Perfection Pending – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Perfection Pendingby Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1995 General Conference.

Now that the talks are becoming a bit more recent (I know, still over 20 years ago), I like to think about where I was/how old I was when the talk was given. In October 1995, I would have been starting my junior year of high school, which means that I was in seminary. Which means that I would have watched this talk at the church (back in the day!) with a notebook in hand so that I could get credit for seminary.

Even though I remembered the inoculation/indoctrination concept from the last talk, I don’t remember this talk at all! I knew that would be the case. But I do like the talk.

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Hawaiian sunset – perfection!

Perfection

As you could probably tell from the title of the talk, President Nelson’s address is on the subject of perfection. I really love this talk because it helps to clear up a few misunderstandings that I have had about perfection, and I suspect others have had, too.

President Nelson stated:

“If I were to ask which of the Lord’s commandments is most difficult to keep, many of us might cite Matt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”1

Keeping this commandment can be a concern because each of us is far from perfect, both spiritually and temporally. Reminders come repeatedly. We may lock keys inside the car, or even forget where the car is parked. And not infrequently we walk intently from one part of the house to another, only to forget the reason for the errand.

When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.” – Russell M. Nelson

We have been commanded to be perfect. And this sometimes gets in our heads. I know that often, when I’m facing challenges and frustrations in my life, when I search deep inside of me my frustration seems to center around my perfectionism.

Interestingly enough, I think that perfectionism is actually the bane of being able to keep the command to becoming perfect. In perfectionism, we think that we have to do it on our own – be “perfect.” Whatever that even means. I mean – can we even really describe what “perfection” is? Without blemish? Well, we are born with blemish and imperfection. This is, after all, mortality.

What is perfect – doing something without making a mistake? Well, we learn line upon line, precept upon precept, which means that perfection is not something we will achieve over night – or after the first try.

What is perfect? What is the perfect home? The perfect body? The perfect hair? hahahaha! In this case “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we must remember that the beholder is heavily influenced by their immediate culture. Today’s “perfect body” looks quite a bit different than the “perfect body” of the renaissance.

We get caught up in what we think that perfection is, and that is why this commandment is so troubling. Thankfully, President Nelson addresses this commandment in a way to bring us both enlightenment and hope. If you are struggling with the concept of perfection, then I encourage you to read it!

Today, I’m going to study a few quotes and concepts I liked from the talk.

One – We Misunderstand the Commandment

President Nelson stated:

“We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips! We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love every sentence in this quote. We aren’t here to have guilt trips.

I’m guilty of the guilt trip!

But seriously, I am. I think that I might have shared this experience before on this blog, but I feel like it is a good time to share it again. Several years ago I was struggling with something – I can’t remember what it was specifically, but it was all just me. I know that it was some kind of “perfectionism” that was making me feel addled and depressed.

One morning, before going out for a run, I said my prayers. I knelt in my closet and “prayed.” I admitted to the Lord that I was sorry – for who I was: too fat, too messy, too forgetful, too quick to scream at my kids…blah blah blah. You know how it goes (maybe…maybe you don’t know how it goes). I prayed for a while, but it was kind of terrible. And after I closed my prayer, I didn’t feel better. I didn’t feel uplifted. I didn’t feel like I had just communed with the Lord.

It was morning, my husband had to get ready for work soon, so I scooted out the door and on my run.

I was still feeling pretty deflated, and I wondered why didn’t I feel better when I said my morning prayers? Why wouldn’t the Holy Ghost comfort me?

Thankfully, Heavenly Father was patient with me. He gently rebuked me. I had this small spiritual impression. It’s hard to put it in words, but the closest I can get is: Because the Holy Ghost will not bear false witness.

All of the terrible things I was saying about myself WERE NOT humility. It was self-loathing. And the Holy Ghost wouldn’t condone any of it. Closing that so-called prayer in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ was a form of using His name in vain. I couldn’t feel good about that “prayer” because it was a lie.

I mean, imagine if I had felt the witness of the Holy Ghost after giving that prayer -that I was indeed too “imperfect” to be loved. Yikes! Yuck! My misunderstanding of the command to be perfect – my confusing that command with “perfectionism” led me to guilt-trips and self-loathing – which are not at all in line with what a God of love will give us.

Two – Mortal Perfection

President Nelson, in his talk, teaches about perfection in two ways: Mortal Perfection and Eternal Perfection. We can think of mortal perfection as a process – where an act can indeed be perfect from time to time. President Nelson gives a few examples:

“In this life, certain actions can be perfected. A baseball pitcher can throw a no-hit, no-run ball game. A surgeon can perform an operation without an error. A musician can render a selection without a mistake. One can likewise achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction.” – Russell M. Nelson

Interestingly enough, even in the examples that President Nelson cited, it is hard to recreate and repeat “perfection.” Even the most gifted pitcher cannot throw a no-hitter every time. Even if he masters his art and his craft, over time his shoulder will degrade. He won’t be perfect throughout his whole career. In fact, there will probably only be moments of sublime, perfect brilliance.

A surgeon may perform many surgeries without error, but he won’t perform all of them without error. It just won’t happen. She may be a brilliant surgeon – the best surgeon in her field, but you will still have to sign waivers that you understand the risk of surgery before you get on that table.

A musician may, after much practice, render a selection without mistake. I can understand this. There are songs I can play on the piano with my eyes closed. But then, every once in a while – even with the simplest song, I hit a wrong note.

We can master some things in life, but 100% perfection, even in the things that we can master is not possible. It’s just not how this universe works! In fact, I kind of think of some of these things as parabolic – the pitcher for example. There is an arc to his career. At some point the pitcher might be perfect, but with time our bodies degrade, our minds slow down, and he will reach a peak and then performance will suffer.

Michael Jordan might have been a perfect basketball player. And he might still be good now. But how would he fare in the NBA at this point? Much of mortal perfection is like a parabola.

I realize that there may be exceptions to what I’m writing here. But I feel like it is worth exploring – because I get caught in the “perfectionism” trap. It is worth me remembering that we aren’t always getting better. Sometimes we do, and then sometimes for reasons beyond our control, we don’t “progress” anymore. We reach our zenith and then start to fade. It isn’t a depressing thing. It’s just a fact of life.

President Nelson did describe this as mortal perfection, after all.

Three – Striving and Mortal Perfection

President Nelson stated:

“Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that “there were many, exceedingly great many,” who were pure before the Lord.

This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”

Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.” – Russell M. Nelson

Now this is interesting.

We just need to do the best that we can. I didn’t ever know Noah, Seth, or Job personally, but when I read that paragraph, I couldn’t help but think of some of the people who I do know.

In fact, my first thought was of a patriarch and his wife that I knew in my last stake. He is a good man, and maybe it would be described of him (AND HIS WIFE!) that they were “perfect.”

He is a simple man, a kind man. He is a barber, a father, a patriarch, a grandfather, a husband, a gardener, a sealer in the temple. Often I would see him on walks with his daughter in town. He isn’t really all that special if you just saw him on the street. In fact, he’s kind of short and plain. You would walk right past him.

He gave both of my daughters patriarchal blessings, and both times he admitted to mistakes that he made – even as the patriarch! All of this to help us understand the magnitude of the blessing that each of my daughters would receive.

Yes he has made mistakes, but he has humbly gone to the Lord to overcome them. He accepts the loving chastening and rebuke of the Lord. He tries, he strives to keep every duty and every law. He is doing the best he can.

Even though it is hard for me to describe anyone as perfect – because of my own ideas of what “perfection” is – based on this description given by President Nelson, the patriarch I just described to you is just that.

Which means, maybe a lot of us are, too.

NOTE: this does not mean that we do not need the Atonement! It is the striving and the Atonement that perfects us! I think that maybe it just means we can have more confidence in the Lord!

***

One more thing – this quote also makes me think of the nature of all mankind – including the Savior – we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. Perfection is a process. It isn’t something we will do out of the gates. Over time the patriarch from our old stake has become more and more of a perfect person. This is not because he is just magical or talented. It is because he has allowed the Lord to work a process in him that has taken years.

The Lord will work this in all of us. If we will strive and do our part, then the the Lord will teach us line upon line, precept upon precept. He will refine us, prune us, purify us. And then, over time, we will be something good and worthy to be called “perfect.”

Maybe if we just remember that it is a process, we won’t get so wrapped up in the frustration of not being perfect yet. If we remember it is a process, we will trust God as He guides, teaches, and perfects us.

