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“And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”

April 8, 2015

I came across this talk by Sister Julie B. Beck for the first time in a while today. It is really an incredible sermon that talks about faith in Christ, the blessings of having the Holy Spirit to guide us through personal revelation, and the role of the Relief Society organization in teaching, inspiring, and strengthening the sisterhood of Christ.

Sister Beck explains “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” 

Why is this the case? Because the Spirit teaches us to do the right things. It guides us to go, do, and be what God wants us to be. Personal revelation will help lift us above life’s trials, tribulations, and tragedies. It will comfort us and help us to move forward. Personal revelation will never “run out” unless we let it, in fact, Sister Beck calls it “a constantly renewable source of strength.” Who doesn’t need that? Personal revelation helps each of us to “prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.” Without it, the path before us gets darker and more confusing. 

What do you think–why would being able to receive personal revelation be the single most important skill we can acquire in this life?

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How Abraham teaches us about dealing with conflict, points us towards Christ

February 23, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 8: “Living Righteously in a Wicked World.” (Genesis 13-14; 18-19)

 Purpose: “to strengthen each class member’s resolve to hold fast to righteous standards during times of increasing wickedness.” Here is part 1 of my preparations for this lesson.

Abraham and his family settle in Hebron, and Lot and his family settle near Sodom. Genesis 13

  • Why couldn’t Abraham and Lot and their families live together when they returned to Canaan from Egypt?
We read in verse 6 “and their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” That by itself seems a little bit strange to me, which is why I like the additional information we read in verses 7-8: “And there was strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle” to which Abram tells lot “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”
This sounds to me like the issue is two-fold: between them, Abram and Lot have too much property to stay together (cattle need land to roam and graze), and their herdmen are starting to quarrel over issues. I love Abram’s response: my relationship with you, my brother, is too important to let something like our herdmen fighting come between us.
  • What do we learn from Abraham from his comments in Genesis 13:8-9? In other words, how does Abraham respond and what sort of a man does that show him to be?
Verse 9 is even more illuminating than verse 8: “Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” In other words, look at all the land that is here, there is plenty for both of us. You decide where you want to settle and I will take the other area. I think this illustrates the Christlike character of Abraham. It illustrates what it means to love your neighbor (brother) as yourself. I shows humility, love, and recognition that all that we have comes from God and that he loves us all equally.
  • How can we follow Abraham’s example when we have conflicts with family members or others?
I think the biggest example this shows me, personally, is how to be humble. When I have conflict with my husband, for example, I just want to be mad and I want to be right. But the Christlike response, as Abraham shows us, is to (a) not get angry in the first place, (b) be humble, and (c) give up the need to be right. In fact, we should deliberately allow the person we are in conflict with to be right. If I could implement this principle regularly, little conflicts with family members would never turn into bigger conflicts! Peace at home!

Which leads us to the big question:

  • So then, how does this story typify or bear record of the Savior? How does it point the way to Christ? 
The Savior is the great mediator. He offered himself as a sacrifice for all of us. He selflessly gave up everything so that you and I could have peace, joy, comfort and experience pure love. He is THE example of charity. Abraham shows these characteristics: mediating to prevent conflict, sacrificing for the good of another, prioritizing the comfort of his brother over his own comfort. Abraham’s actions point us towards Christ, they typify Christlike behaviors, and they illustrate a mortal way to implement Christ’s teachings.

I stand all amazed at Christ’s humble sacrifice, his endless charity, and the scriptures that teach us to walk in his way.

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Living in the World

February 16, 2014

 

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because it ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

I have been very saddened by many of the online discussions I have seen recently the revolve around the topic of religion. It seems like the world we live in today is so hostile towards any religious beliefs. The prevailing worldview seems to be that we must accept any (fleeting) urge or desire of someone as part of their true character. And if we question desires or actions, we are labeled bigots and everything that we say is dismissed without question. We are told that because religions teach that certain behaviors are unacceptable (such as masturbation), these religions cause guilt and are therefore abusive. What a clever way to get people to think that they have no need of change, no reason to strive for something better. And if you don’t think that you need to change, because you think that every urge and every desire and every tendency or inclination you experience is natural and good and should be celebrated, why would you ever turn to Christ?

