Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

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La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.

Liberty

First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

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Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?

Patterns

Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

***
I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

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The Enabling Power of the Atonement: A Pattern (Mosiah 26:13-14)

I’m still here…I know it has been a while. We have had the back to school rush, then Homey and I went to Hawaii… 🙂

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

So now I’m back, and well…yeah…

Lately, I’ve had a lot on my mind, and most of it has to do with how to be a better disciple. I’ve been going through a growing period. Growing periods aren’t always easy. Sometimes “growing periods” are caused by external adversities and factors (we are all blessed with plenty of these!). Right now, I’m going through a growing period that has been more contemplative and internal, but challenging, nonetheless. I’ve become more aware of my weakness, and truly want to make weak things strong to me.

So, I’ve been studying the Atonement in the Book of Mormon, and it has been enlightening (as usual). Today I was reminded that There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Christ.

One thing that I love about the Atonement is its enabling power. As I have become more acquainted with my weaknesses lately, my first instinct is to feel paralyzed by despair. Yet, it is helpful to remember that the Lord knows we are weak. He has given us weakness. The Atonement does more than forgive sins, it also helps weak things to become strong. The Lord, through the power of His Infinite Atonement will not only forgive sin, but He will help us to overcome our weakness.

I love this idea. I mean, I really love it. Heavenly Father isn’t a God who is trying to “prove” us in a way that is arbitrary or mean. He doesn’t leave us here helpless. We simply need to humble ourselves, then he will enable us to be the kind of people that He has commanded us to be. And in the scriptures, we can learn how to apply the Atonement in such a way that it will help us to figure out solutions to the problems in our lives.

In Mosiah we read:

And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.

And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:” – Mosiah 26:13-14

In this scripture Alma is trying to figure out a problem. For our purposes here, the problem he is trying to solve isn’t all that important. What is important is the pattern that we see unfolding in these two verses.

One – Alma’s Soul Was Troubled

It is important to recognize that this troubled feeling that Alma had was a good thing. It shows that Alma was close enough to the Spirit to realize that there was a problem. Remember, the Spirit will not bear false witness, so when things are awry, we will not feel the comfort or peace that comes with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Instead, the Spirit witnesses of the truth of all things, and the result is…we feel troubled. Sometimes, when I’m feeling troubled I’m inclined to get a little afraid. Instead, I can have faith that my troubled feelings are simply the Spirit urging me to find the right path to take.

Because of the power of the Atonement, we are able to feel the nuanced messages whispered to our souls by the Spirit–even when that message is one of trouble or question. Because Alma had covenanted with the Lord and had implemented the power of the Atonement in his life, he was able to feel troubled and knew that he needed to find an answer to His question.

Two – Alma Pours out His Whole Soul to the Lord

As a result of the troubling feeling that Alma was experiencing and seeking a solution to his problem, Alma went to the Lord. In fact, Alma didn’t just go to the Lord, but he poured out his whole soul. It strikes me that there are times when this is required in order to access the enabling power of the Atonement.

There are times when I have trouble doing this. I believe in prayer. In the past, I have poured out my spirit to the Lord. Yet there are still times when I have trouble pouring out my whole soul not because I lack faith, but because I lack discipline. I tend to get a little lazy and tired. And, I suppose it could be argued that this is also a signal of my lack of faith. I believe that the Lord will answer prayers, and here we see what kind of humility is required in order to find answers and power from God.

Additionally, it strikes me that Alma’s ability to go to the Lord in prayer is available to him solely because of the Atonement of Christ. When we pray, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Even when we approach Heavenly Father in prayer, our Savior, through His Atonement, mediates.

Three – The Voice of the Lord Comes

After feeling troubled then supplicating the Lord, the voice of the Lord comes to Alma. His prayer is answered.

We can be assured that Heavenly Father will guide us. He will help us. He will teach us, mold us, and enable us to become the kind of people we want to be. Truly, the Atonement will enable us to reach our divine potentials and be happy.

***
I really love this. In this one example, we see the power of the Atonemnet helping Alma all along the way. Through the power of the Atonement he:

  • was guided by the Spirit to feel troubled and seek an answer to his problem
  • was able to supplicate the Lord by pouring his soul out in prayer
  • was able to hear the voice of the Lord and receive an answer to his problem

***
How have you been able to access and feel the enabling power of the Atonement in your life? How has it helped you to overcome problems?