Four – Teleios

It is helpful for us to remember that the Bible was written a long time ago. In fact, Jesus uttered His command in Matthew 5:8 – to be perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect – over 2,000 years ago.

Think about that for a second. 2,000 years ago. In Jerusalem. He said it, most likely, in his language, which I’m guessing was Hebrew. Not sure how He said it. The New Testament, we know was written in Greek.

And the Greek of the New Testament was 2,000 year-ago-Greek, not necessarily what they speak today. For my purposes, I like to remind myself – they weren’t speaking English! It wasn’t 21st century American English! This was a different time. It might be helpful for me to suspend what I think that perfect means based on today’s sensibilities and culture. It might be helpful to think of what the Savior meant by this declaration, rather than what I think it means based on my current circumstances.

President Nelson taught:

“Recently I studied the English and Greek editions of the New Testament, concentrating on each use of the term perfect and its derivatives. Studying both languages together provided some interesting insights, since Greek was the original language of the New Testament.

In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios,which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.”  The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when writers of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior—precision or excellence of human effort—they did not employ a form of teleios; instead, they chose different words.” – Russell M. Nelson

Don’t you love this! to reach a distant end. To be fully developed. To consummate. To finish.

And to be sure that we understand, President Nelson reiterates – it does NOT imply “freedom from error” but achieving a distant objective.

That takes some of the IMPOSSIBLE pressure off of us. When I think of reaching a distant end, being fully developed, etc. Then I think again of the patriarch that I wrote about earlier. He is headed toward that development, that end that the Lord wants all of us to reach. He is on the path to perfection. Not because he is free from error, but because I think that when our Patriarch from Midway completes his sojourn on earth he will have achieved his distant objective.

We can do this, too.

In fact, when I think about perfection this way, I think of so many other people, too. I think of my grandma. I think of my mom. I think of my dear friends and examples.  I think of the women I’ve known and been friends with that have experienced trials and faithfully navigated through those trials. I think of women who have achieved mortal perfection in various ways (like making pies, for example – which I believe is probably one of the best things to achieve mortal perfection in!), and yet they are striving, moving forward, they will achieve that distant objective.

When I think of perfection this way, I get excited! I am hopeful. I am inspired to keep on walking, striving, and learning line upon line, here a little and there a little.

Five – We Need the Savior

All that I have already written is based on an assumption – we need a Savior. Without the Savior, we have no real hope for either mortal or eternal perfection. Without a Savior, there is no purpose in striving. There is no purpose in endurance. Because, without a Savior, no matter how disciplined we are, we would never be able to reach the distant end; to achieve the distant objective.

We Need an Atonement. And Christ offers it to us. President Nelson taught:

“Moroni taught how to gain this glorious objective [to be a perfect]. His instruction stands in any age as an antidote for depression and a prescription for joy. I echo his plea: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … love God with all your might, mind and strength … [Then] ye may be perfect in Christ, … holy, [and] without spot.” – Russell M. Nelson

We come unto Christ – first in the waters of baptism. And after that, our striving, our choice to make AND KEEP covenants, our weekly renewal of these covenants are all ways that we come unto Christ. As we progress on the path that He lays out before us, we are coming unto Him. We don’t have to master anything in a day, week, or year. We have a lifetime to do our best – by taking one slow step at a time. As Nephi taught:

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:20

Six – Chin Up!

It’s nice to study a talk about perfection and not feel overwhelmed, depressed, and discouraged. I feel stoked! I feel happy! I feel like I can actually do this! I feel like there are loads of people who have actually done this.

President Nelson taught:

“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes, the path toward perfection and eternal life are “arduous.” I’m struck by the description of those who partook of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream:

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30 (emphasis added)

Our distant objective is distant. It will require work and repeated, daily effort. In fact, when we reach the end, I think that we’ll probably be like those in described above – we will fall down and finally partake of the proverbial tree of life.

But we’ll make it! We will partake! We will be perfected in Christ! We will reach that distant objective!

We can let this hope propel us forward during difficult times. And we can ignore the temptation of Satan – who wants us to misunderstand the commandment to be perfect, thinking it is just impossible.

***

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the commandments of God – regarding perfection. I know that misunderstanding this command is a subtle way that Satan tries to knock us off the path of perfection and joy. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson not only understands these commands but teaches us in a gentle and hopeful way. I’m grateful for living apostles and prophets who can help us to understand the mysteries of God.

 

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Children of the Covenant – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Children of the Covenantby Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1995 General Conference.

Before I write anything else, I have to quickly mention – this is the first talk that I actually remember! I didn’t remember everything, obviously. I only remembered the “inoculation” and “indoctrination” portion. And I also know that there will be future talks that I don’t remember that well, but it was exciting to read one that made a real impression on me.

Some Background

A little bit of background – President Nelson opened this talk by telling how both his daughter and the prophet at the time (Howard W. Hunter) had died within three days of each other. His daughter was only 37 years old, and a mother of five. I can imagine it would have been a difficult time for him and for his family. President Nelson stated:

“Emily and President Hunter had no fear of death. They had made and honored sacred covenants with the Lord, and they knew that his covenants to them will be kept with equal fidelity. They lived nobly as “children of the covenant.” – Russell M. Nelson

We can contrast their lack of fear concerning death with another group we read of in The Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.” – Mormon 6:7

We need not be crippled with fear as the Nephites were. If we will simply live righteous lives, as children of the covenant, then we can trust in the promises of the Lord – that even extend beyond this mortal life.

Inoculation and Indoctrination

President Nelson teaches us about inoculation:

“One medical method by which acquired immunity is conferred is inoculation. The term inoculate is fascinating. It comes from two Latin roots: in, meaning “within”; and oculus, meaning “an eye.” The verb to inoculate, therefore, literally means “to put an eye within”—to monitor against harm.” – Russell M. Nelson

Because of vaccines and inoculations, we can be protected from diseases that used to ravage communities and kill children. These inoculations may protect us from physical harm, but they don’t protect us from spiritual harm. Instead, we learn from President Nelson:

“Doctors cannot immunize against iniquity. Spiritual protection comes only from the Lord—and in his own way. Jesus chooses not to inoculate, but to indoctrinate. His method employs no vaccine; it utilizes the teaching of divine doctrine—a governing “eye within”—to protect the eternal spirits of his children.” – Russell M. Nelson

It seems like the word indoctrination has a bit of a bad connotation. The definition of indoctrinate is to instruct, especially in fundamentals or rudiments; or to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or opinion. (See Merriam Webster Dictionary: Indoctrinate.)

The definition, itself isn’t terrible, but the connotation in our culture is. 

However, President Nelson doesn’t mean “indoctrination” in a brainwashing sort of way. He means to compare it to inoculation. Through indoctrination, from the Savior, the Lord will give us an “eye within” to protect our spirits.

Identification

President Nelson taught:

“In so teaching, Jesus often established his own identity, then the identity of his followers.” – Russell M. Nelson

Before we can understand Christ’s doctrine and then have it within us, we need to understand who He is and who we are.

The Savior Himself, when teaching the Nephites in Ancient America, stated:

I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – 3 Nephi 20:31

He wasn’t just some dude. Jesus Christ testified of Himself. He was the Messiah. He was the Son of God. This establishes His authority and ability to indoctrinate.

When we receive inoculations, we receive them from doctors, they are administered by nurses who are certified to give such inoculations. Not only that, but the vaccines themselves have brands and names – they are trusted sources. We aren’t just receiving a mystery vial of potion from a dude on the street.

The Savior establishes His identity. Then, He gives us our identity – in relationship to Him. Again, from the account in the Book of Mormon:

“And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

26 The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant—” – 3 Nephi 20:25-26

Here, we learn that we are children of the prophets, of the House of Israel. We learn that we are children of the Covenant. But what does that mean?

Well, we have to understand what “the covenant” is.

The Abrahamic Covenant

You can read the talk by President Nelson to better understand the Abrahamic covenant, but in short – the Abrahamic Covenant is the promise that God made to Abraham. One way to easily remember the basics of the Abrahamic Covenant is 3 P’s:

  • Priesthood –
    • Christ and kings would come through Abraham’s lineage. – Russell M. Nelson
    • Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to eternal increase and to bear the priesthood. – Russell M. Nelson
  • Place
  • Posterity

This covenant existed not only anciently, but also exists now. President Nelson taught:

“We are also children of the covenant. We have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are our ancestors. We are of Israel. We have the right to receive the gospel, blessings of the priesthood, and eternal life. Nations of the earth will be blessed by our efforts and by the labors of our posterity. The literal seed of Abraham and those who are gathered into his family by adoption receive these promised blessings—predicated upon acceptance of the Lord and obedience to his commandments.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Doctrine of Christ

President Nelson stated:

“Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten us. And to ensure that we do not forget him, children of the covenant receive His doctrine and claim it by covenant.” – Russell M. Nelson

Okay…so here I will divert a little bit from the talk. President Nelson continues to teach about the New and Everlasting Covenant, which is really cool. However, what does he mean when he says that children of the covenant receive His doctrine and claim it by covenant”? What is His doctrine?