An important note in this discussion is that I do not in any way believe that mankind is inherently evil. On the contrary, we are all children of God. We are inherently good. But we are fallen and imperfect and there is no getting around that fact. I look at the people around me and I know that despite their flaws and despite their troubles and their imperfections they are valuable. They are people. And they are children of God– the workmanship of His hand. I love them, however imperfectly I may do so. I see goodness in their eyes and I know that we are all trying to make sense of this mortal walk.

It is my sincere belief in Jesus Christ and his word that has taught me to love all people. It has taught me that there is goodness in everyone. It has also taught me that there is a better way, a higher power, and a greater joy than the world teaches. There is a better way of being than what I now am. I need God’s grace to change, to endure, to withstand. I will never be perfect on my own. I will carry with me weaknesses and regrets and thorns in my side. I have experienced physical pain and emotional anguish and broken relationships and deflated dreams. I have felt the weight of consuming darkness. I have cried out in my pain for relief. I have experienced the despair of knowing that my greatest hopes and desires are not achievable on my own. I have questioned my future. But as I became converted unto Christ, I came to understand that there is always hope. I can be better than I am. I can change. I can repent. I can become better. I can walk a better path each day — because my Savior leads me by the hand and shows me the better way. I have hope that in 20 years from now, the bad habits I currently have will fade into memory, that I will be more charitable and loving and all of my actions, that my relationship with my husband will be stronger, that my children – despite my parenting flaws – will be contributing members of society (or getting there), that I will be more capable when it comes to financial decisions, that I will not let anxiety prevent me from participating in activities and organizations and service, that I will waste less time on meaningless things, etc. In short, I don’t want to just be who I am. I get along with myself on most occasions, but I know that I can do better. And I want to do better. And I can do better with the grace, love, mercy, and strength of my Savior.

The world may mock and ridicule and deride. The voices may increase and get louder. They may spew hatred and false ideas. The philosophies of men may try to undermine the sure foundation of the gospel. The rationalization of society may lead many away. But I have built my house upon a rock. Upon the rock, the Savior of mankind, the source of truth and light and life. I have chosen this day and each day whom I will serve.

I truly stand all amazed.

 

 

Scriptural food for thought regarding the world:

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it feared him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 17:14I have given them thy word; and the world have hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: as I word is truth. 18 as thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Ether 12:4Wherefore, who so believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

And don’t forget the story of the great and spacious building in 1 Nephi 8

Discussion questions:  How do you live in the world, but not of the world? How do you face the discouragement of worldly voices that try to tear down your faith? How do you use the example of the Savior to help you deal with the struggles that come with our fallen world?

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Preparing for Sunday: Old Testament Lesson 5 (Moses 5 – 7) [Part 1]

January 26, 2014

I teach Sunday school every other week. The way I have been preparing is to write (talk) my thoughts on the Scriptures as I read through them and go through the manual. They are informal, they are personal, and they include a lot of Scriptures and thoughts. I’ve decided to start posting them here.

If anyone actually reads this, I welcome your own comments, thoughts, and questions.

Note that at this point I’ve only done the first part of the lesson, which is really the story of Cain.

