Things Are Not Small.

This article contains a list of things I’m thankful for not because of something that was taken from me, but because I have them at all. I was going to title it “All the Small Things,” but I included the six things in this gratitude list because of blessings we’ve had and extra good things the Lord has given us… So this one’s about being thankful for all the… things, period (see D&C 78:19).

1. The Reminder to Be Thankful in All Things

Even seemingly mundane things like eating, showering, shopping — heck, even paying bills or dealing with bad traffic! — can be an act of thankful worship to God for making those activities possible in the first place. It might seem kind of weird with something that feels so common, like taking a bite of a donut or putting the car in park, to think “Thank you, God, that I am able to do this; that Thou gave me the means to get this food and the body to eat it” or “I thank Thee that Thou blessed me with this car and inspired its inventors to include brakes and mechanisms that allow me to safely park and lock it so I have higher chances of it not being stolen, and have a ride back home to my family.”

Thoughts like this might seem to some like trying too hard, but...

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Friday, September 20, 2019

LDS Blogs (10) - Earning Vs. Qualifying

There are many ideas in the gospel that are easy to misunderstand if not approached with Christ’s Atonement in context. I was recently reminded of one of those principles. Ever since the Lord helped me understand the difference between earning and qualifying for blessings, I have been extra careful in how I speak of where, how, and why blessings from God come the way they do.

King Benjamin preaching to his people

To begin, I’ll start with a few scriptures and an everyday situation (in that order). The first scripture is found in King Benjamin’s speech.
  • "20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
    21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
    22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. (Mosiah 2:20-22)"
Much of what the scriptures can teach us are in what they do not say—in this case, what verse 22 does not say. It doesn’t say, “therefore, because ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.” It says “if,” suggesting a simple matter of cause and effect. However, the cause for our receiving blessings is not...

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Monday, September 9, 2019

LDS Blogs (9) - The Small Things Are Not Small

For us adults out there, as we grew up, I’m sure we all heard our parents tell us to be grateful for the small stuff in some way or another. It’s something we all know we should do, because, as the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” say, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Every time my wife goes through something that robs her of yet another basic human function, it reminds me to be grateful that I can still do that thing. In the following message, most of the details I will relate are things which have occurred in the last few years. Here are seven things for which, having watched my wife be deprived of, I have come to be more grateful for than I ever expected.

1. Two Legs That Work

Lorraine hasn’t always been deprived of this. She learned to walk when she was four because of many complications surrounding her birth in addition to physical abuse and neglect. Even still, she was able to walk with leg braces and crutches for most of her growing-up years. It was only when the pressure ulcers on her feet and legs began to show up on top of the lymphedema in 2010 that her ability to walk began to be severely (and slowly) impacted.

As of Fall 2017, my wife lost all ability to bear weight on her feet when her leg broke in — wait for it — the hospital. That’s a story for another day, but ever since, I have been extra thankful that I can just stand up anytime I want to go anywhere I want. There are still limits on when and where I can go because of Lorraine’s needs and how often I need to be around to help her, but you get the idea. At this point, at least until the Lord’s promise to heal her completely is fulfilled, her legs are of no purpose to her except as a source of pain. I am beyond grateful that mine still work perfectly fine.

2. My Voice

This is something else that has been taken from my wife multiple times. The most emotionally difficult part for her, I’m sure, is how much she loved to sing her whole life (and is really good at it). I mean, she was really good. In the last three years, doctors have had to put a breathing tube down her throat at least three times (though probably more), which also included a feeding tube so she can still get nutrients. Imagine the frustration of being awake, alert, and aware, but not being able to say a single word because the is no physical way for you to speak. You try to use your hands but you’re so tired that all you can do...

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

LDS Blogs (8) - Total Immersion

My circumstances for the last 10 years have been pretty unique. God has put me in a place that has allowed me to learn some pretty cool lessons, via both harrowing experiences and glorious, revelatory, spiritually delicious ones.


If you’ve read any of my previous articles on LDS Blogs, on my personal blog, or heard any episodes of my podcast, you’ll know that my wife struggles with many, many different health issues. In the just over 10 years of our marriage, that has put me in the position of 24/7 caretaker, nurse, cook, housekeeper, shopper, secretary, and more — so the learning curve there has been quite the course in “sink or swim.”

With that in mind, one of the greatest spiritual gifts God has blessed me with is an unrelenting and unyielding charity and loyalty to those whom I love most. I’m not always perfect at it, but I haven’t found the emotional capacity to even think about giving up altogether.

Satan has worked hard to try and exploit that trait and has thrown really heinous, evil temptations to which he knows I’m especially susceptible in an effort to make me put that focus and loyalty into those evil practices. I imagine him, in a temper tantrum, saying, “Fine! If I can’t get you to abandon the people you love, I’ll make you do things that make others want to abandon you!” But I recently was shown in different ways by two different people how important it is to do more than just punch back.

I started my podcast partially in an effort to ramp up the amount of light I was using to displace the darkness that occurred when the adversary tried to put those awful thoughts and feelings in my mind and heart. The other motive was to help others find spiritual nuggets to overcome the same weaknesses I myself was trying to fight. Then, recently these two people who helped me with a major perspective shift impressed on me the importance of...

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

LDS Blogs (7) - Face the Fear That Keeps You Frozen

Asperger’s syndrome for me means dealing with communication difficulties, especially when people use idioms, generalize, make assumptive statements, or ask assumptive questions. I believe that none of us, myself included, ever says exactly—I mean EXACTLY—what we mean while being tactful at the same time. I have always tried really hard, however, to do exactly that because of how many times I have been misunderstood. Therefore, learning to interpret what people really mean, as opposed to the words they speak, has always been difficult for me. That’s just part of my communication weakness.

I recently realized a way that Heavenly Father has helped lead me to a place in my life where I am well on my way to finally overcoming that weakness—and it was absolutely NOT in a way I expected. I didn’t even realize until a few days ago that it’s been a process He started with me more than five years ago. Then again, does God’s help ever come in a way we expect?

When I first got married, I was super confident that the next thing I needed to do with my life was continue to develop my strengths and talents—and that wasn’t a bad goal. God did want me to do that and made it more than possible to do so. Thanks to the kindness and help of family and friends, I was able to pursue an attempt at further education in web design and development, and started my own business with it. I loved programming and was good at it—and for a while, it worked. I had a few clients and was able to hone my skills even more with the work I did. However, without the sufficient support of others who were still miles ahead of me in the field, I soon...

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Friday, May 3, 2019

LDS Blogs (6) Fruits, Not Roots

I have been messaged by two people recently who either stopped believing God’s prophets, lost faith in the truth of His Church, or just stopped believing in God entirely based on the behavior of past prophets and the more transparent Church history we now know about. I’m not going to try to resolve any of their specific concerns here, but something came to mind as I spoke to both of these people; something that I have seen as a recurring theme with possibly everyone in their situation.

Each individual (more than just those two, of course) who has expressed their frustration, doubt, or disbelief in the restored gospel because of Church history has unintentionally brought the following phrase to my mind:

Don’t get so focused on the roots of the church that you forget the fruits of the church.