We can find Christ’s doctrine in the scriptures.

The Doctrine of Christ:

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.” – 3 Nephi 11:31-34

So – the first points of the Doctrine of Christ are repent and believe in Christ. (If you’re like me, then you might ask, why? Why do we need to repent? Well, we can find that answer in the scriptures, too. 2 Nephi 2 is a great place to start. You can also read this post to read more on why we need an Atonement).

Anyway, Point One – Repent. Point Two – Believe in Christ.

And then Point Three – Be Baptized.

The Savior continues to teach more on His doctrine:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 11:35

So – an earlier point is repeated – to Believe in Christ. Which leads to another point: Point Two-A Believe in Christ, and then we will also Believe in the Father.

And then, when we show this belief – through repentance and then the covenant of baptism, the Lord will bless us. Which is…Point Four – We will be visited with Fire and the Holy Ghost.

The Savior then reiterates His entire doctrine:

“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and becomeas a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” – 3 Nephi 11:37-39

When we let this doctrine become a part of who we are – then the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Sounds a lot like the idea of inoculation, doesn’t it?! We won’t tremble and fear the death that awaits the wicked. We won’t be ravaged and spiritually paralyzed by sin. Instead, through the doctrine of Christ, we will be protected and saved.

The New and Everlasting Covenant

President Nelson quoted Brigham Young:

All Latter-day Saints enter the new and everlasting covenant when they enter this Church. … They enter the new and everlasting covenant to sustain the Kingdom of God and no other kingdom.” – Brigham Young, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

What is the New and Everlasting Covenant? Well, it includes all covenants that we make:

  • Baptism
  • The Sacrament – which, by the way, is a repeated ordinance!
  • The Covenants of the Priesthood
  • The Endowment
  • Temple Marriage

President Nelson explained:

“Rewards for obedience to the commandments are almost beyond mortal comprehension. Here, children of the covenant become a strain of sin-resistant souls.” – Russell M. Nelson

So…before I go on, I keep thinking about a concept. Just because we are children of the covenant doesn’t mean that we then have nothing to worry about. Just because we accept Christ’s doctrine doesn’t mean that then we can do whatever we want, carte blanche – because of our lineage. Nephi taught:

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:19-20

I suppose we could add one more part to the doctrine of Christ: Part Five – Endure, faithfully, to the end.

I’m reminded of the Savior and the Pharisees. They came to His baptism, and then the Savior rebuked them. They needed to bring forth “fruit meet for repentance.” He could discern their thoughts, and He stated:

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” – Matthew 3:9

Just because we are children of the covenant does not mean that we will automatically, without effort, inherit eternal life. We have to remember – a covenant is a two-way promise. Just as man will be punished for his own sins, and not Adam’s transgression, we will be blessed for our own obedience, and not Abraham’s.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been studying Lehi’s Dream lately – especially The Pride of the World that was represented by the great and spacious building. (You can read about it here on my Book of Mormon Blog). The thing I find striking is what the Angel said to Nephi: yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (See 1 Nephi 11:35.)

Covenant Israel fought against the Savior and the apostles of the Lamb! They will not be protected by their covenants if they go against them. Neither will we. We can’t commit atrocious sin, and then say, “Well, it’s okay – we come from good, pioneer stock.” Because it isn’t okay! When we go against our covenants, we are condemned. It would be better if we never made them than if we break them.

So – yes – being “children of the covenant” can inoculate us from the ravages of wickedness and sin, but only if we really integrate the covenant within our hearts and our minds.

Unity Among Children of The Covenant

The Savior taught the Nephites:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

This is the doctrine of the devil: strife, contention, anger. Christ’s doctrine will, instead, lead to unity and love. In fact, we read of the Nephites who accepted Christ’s doctrine after He taught it to them:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happierpeople among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-17

Not only can becoming children of the covenant give us future happiness – after this mortal life, but if we are living up to our covenants, then we can experience happiness now. Unity with others – all of the children of God, and not only “children of the covenant” will help to establish peace and happiness in our homes, communities, countries, and even the entire world.

***

Okay…I feel like this is a long post, and it is probably pretty boring. I really liked this talk – mostly because I like understanding how the gospel can work in our lives. I know that if we covenant with the Lord in the way that He has taught us, then we can be protected from the ailments of sin. I know that if we covenant with the Lord and then live up to the covenants we make, then we will be happy.

***

I’m also grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the covenant – the doctrine of Christ. I’m grateful to know that this knowledge has given him hope even in difficult times. I’m also grateful to know that this knowledge has helped President Nelson to understand that we ought to love one another. He is a peacemaker. His words promote love, understanding, and Christ-like behavior. I’m grateful to be led by a prophet who has been prepared for his current calling.

The Spirit of Elijah

Today, I’m studying the talk The Spirit of Elijah, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1994 General Conference.

Family

This talk is all about family history and temple work. It’s kind of funny to read a talk from twenty four years ago about family history work. So much has changed (thanks to technology!)

1994 can seem like ancient times when we think of our technology. In 1994, I was in 10th grade. My family did have a computer, but it was a finicky thing, and I rarely used it. I hand-wrote all of my compositions for my English classes, and I wasn’t the only one who did! The Internet wasn’t really The Internet yet.

I remember that we would get these America Online cds in the mail. We installed it on my dad’s computer, and I’d spend time waiting for it to get online (anyone who grew up in the 90s will always remember that crazy sound of the dial-up modem.) Here it is, just for fun. (By the way, I’m writing as my husband is somewhat asleep next to me. I played it, and with his eyes closed, mumbling, he said, “that’s a dial-up modem.”) hahaha!

Okay! The fun is over, I guess. Back to the talk. It’s kind of hilarious to think of family history work in the 90s. It has become so amazingly easy now! But the principles then are the same as the principles now.

Baptism

The Savior, Himself taught:

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5

In order to enter into God’s kingdom, we need to be “born again” of the water and spirit. In other words, we need to be baptized.

Nephi clearly taught this truth as well:

“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” – 2 Nephi 31:5

The Savior was our example, and He beckoned us to follow Him into the waters of baptism. It’s a simple thing to do.

And yet…there are so many people who have lived on this earth without the chance to do so. I have always believed that God is a just and loving God. Why would He give the command to be baptized without a way for all to have the opportunity to choose to be baptized?

President Nelson quoted Howard W. Hunter:

“Does it seem reasonable that persons who have lived upon the earth and died without the opportunity of baptism should be deprived throughout eternity? Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead? Perhaps the greatest example of vicarious work for the dead is the Master himself. He gave his life as a vicarious atonement, that all who die shall live again and have life everlasting. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In a similar way we can perform ordinances for those who did not have the opportunity to do them in lifetime.”- Howard W. Hunter, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote because it is exactly what I have felt for so long.

How would God be a just God if there were so many billions of people who came to this earth, lived, and then died without even hearing the name of Jesus Christ, let alone accepting His Atonement and covenanting with Him through baptism?

I remember when I was about 12 or 13, a friend of mine was talking about faith, in general. He was actually a decent dude, but I remember him saying that those who didn’t have the chance to accept Christ in this life, would be damned. He felt that I, because I was a Mormon, was a damned soul. (I grew up in Texas, so I heard this all the time).

I tried convincing him that not only did I believe in Christ, but I had been baptized. He wasn’t buying it. Then I asked him, what about the people who didn’t have a chance to hear about Christ? Were they all damned too. His response – yes. He supposed so.
I wondered, how is it fair for a soul to be damned when they didn’t even have the chance to hear about the gospel, let alone accept it?

This is something I pondered on my own, and then realized – of course God is a loving and just God. And of course He would not damn someone because of their unfortunate circumstances. Our Heavenly Father already had a plan in place for the salvation of those who don’t have a chance to accept the gospel in this life. They are taught the gospel in the Spirit world – after death – where they have the opportunity to receive the ordinances of salvation.

The problem is – they can’t perform these ordinances themselves! They are in the Spirit World which indicates that they don’t have a body. So, vicarious ordinances are performed.