My notes:

Old Testament Lesson 5: “If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted”
Purpose: to help each class member understand the choices to follow Jesus Christ lead to liberty, happiness, and eternal life, while choices to follow Satan lead to misery and captivity.
Initial thoughts: what is liberty? Happiness? Eternal life? The Scriptures frequently say things like stand fast in the liberty through which you have been made free or remember your liberty
Scriptures: Moses 5 – 7
  • Moses 5:16 – 41 – story of Cain
  • Moses 6:26 – 63 – story of Enoch
  • Moses 7 – faith Enoch
Genesis 4:1 – 16
It sounds like Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve. Our first parents know well the devastation of children who make bad choices. I really don’t understand the story of Cain and Abel as we read in Genesis. I have to imagine that this is just a bare-bones explanation of what happened and that more vivid detail of the story is missing. Because all we know is that God preferred Abel’s offering of the first things of his flock to Cain’s offering of the fruit of the ground. I look forward to reading the version is told in Moses to see the comparison.
In the Bible dictionary under Abel, it states “Abel sacrificed was accepted of the Lord because he was authorized by revelation to make the offering; and he performed it in faith, in the proper manner, by the proper authority, and for the proper reasons, his sacrifice being a type or symbol of the reading.”
In the Bible dictionary under Cain, it clarifies “due to the incompleteness of the biblical record, many have regarded Cain as the eldest son of Adam. However, latter-day revelation tells us that Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters before Cain was born (Moses 5:1 – 3, 16 – 18).” It continues “Cain’s offering was rejected by the Lord, probably for several reasons, including the fact that it was not done in faith nor in the prescribed and revealed manner.”
The Bible dictionary also says that Cain is mentioned frequently in the Scriptures. I wonder why that is? Why do we hear the story of Cain so many times? What is it that we are supposed to learn from him? I’m sure that is my studies progressed in preparation for this lesson, some of that will become more clear, but I want to remember to keep it in mind. Some of the Scriptures where Cain is mentioned:
  • Hebrews 11:4 – “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice been Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh”
  • 1 John 3:11-12 – “for this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that you should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil and his brothers righteous.” [The context for this Scripture is interesting. Verses 8-10 read “he that cometh sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” This definitely delineates between following Christ and following the devil. If we sin we are following Satan the devil because that is his work and his desire – to destroy the world and each of us with it. But if we do the work of righteousness, we are righteous, like Christ. And it is in our sin or lack thereof that we can distinguish between the children of God and the children of the devil. Cain is offered as an example here of this distinction. He is put forth as an example of someone who does not know how to love and does not work righteousness. Basically, this whole chapter talks about the difference between choosing to follow God and choosing to follow the devil, and it tells us in many ways how we will know which one we are choosing or have chosen.]
  • Jude 1:10 – 11 – “but these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” [So again, Cain is an example of being evil. And we say that people who have done these terrible things, “have gone in the way of Cain”.]
One thought that I’m starting to have is that we have the story of Cain and Abel almost at the very beginning of our scriptural account of the world. And then it is referred to over and over again, in many ways as a warning. It seems to me that from the beginning God wanted us to know what our choices were. And though we make numerous choices each day, everything really just comes down to 2 different choices: the choice to go in the way of Cain, or in other words, to go in the way of the devil; or the choice to go in the way of Abel, which is really the way of the Son of God. From the very beginning, we can see that there are 2 paths that we may  choose.
  • Helaman 6:27 – this is a chapter of Scripture that talks about the rise of the Gadianton robbers. It describes how they made oath and covenants and how these things came “by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit – yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, and if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.” It seems to me like this is teaching us that if we do the works of wickedness, then we are a follower of Cain, and by default a conspire with the devil. This certainly works the other way I think. If we honestly follow the teachings and the lives of those whom God has given us to be our leaders and our teachers and our profits, then we are by default following our Savior.
  • Ether 8:15 – “and it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish. And Akish did administer unto them the oath which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning.” The context for this story is that it is a time of great wickedness, and Akish is plotting to kill wicked Jared’s father, the king, so that he can marry Jared’s daughter. In this verse, Akish is making a secret combination with his kinsfolk to help him in his goal. So from this we know that Kane entered into secret goals and wicked combinations.
On to Moses… I want to keep in mind how the Scriptures that I read in this and that we will read in class next week applied to our daily lives. Can I think of any experiences that I’ve had personally which relate to the scriptural principles and stories?
1. Cain covenants with Satan, kills Abel, and is cursed by the Lord.
Moses 5:16 – 41
  • 5:9 “I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, then as thou hast fallen down mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many will.” [We may choose redemption, and liberty and happiness and eternal life. But we will not be forced to do so. I also imagine this is telling us that if we do nothing, if we don’t make a choice, but definitely not making a choice for God.]
  • 5:10 – “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy” [what was it about opening his eyes, and experiencing the transgression, that made Adam realize that he would have joy in this life?]