I pondered to myself what I would say if the Spirit directed me to offer my thoughts to these people, even just to help them understand why I believe, if not help them rekindle the fire of their faith. Each point really boils down to that phrase: focus on the fruits, not the roots.

Here are three points that I might use as a reminder why it’s not worth giving up faith in the Lord’s Church, let alone the existence of God, because the way a tree was planted seems off to us. God planted it; it’s not up to us to tell Him how He should have done it. It’s our job just to receive the fruits with gratitude, faith and worship.

Each point is based on a question I have actually been asked or a reason I have been given by such people explaining why they no longer believe.

“There’s some things early Church leaders did that are really bad. Why can’t I judge the personal conduct of a man who claims to speak with God?”

Because we are commanded not to judge anyone, period, by the Son of God Himself. Even Church leaders. Only Christ can judge whether the conduct of others renders them unable to receive revelation for the world. When the Holy Ghost witnesses in the hearts of the listeners that modern day prophets are indeed the mouthpiece of the Lord, that’s all we should need. Judging their supposed actions isn’t just focusing too much on the roots—it’s tantamount to looking at them through a microscope, which is drastically outside of our rights of stewardship.

I like to think of witnesses from the Holy Ghost as Tad R. Callister summarizes this situation in a court room.

“Some years ago my father, who was an attorney, was trying a lawsuit...

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

LDS Blogs (5) - Layers

One of my greatest difficulties communicating with Asperger’s syndrome has to do with how deeply and powerfully I feel (emotionally) and the seemingly formless amoeba of ideas in my head that I struggle to put into some semblance of spoken language. This becomes particularly challenging when I’m trying to find the right word to express something. More often than not, adjectives like amazing, huge, beautiful, horrific, painful and difficult are pathetic and almost insulting when compared to the magnitude of what I really think and feel.

My wife has suggested that this difficulty of mine actually comes to me because I have true charity, but don’t know how to harness it properly yet. I was told in my patriarchal blessing that charity would be my most used spiritual gift, so I do believe that my feelings reflect that gift of the Spirit, but that I haven’t “grown into it” yet.

But the main point I want to make with this has to do with things prophets have expressed as paramount concerns in our lives. I’m talking about things like studying the Book of Mormon daily, working hard at building our relationships, families and homes, and learning to develop the gift of discernment. Much of that has to do with the idea expressed in this quote from Visions of Glory by John Pontius (pg. 65):

“…anytime Christ descends and speaks to a mortal, it is so weighty with meaning that mere words cannot convey the fulness of the truths given. The message is layered. First are the words He speaks, and then there is a vastly larger body of truth you receive spiritually, layer upon layer, more truth than you can understand for years afterward. One small moment in the presence of the Savior can last for a lifetime.

This is the reason the scriptures are so powerful, because they contain the words spoken by Christ, and this layered truth is still there, spiritually interwoven with those words. It takes a lifetime of spiritual growth and obedience to be able to receive the deeper layers. They are truly there, and they contain the great mysteries and greater truths He desires that we acquire and enjoy in our lifetime” (p. 65).

Those spiritual layers aren’t just in the scriptures, but in everything Christ created, including us. Everyone has those spiritual layers to them. Everyone has all the minute, nuanced details of our thoughts, feelings, desires, experiences and beliefs written in layers into every fiber of our being. All of this information is forever woven into our very sinews, so as John Pontius says at another point in his book, Christ can literally read us like a book.

I have pondered on this idea for a long time and wished and longed and yearned and desperately desired the ability to do that.

If you’ve seen Ender’s Game, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say this, but there’s a part where Ender wonders if, instead of attacking their alien “enemies,” there’s not a more diplomatic solution. Since they can’t speak English and their communication is more telepathic, Ender wonders, “What if we could communicate with them? What if we could… you know… think to them? What if they could think to us?”

...

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

LDS Blogs (4) - Penlight to the Sun

The original reason I started blogging was kind of selfish at first. I had given a talk on agency back in… 2013 I think? You know how it goes with talks — you often get more out of preparing it than perhaps the congregation gets out of your giving it. And that’s what happened for me, but I thought, “I don’t want this to stop. I need more of this influence from the Spirit.”

Obviously I couldn’t give a talk every week, so instead I just decided to write down whatever I felt inclined to dig into for my own spiritual well-being and put it out there for whoever cared to read it. After a while, it got to the point where I was writing more with a sincere desire to actually do some good for others: perhaps my words would brighten someone’s day, get people thinking about their own spiritual standing, or help them in finding ways to overcome major burdens.

My thoughts here veer back towards looking for… just… pure spirit food; a useful reminder for myself and perhaps a refresher or new perspective for others, and as I prayed to know which direction I should take for that purpose, a little voice in my head said, pure and simply, “talk about your Savior.” So this time my thoughts are based on this quote from Tad R. Callister’s book The Infinite Atonement.

Those who have belittled the Savior’s sacrifice as no superhuman feat, because others have been so crucified and died so “nobly,” have forgotten the moments in the Garden. The physical pain of the cross alone, when compared to the accumulated pain of the Garden and the cross, was as a penlight to the sun. Perhaps the cross was chosen because the Savior wanted us to know he had endured man’s greatest form of inhumanity to man; but even then, such anguish was relatively insignificant when compared to the spiritual agony in the Garden, which was extended on the cross.” (The Infinite Atonement, p. 133)

A penlight to the sun! Wow!

I thought of that analogy and I realized, is not everything between us and our Savior as a penlight to the sun? Are not our actions, righteous desires, the Christlike love we feel for others, and our honest efforts to follow our Savior’s example but a penlight compared to the celestial “sun-like” brilliance of His merits and His love?

One beautiful irony behind this is that the scriptures teach that our mere penlight can become as a proverbial “sun” because of the Son Himself.

I could go on for hours about this idea, but here are three things about the Lord that fit this analogy really well and how they serve as a huge comfort and motivator for us....

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

LDS Blogs (3) - The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters You

During our family scripture study growing up, my dad had a habit of interjecting his own personal thoughts, explanations, and anecdotes every… maybe 0.7 verses.

Okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. In my and my siblings’ kid brains, we were often mildly annoyed at him for doing this, but it was a good thing he did. Today in my own personal scripture study, I do that  possibly more than even he did—and I enjoy it!

My wife caught on too and began with me to find gospel parallels in many parts of everyday life: in books, movies, shows, etc. Considering that our tastes of what constitutes a good movie make it really difficult for us to find one that we both want to watch over and over and over again, if we ever tell you of a movie that we both actually enjoyed together and want to watch again, you know it’s a must-see. It also means, however, that we have both seen a crazy amount of gospel parallels in it.

One of those is A Wrinkle In Time. There is one particularly profound, yet often feared, truth in that movie I want to discuss here. It’s when Mrs. Who says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

Rather than just diving right into my personal take on this, let’s go to the scriptures for examples of where this truth is taught.

