Understanding Virtue: A Scripture Chain

In my ward, we are doing a Book of Mormon Summer reading challenge. This will help the young women to complete their value project for virtue: to read the Book of Mormon. The challenge is to read the Book of Mormon in 70 days – during the summer. (It is roughly 7.5 pages a day).

I’m going to start my summer reading challenge tomorrow. Today, I wanted to figure out what to study as I read the Book of Mormon. So…I’m thinking about the Virtue value project. I’m struck by the following question:

“What did He and those who followed Him do to live virtuous lives?” – from Virtue, Personal Progress Value Experience

And I think that’s what I want to study/learn about

Virtue!!!

Virtue!!!

Personally, I feel like we have a pretty limited understanding of virtue. I think that many of us feel like virtue means chastity. If so, then why not simply call it chastity? Maybe then we’ll elaborate and say, “Purity.” Still. Virtue is not really interchangeable for either chastity or purity. Sure, virtue includes chastity and purity, but I really think that it is that and more.

Here is a quick scripture chain that might help to shed a little light on virtue.

Proverbs 31:10

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:1

This is the “virtue” scripture that usually comes to mind. It seems nice. I don’t know. We might have some stereotypes or even wrong impressions about this scripture. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is quiet and appeased by a bunch of gems. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is property that can be bought.

The rest of 31 describes the many “virtues” of this virtuous woman. They include:

  • She is trustworthy.
  • She does good – especially within the context of her marriage.
  • She works with her hands.
  • She brings food. She physically nourishes her family.
  • She wakes up early and takes care of her stewardship.
  • She is a wise investor.
  • She is a gardener – or creator.
  • She is a hard worker.
  • She knows that her merchandise is good. She is confident.
  • She has many skills – she is knowledgable.
  • She is charitable to the poor.
  • She is not afraid or helpless.
  • She provides well for her household.
  • She is elegant.
  • She causes her household to be elegant as well.
  • She brings fame and honor to her husband because of her many strengths.
  • She is strong.
  • She is honorable.
  • She is wise.
  • She is kind.
  • She is not idle.
  • She is a mother.
  • She is prolific in good works (of all kinds).
  • She fears the Lord.
  • She is praised.

All of these items in this list are ways that this woman is virtuous. You could say it another way – she is powerful. Her purity and chastity are part of what makes her virtuous, but she is more than that, too. She gets stuff done. I want to be like her, you know?!

Really look through this list with an open heart and mind. Today, we’d call the virtuous woman a “super-woman,” perhaps. She has a lot going on, for sure, but these things are all achievable – not all at once, but over time. (That’s nearly always the way). We can become wise, elegant, chaste, charitable, honorable, and strong. We don’t have to throw all of the balls in the air and do them at once. We have a lifetime to develop these qualities. And, while we’re striving, I believe we can consider ourselves to be virtuous women.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

Now, lest you think that the charge to be virtuous only applies to women, here is an example where men are told to be virtuous, too.

Throughout verses 41-46, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith on the use of the Priesthood. In verse 39, the Lord warns Joseph of the nature of most men in regards to the Priesthood and to power, in general:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39

So – the Lord then tutors Joseph Smith on how to be a man who righteously bears the Priesthood of God. Since we made a list for the ladies, we’ll make a list for the men.

  • Not power hungry
  • Long-suffering
  • gentle
  • meek
  • loving to others – unconditionally
  • kind
  • exhibiting pure knowledge
  • without hypocrisy
  • without guile
  • reproving – which means GENTLE CORRECTION
  • sharp – exact and quick – so the dude who reproves with sharpness will correct gently with exactness. He won’t do a “hack job” of it. “Reproving at times with sharpness” doesn’t mean being a bully. Quite the opposite.
  • guided by the Holy Ghost
  • loving, especially to those whom he has gently corrected
  • knows that “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
  • bowels are full of charity
  • virtue garnishes his thoughts at all times – his mind is pure and chaste which makes it poweful
  • confident in God
  • gains an understanding of the doctrine of the Priesthood
  • has the Holy Ghost as a constant companion
  • righteous
  • a father

So – men also have high standards. Both men and women are expected to be not only virtuous, but to strive to be the best people that they can be. We are all expected to be not only pure and chaste, but also motivated by faith and filled with charity. This enables us to be empowered by God.

Virtue figures into this greatly. I think that virtue is not only a commitment to be righteous (pure and chaste), but it becomes a well of power within us.