  • 5:11 – Eve share some similar thoughts including “were it not for our transgression we never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient”. Perhaps Adam in verse 10 is referring to the joy of redemption and the hope of eternal life?
  • 5:14 – 15 – once and has gotten a foothold among the children of Adam and Eve, “the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent; and as many as believed in the sun, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned;”
  • it is after this, in verse 16, that we read that Adam and Eve gave birth to Cain. This is actually really interesting, it says “and Adam new Eve his wife, and she conceived and they are Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Kane hearkened not, saying: who is the Lord that I should know him?” Leading up to this the Scriptures discuss how Adam and Eve were teaching their children about God, and how Adam and Eve did not cease to call upon God, and they wanted their children to know Him. They did everything they knew how, but Cain did not listen to his parents and he has gone down in history as the example of not following God, of choosing misery and captivity over liberty, happiness, and eternal life.
  • 5:18 – “and Cain loved Satan more than God. And save commanded him, saying: make an offering unto the Lord.” Says very clear that in most this we get a lot more context, and more information about the story. What I’m learning is that saying was already at work in the world prior to his interaction with Cain. Cain rejected the teaching of his parents, and loved Satan more than God before he made the offering to God that was rejected. This adds so much clarity to this story. It is another reason I am so grateful for the Scriptures of the restoration, and for the prophet Joseph Smith who heeded the call of the Lord and did his work.
  • 5:18 – 23 – we see in this story that Satan didn’t care anything for Cain. He just wanted to destroy Cain’s life by Keith wants to destroy all of our lives. He knew that the Lord would not accept Keynes offering, and he was happy when Cain was upset about. Why? Because he knew he could get Cain to do his work more. V. 22 shows the Lord’s response to Cain “why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?” He wanted to have a discussion with Cain, he wanted to guide him and help him. God never wanted to lose Cain. And he continued saying “if thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will delivery thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire.…”
  • Cain’s curse: in v. 24 God tells Cain his punishment “for from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called perdition; for thou wast also before the world. And it shall be said in time to come – that these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.” And Cain dinner repent, and these things came to pass. We speak of Cain today as an example of what choosing Satan over God looks like. We speak of those souls who have outrightly rejected the gospel with the knowledge of it as the sons of perdition, in remembrance of Cain. In v.26, we read that it was Cain’s anger that drove him away from the Lord. His anger was so loud in his mind and in his spirit that he could not listen anymore to the voice of the Lord or to his brother Abel. v.27 already at this point, “Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain”. Have I experienced times where my anger has prevented me from hearing the word of God? Have I had times where I have mourned the anger of others? Yes. Anger and resentment is probably the number one destroyer of families in all times and in all places. This is what Satan wants.
  • It is only later that Cain killed Abel, after entering into a secret combination with Satan. Satan told Cain that if he would kill his brother, no one would know about it. Say in lies over and over and over again and corrupts us and leads us away from God.
  • 5:33 – Cain’s reaction to killing Abel. “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands”. So we see that Cain gloried in himself, he boasted, he did not give glory to God. This is an similitude to Satan. And he thought that he was free. Why did he think that he would be free once he had killed his brother? Was it the lies of Satan? I’m sure that was a large part of it. He thought that if he could have his brothers flocks, then everything would be good. He did not understand liberty. He had not yet realized the deceit of Satan.
  • I love studying like that but I ended up getting tired of all of the talking. I think I need to be more moderate in my notetaking initially so that I have greater endurance.
    • 5:42 – 56 – the story of Cain and his descendents after they are “shut out from the presence of the Lord and… Dwelt in the land of nod, on the east of Eden”. They have some skills, they make a life for themselves, but secret combinations in wickedness are still a part of their lives. Tells the story of Lamech who also committed a murder, after entering into a covenant with Satan. The Lord’s reaction was that he “cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they Not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works for abominations, and began to spread among the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men.” It is interesting to me that discord that happens in this family.v.53 explains that Lamech told his wives what happened, and his wives, being no better than he was, “rebuild against him, and declared these things abroad, and have not compassion; wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.” The consequence of all of this? “God curse the earth with a sore curse, and was angry with the wicked, with all the sons of men whom he had made; for they were not hearken unto his voice, nor believe on his only begotten son, even him who he declared should come in the meridian of time, was prepared from before the foundation of the world.” Remember that we are all numbered unto God, each of these children God wanted to save, and he gave them opportunity after opportunity, but they would not listen. They would not humble themselves as children, they would not believe in Christ, and they and their children suffered for it. And surely God wept.
    • 5:56 – 59 – because of all of these things, “the gospel began to be preached, from the beginning… And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by and holy ordinance, and the gospel preached and a decrease sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof.”
    What is story. The manual poses the question, how can our righteous or unrighteous choices affect our family members? Probably more than we can ever comprehend.
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The Power of Member Missionary Work