Three Steps to Accessing the Atonement (Mosiah 7:33)

Lately, I’ve been studying the Atonement more. (See here and here). The thing that is interesting to me about studying the Atonement is learning that I need to know more: that it could be a more potent source of power in my life.

This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!

This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!

Now, I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life. I have felt a change in my heart several times over the years. I have been a recipient of miracles and blessings. I have a testimony in the Savior and the love that He has expressed through the Atonement.

But, I know that there is more and that I need it. Lately, I have become very aware of some of my weaknesses. I know that weakness is not sin, yet it is the same Atonement that will forgive and heal us from our sins and strengthen us in our weakness. I know that I need to learn to access the Atonement in order to become the woman I want to be.

So, I prayed about this…how do I learn to put my burden on the Lord? The Lord implores,

“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

Even though I have done this in the past, I needed to be reminded, How do I do this…how do I come unto Him so that he can make weak things strong for me?

The cool thing about sincere prayer is that it is answered.

So…today, I was reading:

“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” – Mosiah 7:33

I mean, in some ways I have already known this, but it is always great to get a reminder, and I’m comforted to know that no matter what our “problems” are, we always access the power and blessings of the Atonement in the same way.

So…here it is: the pattern to accessing the Atonement in our lives:

  1. Turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart – To me, this means prayer, scripture study. It means opening my heart to Him.
  2. Put your trust in Him – I find this interesting. I suppose this is where I really falter. We need to trust in Christ – which means even to trust in Him as we suffer. We need to trust that the difficulties we face are known unto the Lord and that they will help us as we strive to come closer to Him.

    There are times in my life that I’m tempted to counsel the Lord instead of trust Him. It is tempting to want to tell Heavenly Father what I think I need and what I think that He should do. However, according to this scripture, and in order to access the power of the Atonement that I seek, I need to trust Him and I need to realize that He understands where I am, the challenges I’m facing, and how my own weaknesses play a part in all of it. As I struggle to figure out what the Lord wants me to learn, I can trust that indeed He wants me to learn, that I’m simply being “pruned” “refined” or whatever you’d like to say. Though these things are hard, we can trust the Lord all along this process. If we put our trust in Him, and turn to Him, we will be made into better people – which is what I want, anyway…

  3. Serve Him with all diligence mind – This is where I can also take some action. There are times when I feel like I’m not doing enough, not serving enough. Yet, as I read this scripture, I realized that the work I do in my home is one of the greatest acts of service I’ll ever do, and that when I serve my children-through doing the dishes, cooking meals, teaching them, playing with them, bathing them, paying attention to them, driving them to activities, checking homework, the list goes on and on–when I serve my children, it is legitimate service, and that in serving my kids, I’m serving His children, and that this is the way I serve Him.

    I have a feeling that if I’m more mindful of how my daily service to my family is not only part of my duty, but can be consecrated in such a way that it will help me to access the power of the Atonement that I need, then I will be able to see my life change.

When we do these three things: turn to the Lord, put our trust in Him, and serve Him, then we will be delivered out of bondage. This may be physical bondage. Or, perhaps, it is the bondage of our weakness or other difficulties we face in our lives. No matter what kind of difficulty or bondage we feel trapped by, the Lord’s Atonement will help us to overcome it. We simply must access it in the proscribed method.

***
How do you find ways to turn to the Lord, put your trust in Him, and serve Him? As you have done these things, how has the power of Christ’s Atonement delivered you from the difficulties you face in your life?

Overcoming Clutter through Charity

I recently read a book about hoarding. It was really fascinating. I was drawn to this book because I know and love someone that I believe to have a problem with hoarding. I know that this person is faithful, but I can see how their possessions have become a true disruption in their lives.

Going to the home of a hoarder is difficult. Whenever I go to this person’s house, I’m filled with shame, anger, and I have an extremely difficult time paying attention. The house is chaotic. There is no order, whatsoever. It is as if I feel the Spirit leave my body before I enter into the premises.

The interesting thing about this scenario is that the person I know who is a moderate hoarder is a faithful person. They go to church! They have a testimony. There is nothing, in particular, in the house that would drive away the Spirit. Instead, it is the number of objects, and the lack of order that makes this place feel like some kind of insane prison. I feel like I’m developing ADD when I am in the walls of this home. I can see that not only am I affected, but that there have been many ramifications to this person, too. They have been adversely affected by their “stuff”. In the home, there is no feeling of peace. Nothing can be nurtured in such an environment. Because of my relationship with this person, I often begin to feel overwhelmed by frustration and even anger when I think of the house and the stuff. It is no way to live.

