Friday, October 29, 2010

One Step At A Time

2 Nephi 9

v. 41 "Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel."

The path for man is narrow, so narrow that there is only room to put one foot in front of the other, step by step, always moving toward Christ.  It's a journey, this path, and a constant discovery.  I become aware of some flaw in me, at times a very big flaw, sometimes just something small and bothersome.  With faith, I take the first step and acknowledge it.  I want to change.  I believe that my Savior will help me.  I look to His life and see how to do it.  I take a step in His direction.  I feel His love and encouragement.  Encouragement.  Giving me courage.  As I move away from my flaw and toward my Savior, He heals me.  Happiness floods that area in my life where pain used to be.  I am lighter, I am stronger.  I can see clearer.  See another flaw.  Take another step.  Just one step at a time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


2 Nephi 2

v. 28  "And now, my son, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of the Holy Spirit."  (emphasis added)

I like the sequence of that verse.  Look to Christ.  See what He did during his life and ministry.  He set the example.  Learn of Him.  Then hearken to His commandments.  Listen to the counsel He gave during His ministry.  Let His teachings sink into your heart.  And then choose.  Choose to follow Him.  Choose to obey.

How interesting that merely three days into this experiment, I have come upon an opportunity to apply what I'm learning.  We had a minor incident in the neighborhood.  You know, the kind that neighborhoods always have.  And it's not the first time we've had a problem with this particular family.  I feel perfectly justified in my emotions towards them.  The little boy was mean.  I don't like the parents.  I don't like the way they handled things the last time, and I don't like how it's being handled now.  Surely, I can puff my chest out in righteous indignation and feel superior.  Seriously, I'm that sure I'm right about all this.

And yet... I know by how I'm feeling that I'm not handling it right.  I'm not being a peacemaker.  I'm not "loving [my] neighbor."  I'm not forgiving seventy times seven.  I'm certainly not loving my enemies.

There are things I can do immediately that will soothe hurt feelings just a little bit, just enough to not let this boil over into the entire neighborhood.  But I know that, for this experiment to work, I need to go beyond that.  I need to learn to forgive and to change the way I feel about them.  I need to put into practice the most basic of Christ's teachings.

Ah, humility.  It's a hard thing to learn, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turn Their Hearts Aside

1 Nephi 19

I've often thought about what it would be like to have lived in Jerusalem during the days of Christ.  What would I have thought of this stranger, preaching strange things?  What would I have felt?  Would I have followed my heart and followed Him?  Or would I have turned my heart aside, like so many people did back then.  I know what I would like to believe.  We would all like to believe that we would have been numbered among the few who listened to Him, who felt our hearts burn within us, who left everything to follow Him, even to the foot of the cross where He hung and died for us. 

I think the answer lies in my life today.  I read about the Savior, His life, His ministry.  I learn about His great love and long-suffering.  I feel my heart burning with gratitude, with testimony.  But what do I do with these feelings?  I can honestly say that I try, each and every day, to remember Him -- to remember His example, to remember His sacrifice, to remember His love, to remember His friendship.  I want to be like Him.  I strive to be like Him.  I take stock and see my failings.  I repent.  I try harder.

They say that there is no greater love than a man give his life for his friend.  My goal is to always live worthy to be called the Savior's friend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Come Unto Christ

1 Nephi 10-11

I'm going to try an experiment.  I'm going to read passages of the Book of Mormon that directly testify of Christ and record my thoughts and feelings here.  I'm going to put to test the purpose stated in the Book of Mormon, that it is intended to bring men to Christ.  I'm going to see what, if any, changes that makes on my life.

1 Ne 10
v. 17  Faith on the Son of God gives you power to know truth.
v. 18  The way to return to God was prepared from the foundation of the earth.  We must repent and come unto Christ.
v.  19  If you diligently seek, you may know the mysteries of God.  Going back to v. 17, you must have faith on the Son of God to have the power to know.
1 Ne 11
v.  1  Nephi exercised his faith by 1. desiring to know, 2. believing that God would give him knowledge, and then 3. pondering the things he didn't understand.
v. 6  Only then did Nephi receive the answers he was seeking for.
v. 16 The condescension of God is the love of God.  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son."
v. 22 The love of God is the most desirable, the most delicious, the most joyous feeling to feel.
v. 27 The condescension of God is manifested in Christ's baptism.
v. 28 It is manifested in Christ's ministering and teaching the people.
v. 31 It is manifested in Christ's healing of the sick and afflicted.
v. 33 It is manifested when Jesus Christ was slain on the cross for our sins.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Test

Alma 5:45-46   Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3   John 14:26   Moroni 10:3-5

God has given to all men, everywhere, a gift.  It is not necessary to lean upon our own understanding, to be tossed by the winds of opinion, to be left to our own devices to figure out what is truth and what is deception.  What father would do that to his children?  No, God has given us a very sure way to let us know truth.  If we ask, He'll simply tell us.