Replacing Darkness with Light

Take a look at 3 Nephi 9 in the Book of Mormon. Chapter 8 ends by talking about the mourning, howling, weeping, wailing, and tangible darkness all over the face of the land after the catastrophic destruction of the Americas following Christ’s death. With this perspective, the timing of what happens in chapter 9 is absolutely awesome. Almost the entire chapter is the voice of Christ speaking to the hearts of everyone who was spared and inviting them to come unto Him. They literally heard the audible voice of Christ speaking to each one of them!

Notice the timing of that: it was right in the middle of the deepest darkness and their most desperate cries for help that they heard His voice. Only when they were brought face-to-face with total darkness did they hear the clear, piercing, soothing, inviting voice of the Lord.

Another thing that really caught my attention was that the moment when the darkness around them completely paralyzed them with fear and left them physically immobile was the same moment where the voice of Christ stunned them so much that all the crying and moaning immediately stopped...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Four of the Most Amazing Promises in All Scripture

For years now I have gradually increased my focus on how certain phrases in the scriptures are worded to help me dig deeper into the spiritual layers of the words of prophets and our Savior. Having Asperger's syndrome makes it a lot easier to really dissect the phrasing and really get down to the juice caramel center of Holy Writ.

One of the key passages that I have repeatedly noticed uses some pretty awesome phrasing is Matt 5:5-8. These four verses each contain one key word that solidifies them as not only some of the most comforting promises in all scripture but also some of the most ironclad. That word is "shall".

I absolutely love any time the Lord makes a promise and says that the blessings we receive as a part of that promise "shall" come to pass.  There are no ifs, maybes, buts or unless's, etc. The promises made with the conditions spelled out are guaranteed. You don't find that kind of thing very often in this life. So many times have General Authorities taught that living the gospel does increase the chances of overall happiness but rarely guarantee when or how or even how often that will happen because of the Fall. But the promises in these verses are ironclad and guaranteed. I want to give each of them separate and deliberate attention to show what I have seen and felt as I have studied them. Let's pick 'em apart.

5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Many times, as illustrated above, the real meaning of certain verses in scripture comes out more by focusing on what it doesn't say. Let's look at the word "inherit." If you inherit something, you didn't get it by working for it or because you deserve it, but because someone else earned, bought and/or acquired it and you get to have it because you happened to be in some sort of legal will or perhaps bloodline down which said thing has been passed for generations. You get it because of who you are, not what you have done.

In the case of this verse, Jesus promises us that those who are meek will inherit the earth. Whoa, wait a minute, did you catch that? The entire earth? As in the whole physical globe, the planet we call earth, the entire planet, will become the property of the those who are meek? That's all there is to it? The answer is an incredible YES! Does that sound too simple? Did you immediately think "ummm... hold on, sir, there's more to it than that"? Well, lets look at what it means to be meek and see if we can find out if it's really as simple as the phrasing our Savior used.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, one of His apostles, said the following about meekness.
  • "Meekness is thus so much more than a passive attribute that merely deflects discourtesy. Instead, it involves spiritual and intellectual activism: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10; see also 2 Chronicles 19:3, 20:33). Meek Nephi, in fact, decried the passivity of those who “will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness” (2 Nephi 32:7). Alas, most are unsearching—quite content with a superficial understanding or a general awareness of spiritual things (see Alma 10:5–6). This condition may reflect either laziness or, in Amulek’s case, the busyness usually incident to the cares of the world.  Intellectual meekness is a persistent as well as particular challenge. Without it, we are not intellectually open to things that we “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). Alas, some have otherwise reached provincial and erroneous conclusions and do not really want to restructure their understanding of things. Some wish neither to be shaken nor expanded by new data."("Meek and Lowly”, Oct. 21, 1986 Devotional at BYU)
I think it becomes much clearer why, of all the attributes of God Jesus chose to use as the most prominent of those who would inherit the earth, He chose meekness. Elder Maxwell describes this virtue as not just one of holding back when the time is not right to speak or act, but also - in contrast - as a virtue that expands the mind and soul, emboldens and fine tunes the spiritual senses and glorifies a man or woman who can stand in quiet, yet brilliant and unyielding majesty in the presence of the prideful and benighted of the world; someone familiar with, as President Monson said, the "glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so."

Such meekness is surely a forerunner of Godliness and a one of the keystones in the marble arch of charity. No wonder only those who have it are given the unconditional promise of inheriting the earth itself.

6. And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Anyone who is more well versed in the New Testament will see slight difference in wording from the King James Version. The last phrase "with the Holy Ghost" is only found in the Lord's similar discourse to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon as the resurrected Lord.

A few years back, I had wondered and discussed with my wife the idea of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with us every second of every single day and wondered if it was truly possible. I mean, we all sin and render ourselves unworthy of the full presence of the Holy Ghost many times a day with things we do wrong that we don't often think twice about, so is it really possible? Even the Lord tells us "my Spirit shall not always strive with man" (D&C 1). But then I realized that the only reason the Holy Ghost doesn't always strive with us is because we are not following the counsel of King Benjamin, which, if we do, we are promised constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. King Benjamin says this:
  • And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4
Wow! Did you see that!? Yes, we CAN be filled with the Holy Ghost, according to the Lord's promise in Matthew, if we are constantly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. That's obviously more easily said than done. There are seemingly innumerable means the devil uses to distract, deceive and discourage us, but I find comfort in President Nelson's words, "It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee." And we've been given an incredible promise when we do, being filled with the Holy Ghost. Just as an additional incentive for you and I to narrow our focus on righteousness and thereby receive such an amazing gift, here's a small description, limited by mortal words, that paints a picture of what it's like to be filled with the Holy Ghost by Parley P Pratt:
  • "The gift of the Holy Ghost...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

7. And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

This goes along well with Helaman's discourse to his son Corianton about the law of restoration. He teaches that "the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."

The interesting thing I noticed right away with this is that if we look again at what verse 7 isn't saying. In this case what this verse isn't saying actually reveals more about the doctrine taught here by the Lord. The agreement in this promise is strict and straight to the point and further explained by Jesus in Matt 7:2, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." He can be as merciful to us as we are to are to each other. If we can come to completely forgive every wrong ever committed against us and let the Lord deal with justice, His atoning sacrifice becomes fully efficacious in our lives and we are thus forgiven completely for every sin we fully repent of.

That's the other reason Matt 5:7 is so powerful. It teaches us the often disregarded aspect of forgiveness from the Lord. We are so often taught that to be forgiven of sins we must fully repent and this is unequivocally true, but ultimately, there are technically two things that we must do in order to have complete forgiveness from the Lord. Repent fully of all our sins and forgive everyone for every wrong committed against us or anyone else. Both are required according to the Son of God. If we compartmentalize others and use our insufficient, weak, out-of-context judgement skills as the standard by which we measure the worth of others and how we should feel and think about them, why on earth would we have the right to expect that the Lord should just wipe our slate clean and bring us to Celestial Glory if we can't come to love everyone - yes, everyone - the same way He does? (even if not to the same intensity)

I can imagine many who just read that and thought right away, "do you realize how tall of an order that is? That is... huge! I completely agree, but then again, as Elder Holland put it, "...salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?"