Luke 6:19

“And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” – Luke 6:19

This scripture is about Christ – when He healed some people “vexed with unclean Spirits.” I find this use of the word “virtue” particularly interesting because it challenges our modern notion of virtue.

Here, we wouldn’t describe Christ’s virtue as “chastity.” It is something else. It is a power to heal others.

His healing power is described as virtue also when the woman touches His hem and is healed:

“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” – Luke 8:46

Christ was traveling in a throng of people. Undoubtedly many were touching Him. But only one was healed, and when that healing took place, He could feel his power being physically transferred to this woman.

There is a connection between virtue and power.

We will study one final example like this.

Alma 31:5

“And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” – Alma 31:5, emphasis added.

God’s word, as Alma knew, was virtuous. Not only does virtue, in this context, mean pure, righteous or chaste, we learn that virtue is a power that is stronger than the sword.

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Now that we have studied these verses, I think that we can make better sense of virtue. Virtue is power that is rooted in righteousness and purity. It’s power comes from our decision to be righteous, chaste, and made pure through the Atonement of Christ. So, virtue is definitely related to chastity and purity, but it is a little bit more than that!!! Virtue is a source of power.

Virtue is not a power of force. It is not a power of material wealth. It is a power that surpasses the understanding of this world. Virtue is a power that can enable us to heal, to nourish, to strengthen, and to provide. Virtue is a power that is rooted in our Savior and can only be accessed when we are doing what we can to be like Him.

Really, virtue is pretty awesome. So I will agree with the proverb. The price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. The price of a virtuous man is far above titanium.

I want to develop this quality.

Okay, I’ll end with one last scripture – because it is applicable and might give us a hint on how to develop virtue for ourselves.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

“And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. – Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

So – if we want to have virtue, then we have to identify that it is built upon laws and principles. Virtue is only built upon the very highest principles of righteousness.

Additionally, if we want to be virtuous, then we must learn to love virtue. I have a feeling it is one of those qualities that continues to add to itself as we continue to progress and apply the Atonement in our lives.

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What are your thoughts on virtue? Do you think it is an outdated stereotype or a source of strength and power? How can you work to develop virtue in your life?

New Testament Study Companion: Luke

It has been a little over a year since I shared my last two Scripture Study Companions. (Matthew and Mark) Today, I release my third – LUKE!!! (I’m hoping that John, the last installment, will be out next month).

New Testament Study Companion: Luke

New Testament Study Companion: Luke


This book takes you chapter by chapter through Luke with questions and exercises/ideas for in-depth study. You can get this book a few different ways.

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – free eBook

Click here for the free eBook. This format will work for just about anything. 🙂

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – free PDF

You can also download it at the website Luke

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Kindle Version

Click here for The New Testament Study Companion: Luke available for Kindle.

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Print Version

Click here if you are interested in a print version of the book.
You can also choose to have this book printed and sent to you for $3.04. This might be a nice option for people who like to hold things in their hands. It is also most likely less expensive and more durable than printing the eBook yourself.

About the New Testament Study Companion: Luke

This book is designed to help you study the book of Luke. It is like the scripture study series–in that you will read a block of text, and I have included many questions that will help you to ponder the scriptures you read.

Additionally, each chapter includes several exercises that will help you to find patterns, themes, concepts, scripture chains, cross-refernences, etc. These exercises will help you to study each chapter in-depth. I hope that each time you use this study companion, you will be edified and excited about scripture study.

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Okay…so check it out. Let me know what you think. You can also find The Scripture Study Companion for Matthew and Mark. Be on the look-out for John!

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Oh…and HUUUUUUUGE shout out to my very talented friend Stephanie Clawson. She has created the art for all of these scripture study guides. You can check out her blog here. It is both beautiful and inspiring. She truly lives the gospel. She also has an Etsy shop here.

Christ’s Work, Motherhood, and the Atonement (Luke 23:35)

T-Rex, Tiger, Panda, and Sasquatch. (clockwise from left).

You are probably already aware that I am a stay-at-home mother of four kids. While I feel happy about this, there are times when I get a little down in the dumps. I don’t know if it is hormonal or if it is true depression, but there are times when I feel overwhelmed by the duties that surround me, yet not valued for the work I do.