October 17, 2013

I was reading in Helaman 8 in the Book of Mormon today, when I noticed an interesting insight into the power of member missionary work. In this story, Nephi, the son of Helman, has returned to Zarahelma to preach repentance to the people. He returned because they kicked him out the first time, refusing to hear what he tried to say. So, he came back, and preached that “except [they] repent, [they] shall perish; yea, even [their] lands shall be taken from [them], and [they] shall be destroyed from off the face of the earth” (Hel. 7:28). Needless to say, this didn’t go over well with the corrupt judges and angry people. In fact, we read in Helaman 8:4-6,

4 And those judges were angry with him because he spake plainly unto them concerning their secret works of darkness; nevertheless, they durst not lay their own hands upon him, for they feared the people lest they should cry out against them.

5 Therefore they did cry unto the people, saying: Why do you suffer this man to revile against us? For behold he doth condemn all this people, even unto destruction; yea, and also that these our great cities shall be taken from us, that we shall have no place in them.

6 And now we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us.

Their goal is to anger up their people against Nephi, which they manage to an extent. However, there are still some who believe on his words, as we read in Hel. 8: 7-9

7 And it came to pass that thus they did astir up the people to anger against Nephi, and raised contentions among them; for there were some who did cry out: Let this man alone, for he is a good man, and those things which he saith will surely come to pass except we repent;

8 Yea, behold, all the judgments will come upon us which he has testified unto us; for we know that he has testified aright unto us concerning our iniquities. And behold they are many, and he knoweth as well all things which shall befall us as he knoweth of our iniquities;

9 Yea, and behold, if he had not been a prophet he could not have testified concerning those things.

Although the text doesn’t explicitly say so, I imagine that the people who believed that Nephi was a prophet were not in the majority. Yet, they lifted up their voices and witnessed of Nephi’s diving calling and the truth of his words. These faithful people raised their voices against the clamor and anger of worldly leaders and friends and neighbors. Perhaps some stayed silent for fear of these other voices, thinking that their small contribution would not make a difference in the larger battle at hand. But what was the consequence for those who did raise their voices? Well, there were enough of them, or at least they had passion enough, to cause some fear amongst those with dissident voices. In fact, we read in Hel. 8:10-11,

10 And it came to pass that those people who sought to destroy Nephi were compelled because of their fear, that they did not lay their hands on him; therefore he began again to speak unto them, seeing that he had gained favor in the eyes of some, insomuch that the remainder of them did fear.