When we come to God, humble and sincere, earnestly seeking, He will give us the answers we are seeking.  All we have to do is pray to Him.  Heavenly Father, are you there?  Are you listening?  Do you care about me?  Am I important to you?  I'm trying to do my best here.  I want to be better.  I want to follow the truth.  Can you help me?

He answers us through the Holy Ghost, His comforter.  Oh, how comforting it is when we receive the answers to those questions.  Yes, child, I am here, and I love you more than you can fathom.  You are important to me, and all your questions are important to me.  I'm so proud of the good that you are doing with your life.  I'm happy you want to do better.  I will lead you to the truth.  When you find it, I will light up your heart so that you recognize it, without doubt.  It will be a gift to you, one of many gifts I am waiting to give you.

He is waiting.  Just ask.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Purpose of the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Title Page

Some people approach the Book of Mormon as a history book.  Curiosity makes them want to know what happened here, on the American continent, thousands of years ago.  And indeed, the wars and strife are intriguing.  There are good guys and bad guys and stratagem and wonderful victories.  The Book of Mormon is an amazing war saga, a constant struggle between two nations.

Some people read the Book of Mormon looking to disprove Joseph Smith.  They focus on every minute mistake, try to link the tone of the book to this uneducated farm boy, strain to hear his voice on every page.  I wonder what kind of machinations they must go through to convince themselves they've reached their goal.  I wonder if those who reach that conclusion maybe aren't being dishonest, at least with themselves.

Why should anyone read the Book of Mormon?  Well, it's true that the Book of Mormon is the most convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.  If you are a sincere seeker of truth, you will come to realize that his remarkable story is true.  But that's not the real purpose of the Book of Mormon.

The true purpose of the Book of Mormon is revealed by the ancient prophet Mormon himself, written in his own hand so many years ago.  He tells us on the title page, that the Book of Mormon is "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations."

Why do I read the Book of Mormon, even now, 37 years after I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?  Because it draws me nearer to Christ, it shows me His love for me, it deepens my understanding of the great sacrifice He made for me, it inspires me to walk in His footsteps and to be more like Him.  That is why I read, and why I love, the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

2 Nephi 3

v. 11-12  One testimony I have of the Book of Mormon as scripture and Joseph Smith as a prophet is how they support and clarify the teachings of the Bible.  They do not contradict or destroy God's word as previously revealed.  They work together to bring the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ into focus, so that there is no mistaking what is expected of us.

v.  13  "And out of weakness he shall be made strong..."  Another testimony I have of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith comes from the very fact that Joseph was an uneducated boy of 14 when he first received his vision.  A lot of people find this to be a sticking point with them.  Why would God call a 14 year old boy to be His prophet?  Yet, to me, it makes perfect sense.  Joseph Smith was young and impressionable, malleable, humble, willing to listen to the Lord and obey in all things.  He was not already jaded or clouded with the teachings of the world.  He did not have his own beliefs and pride to contend with.

I also find it laughable when critics claim that Joseph himself wrote the Book of Mormon instead of being the instrument of translation.  I myself am a writer.  I am 45 years old, I'm college educated, and I have a Mensa-qualified IQ (I say not to brag, but to make a point).  And I struggle with the plot lines of a simple story of a housewife in a mid-life crisis.  Could I have written the Book of Mormon, with all its intricacies, with all its converging story lines, with all its Biblical references, with the many, many different themes that run throughout?  Good grief, no.  The Book of Mormon told simply as a story is epic in scope.  There is no way I could accomplish something like that.  So an uneducated farm boy?  I really don't think so.

v. 19-20  I am always moved by the phrase, "they shall cry from the dust."  When reading the Book of Mormon, I always feel a connection to the different men who share their stories, from the obedience and faith of Nephi, and his suffering when his own brothers turn against him, to Alma the younger who repents and spends the rest of his days trying to fix his wrongs, to Ammon, the great missionary whose joy and zeal in the work is contagious, to the great and righteous warriors, to that Nephi later in the book who sorrowed so much for the wickedness and stubbornness of his people, to the very end where Moroni walks alone, friendless and hunted.  I marvel at the sacrifices they made to record and preserve their words... for me.  To help me in my day to day struggles, to bring me to Christ, to help me know God better.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The First Vision

Joseph Smith - History 1:16-17

As a missionary, I taught the story of Joseph Smith's first vision over and over and over again.  Sometimes, to help illustrate the story, we had a film strip that we would show our investigators.   At one point, we see young Joseph Smith walking to a private place, a grove of trees, where he intends to pray.  The song "Oh How Lovely Was the Morning: Joseph Smith's First Prayer" begins to play.  Each time I heard that melody, even the first bars of the song, my heart would swell and my testimony would grow.  I felt the Spirit whisper to me again and again, more forcibly each time, that this story was true, that Joseph Smith was prepared for this great undertaking, that he had been sufficiently humble and seeking.  And when he asked, in all humility and faith, which church he should join, God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him.  And in that one moment, the world changed.