Hoarding is becoming a more prevalent issue (especially in the U.S.). Perhaps it is because so many people have so much now. It is hard to let go of our stuff. For some reason, we attach meaning to it. We feel like if we give up something – even if it is essentially trash – we are giving up a memory, an opportunity, or a choice. We become attached to these things, and the stuff accumulates to the point where we have a hard time following Christ because his Spirit is drowned out by the chaos created by our stuff.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are given a piece of valuable advice:

“And if any man shall give unto any of you a coat, or a suit, take the old and cast it unto the poor, and go on your way rejoicing.” – Doctrine and Covenants 84:105

When we get something new, we need to let go of our old stuff. There is no need to keep accumulating more.

I love this pattern of advice, too. Because we can help other people amidst our own prosperity. This is the best way to be grateful. And, as far as being resourceful, when we give our old things (that are still in good shape, of course) to be used by someone else, then we are not wasting as much! The item is getting good use, and now two people can rejoice.

King Benjamin, likewise teaches:

“And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.” – Mosiah 4:21

It seems to me that the key to overcoming clutter, and even hoarding is charity. It is simple, but maybe not quite as easy as it sounds.

I am reminded of the story of Christ and the rich young ruler.

Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler, Index of Armenian Art. (Click Image for source)

The story is basically about a guy – a faithful guy. He asked the Savior how to obtain eternal life. He was interested in the promises of the gospel. He knew that eternal life was something to seek after. He also recognized that Christ was the Son of God and would know how to obtain eternal life. So he inquired of the Savior.

Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. He reiterates some of them. The rich young ruler had kept the commandments his whole entire life. He was a good guy. Yet there was still something he needed to do in order to obtain eternal life:

“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” – Luke 18:22

This advice isn’t easy for the young ruler to hear.

“And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” – Luke 18:23-25

It is easy to look at the rich young ruler and chide him for not being charitable. It is easy to judge him, and say, If I were rich, then I would give up what I had and follow God. It is always so easy to judge these people! Yet, I think about clutter – the things we are hoarding – and are we really that much different than this rich young ruler? Are we letting our “things” cumber us to the point where we cannot follow Christ?

When you think of this in regards to a hoarder, following the advice of the Savior will not only help you to inherit eternal life in the future, but will make your life infinitely better in the present. A hoarder lives in a prison – made up of stuff. Many of us, even if we aren’t hoarders, also imprison ourselves with our stuff. We imprison ourselves before we even own it by getting into debt. We become so worried about our stuff, and obtaining more of it, that it gets in the way of our charity and support of others. We begin to assign more value to the items than they are worth. They become symbols of opportunities, knowledge, and maybe even happiness, and we think that if we give the item away, then we are also giving away opportunities, knowledge, and happiness. We begin to fear that we will regret giving something up. This fear creates a shackle of lifeless goods: books, clothes, toys, papers, electronics, etc.

In order to break free from this pattern, we simply need to remember that our stuff is just stuff, and that Christ offers us so much more than what we have now. We need to remember that when we support others, we will both rejoice. We need to remember that our things aren’t truly opportunities, or happiness, but that they’re just things. Above all, as difficult as it may be, in order to break free from this pattern of fear and chaos caused by hoarding and clutter, we need to keep the commandment that has been given of us: to impart of our substance to the poor. It is when we give to others, that we begin to see the true source of happiness and opportunity in our lives. The Spirit sanctifies us as we give to others, which helps us to have a better perspective on our possessions.

How do you keep a good perspective on your “stuff?” What do you do to impart of your substance? What are ways that you keep your eye on the true goal: of inheriting eternal blessings rather than get sidetracked by the shiny things we accumulate in our homes?

Following the Spirit can Save a Nation (Mosiah 7:1)

You might already know this background, and if you do, then skip on ahead, but read on if you want the background that will help us to see how the Lord helps us save one another through the whisperings of His Spirit.

In the Book of Mormon, we learn about a few main groups of people: The Nephites, Lamanites, and (later on) the Jaredites. Throughout the Book of Mormon, these people migrate to various lands. The Nephites, somewhere around 279 BC, were led out of their land (the Land of Nephi). They escaped the Lamanites, and ended up being guided to a Land: Zarahemla.

At about 200 BC, a few Nephites, including a man named Zeniff, were interested in going back to the land of their inheritance: The Land of Nephi. So, while King Benjamin was king, a group of people left Zarahemla to the Land of Nephi – which was then inhabited by the Lamanites.