President Nelson taught:

“To the faithful, comfort comes from the knowledge that no blessings will be withheld from any who love the Lord and strive earnestly to keep His commandments. We will be judged by our deeds and the desires of our hearts—in the Lord’s merciful way and time.” – Russell M. Nelson

The principle of performing ordinances vicariously through the temple brought me peace when I was a young teen. It brings me peace now. I know that there are so many people who have lived good lives, who have good hearts, and who deserve to inherit God’s kingdom – yet they never had the chance to covenant with Him. Through temple work, the opportunity for salvation is made available to all – so long as they choose to accept the ordinances.

***

The Apostle Paul asked:

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” – 1 Corinthians 15:29

Baptism for the dead is not a new practice.

Temple Work and The Promise of Elijah

The San Diego Temple

God’s people have always been a temple building people. Temples aren’t just beautiful edifices, they have a purpose.

President Nelson taught:

“From the days of Adam to the meridian of time, temple ordinances were performed for the living only. Ordinances for the dead had to await the Atonement and postmortal ministry of the Savior.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have been to the temple, and I love the temple. It is a place of peace, service, worship, and instruction. A few years ago, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with my duties as a mother – raising my innocent children in this crazy-not-so-innocent world. How do I do it? There are so many forces working against families!

It was a Wednesday, and that was the day that I regularly went to the temple. As I sat in the temple, I was pondering these feelings of overwhelm that I had. And I realized, it is no coincidence that this generation has work to do. It is no coincidence that we have a duty to our families and ancestors – to be proxies for them in receiving the ordinances and covenants of the gospel.

I’ve always thought of this duty as merely a job to do. I had never noticed the elegance of this assignment – that in completing my family history work and doing the necessary temple work for them, that I would be blessing my own family right now.

This talk was entitled “The Spirit of Elijah.” The Promise of Elijah:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

As I have turned my hearts to my fathers and mothers, they have turned their hearts toward me. My heart has also simultaneously turned to my children. The blessings of the temple not only bless us individually, but they are poured onto our posterity – for all generations of time. When we bless our fathers and mothers, we are also blessing ourselves and our children. It is so beautiful, really. Not only is this work for them, but it blesses us, too.

I know that the work that I have completed for my family has blessed my family. I know that the ordinances that I have performed in behalf of my own ancestors has united us in prayer – even though they have passed on from mortality into the Spirit World. I know that they pray for me, plead for me, and for my family. I know that they have been a blessing to me – perhaps more of a blessing to me than I have been to them.

I come from a family that did not all have the blessings of the gospel during their mortal lives. They sacrificed their lives – to live in a time when the gospel wouldn’t be available to them. I can only imagine that they had the hope that one day, they would receive the gospel. Temple work has enabled this miracle for them and for so many others like them.

Identity

This wasn’t a subject in President Nelson’s talk, but I keep thinking that it might be good to include in my blog post.

I think that understanding our identity is of critical importance. I have had my own issues with “identity.” I was born out of wedlock. I had the great blessing to be adopted by the man I consider to be my father and my dad – when I was very young. He raised me, loved me, and does all of this still. He is my father.

But I also always knew that I was adopted. I looked a little bit different than my siblings. There were little questions that lurked in my mind.

Not only that, but I think that every single person on this earth has to get a grip on their identity – who they are – where they fit into their families – what their purpose on this earth is. Identity is such a universal thing.

So – I had my own little “identity crisis.” Thankfully, I was raised with a knowledge of the gospel, and that I am a child of God. Even if I didn’t understand my physical identity and genetics, I knew my spiritual genetics were from a loving Father and Mother in Heaven.

When I was in my early 20s, I had the chance to start doing family history work. This was in the “olden times” of family history centers, microfilms, and real research. I would visit the Family History Center in Ogden, Utah – and I was usually at least 50 years younger than the next youngest person there.

The work I was doing took time, dedication, and patience. But I experienced so many miracles. I was getting the work done. I did the research, found family members, made connections. And as I did this, I started to understand exactly who I was and why I was in the family I was in.

There have been a fair amount of dramas in my family, just like any other family, but the dedication I felt to family history, thankfully, superseded some of these dramas. I started to understand why I needed to be a member of the family I was in – even though I came to it in an unconventional way. Another family member said it to me best: “God knew you needed to be a Ryan without being a ‘blood-Ryan’ because we are all way too stubborn.”

I know that she meant it tongue-in-cheek, yet I also knew she was speaking the truth. Through doing family history work, I have been able to understand my role in my family and why it needed to come in a somewhat convoluted way.

I want to say right now, that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so grateful to my mother, for her bravery in bringing me into this world even though her situation was less than ideal. I can’t imagine that it would have been easy for her to have me during that time in her life – all alone. Yet she proceeded with courage. She didn’t know that she’d meet someone who would be willing to partner with her and accept me, too.

I’m so grateful for my dad, who loved me, accepted me, and chose me. He has done this my whole life.

Maybe my story is different than many of yours, but it happened exactly as it needed to, and it has blessed me beyond measure.

This is another blessing of The Promise of Elijah. As we get the Spirit of Elijah in our hearts, we are blessed with identity. By looking to our fathers and mothers, we better understand our place in this world. This understanding then will bless our children as we turn our hearts to them with love.

***
One last thing. I know that some people may read this and think, I don’t want to be connected to those people! Some of us come from situations of abuse. And I understand it can be hard. If we prayerfully address the Promise of Elijah, then the Lord will direct us on the path we need to take. Maybe your path won’t look like mine. I know that the Lord is loving, He doesn’t expect us to endure abuse. I know that the Lord is our greatest champion and protector. We need not fear the idea of family history work, but we can spiritually approach it in a way that will help us to balance both boundaries and duty.

***
I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the blessings of the gospel and the Promise of Elijah. I’m grateful to know that He has his own testimony of the role of temples in our lives. It is interesting to me to see that recently President Nelson has asked the youth of the church to join in this cause. It’s amazing to see how family history work is so accessible to all now through technology. I can see how President Nelson was prepared for the duty he would perform as a prophet.

“Teach Us Tolerance and Love”

Today, I’m studying the talk, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1994 General Conference.

Crayon Crinkle Project

Well, I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious. This was a really good talk. Tolerance. Love. President Nelson stated:

“I have been impressed to speak on the subject of tolerance—a virtue much needed in our turbulent world.” – Russell M. Nelson

This talk is so relevant today. He gave this talk 24 years ago – before the 24 hour news cycle – which, I believe, has made so many people so angry. Instead of surrounding ourselves with that which promotes tolerance and love, it seems like everyone is getting angrier and even tribal.

Not only has a lack of tolerance and love been problematic for society, at large, I can also see how this lack creeps into my personal life. It causes rifts, judgments, and misunderstandings. Instead of having love, patience, and long-suffering for others, I tend to get annoyed easily. This talk was timely, and I hope you will read it.

President Nelson quotes the following scripture story:

““Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Russell M. Nelson

When the Savior was asked about the most important commandment to keep, he didn’t mention keep the Sabbath Day Holy or Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. He didn’t tell this lawyer any commandment that the lawyer may have expected.

During a political climate that exacted an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Savior proclaimed that the greatest of all commandments were to 1) Love God, and 2) Love Others.

President Nelson explained:

“Hence, our highest priorities in life are to love God and to love our neighbors. That broadly includes neighbors in our own family, our community, our nation, and our world. Obedience to the second commandment facilitates obedience to the first commandment. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17)” – Russell M. Nelson

Recently in my personal scripture study, I’ve been reading and studying the vision of the tree of life – when Nephi sees the vision and learns what each symbol means. In studying this, I’ve learned a lot about desire, and Nephi, himself, learns that the tree of life represents the Love of God, which is the most desirable above all other things. (You can read more here.)

Isn’t it interesting that most important commandments – to love God and to love others – is the most desirable above all other things? I’m convinced that God’s commandments are never little rules given by a power hungry and arbitrary God. His commandments are the secrets to a happy life.

Anyway, if we want to be commandment keeping people, then we need to love God and love others. One way that we show this love is through our kindness to others.

Love Begins at Home

President Nelson shares a cute experience:

“I was amused recently when one of our grown children confided that she had always thought that she was her daddy’s favorite daughter. She was surprised to discover later that each of her eight sisters harbored that same feeling. Only when they had become mothers themselves did they realize that parents hardly have favorites. (Incidentally, our only son never had to wonder who was our favorite son.)” – Russell M. Nelson

Reading this, I wondered, do my children feel this way? I think that my younger two know that they are the apple of my eye. But my teenagers may not realize how much I love them. So – I’m stopping for a second to write them a note. They need to know it! And if your children don’t think that they are your favorite children, maybe take a second right now to tell them how much you love them. If it means that you stop reading this blog post, then great. You can finish reading it later. (or not).