A few years ago, I was a single mother working at a pharmaceutical company. Every day, I wore nice clothes, and fought rush-hour traffic to go and make a difference at this company. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that the work I’m doing now is important, even if it is not really valued by the world we live in. It is hard for me to remember that I am making a difference – even if I’m doing it in sweatpants and with my hair pulled back.

I know that I can tell myself that what I do is important. I try to take time every day remembering how the years I’m dedicating to my children is benefitting them now and will continue to benefit them in the future. I tell myself, logically, that what I’m doing is valued, even though no one seems to notice everything that goes right in this house (there are no problems pointing out the things that don’t go right!) I try to comfort myself by saying that it is okay to be frumpy rather than stylish, and that “going to work” is not all that important on the eternal spectrum. I remind myself of my duties – to my children and my God. Usually these reminders help me to remember the vision I need to have – that the work I’m performing is important and fulfilling – but on a more eternal scale.

Even with these reminders, I still usually end up needing help from God. And yesterday, I came across this scripture:

“And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” – Luke 23:35

A little background
The setting of this scripture is – Christ on the cross while the people around him were mocking the single most important thing to happen in human history.

A Few Thoughts
One The mockers say, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be the Christ, the chosen of God.” They didn’t understand that in order for Christ to save Himself, he’d need to first subject Himself. Christ had to die first. And Christ did deliver himself! Three days after his death, the tomb was empty. He had risen. He didn’t take himself off the cross. Instead, he did a work that was much bigger than any of them could understand: He saved Himself, and the rest of humanity, from death. Christ’s goal wasn’t in the “here and now” it was so much bigger than these unbelievers could see.

Two
I can only imagine how Christ felt, as he hung on the cross, doing the most important thing in the History of this world, saving the very people who were scorning him, and yet he went unrecognized. I can imagine that he could have felt useless and without purpose – he was doing something that was utterly unappreciated. It would have been so difficult not to cave to that kind of pressure – especially when he was working so hard!

Sometimes the cries of the world are deafening. I feel the pressure that I must do more and be more than just a mother. I know I’m not the only one. I have had colleagues say to me, “I thought you had more ambition.” When I explained I wouldn’t go to happy hour, but instead would go home. I have had friends say, “Why are you selling out?” when I chose to get married, quit working, and stay at home with my children. I have had loved ones say, “I don’t want to be one of those women who wastes their college education by being a stay-at-home-mom.” when I am exactly one of those women.

Besides experiences like these, I also see the images and hear the messages so prominent in our society. All of this adds up and it speaks to my worth, my goals, my ambition, and my direction. Usually, what it is saying isn’t that great.

I can think of Christ’s example, as He was on the cross, and let His determination inspire me. Even though he was unappreciated and misunderstood, he completed His work. I’m so grateful that he didn’t let the mocking and temptations derail Him.

Three
We have hindsight when thinking about what Christ did – in suffering and dying on the Cross. We know that He descended below all and overcame all. Yet while it was happening, it was hard for anyone to see or understand what He was doing. Of course, he was scorned and mocked by those who didn’t believe Him. But this isn’t all. Even His disciples denied Him. During Christ’s ministry, when he started to prophesy of His coming suffering and death, Peter rebuked Christ, “…Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee,” (Matthew 16:22). Even if they meant well, no one seemed to recognize the importance of the Savior’s work.

It was hard to understand that Christ’s work wasn’t limited to this earth; it was so much more.

Obviously, what I’m doing as a mother is nothing in comparison to what Christ did. Yet, I think that it is worthwhile to recognize the importance of rearing children. We mothers aid in Christ’s work – “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (See Moses 1:39.) We bring children into this world and so much more. We have been enlisted to help nurture these souls, these children of God, and guide them back to Christ and to their Heavenly Father. It is no small task. This assignment has more than mortal ramifications. Like Christ’s work, our work is eternal in scope.

On a day-to-day basis, my work may seem lackluster and even unambitious. Today I was in sweatpants until 2PM. But it is helpful to remember Christ’s example. It is helpful to remember how silly the mocker’s were – claiming that Christ couldn’t save Himself. And how, although He didn’t stop himself from dying, He saved Himself through the power of His resurrection. I’m grateful for His ability to remember the big picture – even during times of temptation and distress. I can remember this for myself – when I look at motherhood in an eternal perspective, I can’t imagine anything more ambitious. I may not have ambitions to climb the corporate ladder. Those ladders are WAY too small. My ambitions are eternal. I’m working to create an eternal family. I’m working to raise a righteous generation in a wicked world. I’ve got dreams…big dreams, and I intend to follow Christ’s example and see them through.