Plenty of drama surrounds this situation, but it isn’t important to really discuss right now. What is important is: Zeniff reigned as king. His son, Noah, inherited the throne, but was incredibly wicked. He led the people into wickedness. Their wickedness culminated in killing the prophet, Abinadi. Shortly after this, their life in the Land of Nephi became very difficult. The people rebelled against Noah, he was killed, and the people also were put under stricter rules imposed by the Lamanites. Limhi, Noah’s son, inherited the throne while they lived in captivity. He was not wicked, but the Nephite living conditions were difficult – they endured beatings, persecution, and they were required to pay a 50% tax to the Lamanites for nothing other than the promise that the Lamanites wouldn’t kill them.

Despite the difficulties they faced, they were slow to remember the Lord. Instead, they tried to rely on their own faculties – sometimes even facing the Lamanites in war, only to be beaten down, and further oppressed.

Eventually, the people humbled themselves and began to pray – pleading for the Lord to deliver them from their difficult circumstances. We learn:

“And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.” – Mosiah 21:15

The Lord did not quite deliver them from bondage. They couldn’t find a way out either. They sent a search party out to look for the land of Zarahemla, but they came up empty-handed. They had to wait until finally, one day, King Limhi ran into Ammon – while hunting – and learned that Ammon was from Zarahemla, sent to find the people of King Limhi.

So…here’s where it gets interesting…

“And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings.

And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted that sixteen of their strong men might go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi, to inquire concerning their brethren.” – Mosiah 7:1-2

By this time, when King Mosiah is thinking about the people who had left Zarahemla, two generations had passed. At least 60 years had gone by. Why did he wait until this time to go and search for the People of Zeniff?

Meanwhile, King Limhi had sent a group of men out to search for Zarahemla. They wanted to petition the Nephites in Zarahemla to help them get out of bondage to the Lamanites. This trip was unsuccessful. Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi were far apart – to the point that neither land was easily found by each other. This group of spies returned back to Limhi, defeated, and they had to continue to endure the difficult captivity of the Lamanites.

Yet, King Mosiah was inspired to have a group go out and look for the land of Nephi. This group was led by Ammon and was successful. They found the people of Limhi, learned of the difficult captivity they were in, and helped to liberate them – bringing them back to Zarahemla.

I realize that King Mosiah was probably prompted by the Spirit – to think about these people. In the scripture it says that “they wearied him with their teasings.” The prompting to search for the people that had left with Zeniff didn’t seem to come to King Mosiah as a super-obvious spiritual message. Instead, it was a feeling – a teasing.

I have experienced this – little feelings that irritate me until I take some kind of action. I am starting to realize that these feelings are often the Spirit – or maybe a combination of my own spirit communicating with the Lord’s Spirit. It is good to pay attention to them – pray about them, and even take action on them.

In the case of King Mosiah, if he had done nothing, then the People of King Limhi would have continued to suffer and pray for help. King Mosiah thoughts, his teasings were the answers of the prayers given by those who were in captivity. It may not have been obvious to him at the time, but it is very obvious from our point of view – where we know the whole story.

This is just such a good reminder to me to always stay close to the Spirit and to learn how the Spirit of God works with my Spirit – so I can help be the answer someone’s prayers.

Have you experienced these kinds of promptings – teasings? What do you do to determine if they are messages from the Holy Ghost? How have you learned to fine-tune your spiritual ears?

Parenting Tips from King Benjamin

Usually, whenever I think of King Benjamin, I think of his speech on the tower.

And that was great, no doubt about it. But lately, I’ve been considering the example that King Benjamin is to parents.

I) King Benjamin taught his sons to be men of understanding
This is a direct example of King Benjamin’s parenting abilities. He taught his sons the language of his fathers that they might be men of understanding.

First of all, we have to recognize the significance of understanding. It is more than knowing. Often, we hear about opening our ears to hear, our eyes to see, and our hearts to understand. Being understanding connotes humility and conversion to the message that we have received. It is more than knowing. It is an application of knowledge received.

Secondly, we need to understand what the “language of our fathers” are. In this case, the fathers of King Benjamin were righteous people. I think about my fathers, my mothers, my ancestors. I don’t know many of them. So I can’t really teach my children in their language. But there are good things I’ve learned from my parents. I want this information to be passed on to my children. Additionally, I want to teach them of my spiritual fathers – the heroes of the gospel that I look up to. The men and women who have helped to form my faith and testimony. When I teach my children of these “fathers” they will also become people who understand.