This single short verse is loaded with what it says and what it doesn't say.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

I think this one has to be my favorite out of all of them. I personally know a few people aside from those publicly taught about in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have seen our Savior in person. They have each confirmed what Joseph Smith said about being in His presence, that "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters" (D&C 110:3).

We know of so few who have seen either the Father or the Son and yet, in His mortal ministry, the Son gives us the very formula in just eleven words to have that very same thing happen to us. It stands to reason, of course, that this must mean being pure in heart is quite hard to achieve, given that those who saw Him because they were pure in heart - as opposed to the wicked who saw Him because of the prayers of the righteous and the justice of God - seem to be so few and far between in the annals of recorded history. Still, our Savior doesn't make us any promises or tell us how to do something or give us commandments without making any of it possible. I wonder if some of you are already thinking, "Yeah, but there are a lot of hard things to do in the restored gospel that we have been promised are possible that are still ridiculously difficult."

My only response to that is to echo Elder Holland again when he said the following. And keep in mind that since repentance is synonymous with positive change, you can substitute almost every instance of the word "repentance" with "change" below, as I already have,
  • "You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to [change]. It takes exactly as long to [change] as it takes you to say “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed, you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your [change] by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah. Do not misunderstand. [Change] is not easy or painless or convenient. It can be a bitter cup from hell. But only Satan would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgement of sin is more distasteful than permanent residence in it. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it." (emphasis added) ("How To Change" Liahona, Feb 2017)

I still haven't seen Him, but I know it's possible to do so because I know people who have and I aspire to reach the point where I'm "D&C 4:6" enough to see Him. I know that as I pray for God to purify my intentions and my desires that He will dispel my fears and make me into someone who can see Him in person, and I want you to see Him, too. Lets purify our hearts along side our Savior together, shall we?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Show Me Your Dash and I'll Show You Mine

This morning I saw an article on my facebook feed that I'm sure was put there at the time by divine design. Just yesterday I had read an article that focused heavily on making sure everything we teach in the church is related to the One after whom our faith in named and upon whom it is based, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Then, as if God was trying to put icing on that spiritual cake - well more like a huge pallet loaded with bags of icing - I read this article today by Stake President and District of Columbia US Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B Griffith.

There's a part in it on which I am basing my comments here. It's this section:
  • "In the last revelation Joseph Smith received before he was permitted to organize Christ’s Church on the earth—in what was the capstone of Joseph Smith’s preparation to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord gave the only first-person detailed account of the suffering He endured so that we would not need to suffer the full effects of our disobedience: behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— [D&C 19:16, 18] There is something curious about this narrative. Verse 18 ends with a dash. The Savior did not complete His thought. Why? I don’t know, but I am persuaded by the explanation that the Savior might have cut short His description of what He suffered because it was too painful for Him—some 1,800 years after the event—to complete the description[]." (emphasis added)

He proposes this idea of course as his opinion, but I believe it for the following reason. Why does the Lord withhold information from us? Usually it's because it would be more detrimental than helpful to our spiritual growth, but with Joseph Smith, I don't think that would have been the case. Here was a man about whom Truman Madsen recalled the following:

  • "Early in his life, he said, [Sydney B. Sperry, a man who was perhaps the Church's most knowledgeable Hebraist] had aspired to know more about the scriptures than any man living. He told me, and this is the point, that he had become aware that no man in this generation could possibly know as much about the scriptures as did the Prophet Joseph Smith. I begin with that because a feeling constantly recurs as one studies the life of Joseph Smith. You never quite get to the bottom. There is always more. You can be so impressed and overcome with glimpses that you say, "Nothing good that I could learn of him would be surprising." And then you become surprised. There is always more. It takes deep to comprehend deep, and I often wonder if any of us have the depth to fully comprehend this man."
No, I believe that Joseph's capacity to receive or not receive what the Lord would have said next was not because of His own limitations, especially coming from a man who said, "I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have, of the glories of the Kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive it."

I think the reason is as brother Griffith deduced. And that begs the question, just how loaded is that dash?

Obviously, the answer is not something the world needs to know right now - and likely something the world is spiritual light-years from handling well - or else we would have such knowledge revealed to us via President Nelson. However, what I want to suggest here and that we use this thought as an example for our own lives. One of the most profound differences between us and our Lord is the fact that nothing He holds back from us is because of what He wants to reveal to us. According to President Nelson, "One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will." The Lord has His own reasons for not explaining that loaded dash, but - and consider this carefully - is there any good reason for us to be trying to hide our "dash" from Him, or... even at all?

Our unsaid dash could be a lot of things. Perhaps it is our hidden brokenness, complex emotions, addictions, worries, internal (or external) battle wounds incident to life's trials or even our deepest dreams, hopes, joys and love that we believe are to crazy to expose for fear of backlash or dismissal. It may be everything we really want to express to others but don't have the courage to do so. Maybe it's the "Oh, and one more thing"s that often results from our afterthoughts that come to us too late and stem from deep emotional crevasses that take work to dig out and display. Either way our dashes are never going to be as loaded as his, so why should we be so hesitant to expose ours?

I saw a meme on facebook today that said "Don't judge people for the choices they make when you don't know the options they had to choose from." I could discourse on how to apply that phrase properly, but for now, the point I want to make from it is that - while I acknowledge it is wrong to judge another person's level of spiritual health (if you aren't a Bishop, Stake Pres, etc.) - maybe, just maybe, we would no longer even falsely perceive a need to judge at all if we did know the options others had to choose from in the moments where they had to make their hardest choices. Whether those choices are good or evil, if we can bring ourselves to a) be brave and open with each other while staying kind and b) properly show each other our dashes, it would be easier for us to have the needed context and motivation to be kinder to each other. This would also serve as an effect means for us to receive direction from the Holy Ghost about how to bear and, when possible, lighten each others burdens instead of exacerbating them by making uninformed decisions about what we think others need. 

Now, I'm not talking about just spewing out verbal diarrhea, of course. That would just result in a bunch of "TMI" looks from a lot of people. What I am saying is that learning to express ourselves to each other the way I mentioned in the first section of this article would make it much easier for us to minister to each other so that all of us feel safe showing our dash, to display all those "other options" I mentioned in the previous paragraph and really give proper context. This also means we need to seek to understand other's dashes as well.