The Mission of Jesus Christ – A List (Luke 4:18-19)

A good way to understand more about the Jesus Christ is to understand His mission, or purpose in coming to the earth. Long before Christ came to the earth, the Prophets of the Old Testament had prophesied of a Messiah who would come to the earth and dwell in the flesh.

A cool picture that has nothing to do with this post.

Of course, Christ, as Jehovah, gave these prophecies to the Old Testament Prophets. Christ, also raised in a faithful Jewish home, was taught the scriptures. Eventually, when He began His ministry, He announced Himself to the Jews by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2. As recorded in Luke, Christ reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” – Luke 4:18-19

In these two verses we have a fun little List. We can mark and study it to learn more about Christ’s Mission.

List: Christ’s Mission

  1. Preach the Gospel to the Poor – As I read this point, I’m instantly reminded of the Beatitudes when Christ teaches: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:3). I wonder if there is a connection here between the poor – as mentioned in the scripture in Luke and the poor in spirit who will inherit the kingdom of God. In the footnotes to Matthew 5:3, we learn that “Poor in Spirit” is an Idiomatic Expression that means “Poor in pride; or humble in Spirit.”.

    This makes a lot of sense. The Lord preaches the gospel to those who will allow themselves to be taught. If we are humble, then we can receive divine instruction from Christ.

    Oh – and I think that we should take this a step further: what is the gospel? It is the “good news of Christ”. It is the fact that He will help us to overcome the effects of the fall – both death and sin. We cannot truly learn the gospel if we aren’t willing to be humble. Humility is necessary – on our parts – in that we must admit that we natural men and women are weak and need a Savior.

  2. Heal the broken-hearted – at first glance, I thought that this meant that Chris will comfort us when we are feeling “broken-hearted” or sad. And that is true. Christ does comfort us. He heals us.

    Yet, upon further reflection, I was reminded of the sacrifice we have been commanded to give: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (3 Nephi 9:20). This makes me realize that I have a little bit of responsibility in being Healed by Christ, and that “broken-hearted” may be more of a heart condition we choose rather than suffer from. (or maybe a little bit of both, sometimes.)

    In any case, when we come to the Lord, with a broken heart, then He will heal us.

  3. Preach deliverance to the Captives – We are all captive. We are captives to the conditions of mortality, we are captive to the consequences of Sin. Christ can deliver us. He teaches us how to be delivered, by choosing to accept His atoning power.

    I suppose that this also means a little bit more, too (as usual). When I think of Christ Preaching Deliverance to the Captives, my mind recalls those spirits that the Lord visited when he was in the grave for three days. Through modern revelation, we learn:

    “While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;

    19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.” – Doctrine and Covenants 138:18-19

    Christ preached deliverance to those who were captive to death. This is a pretty dramatic example, but it is Christ’s ultimate purpose – to deliver us from death and hell. We can receive deliverance when we do as He has taught – have faith, repent, and be baptized. There is no other way.

  4. Recovering the Sight to the Blind – So, this has to be one of my favorite types of miracles that the Savior performs during His ministry on the earth. So often, we see accounts of Him helping the blind to see.

    So, I’ve thought about this. Over the years, I have developed a need for glasses. I have to wear them all the time. I need them. Then there are people like my husband. I realize that if he had been born in the Savior’s time, he would have been considered a “Blind” person. He has been wearing glasses since he was a young child. He can’t really see anything unless he is wearing his glasses. It is strange to think that Homey, the man who supports our family so well, he is so intelligent and disciplined, would have probably been a beggar, bound by his lack of good eyesight during the time of Christ.

    Of course this is also a spiritual teaching. Christ restores our spiritual sight. Just as words will disappear from a chalkboard when I remove my contact lenses, items that are spiritually discerned will disappear when we remove the Lens of the Spirit – that comes through Christ.

  5. Liberate the Bruised – So…I have to admit, this one seems a little strange to me – at first. I am wondering what, exactly, is meant by bruised? So…thinking back on the word bruised in the scriptures, I’m reminded of the cursing of Satan – after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil:

    “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:15

    Here we learn about two “bruisings”… – (1) The seed of the woman is bruised. (thou shalt bruise his heel). We are all “bruised” through the fall and death. Even Christ had to succumb to this reality (of course, he did it voluntarily). Christ was bruised – in the proverbial heel. And we are all “bruised” in that we must suffer death and the effects of the fall. Satan’s influence can be felt by us.