II) He admits his faults.
In Mosiah 2:10-16, King Benjamin accounts for his service as King. He admits that he is a mortal man. He doesn’t claim to be any better than the people in his kingdom. He is humble.

I think of myself as a mother – do I show this in my parenting? Do I act like I know that I’m a mortal, or do I act like I’m perfect and shouldn’t be questioned?

I have noticed, in life, it is easier to give “breaks” to the people who are free to admit their weakness. When someone acts perfect and isn’t perfect, it is a lot harder to be patient with them (even if they would like the break!). I know that I’m imperfect. I want my children to be patient with me because I happen to have no idea what I’m doing. This means that I have to fess up to my weaknesses. If I act like I’m some kind of domineering, omniscient force, I don’t think that they will readily accept my weakness.

It is so easy to respect King Benjamin because he is open about his intentions, his work, his limitations. He doesn’t say these things to win anyone over or be political. He is honest – even if that means he must readily accept his own faults.

III) King Benjamin was a peacemaker

“And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.” – Mosiah 1:1

This is what I want for my home and family. I have to admit, my home isn’t always a peaceful place. sometimes it is full of confusion. Sometimes there is an air of contention. I don’t like it when these things happen. I want to make my home a haven of peace – of countinual peace.

There are a few things that I contributed to the peace that he was able to establish

  1. He spoke the word of God with authority. – I need to have authority in my home. This doesn’t mean I need to exercise unrighteous dominion, but there does need to be order. As a parent, I need to be the one who is a voice of authority. If I give this up to my kids, I do them a disservice. They do not fully understand what they want or need. I can, along with my husband, rule our home with authority in a way that uplifts and inspires our children.
  2. He labored with all of his faculties. – I think that this is so important. There are many reasons that I need to work hard. In order for peace to reign in my home, I know that the conditions of my home need to inspire peace and tranquility. I need to work hard to maintain cleanliness and order in the home. It is impossible to feel peace in a messy or filthy house. And, as a parent, If I laze around and expect my children to do the housework, then I won’t be able to establish peace. It is better for me to work hard, alongside my children – therefore reinforching our relationship through work.
  3. He fought to protect his Kingdom. – I may not have to fight with the sword of Laban, but I do have a fight. There are forces that want to push their way into the walls of my home. I have experienced these. I was born out of wedlock. My parents were divorced. I was divorced. Satan used many tactics to do what he could to destroy my family. It has had far-reaching effects. If I don’t fight to protect my family, then I know that there is a good chance we will not make it. Everything is on the line. My children, my children’s children depend on my efforts to protect our home in much the same way the Nephites relied on King Benjamin.

IV) He did not tax or become burdensome to His people.
This is easy to see why not taxing the people would be good for a kingdom, but it also applies to parentings. Even though I’m not a king, I do have a stewardship. I wonder, do I ever “tax” my children – put undue burdens on them – because of my own refusal to work hard or repent?

I love the things we learn in the scriptures. What do you learn about parenting from King Benjamin? How do you think that you can apply his example to your life?

Charity Believeth all Things


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So…now we’re really getting to the good stuff. Charity has a strong connection with faith. I’m sure you’ve either noticed it in the scriptures or heard it a lot – faith, hope, and charity. Today, we are studying about faith – and what it has to do with charity.

There are a lot of good places to find definitions of faith or examples of faith. But I love how King Benjamin taught the connection between faith and charity.

“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.” – Mosiah 4:9-13

So…here’s how it works.

1. Believe in God
Here’s faith. We believe in God. We believe that He created all things, has all power, and that he may be a little bit smarter than we are.

Believing God means that we trust in Him.

As our trust and belief in Him grows we will begin to exercise our faith by doing a few things (good works).

2. Do Good Works
I don’t mean this in the typical sense – of serving one another. But I mean we need to do the work that only we can do. We need to give Heavenly Father the only thing we can give Him – our wills. We give up the natural man. We repent. We humble ourselves. We ask for forgiveness.

3. We Receive a Remission of Sins
When we receive a remission of sins, then we will know of His goodness and taste of His love. And – remember – God’s love is charity. It is His pure love – that never fails. We can experience charity – long before we do a single act of service – just by being faithful (through belief in Christ and repentance).