The first verse and chorus to one of my recent favorite songs goes:
  • Truth is harder than a lie
    the dark seems safer than the light
    and everyone has a heart that loves to hide
    I'm a mess and so are you
    We've build walls nobody can get through
    Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do, ever do:

    Bring your brokenness and I'll bring mine
    'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
    and mercy's waiting on the other side
    If we're honest, If we're honest

Showing our dashes also often means coming from behind the proverbial bedroom door we slammed behind ourselves and laying our problems before the Lord and, as we learn to do it properly, before each other. This also helps in effective ministering because part of the church's ministering program means being good listeners. Giving our ministering brothers and sisters something to listen to is one of the best ways to meet each others needs. It also gives us context the Holy Ghost can use to guide us in our ministering. We have to take the step to reach out sometimes when others can't see the invisible pain we often seem so willing to hide. I remember reading an article in a New Era magazine in 2007 while I was serving as a full time missionary where Nathan Richardson noticed this about hiding the truth:

  • "What we find is that when we try to fix ourselves, we don’t have the needed equipment. So we might try to approximate the repentance process. But the medicine hurts too much, so we don’t apply it; and the bandage is impossible to put on by ourselves, so we try to cover it with a few little Band-Aids. Then the Father comes in and sees our raw sore, which we had tried to hide from Him. He helps us clean it out. He applies the Atonement to our wounds, which begins the healing process. If it doesn’t burn at first, we’re not repenting. Then He helps us tape on a bandage that we could never have gotten on by ourselves. With our red wound now dressed in white, we are left to wonder why we were ever afraid to ask our Heavenly Father for help. I think that if we really came to know Heavenly Father, we wouldn’t be so scared to repent."

The same applies not just to repentance but becoming unified as Saints and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we become willing to come together and show our dashes with mercy, understanding and forgiveness, and see each others "other options", I am convinced that judgement would cease to fester in our minds and, with proper honesty and context, showing our dashes would become something we want to do. It would become a way to heal, to become completely free from the cares of this world and choose happiness (different from finding happiness).

So what do you say? Show me your dash and I'll show you mine. Let's heal and be perfected along side our Savior together.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Overcoming Pornography - 5 More Virtues That Will Help You Beat It

Back April 2017, I wrote about 5 virtues that will help you beat porn addiction. Everything I said came from my own personal experience battling it at different times in my life. However, there are five more virtues that I feel a need to outline which I feel are critical in walking the path to freedom from such evils.

1. Humility

One of my eye opening chapters in the Book of Mormon (and one of the hardest pills to swallow) is in King Benjamin's speech in Mosiah 2:

  • "23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? 25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you. 26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth."
This attitude is something that will serve you well if you are trying to overcome a porn addiction. The happy part of humility (as weird as that may sound to some) is that the Lord has promised us that the it is the humble seeker of happiness who qualifies the most for the divine power and grace of God. As Malachi teaches us, He is a "purifier of silver" (Malachi 3:3) and refines, as does someone like a blacksmith, the impurities or dross from us until all our impure desires and impulses are gone.

Being humble enough to remain thankful to God while suffering the feeling of ignominy in addiction recovery is one of the best ways for God to cause within us a permanent change of heart. I sometimes pray "with all the energy of heart" (Moroni 7:48) begging Heavenly Father to cause me to be forever and instinctively repulsed by things of the natural man, in all areas of life. If we be humble enough to truly understand how many of our desires are - when we are really honest with ourselves - unholy and impure, the road to healing and having a "mighty change of heart" (Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:14) can be traveled much faster. Until that change is complete - and you'll know when it is - humbly remembering that we still have lots of work to do is a great way to combat the evil one and his relentless temptations.

2. Charity

One of the greatest reassurances of having charity is mentioned in Moroni 7:47, that for all who posses this greatest of all spiritual gifts "at the last day, it shall be well with him." One of the reasons for this is illustrated well by a recently quote I saw from one of our modern day prophets (I wish I could remember for sure which one) where he said - and I'm paraphrasing - "if we could really remember who we are as children of God, we would try a lot harder to do what's right." This ties well into charity because when we have it, we love God, our brothers and sisters throughout the world and ourselves enough to act like who we really are.

I am reminded of the story of Daniel in the Old Testament. In Daniel chapter 1 he refused to defile himself with the wine brought to him by order of King Nebuchadnezzar. This king had commanded to be brought to him "certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;  Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."

Daniel knew of both his temporal standing as a prince and divine standing as a child of the Almighty God. He refused to do anything that would contradict his identity and thereby stain his pattern of living up to those birthrights. If we really love God, our families, our friends and remember who we really are in moments of temptation, we won't even allow ourselves to be in situation where we even might slip a little. I suggest meditation to accomplish this.

King Benjamin also gave some wise counsel to help us consistently maintain our worthiness in Mosiah 4:11-12
  • "And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel."
and there's the effect he promises:
  • "And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true."
That's a pretty amazing promise. So learn to love and remember who you really are and use that as motivation to live up to it.

3. Courage

This is a big one and it ties in well with accountability from the previous entry about this. I know from experience that one of the scariest things in addiction recovery is forming a rigid habit of confessing - candidly, completely and immediately - when setbacks happen in your journey to permanent sobriety. I have felt horrible about the hurt I caused to many at different times in my life when addiction reared it's ugly head, so horrible that I would sometimes lose the courage to confront the problem soon enough with those most affected by it. One of the worst things you can do when fighting an addiction is procrastinating courage, the courage to confront the problem head on before the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution.

Another part of courage I have seen be very effective in overcoming addictions like this is finding something out of your comfort zone just to break up your normal routine. Whether that means you take a different route to work or church, deliberately introduce yourself to a complete stranger and strike up a conversation with them or maybe do your morning routine in a completely different order, having the courage to go out of your comfort zone will do wonders for you. Not only will it help you practice replacing evil habits with good ones, but also just get out of your own head, re-calibrate and help shift your focus to what matters most.

4. Meekness

I believe this virtue to be the most misunderstood and, therefore, one of the most difficult to master. Neal A. Maxwell had the following to say about meekness.
  • "There is, of course, much accumulated stereotyping surrounding this virtue. We even make nervous jokes about meekness, such as, “If the meek intend to inherit the earth, they are going to have to be more aggressive about it!” We even tend to think of a meek individual as being used and abused—as being a doormat for others. However, Moses was once described as being the most meek man on the face of the earth (see Num. 12:3), yet we recall his impressive boldness in the courts of Pharaoh and his scalding indignation following his descent from Sinai."
Meekness isn't just about being silent and submissive or assertive and aggressive, although there are times when those things are applied in proper balance in someone who is truly meek. It's more about becoming willing to be totally transparent, teachable and firm in the resolve to utterly expose the darkest and most well hidden parts of our emotions, motives, rationalizations, preferences, and actions for the sake of allowing the Lord to wipe us completely clean from such evil. Meekness means standing firm and unyielding in our faith in Christ and His truth with the understanding that the only way to really become like Him is to expose and allow Him to purify and clean all of our spiritual "wounds and infections", self-inflicted and otherwise. I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie A Wrinkle In Time, "the wound is the place where the light enters you."

Elder Maxwell further clarified,
  • "Granted, none of us likes, or should like, to be disregarded, to be silenced, to see a flawed argument prevail, or to endure a gratuitous discourtesy. But such circumstances seldom constitute that field of action from which meekness calls upon us to retire gracefully. Unfortunately, we usually do battle, unmeekly, over far less justifiable things, such as “turf.”

    Just what is this “turf” we insist on defending almost at the slightest provocation? If it is real estate, this will not rise with us in the resurrection. If it is concern over the opinions of us held by others, there is only One opinion of us that really matters. Besides, the opinions of others will only be lowered if we go on an ego tantrum. If “turf” is status, we should not be overly concerned with today’s organizational charts. Who cares now about the pecking order in the Sanhedrin in 31 A.D., though so many cared so much at the time? Where are those now who worried so much over losing their places in the synagogues? (See John 12:42.)