Just imagine what this world would be like if children were reared in homes where they felt confident of the love that their parents have for them.

Heavenly Father Loves us, Too

Ideally, our examples as parents would help a child understand the great love that Heavenly Father has for each of us. Additionally, our children would learn that – just as contention, selfishness, and general unkindness are not acceptable in the home they are also not acceptable ways to treat our other brothers and sisters on this earth. We are all children of God, and we should treat each other as such.

President Nelson stated:

“Yet His children can be so intolerant with one another. Neighboring factions, whether they be identified as groups or gangs, schools or states, counties or countries, often develop animosity. Such tendencies make me wonder: Cannot boundary lines exist without becoming battle lines? Could not people unite in waging war against the evils that beset mankind instead of waging war on each other? Sadly, answers to these questions are often no. Through the years, discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity has led to senseless slaughter, vicious pogroms, and countless acts of cruelty. The face of history is pocked by the ugly scars of intolerance.

How different our world would be if all parents would apply this inspired instruction from the Book of Mormon: “Ye will not suffer your children … that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another. …

“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”

If such training occurred, children and parents around this globe would join in singing, “Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving; Teach us tolerance and love.” Men and women would respect their neighbors and the beliefs held sacred by them. No longer would ethnic jokes and cultural slurs be acceptable. The tongue of the tolerant speaks no guile.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the true pathway to peace. Marches, protests, wars, laws, or legislation – won’t change anything in this turbulent world. Instead, we need to change our hearts. And parents have the power to do this. We can teach our children not to quarrel with each other at home. We can also teach our children that all of God’s children are our brothers and sisters, so the same love and tolerance applies to those outside of our family.

I love this quote! I love it so much.

I would love to live in a world where we can truly feel safe. This doesn’t come through segregation and “safe spaces.” This comes as we stop pointing fingers at one another. All of us need to stop making assumptions about one another. We need to simply love one another, listen to one another, and be kind. We can change the world – starting in our own homes and neighborhoods. We don’t need world leaders to make treaties, laws, and speeches. We can do it ourselves if we choose. The feelings of safety will come when we simply choose to love one another.

The Risk of Tolerance

Even though President Nelson has taught tolerance, He does warn us:

“Now may I offer an important note of caution. An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though tolerance is important, we also have to be aware of a bigger picture. Too much tolerance may end up destroying the very thing we are trying to protect with our tolerance!

I’m reminded of an experience in the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Helaman, we read about the Gadianton Robbers – basically a “Mafia” of sorts – organized crime – secret combinations. We read how both the Lamanites and the Nephites reacted to this troubling development.

“And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.

And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.

And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.” – Helaman 6:37-39

When the Gadianton Robbers started to proliferate in the communities of the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Lamanites show the example of love and tolerance that we need to adopt.

The Lamanites did not tolerate this wickedness. They understood that it would end up destroying their society. So, the Lamanites hunted down this band of robbers, and then notice what they did: they did preach the word of God.

Because of the love that the Lamanites had for their brothers, but their unwillingness to tolerate the cancer that was growing in their society, the Lamanites were able to eliminate the Gadianton Robbers.

Now look at the Nephites. They not only tolerated the people, but they also tolerated the behavior. The Nephites built up and supported the Gadianton Robbers. This eventually destroyed the Nephite civilization.

We can be loving and kind, just as the Lamanites were, while also rooting out the sin and wickedness that will destroy our society and bring misery. This requires that we are obedient to the commandments and worthy of the constant companionship of the Comforter.

President Nelson stated:

“Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lamanites in the example above are the perfect examples of courageous confrontation. Their love compelled them to preach the pleasing word of God – even to the most wicked among them – and they were able to root out the Gadianton Robbers. The Lamanites had true love – even for those who were destroying the society – they didn’t support the self-destructing behavior of the Gadianton Robbers. Instead, they boldly and patiently preached the word of God.

We can’t make choices for others. We can’t force others to see things the way that we do. It isn’t god-like to do so. But we can be good examples. We can live worthy of the Spirit. The Spirit will then direct us on when to “preach” and when to remain quiet. The Spirit will help us how to show tolerance for others without tolerating behavior that is destructive.

***
There is so much more in this talk, but I need to wrap things up right now.

I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is tolerant of others – of their religious views, their ethnic backgrounds, their tastes, etc. I’m grateful to know that not only is he tolerant, but that he preaches tolerance. I have been in the presence of our Prophet during a sacrament meeting once. I remember the overwhelming feeling of love I felt while he spoke to us.

I know that President Nelson isn’t a perfect man. I don’t intend to mythicize or deify him. But I’m grateful to know that we are led by a man who preaches tolerance and peace – especially during a turbulent time when it seems like everyone wants to be “right” at the expense of happiness and peace in our society.

I know that if we follow the advice of President Nelson, we will have more joy and peace in our personal lives and in the world, at large.

Constancy Amid Change – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Constancy Amid Change, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1993 General Conference.

constancy
Constancy
change
Change

President Nelson introduces this talk by recounting a conversation he had with two youth – “Ruth” and “John.” This stood out to me because in October of 1993, I was a youth. I don’t remember this talk much, but I’m sure that I heard it and maybe even took notes on it. I was in seminary at the time, and by then living in Pennsylvania. Maybe this talk made me perk up because he talked about his conversation with “Ruth” and “John.” Maybe I felt like “Ruth,” who lamented, “Our world is constantly changing, isn’t it?”

At this point, it no longer matters what I thought and felt then. I’m grateful to have read this talk now, though.

***

As the title and “Ruth’s” question suggests – this talk is President Nelson’s comforting words to those who are concerned about the inconsistency of our changing world.  We can find constants and truth – especially with our foundation in the gospel.

Personages

The first constants that President Nelson addresses are personages. There are a few personages who are eternal – some trustworthy, others not so much.

The Godhead

Our Godhead is made up of three personages – Heavenly Father, his son – Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

President Nelson taught:

“Our Heavenly Father has a glorified body of flesh and bone, inseparably connected with His spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

Jesus Christ also has a glorified body of flesh and bone. He is the son of God and is the author of our salvation.

Finally, the Holy Ghost is a personage – but without flesh and bone. He influences us and can be our constant companion.

These personages – united in purpose love us. President Nelson taught:

“Brothers and sisters, these Heavenly Beings love you. Their love is as constant as is the greatest love of earthly parents.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this. I know that the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is constant. I know that it doesn’t matter what we do, how we live our lives, the mistakes we make, and the wrongs we commit – He still loves us. Nothing can stop our Father from loving us. I know this and I’ve experienced His eternal love.

It is because He loves us that He sent His Son – so that we return to live with Him again and be happy. It is because He loves us that He has granted us the Gift of the Holy Ghost – which enables us to have a constant companionship with the Godhead! It is because He loves us that He does anything – gives us commandments, prophets, the Priesthood, truth, enlightenment. Everything the Lord does is out of love. We can trust Him implicitly because He is the constant.

I mean, the talk could have ended there – with the constant of this world being Heavenly Father and His great love for us. Do we really grasp His love for us? Imagine the way that our lives might change if we allowed ourselves to both feel and believe that He Loves Us.

Though President Nelson could have ended his talk with the love and constancy of our Godhead, he didn’t.

There is another personage that is constant does not love us and we must recognize his existence. President Nelson stated:

“But there is another personage about whom you should be reminded. Satan also exists and seeks “that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (See 2 Ne. 2:27) – Russell M. Nelson

Satan is real. He wants us to be miserable. He understands the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness, and he has rejected it. He wants us to reject it, too. All I can say is, he is kind of a jerk. Sometimes, we tend to satirize his existence – characturizing him as some kind of goon from a horror movie. But the fact is, he is real. He is scarier and more dangerous than we can imagine. He is a constant in this world, just as much as our Godhead is.

I don’t think that President Nelson wanted to scare us by reminding us of this truth. I think that this is a helpful hint – to remind us that there is an active force working against us. When we take into account the existence of Satan, both recognizing his power and yet his powerlessness in comparison to God, then I think we are better able to make decisions that put us in line with our Heavenly Father and His power over the destroyer.

Plans

Next, President Nelson discusses another constant – plans.