What I find interesting about this is how hard it can be to repent sometimes. Have you found it difficult? I have sinned, and continue to sin. When I approach the the Lord, I often feel ashamed of my sins because I want to be better. I love Heavenly Father, and I know that He loves me. I don’t want to disappoint him. The act of repentance can be hard; we must experience Godly sorrow in order to truly repent. Sometimes it is tempting to think that we would be better off to go without repenting – so we can avoid the shame and discomfort of such growth.

However, it is when we repent that we are filled with such Joy.

I love Alma’s experience –

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” – Alma 36:20-21

As difficult as was the pain Alma experienced, he had to wade through the sorrow of repentance in order to feel the miraculous joy of God’s pure love.

Once we experience this, we need to retain it in our hearts. (Always remember Him).

4. Our Knowledge of God Grows
Here’s why knowing God is kind of a good thing for us:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” – John 17:3

Knowing God: knowing His love, commandments, and mysteries is the way that we inherit eternal life. Of course, we can’t know Him if we aren’t living worthy of His Spirit and revelation.

5. We will have charity for others
It is when we develop a love of the Lord and experience His love for us that we are able to share His love for others.

I have experienced this. I know it is true. Because I have felt the deep and abiding love that Heavenly Father has for me, I know that He loves all of His children. When I am close to the Lord, experiencing His charity, I’m filled with this idea, “I need to share this with others.” The only way that I can show my gratitude for the atonement and blessings that God has given me is by sharing the Love He has for others. I know that the Lord loves all of His children. The best way for me to help express this love is by supporting others.

Oh, and one more thing. When I experience the love of the God, my love for Him grows. I want to please Him. I want to make Him happy. And I know that when I sin against others, it hurts the Lord. Conversely, I know what King Benjamin has taught:

“…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” – Mosiah 2:17

My love for others grow as my love for God grows. My love for God is strengthened as I show love for others. And all of this starts with the simple act of faith. It’s neat how that works.

We can develop true charity for others. We just need to take the first step: faith. What do you do to increase your faith? How have you felt faith strengthen your ability to have charity?

Charity is not Easily Provoked

I have to admit, “not being easily provoked” isn’t the first thing I think of when I consider the attributes of charity. It probably isn’t even the second or third thing. However, as I have studied this, I can see how important it is that we are not easily provoked.

Christ taught

“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.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” – 3 Nephi 11:29-30

When we have the spirit of contention, we align ourselves with the Devil – the father of contention. And, something more – even when we don’t have the spirit of contention, the devil is trying to stir up our hearts to contend with anger.

Obviously, when our hearts are filled with anger, there is no room for charity. In fact, it seems like there isn’t room for anything other than anger. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry, I don’t think logically. I only think about hurting whomever I feel anger toward.

AHH! Totally not Christ-like! Totally not loving.

We get a good example of a bad example of charity in the Book of Mormon. I won’t go into the whole story. Instead, I just want to get right down to the point.

King Noah, by Chris White

Just to quickly catch you up, King Noah was a wicked king. Under his rule, he taxed his people heavily, reveled in sin, put priests (who were also wicked) in power, and corrupted the entire country and government. Things were bad and getting worse, so the Lord sent Abinadi to warn the people – repent or be destroyed.

The people didn’t care for Abinadi’s message. They took him to the King. The King and Priests hated Abinadi’s message. (For the most part. Alma listened, but he had to flee for his life.) The other priests decided to put Abinadi to death.

Upon hearing his death sentence, Abinadi said:

“Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.

Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.” – Mosiah 17:9-10

Abinadi was brave and bold. In fact he declared this with such boldness that King Noah was getting afraid. Even though he didn’t believe in God, King Noah feared his life and feared the judgments of God. Noah was pretty selfish! He didn’t want to suffer in the way that Abinadi had prophesied.

It would have been a smart thing for Noah to end everything there. Even if he didn’t listen to the prophet, it would have been smart for him to at least let him go. But, here’s the problem…Noah was easily provoked.

“But the priests lifted up their voices against him, and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain.” – Mosiah 17:12

So…King Noah let his anger get the best of him, and he decided to have Abinadi killed. Just as Abinadi warned, Noah was later killed in a like manner (by his own people! – See Mosiah 19:20). Things didn’t turn out well – at all – for Noah. Because of his anger, he killed a prophet, lost his own life, and – basically failed on every account.

I love this example because I often think – how do people get deceived? How do we remain steadfast in a world with so many voices trying to sway our opinions? And I’ve come to learn that it has a lot to do with the condition of our hearts.