    Granted, there are some things worth being aroused about, as the Book of Mormon says, such as our families, our homes, our liberties, and our sacred religion. (See Alma 43:45.) But if all our anxiety amounts to is our so-called image, it’s an image that needs to be displaced anyway, so that we can receive His image in our countenances."
'Nuff said.

5. Diligence

I quote here from my most viewed entry this blog (this one). "I think of Harry Potter and his occlumency lessons when Harry asks if he can rest for a moment and Snape responds "The dark lord isn't resting!!"  The same applies here.  If you think that there is room to slip up a little when somewhere in your mind or heart the Holy Ghost is saying "are you sure that's a good idea?", get ready for a harsh wake up call when Jesus comes again."

What I have learned from experience that even one microsecond of pulling a Lehonti can be more deadly to your spiritual and even physical health than you have any idea. Even after years of freedom from addiction, the fight against it must be a continual pursuit.  The devil doesn't just know who you are, he knows who you were before you were born. He isn't going to quit trying to make you fall to old habits, even after years, just because you have been clean for so long. He's like the paranoid kid who is immovably convinced that he has to look behind his shoulder to check for the boogie man every five seconds for his entire life, always asking "how about now? how about now? how about now? Hey, look! look! look! Look at that! Look at it! Look at it now! Nowww! NOOOWWW!" He is relentless and his biggest victories are to make the very most stalwart, faithful saints fall to old habits, even in isolated events for a brief moment.

Diligence is unspeakably vital in the battle against pornography addiction. Even once is too much.

___________________________________

Pornography addiction is one of the most pernicious evils to ever spread across the earth. Anyone who has not overcome it be the time they pass from this life is going to be in a world of hurt and I hope more people overcome it than who don't. As Amulek said, "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." Any addictions you haven't overcome by then will stick with you when you die, so take care of it now. Don't be one of those people who dies with regrets.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

LDS Blogs (2) - The Real Power of A Covenant

If you’ve read The Infinite Atonement by Brother Tad R. Callister even once all the way through, you’ve seen how incredible an author he is. There is one quote in that book that, among over 180 others I collected while I read it the first two times through, sticks out to me more than most of the rest and it illustrates the principle that has guided almost all of my most important decisions in my marriage. Here is what it says:

It may have been that such a covenant [to atone] helped sustain the Savior in the Garden when all his apparent spiritual and physical energies had been exhausted, when there was “nothing left” to combat the Evil One and sin itself but the pure covenant to atone.  How many such covenants have lifted men to loftier heights, conferred upon them added strength, and generated newfound reservoirs of resistance when all else seemed to collapse around them?  So it may have been that, in some way, this covenant satisfied the laws of justice for those who lived before the Atonement was performed, and, in addition, helped to sustain the Savior in his hour of greatest need.

In the book, Brother Callister says a lot more about Christ’s Atonement in regards to being infinite in its scope of time. For now, I just want to focus on how he speaks of the weight of a covenant. The sole fact that Jesus made a promise to the Father and to us was enough for Him to confront and conquer, head on, all the demonic powers of the evil one, unleashed in all their hellish hue. That was the power of a covenant for Him. So why not for us?

My wife and I were told extensively before we were married about the importance of the marriage covenant—that it is the highest covenant in the Church and the only one we make with two people (God and our spouse). What I really wanted to do with this is illustrate how the power of a covenant has helped me in my marriage.

Buckle up, this might make you cry—happy and sad tears.

Before I even knew my wife, she had lived the lives of ten people. The amount of abuse she endured, in every form you can imagine, even before she was born, took me a few years to even process—and I have Asperger’s syndrome, so my mind and heart run a billion miles a minute. Thankfully for me, when I was first learning about her life, I was not quite 2000 miles away and couldn’t act on what I’d heard, so I had plenty of time to think about the people she’d forgiven: what they had done to her, and the meekness, patience, and faith she showed in her responses.

*Read the rest of this here*

You can read more of my LDS Blogs articles here

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Special Connection

This last Sunday my wife and I were going through some of the new Come, Follow Me manual and in the third lesson for January there is a video that focuses on how Joseph felt as he helped raise The Messiah. As I was watching and read about it and I was dumbstruck by the portrayal of how he felt when Jesus was missing on their way back from Jerusalem. I don't know how to explain this very well, but it was as if all of the sudden I could feel Joseph's love for his step Son, his understanding of who He was and the resulting overwhelming anxiety he felt, knowing who Jesus was and that they had lost Him. I could feel so strongly the enormous responsibility he felt for keeping this Holy Boy safe and teaching Him, the best he knew how, the righteous traditions of his forefathers.

I felt in that moment an empathy for him like I had never felt for any other mortal father. I could feel the urgency in his efforts to get himself and Mary back to Jerusalem as fast as possible to make sure Jesus was okay. When I watched the video and saw the look on Joseph's face when Jesus said "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" realizing what he meant, I felt like Joseph's expression almost yelled "how could I have forgotten that? I am only His mortal guardian. I need to be more humble about this. I should have known."

The contrast I felt between a) his absolute and intense sense of love duty to provide for and protect his wife and the Son of God and b) his realization that his role in Jesus' life was only temporary was so overwhelming for me that it got me thinking about the parallels in my own life that seemed to fit this moment of clarity for me like a brand new lock and key.

Joseph instinctually acted with an urgency the totally rocked me. Finding Jesus was of pivotal importance to him. I began asking myself: Are my actions mirroring the faith, love and loyalty I say I feel for my God, my wife, my family and friends? How can I better transfer how I feel about what matters most into my habits?

I see the example President Nelson is showing of following the Lord's counsel without regard to what is convenient or what others say about him and I wish I was doing better at that myself. Well, my readers, I don't know about you, but today I have felt a huge but gentle push from God to go against the grain of my natural instincts and replace more of my unholy habits with Godly ones.

I was recently listening to a podcast with Chad Daybell where he was talking about what will be required of today's youth and he said the following: "[our youth] will have to be stronger than the stripling warriors, and the reason I say that is because the stripling warriors only had to worry about one side of that kingdom, the physical side, because they were raised in a Zion-like society. They didn't have the problems with pornography, [] multiculturalism, [] drugs, gender-identity, [] socialism, they didn't have all these... just bombardment of satanistic attitudes that are coming at our kids left and right."

I see a great irony in this. We perceive, and justly so, these amazing examples of faith and endurance from saints and prophets from long ago. We have songs that say things like "I'll have faith like brother Joseph [Smith] and the strength of the pioneers. I'll be brave as the stripling warriors and, like Nephi, persevere." Yet there is that statement by Chad Daybell which is spot on.

How many of those anciently who we look up to are watching us today in both utterly unanticipated horror as well as dumbfounding wonder and joy with the levels of wickedness and righteousness they see in humanity today? My own patriarchal blessing says my heritage (which is rich with faithful examples in church history) will guide me in my determination to do everything within my power to be faithful and obedient to the Lord's will.