God’s Plan

President Nelson talks about God’s plan. In the scriptures it is listed in various names – though they are synonymous:

  • the plan of happiness
  • the plan of salvation
  • the plan of redemption
  • the plan of restoration
  • the plan of mercy
  • the plan of deliverance
  • the everlasting gospel

This plan hinges on the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Think about that for a second!

  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no happiness (I think that this is the same in life – no sacrifice, no joy)
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no salvation
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no redemption
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no restoration
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no mercy
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no deliverance
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no gospel – or good news

I realize that I can make this list about the connection between Christ’s sacrifice and these various blessings, but that this list seems meaningless unless we realize why we need salvation, redemption, restoration, mercy, deliverance, or good news.

President Nelson stated:

“Before we can comprehend [Christ’s atoning sacrifice], though, we must understand the fall of Adam. And before we can fully appreciate the Fall, we must first comprehend the Creation. These three events—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are three preeminent pillars of God’s plan, and they are doctrinally interrelated.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Creation – Paradisiacal Creation

President Nelson taught:

“The creation of the earth was a preparatory part of our Father’s plan.” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s pretty obvious. In order for the Lord’s plan to move forward, a physical realm needed to be created. I don’t think that I need to belabor the point. The creation was a must. Without a creation, there would have been no chance for Adam and Eve to “fall,” which also would have made an atonement completely unnecessary.

Of course, we can go back to the first point and remember that God loves us. The scriptures teach:

“Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.” – 1 Nephi 17:36

“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” – Isaiah 45:18

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:18

Heavenly Father loves us, so He made a plan which included the creation of the earth. The earth was created so we could dwell here and learn. This does not mean that we should destroy the earth! We should remember that it is a gift and blessing from God.

Of course, when Heavenly Father created the earth He also created our first parents – Adam and Eve. President Nelson related:

“Adam and Eve were the first people to live upon the earth. They were different from the plant and animal life that had been created previously. Adam and Eve were children of God. Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God’s. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have had no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden’s garden forever. Thus, we might speak of the Creation in terms of a paradisiacal creation.” – Russell M. Nelson

Had the plan of Salvation stopped at the creation of the earth, then there would be no salvation. We would be sitting in Heaven waiting for progress and hope. There would be no need for an atonement. Thankfully, the plan didn’t stop here. It continued on with a difficult choice made by one of the strongest women to live on this earth.

The Fall – Mortal Creation

Heavenly Father, in order for His plan to continue, gave Adam and Eve a commandment: to multiply and replenish the earth. However, this would require another choice – to partake of the tree of knowledge – which would also introduce death.

President Nelson stated:

“We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise. Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation, because “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).” – Russell M. Nelson

Not only am I grateful for Eve’s choice, I’m also grateful to be in a religion that recognizes Eve’s choice as a courageous one. She made the choice that would usher in our existence. Her choice brought us agency, wisdom, and life.

Of course, this choice also brought death. But – Heavenly Father had a plan all along. He knew that we would need to go through opposition in order to gain experience and wisdom. Before He even created the world, He had a plan for our salvation – a Savior.

The Atonement – Immortal Creation

Mortal life (and then death) was not the final destination, nor was it ever meant to be. Heavenly Father loves us and He had a plan! President Nelson said:

“Given that reality, still another change was necessary. An infinite atonement was required to redeem Adam, Eve, and all of their posterity. That atonement must enable our physical bodies to be resurrected and changed to a bloodless form, no longer liable to disease, deterioration, or death.

According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death.” – Russell M. Nelson

All along, this was God’s intention. His work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. He had a plan. He didn’t react. He wasn’t shocked by Eve’s choice to partake of the fruit. Her choice was the plan! Adam and Eve would need to choose to progress. Heavenly Father loves us and respects our agency. He wouldn’t have forced them to move on. They needed to make that choice.

And they did!

They made the choice to obtain knowledge and fulfill the first commandment – to multiply and replenish the earth even before they knew that a Savior would be able to help them return into the presence of their Father.

Of course, Heavenly Father had a plan! And this plan included the Savior, who overcame the negative effects of the fall while accentuating the positive ones.

Satan’s Plan

Just as God’s plan is a constant, there is another plan that we must be made aware of. We learn of Satan’s plan in the Pearl of Great Price:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” – Moses 4:1-4

Satan wants to destroy our agency and take the power of God. In order to accomplish this plan, Satan tries to deceive us so that we can be led captive by Him. In order to remain liberated and happy, we need to hearken unto the voice of God.

President Nelson expands on how Satan tries to accomplish his plan of destruction:

“Before leaving our discussion of unchanging plans, however, we need to remember that the adversary sponsors a cunning plan of his own. It invariably attacks God’s first commandment for husband and wife to beget children. It tempts with tactics that include infidelity, unchastity, and other abuses of procreative power.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s plan opposes God’s plan. So – maybe a helpful exercise would be rename Satan’s plan in various ways:

  • the plan of misery
  • the plan of destruction
  • the plan of abandonment
  • the plan of damnation
  • the plan of cruelty
  • the plan of captivity
  • the everlasting bad news

Yikes.

Principles

I need to wrap this up, but I wanted to quickly quote President Nelson:

“Unchanging principles are so because they come from our unchanging Heavenly Father. Try as they might, no parliament or congress could ever repeal the law of earth’s gravity or amend the Ten Commandments. Those laws are constant. All laws of nature and of God are part of the everlasting gospel. Thus, there are many unchanging principles.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really love this because I believe that like gravity, God’s laws are NON-NEGOTIABLE!

Now, we can’t confuse laws and principles. Principles are based on laws, though, and so many principles are also unchanging.

President Nelson lists several unchanging principles:

  • The Priesthood
  • Moral Law
  • Judgment
  • Divine Commandments
  • Truth
  • Family

I encourage you to read through these subjects in his talk.

***

This world is changing. It has changed so dramatically since he gave this talk! Think of life in 1993. It was different. But there are constants that we can hold on to. I’m so grateful for this knowledge and the gospel.

Honoring the Priesthood – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Honoring the Priesthood, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1993 General Conference.

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For me – it is most helpful to remember whose priesthood it is.

Maybe I have more pride and “feminism” in my heart than I want to admit. Sometimes these priesthood talks make me feel a bit anxious. I haven’t read this talk before now, and I don’t remember how I felt when it was given (in 1993 – I lived in Houston still. I was 14 years old.

My relationship with the priesthood is complicated sometimes. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that it is God’s power on this earth. And I know that it is a miracle that He has bestowed it to us – even though we are imperfect people. In my life, I’ve had great priesthood leaders, okay priesthood leaders, and bad priesthood leaders.

Additionally, the climate of our culture tends to look down on things like “the priesthood” – as if it is a boy’s club and not an organization instituted by God.

With that in mind, I’m trying to be very open minded so the Spirit can teach me as I study this talk.

One – God’s Kingdom

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is neither a democracy nor a republic. His is a kingdom—the kingdom of God on earth. His is a hierarchical church, with ultimate authority at the top. The Lord directs His anointed servants. They testify to all the world that God has again spoken. The heavens have been opened. A living linkage has been formed between heaven and earth in our day.” – Russell M. Nelson

So, first of all – it is a good reminder to me that God’s Church is not a democracy or a republic. Which means that we don’t “vote” in our leaders. We sustain them by common consent, but it isn’t a vote.

As I think about this, I realize that I’ve been raised as an American. The idea of independence, freedom, and choice is so deeply ingrained in me, I truly can’t imagine any other cultural practice. It’s hard to imagine a king or a queen or dictator. I can’t imagine not having a voice or a choice of some kind.

All of that being said, I am also somewhat disappointed with our current system of government. There is so much corruption that when we had our last presidential election, I felt so hopeless with our choices, I felt like we Americans were being asked to choose between poop and vomit. (Sorry…but it’s truly how I felt).

Despite my love for choice, I’m also an idealist. If only we could have the Savior here now! I would never trust any old person to be a ruler over me or my country. Like a good American, I don’t trust my government (they are instituted among men (and women) deriving their just power from the consent of the governed!), companies, or anything that tries to exercise power over me. I am always willing to submit to anything that is good, but I’m not trusting just because. Unless, it is Heavenly Father. I have learned that He is trustworthy. He is good. And I trust Him completely.

***Quick aside…why do I trust Him?

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

and

“Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings,…” – Doctrine and Covenants 41:1

and

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

and…

Honestly – why I trust God could be a series of blog posts, so I’ll stop with the scriptural references. I’ll say one more thing, though. I’ve experimented. I’ve put my trust in God before, and I’ve learned for myself that He is trustworthy. He is a living and loving Father in Heaven. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He is both powerful and humble. He is a perfect leader and for this reason, I rejoice at knowing that God’s kingdom is not a democracy or a republic! I rejoice at knowing that His is a kingdom.