When our hearts are soft and open, we can have the Spirit with us. Then, our hearts are fertile ground for charity. We are blessed with love and discernment. When we work hard to qualify for the Spirit, we overcome natural tendencies such as selfishness, pride, and anger. Instead, we fill our hearts with sacrifice, humility, and patience. And, when we do this, we overcome temptations – like evil priests goading us to kill prophets. (Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea!)

I can’t say that I’m the best at being slow to anger. Over time, my road rage is improving, but there are times when I still yell at the car in front of me, next to me, or maybe even behind me. I’ve also got problems with yelling at my kids.

In fact, I have recently been prompted by the Spirit that I’m not being the best mother I can be. I realized that I’m having a negative effect on my children because I’ve been yelling more than usual. I’ve been quick to anger. There may be reasons for it (it’s winter and I’m a little depressed…), but they aren’t worth the loss of the Spirit. I know that charity begins at home, and it starts with my choosing to be slow to anger.

How do you keep from being easily provoked?

Recognizing our Own “Nothingness” (Mosiah 4:4-5)

This is taken from King Benjamin’s address to his people…

“And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them, saying: My friends and my brethren, my kindred and my people, I would again call your attention, that ye may hear and understand the remainder of my words which I shall speak unto you.

For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—” – Mosiah 4:4-5

Okay, I know that I stopped this quote in the middle of a thought, but as I read it, I wondered, do I really recognize my own nothingness?

Do we recognize our own nothingness???

This statement by King Benjamin reminds me of when Moses declares,

“…Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” – Moses 1:10

In a way, I take this scripture for granted. I figure, of course man is nothing. But I realize that it is thanks to Moses (and King Benjamin and other prophets) that I truly know this. I have been trying to really ponder what this means lately.

And I’ve realized that I am nothing.

Have you ever been to the desert?

Sedona, AZ

If you have, then you know that it is vast. I remember the first time I went to the desert. I went to Moab, UT. Even driving down there, through Central and Eastern Utah, I started to get amazed. I could see for miles and miles and miles. There was nothing obstructing my view. There were no trees, buildings, or people. I just saw miles of rocks, crags, and buttes. It was thrilling, yet I also became distinctly aware that I was nothing. I was only a spec on the land. When night fell, this realization became even more jolting, as the desert sky is bigger than any other sky and full of bright stars. Even though the landscape is dimmed, I felt even smaller, knowing that there were millions, billions, or trillions of stars, planets, and creations out in the expanse of space.

Yet, there I was, little me, sitting in the desert. I am nothing.

Do we as a society truly understand our own nothingness? I’m not sure. I mean, especially now – instead of gazing up at the sky or across the land, we spend a lot of time on facebook, or on blogs (I’m guilty of this) gazing at our own navels. Because we have been blessed with so much intelligence and technology, it is easy to forget how small we are, how powerless we are. It is easy to forget what the Lord asked,

“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:33

So…we need to remember that we are nothing.

I think that when we do this, we can have one of two outcomes. (Maybe there are more, but I’ve only pondered these two)…

One – Recognizing our own Nothingness without Knowing God
When we come to recognize our own nothingness without knowing God, I think that it would fill us with a sense of despair. I feel like this quote explains exactly what I mean:

““Hot and tired I stop in the shade of an overhanging ledge and take a drink from my canteen. Resting, I listen to the deep dead stillness of the canyon. No wind or breeze, no birds, no running water, no sound of any kind but the stir of my own breathing.
“Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse—its implacable indifference.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, p. 91

When we notice our nothingness, and we don’t know God, we are filled with dread. Life seems like a coincidence or a joke. We notice our nothingness, but there is nothing to fill us with love. We may think that the world and nature is indifferent to us, that we are just biological accidents–That we are a blip on the screen of the history of the world. Suddenly, everything we may find important about ourselves seems silly. We lose hope and purpose.

Nothingness – without God – conjures a kind of humility with no hope – dread or despair.

Two – Recognizing Our Nothingness and Knowing God
When we recognize our own nothingness, and know that God loves us, we become overwhelmed with humility, hope, and gratitude.

My experience in the desert was similar to Edward Abbey’s (as quoted above), but with one striking difference. Instead of feeling dread, I felt overwhelmed with Love. There I stood, in the desert, small. I knew I was small. The desert was so big around me. Yet, despite my smallness and insignificance, I knew that God loved me, and knew exactly where I was. I remembered the scripture,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:6-7

Even in this world, among all of the creations God had made, he is aware of me. And He loves me.