That... connection I guess you could call it, that I felt from Joseph was a huge reminder to me that my desire to be faithful in everything the Lord has asked me personally to do needs to increase exponentially. And I'll will going about that just the way the Lord told me to in my patriarchal blessing, by focusing on carrying on my family legacy of faith and loyalty to my God, my wife and my covenants. And I hope this has inspired someone else to do the same.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

LDS Blogs (1) - 3 Things Every Man Needs to Have in Mind While Courting

In a day and age where the institution of marriage is subject to more attacks from the devil than ever before, it is more imperative than ever for us guys to approach the search for Mrs. Right with the most important parts of a marriage at the forefront of our attention.

In my search for my wife, I had some guidance from my patriarchal blessing, but it wasn’t until I was engaged to my then-to-be wife that I realized my interpretation of my patriarchal blessing was a far cry from what it actually meant. If I had known then what I know now about what I should have been looking for, the process would have gone much more smoothly. There are quite a few aspects of my marriage that have become indispensable, and I wish I would have began working on them sooner. For now, I will summarize three of them.

1. Learn How to Balance Trust and Vulnerability

Every marriage counselor will tell you that one of the most important skills you can possibly gain to build a wonderful, blissful marriage is communication. I know there are plenty of guys out there who are not good at talking about emotions, whether it be their own or their wife’s. However, one thing I have learned from experience is that if you want a happy eternal marriage for you and your wife, you must learn to have conversations where both of you are completely and totally vulnerable about your opinions and feelings while speaking in a way that makes it easy for you both to trust and love each other even more.

This can be a difficult skill to develop. Your version of “yelling” or “raising your voice” can be very different from that of your wife. Nobody hears how they sound to others in a conversation. Also, some words or phrases that felt normal and common to you growing up may accidentally come across as offensive, hurtful, or rude to your spouse.

One example I remember is when I used to say “You’re going down, clown” to my brothers while we were playing a competitive game together. Back then it was interpreted innocently enough, but the first time I used it while playing a game with my wife, she interpreted it as rude and name-calling—and technically, she was right. The most important factor in developing this skill is to learn what really makes your wife tick and for her to do the same with you. Both of you need to be willing to make some emotional sacrifices and learn to find a balance between not taking offense easily and deciding what is truly rude and offensive in conversation.

*Read the rest of this here*

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Focus on The Solution

This one is going to take me a bit, but if you bear with my I promise I'll do my best to make it worth your while.

If you use facebook even once every few days, you know how it goes. You log on and maybe your eye goes immediately to the number of messages or notifications you have or the "on this day" however many years ago suggested post facebook gives you. From that point, if you even scroll for 3 or more posts down your news feed there's an... I would guess 80% chance you'll see something that either uses profanity, complains, has a racy or sarcastic joke or picture or it's a news or blog article or video that gives society yet another thing to be sad, annoyed or angry about something.

It's ridiculous and feeds the plague of constant nagging we all see (on the internet or otherwise) to react, react, react without thinking for two seconds. The loudest voices these days are saying "listen to my woes! Hear ye, hear ye, I have something negative to say and doth require everyone to listen to how I feel about it!" Someone always has something bad to say. By the end of each day - and I kid you not, this is not an exaggeration - there is always at least one person or page or something else on facebook that someone shares that goes through the following process.

1. Hide the post,
2. Possibly report it for advocating something immoral, dishonest or manipulative, fully expecting facebook's staff or algorithms to completely brush it off as no big deal
3. Click the three dot menu and select "Hide all from [insert name of third party page or person here]"

I have continued this process for well over a year now, partly because of how much I have been trying to weed out all the mind-numbing, time-wasting, stupid distractions people share, but also to eventually (hopefully) eliminate everything from my feed that is not edifying and good for my own spiritual health.

Now, I'm aware that the way I have started this seems a bit counter-intuitive to what I titled this entry, so I'll start to turn this around now.

I totally understand that burying our heads in the sand and turning a blind eye to people's suffering is wrong. However, we also need to understand that one of Satan's most effective weapons is to overwhelm us with negativity and bring to our attention as many reasons as he can to focus on problems we cannot solve on our own. I've deliberately and vigorously been working on how I respond to negativity, a frown on someone's face, a stranger with a bad attitude, a corrupt politician, or even someone with a valid point and good intentions but who still has nothing but negative to say (even in the name of humor) in the moment.

My number one impulse over the last year has increasingly been to find any reason or method I can to respond to those people constructively, focusing on a solution and addressing their concern but in a way that encourages positive thinking and love toward others.

Because as far as the devil is concerned, as long as we are not actively focused on doing good, he couldn't care less if we are involved in grievous sins of commission or omission.

My efforts have required me to change the kinds of comments I give attention to and the conversations online I choose to be a part of. As an example, a while back I used to find Matt Walsh a catalyst for constructive conversation and problem solving, but I don't pay attention to almost anything he says anymore. I already know how far away from the doctrine of Christ and reality itself most churches today are straying. I've heard quite enough of how celebrities, clergy, politicians or "that person in that viral video" are completely abandoning common sense and cherry-picking which parts of scripture they want to follow.

Even when I'm not online there are so many mind numbing, time wasting, and even straight up evil things I'm constantly trying to combat and the method is the same. Focus on the solution and be more aware of which things are truly edifying and which are not. I think I'm starting to get a little better at it, too. My wife and I have become better at recognizing when we are rationalizing by making excuses to allow certain unholy and impure sources of entertainment into our home. We both wanted to see what the new show Titan Games (with Dwayne Johnson) was all about, but when my wife rightfully pointed out that the way they dress the women is completely unnecessary and revealing, we decided to avoid it. I also noticed recently how many times the devil tries to make cheap shots by subtly sneaking horrible messages into good causes. There is a new Weight Watchers commercial that uses a catchy beat and tune, but the lyrics are horrific!

And baby, worship me
Worship me
On your knees
Patiently, quietly, faithfully, worship me

The solution? Turn our attention more frequently and vigorously to God, the One we should really be worshiping.

-Perhaps replace the impulse to mock those with contrasting political views behind their back and make contemptuous jokes about them with an impulse to see what you have in common with them, and if there is truly a necessity to address evil intentions and actions, do so in a way that seeks to understand their heart and perspective. Only when we truly understand others can we begin to show them love in a way that a) they will accept and appreciate and b) will cause a desire within them to change their hearts. Back in 1972, Elder Marvin J. Ashton recalled a fantastic example of this from the life of President Abraham Lincoln.

"President Abraham Lincoln was once criticized for his attitude toward his enemies. 'Why do you try to make friends of them?' asked an associate. 'You should try to destroy them.'
'Am I not destroying my enemies,' Lincoln gently replied, 'when I make them my friends?'"