So – on to the next point that President Nelson gives.

His kingdom is hierarchical.

I think that this is where I start to feel a bit troubled. When I think of a hierarchy, I think of a situation where people may feel like they are better than others because of their position. And we know that it is the nature of most men to do this. We are prideful little dummies sometimes.

President Nelson teaches:

“In contrast, the kingdom of God is governed by the authority of the priesthood. It is not conferred for honor, but for a ministry of service. Priesthood titles are not created by man; neither are they for adornment, nor do they express mastership. They denote appointment to service in the work of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though there is a hierarchy in our church – it is not based on honor or supremacy. This hierarchy just tells us what jobs people have to do. The church is an organization and God is a God of order, so there are positions – and they are hierarchical.

But this doesn’t mean that the worth of souls is in any way related to the “position” one might hold.

It helps me to think of this like a team. We have a purpose. God has a purpose (Moses 1:39). We have one united work to do, but we are a bunch of different people. So, we each have our positions and we need to do it well, then we all win. If we are all fighting to be pitcher, then we would lose the game.

Two – Priesthood Leaders are Normal People

President Nelson states:

“May I offer counsel of a general nature, first with comments about General Authorities. We recognize them as instruments in the hand of the Lord, yet realize that they are ordinary human beings. They require haircuts, laundry services, and occasional reminders just like anyone else.” – Russell M. Nelson

I like this. I think we (me included) make a mistake of putting our priesthood leaders – both general and local – on a pedestal. This usually results in a few problems.

1
It’s a problem and a disservice to our priesthood leaders when we mythicize them. They are normal human beings.

When I was a kid, my dad would say this thing, “At the end of the day, their poop still stinks.” (I realize that I have mentioned doo doo twice in this blog post. Sorry.) I think that this shaped the way that I think about any of the people that we humans (primates!) worship. We are all equal. We are all both beautiful and ugly (mostly beautiful, if you ask me!). We are all human. We don’t need to worship our church leaders because at the end of the day, they are just like you and me.

Of course, President Nelson puts it a lot nicer – they need haircuts, they need to wash their clothes, they forget stuff. They are normal people!

For most of my life, the general authorities did seem mythical. They were these spiritual giants who spoke and testified of Christ at least twice a year during general conference. They need haircuts?! No way! They forget things?! Inconceivable!

Then I moved to the Heber Valley. In fact, right now I’m staying with my in-laws who live just houses down from one of the apostles. This proximity has given me new light. A few years ago, I met this apostle while shoveling snow. (You can read about the experience here.).

One thing that I didn’t share in that post I would like to share here.

It was winter when I met an apostle for the first time (obviously, we were shoveling snow). And if you read that post, I kind of felt disappointed with the meeting. There was nothing inherently special about him. He was a totally normal dude – wearing jeans, a jacket, a beanie. He looked older in real life than he does during conference.

There was nothing wrong with him either. I felt sympathy for him – he lives in a fishbowl because of his calling.

But the experience, in general, was just like any time that you have talked to any neighbor while shoveling snow. We introduced ourselves, found common ground, and had a chuckle. We talked about all the snow and all the elk that were in the neighborhood the day before. We talked about living in Arkansas (he had lived there, too). And it was just a simple and nice experience.

The heavens didn’t part. He didn’t give us some kind of apostolic blessing or witness. It was just a normal day with a normal person. Good, yes. Mythical, no.

A few days later, I was going to the library. I was about to drive into the entrance, but there was a little old woman crossing through the street to go into the library. Across the street from the library is a senior center, which is where she was coming from.

Because it had recently snowed a lot, not all of the ice and snow was cleared from the road. As I waited to turn left into the parking lot, the woman fell!

Luckily I’m in a very small town, and this road into the library is a dead-end road, so it was not busy. I turned on my hazard lights and jumped out of my car – leaving it in the middle of the road. I picked up this old woman, brushed the snow off of her, asking her if she was okay.

Then, I proceeded to walk with her into the library.

The heavens (metaphorically) did part. I felt, so intensely, the love that Heavenly Father has for his children. That his heart ached to see her experience the cruelties of life (age…and winter!). That He had let me be there at that moment so I could help her.

We got into the library. I ran out to park my car, then I found her again. When she was ready to go back to her home, I walked her back across the street, through treacherous ice and snow.

I realized that the feelings I was having were what I was expecting to feel when I saw the apostle.

Are the apostles special? Yes they are. They are sons of God. And they are just as special as a nameless old woman crossing the street.

They hold a special office and must perform a special duty, but this doesn’t mean that God loves them more. They are not more important. And their duty isn’t more important than our duties. Heavenly Father needs apostle who can travel the world and speak to people. He needs normal moms who drive to libraries that can jump out of their cars to help old women. He also needs old women who fall down so that they can teach a lesson to younger women who need humbling.

We are all part of the team. Whether we are starters, or in the bull-pen, we are all necessary. If we start fighting over position or over the ball, then we all lose.

2
Just as it is a problem when we mythicize our leaders, I think that it is also a problem if we demonize them. I actually think that this usually happens as a result of mythicizing them, then when they are normal, we are let down, then we demonize them. But enough philosophizing on how it happens.

I know that I have been guilty of being overly critical of my local leaders. I have been guilty of the same thing that the people of Nazareth were when they asked, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?” The prophet was not accepted in his own country. (See Luke 4:22, 24.)

I’ve been guilty of thinking, what kind of man can he be? Have you seen his yard? AS IF A YARD ACTUALLY MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to remember – for both local and general leaders – that they are men. They are ordinary human beings. That, for the most part, they are just doing the best that they can. Many make mistakes. And sometimes their mistakes may even hurt me or my family. I can extend charity, love, kindness, and help to these people who are serving in callings that they neither sought nor did they deny.

God’s is a House of Order

I’m going to wrap this up because it is getting pretty long.

President Nelson relates:

“That order also defines bounds of revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” That same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.” – Russell M. Nelson

This quote makes me think of the metaphor that we are all on a team, and that we need to worry about our position and doing our duty – rather than trying to do the duty of another.

You know, trying to do the duty of another is a pretty prideful thing, when you think about it. Not only that, it messes everything up.

I also love the last part of this quote…that same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.

We need to make our own decisions. Our priesthood leaders often don’t have the responsibility or right to make decisions for us. Sometimes there is overreach, for sure, and I’ve experienced that. But our local priesthood leaders don’t have the position or authority to come into our homes and tell us when to give father’s blessings, what to study for family home evening, where to live. This is our responsibility.

We have direct access to Heavenly Father for revelation that pertains to our circle of responsibility. It’s so easy to want to micromanage – again – we are prideful little dum dums and we think that we might know better than someone else. But, if we will just do what we can to strip ourselves of pride, then we will learn to trust one another – that families are probably making the best choices that they can for themselves, that our leaders may have some inspiration and insight. The pride in our hearts is so destructive – both top down and bottom up.

The real way for the priesthood to work is through our choice to expel pride from our hearts and to love, trust, and support one another. Bishops and leaders should be supporting those whom they serve. Members should support their leaders. If it is working both ways it’s a beautiful thing – like watching a well-executed play in a sporting event. Elegant and effective.

There’s so much to say. I hope that what I’ve written makes sense and actually helps to inspire people to have faith rather than justify anyone for cultivating feelings of resentment towards others.

The Priesthood is here to bless all of us. As President Nelson taught:

“Remarkable! He chose to honor us with His priesthood. So we honor Him by honoring His priesthood—both its power and those who bear it. By so doing, men, women, and children throughout the world will be blessed.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the priesthood and honors it accordingly. I have personally witnessed Him in sacrament meeting, reverently closing his eyes during the administration of the sacrament – which sacrament was administered by young men – nearly 80 years younger than him. He reverently sat next to the Bishop – without “taking charge” of the meeting. He encouraged each of us to read the Book of Mormon. He testified of Christ. But we, members of the audience, still knew that we had our agency to see how his instruction should be applied in our lives.

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson respects the authority that he holds. He is a trustworthy servant of God. He isn’t perfect, but like nearly every else I’ve met in all of the wards I’ve lived in – he’s doing his very best. I’m grateful to know that he really personifies what so many of us are doing – joyfully striving.

Where is Wisdom? – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Where is Wisdom?, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1992 General Conference.