11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?

Basically, as I read this, Nephi saw that some people raised their voices as additional witnesses of the truth he spoke; some people stood with him despite the anger and threats of opposing voices. And that small thing, that seemingly minor action of member missionaries testifying of truth, opened the way for Nephi to speak more unto the people of Zarahemla, to testify further of the joyous coming of Christ, and to ultimately open the way for more people to believe (you’ll have to read more in Helaman for the rest of the story).

My voice is simple, small, and singular, but with it I will raise my voice in praise and joy, knowing that my Savior, Jesus Christ, liveth and loveth and leadeth, knowing that God calls prophets in our days to be watchmen on the tower, to show us the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ, to help us repent and follow in His footsteps. God has given us His word through the scriptures–in the Bible and the Book of Mormon–to witness of His Son, and show us the way back to him. I know that Thomas S. Monson speaks for God. I know that Christ leads the restored and true Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the earth, through President Monson, and that there is eternal truth and we can know it.

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The (In)Equality of Man: A Gospel Paradox

April 28, 2013

Recently I was reading in my scriptures and I came across these verses in Alma 28:

13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

14 And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing–sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.

This stood out to me because it called my mind back to a frequently quoted scripture in Acts 10:34 (and Romans 2:11, D&C 36:18, D&C 1:35):

34 God is no respecter of persons

Or similarly, as in 1 Nephi 17:35:

35 the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one

How is it that on the one hand, God is no respecter of persons, while on the other hand He perceives great inequality between his children? As Alma 28:13 explains, this great inequality is “because of sin and transgression” and Satan ensnaring God’s children. It is our sin that displaces our equal standing before God. If we continue reading in Acts 10, we find a similar idea:

34 God is no respecter of persons:

35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh rightesousness, is accepted with him

Again, the idea is that those who do righteousness are accepted before the Lord, whereas those who do not righteousness are not accepted before him.

Likewise, 1 Nephi 17:35 continues:

35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, adn they were ripe in iniquity; and the fullness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.

In this verse we see that God punishes those who are not righteous, and blesses those who are.

Perhaps Romans 2 elucidates this concept even further:

11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

12 For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

In other words, God’s equal treatment of all of his children means that he holds them all to the same standard. If you know the law (the commandments of God), you will be judged the same as others who know the law. If you don’t know the law, you will be judged the same as others who do not know the law either. God will not be unfair; he will be perfectly just in this regard, just as he explains through his scriptures.

What stands out to me in all of this is that God’s love, though infinite and eternal, is not unconditional. In fact, several years ago I came across an article by Elder Russel M. Nelson in which he distinguishes the love of God from unconditional love by calling it divine love. Divine love, he explains, is perfect and infinite, enduring, universal, and also conditional. There are countless examples in the scriptures when we read about the conditions upon which future blessings are predicated. There are also countless examples of how perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal God’s love is. While seemingly paradoxical, these two ideas are actually complimentary. God reaches out to me unceasingly, He watches over me, cares for me, and guides me, but He is not bound to bless me if I do keep His commandments (D&C 82:10). And that fact never negates or diminishes his love for me. Perhaps it even strengthens it, because it shows His high expectations for me, His trust in my divine potential, and His unwillingness to give up despite my mistakes, shortcomings, and sins.

loveofgod

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One thing have I desired of the Lord…

March 24, 2013

I was reading Psalm 27 this evening, and like all Psalms, this was was full of little gems of wisdom and spirit. I particularly like verse 4:

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire [contemplate] in his temple (KJV).

What do you desire? Do you desire the beauty of the Lord–his blessings and promises and light? Not only that, but do you desire that with singleness of heart and mind? Or is that desire competing with others that you have? Do you look forward to attending the temple? Or do you feel anxious trying to fit time for it into your already busy schedule?

I hope that we will all cultivate good desires, that we will pray for God’s desires to become our own, and that we will live such that others will have righteous desires as well.

Jesus Christ