-Rather than hold a grudge against someone, even when we are justified in our hurt feelings, lets try replacing the impulse to dwell on it and gossip about them with a desire to resolve our concerns like adults, candidly and peacefully; and if those who wrong us don't believe they've done something wrong or just aren't ready to make things right, let's not allow them to live in our heads rent free. One of my most deeply held beliefs about dealing with toxic people is as follows. "I do not care what you think about me. I just don't and I don't need to. However, I will always, always care how you feel." And I don't. I lost the energy to care about what people think of me a long time ago, but my desire to empathize with how people feel has only grown exponentially over the years.

-Instead of emphasizing over and over and over and over and over again the corruption of "Billy John Bob" over in yonder country, let's avoid fighting fire with fire and instead simply teach the good things we know to be true. To combat people's effort to try and destroy people's lives and families, let's take every opportunity to spread the divine value of the human soul and eternal family relationships and then exemplify those ideas in how we live and treat those around us.

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There are any more examples I could rattle off about how to respond to negativity in a way that is constructive, edifying and love. But if I did this article would be way too long to keep anyone's attention all the way through.

Let's talk about good and then go out and do good.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Making Friends With The Book of Mormon

In quite a few discussions about scripture study and the Book of Mormon within the last year, I've noticed and been fascinated by the different methods people use in the personal study and their different levels of familiarity with the Book of Mormon, or any standard work for that matter. Many times I see people getting confused about the historical background, who went where when, which people came from where and why, etc. I've have been able to come to a firm understanding of such details, but only because of meticulous scrutiny of the book and attempting to actually make friends with the book and all those of whose lives it speaks.

Something I've always wanted to get out my own studies as I do so is unraveling the unwritten spiritual layers of every word written by ancient and modern prophets. This helps me develop a sort of mental flagging system that I use to connect all the spiritual, historical and cultural details. I think (?) I've noted this is a previous entry somewhere, but there is one Latter-day Saint author who has posed the following insight, preferably in lieu of mine as just mentioned:

"...anytime Christ descends and speaks to a mortal, it is so weighty with meaning that mere words cannot convey the fullness of the truths given. The message is layered. First are the words He speaks, and then there is a vastly larger body of truth you receive spiritually, layer upon layer, more truth than you can understand for years afterward. One small moment in the presence of the Savior can last for a lifetime. This is the reason the scriptures are so powerful, because they contain the words spoken by Christ, and this layered truth is still there, spiritually interwoven with those words. It takes a lifetime of spiritual growth and obedience to be able to receive the deeper layers. They are truly there, and they contain the great mysteries and greater truths He desires that we acquire and enjoy in our lifetime."

In my studies I always go into it with this in mind and prayerfully search out those layers. In the 30+ times I've studied the Book of Mormon cover to cover, I end up filling each page with yet more marking, more side notes, more insights and references to other places in the scriptures. In this uncovering of these layers, I feel like I've made a best friend, so to speak, of the Book of Mormon and those of whose lives it speaks. I've become familiar with the book to the point where someone can name almost any chapter and I can tell you exactly what it talks about, everyone who is involved, where they are, what they are doing, the historical context, etc. Part of my purpose in writing this one is to express some personal feelings about a few key parts of the Book of Mormon that have been especially motivational to me in my efforts to become more Christ-like in the last few years, especially during my attempt to study the entire standard works in 2018 (which circumstances cut short towards the end of the year).

First. Next to 1 Nephi 14:3 I have 14 different other verses throughout 2 Nephi, Alma, Esther, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Isaiah where the Lord illustrates the same principle through His servants, that all the efforts the wicked put forth to make life difficult for the righteous will ultimately end up coming full circle and resulting in their own demise. It also reminds me that the opposite is also true. All our trials, especially those caused by others, (provided our response is Christ-like) will be engineered by God to be sanctified for our good and even directly contribute to our sanctification and perfection, opposite the intent of those who persecute us. This is illustrated well in Isaiah 14:2, "And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors."

It also causes me to feel pity for those who seek to make others lives more difficult. Said the Lord to Isaiah in Isaiah 29:7-8, "And the multitude of all the nations that fight against [Jerusalem]," and by extension, all faithful saints, "even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion."

Sometimes I feel like I'm getting to know a little better how Nephi felt about his trials and his enemies each time I read through 1 Nephi 11-15.

Second. Helaman's words to Corianton in Alma 42 are especially amazing. They are an example of how the Lord can teach us some pretty amazing, deep truths by repeating fairly simple ideas often enough and with different context. One such example of this is illustrated by dissecting verses 13-26, focusing on the different ways Helaman speaks of the justice of God. If you pay careful enough attention, you can unravel the layers that teach how God is all powerful from a purely logistical point of view. I was dumbfounded when I realized, after reading the following part of Tad R. Callisters The Infinite Atonement, that the exact same teaching is right in the Book of Mormon. Speaking of justice and mercy, he says,

"There are certain laws of the universe that are immutable, that are without beginning of days or end of years. They were not created by an intelligent being, nor are they the product of moral thought, rather they are eternal, coexistent realities with intelligences of the universe. These laws are immutable in that they cannot be altered or modified in any form. They are unchangeable from eternity to eternity. They are self-existing, self-perpetuating laws to which even God Himself is subject."

This does not mean that God is not all powerful, but that the reason He IS all powerful is simply because He has mastered the laws of justice and mercy and knows how to use them to accomplish His purposes. The end of verse 15, all of verse 22, the end of verse 23, and all of verses 24 and 25 from Alma 42 as well as Mosiah 15:27, the end of Alma 12:32 and the beginning of Alma 41:2 all testify of this truth.

Third. I'll give one last example, but there are so many I've found in the last year. It comes from Helaman's (son of Helaman and grandson of Alma the Younger) reminder to his sons Nephi and Lehi why he gave them their names. In verse 6,

"...Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written that they were good."

Part of the reason I think I can relate to how Nephi and Lehi felt about this is because of this part of my great great great great grandfather's autobiography.

"But when the Revolutionary War commenced my father was very young and being away from home one day he heard that the British Army had destroyed some Military stores at Concord, New Hampshire, and being fired with indignation he sought for a recuruiting officer and enlisted for one campaign. When he returned home and informed his father of the circumstances, the old gentleman told him that he was too young and that he would enlist and go with him. Accordingly he did, and they both went to Boston, Massachusetts. In the memorable Battle of Bunker Hill, the 17th of June 1775, there they stood side by side and fought with about 13 Americans against 3000 of the Bristish for about two hours. When the enemy, after firing Charleston and wending around under the smoke, and nearly surrounded that wing of their own army, when they saw but a small gap to retreat through which was then [continually] plowing the ground with balls from the shipping. But while they were going out my grandfather saw one of our men wounded and crawling away on his hands and knees. In the meantime a British soldier ran him through with a bayonet, being filled with indignation at such rank breach of the laws of all [civilized] nations he immediately stopped, amid scenes of death and [carnage], loaded his gun and shot that man down before he left the ground and then obtained a safe retreat. I speak of this to let my posterity know that our ancestors were clothed with that steady unshaken determination in time of the most immanent dangers that are incident to human life."

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There are so many more of these gems noted in the sides margins on my scriptures and I encourage everyone to seek daily to become completely, intimately, lovingly, deeply familiar and friendly with the Book of Mormon and individuals therein.