How do I deserve that? How can I be anything but grateful?

Not only does He know us and love us, but he blesses us – specifically and personally.

Yesterday, my dad was leaving to go to my sister’s house in OKC. He had visited me in Boston. We all went out to Mimi’s Cafe for brunch, and then my sister and my dad were heading out. At Mimi’s Cafe, my dad noticed that his driver’s license and ATM card were not in his wallet. He figured that they were in his coat pocket – from when he was traveling on the plane. I insisted that he check the coat pocket before he left for OKC. After brunch, we got to the car. He checked his coat pockets and found they were empty. He checked his laptop-bag, his luggage, his pants pockets. He checked everything, and they were nowhere to be found.

This was disconcerting – as he would need identification to get on the plane again. So, we went back to my house to check for the missing cards.

We searched everywhere. I suggested we say a prayer, and we did. We began our search again. They started calling the airlines to see what the procedure would be for lost ID. I received the impression to go outside and look for the cards.

The Lord directed my path, and I found them in the leaf pile. We celebrated finding the cards, and then offered a prayer of gratitude.

I thought about that – and tried to think of it in the “big picture” – in God’s perspective. His scope is so huge. He is aware of all of his infinite creations. And, in the scheme of things two cards for my dad are pretty small. In fact, even in the scheme of our own lives, of my dad’s life, those cards are pretty insignificant.

Yet the Lord, despite our nothingness, chose to direct our paths, and we found the cards. Even though we are less than specs in His eternal view, He loves us. He cares about us. He finds important what we find important.

I can’t help but be filled with love as I consider that despite my nothingness, God loves me.

What helps you to remember your own nothingness? How do you feel God’s love despite your nothingness? Why do you think it is important to recognize both?

Joy and Thanksgiving: Compare/Contrast Those who keep the Commandments

In today’s Joy and Thanksgiving assignment, we are comparing and contrasting two groups of people described by King Benjamin. This is kind of a long scripture block…just so you know.

“And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—

I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” – Mosiah 2:41

Here is how I mark scriptures that compare and contrast.

When we compare and contrast, we look for what the items being compared have in common and how they differ. Usually, we can learn something from this comparison!

Commonalities between the groups

  • They both had been taught the things of the gospel.
  • They both had known the things of the gospel.
  • They both make choices based on what they have been taught and what they know.
  • They both experience consequences based on their decisions.

Differences between the groups
The First Group

  • The first group chooses to sin. As a result, they withdraw themselves from the spirit of God.
  • The Lord can no longer guide, bless, or prosper them.
  • Come out in open rebellion against God – listing to obey the evil Spirit. – This is open rebellion because they knew better.
  • An enemy to righteousness.
  • Is an unholy temple, so the Lord will not dwell with them.
  • If they die before repenting, then they die an enemy to God.
  • Bound by justice, and because they refused to repent, cannot receive mercy.
  • No Lord, No Righteousness, No Mercy → guilt, pain, anguish, fire.

When I think about this first group, I realize that King Benjamin doesn’t tell us these things to “scare us into righteousness.” These verses aren’t a manipulation. They are the facts. When someone refuses to keep the commandments and come unto Christ, then he cuts himself off from the atonement of Christ. He cuts himself off from the Spirit and the happiness of God. It is what it is – simple.

The Second Group

  • Keep the commandments.
  • Blessed and Happy
  • Blessed in all things: both temporal and spiritual
  • Received into Heaven
  • Dwell with God in a never-ending state of happiness.
  • Keep the commandments → Never ending happiness

As I write this, I keep getting impressed by the fact that a part of keeping the commandments is repenting. We aren’t expected to be sinless. We are expected to keep the commandments. Because this is the expectation, then we are allowed room to sin – as long as we repent.

If we refuse to keep the commandments, then we refuse to repent.

I don’t mean this to be an excuse for sinning and breaking the commandments. We need to do our best. However, we’re human, so we will sin. Also, if we could perfectly keep the commandments, then there would be no need for Christ. Which is ridiculous. We need to keep the commandments – which means we need to repent. Which implies, that the Lord knows that we’ll sin, he just wants us to change it when we do.

Then, when we repent, we are blessed. We are blessed through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are received into Heaven, thanks to His infinite Mercy, and we are able to dwell with God in a state of Never-ending happiness.

It’s a really good deal for us.

***
For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.

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