One of my dearest friends and I have a self-help book idea titled, Duh. It will be filled with helpful entries like, “People don’t like jerks, so don’t be one. Duh.” or “When driving, watch where you are going. Duh.” Helpful stuff.

While this is a great idea for a book, it might not be all that…diplomatic.

President Nelson has a much nice way of putting it, though…Where is wisdom??? He quoted the following scripture:

“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of education. Since the organization of the church in the 1800s, the saints have instituted schools and universities. We believe in finding wisdom – secular and spiritual.

Seek Education

This subject means a lot to me. In my patriarchal blessing, I was instructed to seek the highest level of education that I could reach – that it would open me up for the future work I could do on this earth.

When I was in high school and college, I thought that meant going to college and graduate school until I received a PhD. Well, spoiler alert: I never went to graduate school. I earned a Bachelor’s degree, and upon my graduation from college, I was pregnant. I felt the impression to wait, so I did.

Four years after graduating college, I had another child, and I was going through a divorce. Thankfully, I had already gotten a college degree, and it helped me find a higher paying job than I would have found otherwise. I started working with a big pharmaceutical company. They had a program that would encourage its employees to gain more education. I started looking into getting an MBA from a nearby school – Villanova.

I started doing the paperwork for application, but as I really considered both the monetary cost and the time cost for an MBA AND the fact that I had two little girls who needed me, I realized that I needed to put it off until Panda was in school full time.

Well, a year before Panda would start attending school, I was married. Homey had received advanced education and was able to make an income that would allow me to stay at home with my children. Again, I knew that I needed to put off my formal education to be at home with my children. They had already gone without me around for a few years, and this time would be essential for their healing from life with a single parent. Plus, it would be good for me to be at home while Homey and I got used to family life all together.

I started to wonder when I would ever go back to school. Would I ever value education again? Thankfully, over time, Heavenly Father taught me that the pursuit of education doesn’t have to be accomplished formally, within university walls.

President Nelson stated:

“I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1992. I was in 7th grade. There was no such thing as the internet. In fact, I remember taking a computer class in 7th grade. The computers were these small boxes with black screens and either green or orange lettering.

old computer

These computers that we used in computer class back then didn’t even have Windows! (Windows did exist, but they didn’t seem to get commonplace for a few more years. Only the techiest and most advanced had windows – probably corporations or such. My school computers…no way. My home computer – I really only remember playing games on it – all pre-windows. Oh – and I’m diverting from the point. These computers didn’t even have windows – LET ALONE THE INTERNET!

I remember when I was in 10th grade or so, my dad got a new computer. We got a cd in the mail – from America Online. We followed the instructions, waited while our computer made these insane sounds, and then tada! we were online! I didn’t know what to do once I was online. At the time, the internet seemed to be chatrooms. It was not yet an information super highway.

But that would change quickly, and by the time I was in college, I was emailing, downloading mp3s from Napster, and “googling.”

Enter the information age.

I didn’t need to rely only on the library or school for education and learning, over time a new option was becoming available. The Internet was filling up with information, tools, and more that would teach me more than I could ever possibly know.

In 2007, when I was married to Homey, with two young girls at home, I wanted to go back to college one day, sure. But I knew I didn’t need to wait. I could research anything I wanted to online.

Next came youtube and instructional videos. I can learn how to install a washer and dryer, cut hair, or even code all on youtube.

And then came podcasts, blogs, websites like Kahn Academy and Masterclass, and more.

Back in 1992, only very few people could have imagined the information age. President Nelson’s words are true – individual desire is more influential than institution. If we want to learn and we have WiFi, then the world is available to us.

President Nelson counseled:

“So my counsel then—and now—is to continue your education wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity, however you determine you can best serve your family and society.” – Russell M. Nelson

Notice the phrase interest and opportunity, we are so blessed to live now – the opportunities are endless. We just have to determine our interest and then seek.

Beware of Unbalance

President Nelson states:

“Choose what you will learn and whose purposes you will serve. But don’t place all your intellectual eggs in one basket of secular learning.” – Russell M. Nelson

There is a danger in pursuing only secular learning and ignoring spiritual education. We need to remember that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19.)

President Nelson shared the following story. It is long, but really emphasizes his point:

“In the nineteenth century, health officials and others were concerned about pollution of the air, not by visible smoggy hydrocarbons of today, but by an invisible miasma that was blamed for almost any infection. In 1867, for example, Lord Lister indicted bad air as the chief cause of infection.4 Because of that, in 1869 Simpson from Edinburgh urged that hospitals be taken down and rebuilt every few years. Such an extravagant practice was also advocated by other experts.

Even Florence Nightingale, a living legend following her heroic efforts in the Crimean War, failed to recognize the transmission of infection from one patient to another—this despite her careful notations that wound infection accounted for 40 percent of postoperative mortality.

But others missed the connection, too. For centuries, lives of innumerable mothers and children were claimed by “childbirth fever”—infections unknowingly transmitted among the innocent by unwashed hands of attendants.

It was only a short century ago that the great work of Koch, Pasteur, and others proved that infection could be caused by bacteria in contaminated body fluids—or infected issues—passed from one individual to another.

With these highlights of history in mind, may I quote the word of the Lord recorded long ago in Leviticus, chapter fifteen:

“The Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.

“And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue. …

“Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.

“And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water. …

“And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water.” (Lev. 15:1–5, 7; emphasis added.)

Several verses follow which re-emphasize and illustrate those important principles. Then we read this conclusion:

“And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall … wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.” (Leviticus 15:13)

Thus, our loving Heavenly Father had clearly revealed principles of clean technique in the handling of infected patients more than three thousand years ago! These scriptures are in complete harmony with modern medical guidelines.9 But during those many millennia, how many mothers needlessly perished? How many children suffered because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to incorporate the word of the Lord?” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s important for us to cultivate our knowledge of both secular and spiritual things.

Contemporary Challenges

Even though I spent a lot of time just talking about the benefit of living in the information age, it also poses many challenges. We are bombarded with information – and not all of it is good.

This has been going on for ages…one example I can think of right off the bat is how “Doctors” used to say that smoking was good.

camel ad

Another more recent example:
butter

It can be so confusing! I know – for myself – I have researched and researched so much about healthy diets and exercise. I’ve gone back and forth on the pendulum. Meat is bad – it gives us cancer. We should eat plant-based. …then…Wait, grains are bad. They raise insulin. We need to eat more protein. … then … No, wait again. Too much protein results in gluconeogenesis, which will then raise insulin anyway, so we need to eat very low carb (fruit is evil!) and lots and lots of fats. Saturated fat is fine. Stay away from polunsaturated fat though. (ignore what was preached in the 90s. Saturated fat is not the enemy! Veggie oil is!!)

It can make your head spin. You might ask…Where is wisdom?

President Nelson taught:

“Wisdom is to be found in pure intelligence—in that divine light which can guide people in all countries, all climes, and all continents.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lord is the fountain of all wisdom. I’m not saying that everything that we need to learn can be learned in only the scriptures or at church. That’s not the case at all. The Lord, Himself, taught us:

“… yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

Wisdom and education won’t just happen to us. We need to seek. We can find truth and light everywhere – as we observe the world around us, in a yoga class, while listening to a podcast, on instagram, from a blog, when we listen to our children, etc.

And though there are complications with living in the information age, we have a benefit – the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us to discern truth from error.

I, for example, don’t have to let myself get confused by all of the dietary and nutritional information that I have learned. I have the word of wisdom. It is an excellent guide, even if it doesn’t explain things like the effects of sugar on our hormones.

The Lord is the source of all truth and will help us to see the nuggets of truth as we seek more wisdom. There are a lot of good things that I have learned about health and nutrition – that weren’t included in the Word of Wisdom, but with the Word of Wisdom as a guide, I have been able to discern what is good and what is folly.

This is a long and rambling blog post. I’m sorry. I’ll finish with one last quote.

“Where is wisdom? It pulses and surges with the Lord’s light of truth! With that light He lifts us toward eternal life, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so grateful to be living in the information age. I have learned so much from so many people – from experts with long pedigrees of formal education down to people who have put in time, effort, and experience to learn what they know. Though I haven’t pursued a formal education, I still have made every effort to obtain the highest level of education I can reach. This pursuit will continue until I take my last breath.

I’m also grateful to know that we are guided by an intelligent prophet who loves learning and light. I’m grateful that he has not only sought formal education, but that he learns on a daily basis. I’m grateful that he preaches that we each seek wisdom, learning, and light. I know that because of President Nelson’s choice to seek wisdom, we have all been greatly blessed.