Imagine for a moment that this is possible.  Think about what it means.  That God loves us as much as He loved the people in the days of ancient prophets.  That He is indeed our loving Father.  That we no longer need to wander blindly, trying to figure things out relying on the wisdom of men.  That He spoke and continues to speak to a prophet who can then help us, guide us, and remind us if we start to go astray.  If your skeptical mind rejects the idea of modern day prophets, look at your heart.  Don't you yearn for it?  Don't you wish it were true?  Wouldn't that be incredible?

I know that Joseph Smith did indeed see God.  He also saw and spoke with the resurrected Christ.  They instructed him and restored Christ's church on the earth through him.  And through him, Joseph Smith, great blessings began to flow to the earth once again.  I've tasted these great blessings, and I know it is true.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Great Apostasy

Ephesians 2:19-20   Ephesians 4:11-14   Matthew 24:9   1 Nephi 11:32-34   2 Nephi 27:5   Isaiah 24:5   1 Nephi 13:26-40   3 John 1:9-10   2 Timothy 4:3-4   Doctrine and Covenants 123:12

"The Church of Jesus Christ is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets.  These leaders have divine priesthood authority.  Through revelation they direct the affairs of the church.  They maintain doctrinal purity, authorize the administration of ordinances, and call and confer upon others the priesthood authority.

"People rejected and killed Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  With the death of the Apostles, the presiding priesthood authority was absent from the church.  Consequently, there was no longer authority to confer the Holy Ghost or perform other saving ordinances.  Revelation ceased, and doctrine became corrupted.

"Even before the death of the Apostles, many conflicts concerning doctrine arose.  The Roman Empire, which at first had persecuted the Christians, later adopted Christianity.  Important religious questions were settled by councils.  The simple doctrines and ordinances taught by the Savior were debated and changed to conform to worldly philosophies.  They physically changed the scriptures, removing plain and precious doctrines from them.  They created creeds, or statements of belief, based on false and changed doctrine.  Because of pride, some aspired to positions of influence.  People accepted these false ideas and gave honor to false teachers who taught pleasing doctrines rather than divine truth.

"Throughout history, many people have sincerely believed false creeds and doctrines.  They have worshiped according to the light they possessed and have received answers to their prayers.  Yet they are 'kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.'

"Therefore, a restoration, not a reformation, was required.  Priesthood authority did not continue in an unbroken line of succession from the Apostle Peter.  To reform is to change what already exists; to restore is to bring back something in its original form.  Thus, restoration of priesthood authority through divine messengers was the only possible way to overcome the Great Apostasy."

From Preach My Gospel, p. 36.  Emphasis added.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Jaccob 4:4-6   Mosiah :13-18   Acts 10:34-43   Amos 3:7

I love how my scripture study has taken me to the topic of prophets right after I have had the privilege and blessing to feast at the feet of true and living prophets through General Conference.  At the conference, they bore testimony several times of the importance of our prophet.  That testimony echoed in my heart.

How grateful I am to have a prophet to guide me through these difficult days.  How grateful I am that God is not a respecter of persons, that He loves me as much as He loved his children anciently.  How grateful I am that He has not left me to grope blindly in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers that will help me and help my family return home to Him.

I love the scriptures.  I love the words of the ancient prophets.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The gospel never changes.  In the scriptures, I find the commandments that will bless my life, admonitions that will help me, warnings that are still in force.  Still, I need a living prophet.

The words of Adam could not save the people of Noah from the flood.  The words of Noah could not lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  The words of Moses did not save the people of Zachariah from destruction and captivity.  And the law of Moses had no power to save anyone who rejected Jesus Christ.

So it is with me.  I look to the living prophets for words that will save me and my family from the flood of wickedness that is washing over the earth, threatening to come into my home, seeping under doors and through windows.  I need to be aware; I need to be warned; I need to know how to protect myself and my loved ones from the destruction Satan wishes so greatly for us.

I bear you my witness that we do have a living, loving prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson.  I invite you to listen to his words and live.