    But that’s not all. (2) Christ – with the very heel that was bruised, bruises (or CRUSHES) the head of the Serpent. Christ did crush death – through His resurrection. If we go to Christ, then the devil has no power over us – we are bruised, yet can be liberated…This is what Christ came here to do.

  6. Preach the Acceptable Year of the Lord – I have to admit, I’m still not sure what this means. I think that I will have to do some more searching. So far, it seems to be about Judgment – and Christ’s role in it. hmm….what do you think?

I hope you have enjoyed studying this list. I love learning more about the Savior. I find that studying everything about Him – His life, ministry, teachings, and mission – help me to understand more about my relationship with Him and the role the atonement has in my life. How does this list help you to understand more about the Savior? What point resonates with you? Why?

If you wish to learn more about Christ, then click here.

Also, you can check out more helpful scripture study tips in my free eBook.

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?

Easter Scripture Study – The Empty Tomb: Christ is Risen

Empty Tomb of Christ, by James Emery (click image for source)

Find the entire Easter Scripture Study here.

Today is a good day. After ten days of studying the events of the last week of Christ’s life – where each event seemed to get progressively worse for Him, we are finally to the event of His Resurrection. This is what it is all about.

Finding the Empty Tomb
Knowledge of the resurrected Lord begins when a group women — including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary — went to the garden tomb to anoint the Savior’s body. It was the first day of the week, and the arrived at the rising of the sun. (See Mark 16:2.)

When they arrived at the sepulchre, the stone had been rolled away, and the body of Jesus was gone. The women were confused. They saw two angels who asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?

I think that it is important to ask this question to myself. When I think about my Savior, do I remember that He is living, or do I seek Him among the dead? Do I remember that he is accessible now. One of the ways that I seek Him is through the scriptures. That is important, but it is only a part of it. In fact, if I go to the scriptures without having the Spirit, then I am seeking for Christ among the dead. To find Christ, I should read the scriptures – with a prayer in my heart. I should pray. I should serve others. Can you think of a better way to infuse our lives with the Savior – than by doing the things that He did: study the gospel, pray, and serve others?

It is easy to forget that we believe in a living God. In every way Christ is life.

  • Anciently, this lesson was taught when Elijah challenged the priests of Baal. No matter what they did, their God could not save them. In hindsight, we can see why. Their God was their own creation. Baal was like an imaginary friend – perhaps a comfort at time, and easy to confuse with reality. But, in the end – He was imaginary Baal couldn’t save them because Baal didn’t exist. He was dead, and belief in Baal resulted in death. Elijah, however, called on the Lord – in the most improbable of circumstances, and the Lord came. His fire consumed everything. The people responded:

    “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.” – 1 Kings 18:39

  • Christ, because He is living, can offer us life.

    “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

    And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;” – 2 Nephi 2:27-28

    Christ is the living water, the bread of Life, the beginning and the end, the life, the resurrection. He is the I AM. Throughout the scriptures, we are taught that He is living. The angels gently remind the women in the tomb:

    “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

    Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” – Luke 24:6-7

    The Spirit began to speak to their souls, and they remembered the words of the Savior. Even if they didn’t fully understand what this meant – that the Lord was Resurrected and Perfected, that He had overcome death and sin – they began to remember, and they ran to tell the apostles that Jesus’s body was gone.

    Mary Sees the Resurrected Lord
    This is probably my favorite story in all of the scriptures.

    Mary and the Resurrected Christ

    You may be familiar with the story: Mary is at the tomb, weeping. She double checks the sepulchre. It is empty. He is not there. As she weeps, Jesus comes. She doesn’t know that it is Him. She assumes that he is the gardner, and asks to know where the body of Christ had been moved to. Jesus answers:

    “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” – John 20:16

    I hope that I can be like Mary. I hope that one day, when Jesus calls me, I know Him.

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

    I hope to be like Mary: that the Savior knows me by name, and when He calls me, I fall at His feet, saying Master.

    This Easter, I hope to remember that I believe in a living God, that He can be found as I seek Him with the Spirit. I hope to remember not only the pain He suffered, but the Hope He offers. I hope to be like Mary, a humble servant of Christ, who knows her master.

    ***
    I’m grateful for this time of year, and I want to add my testimony of the Savior.

    While I haven’t had very extravagant or dramatic experiences with the Lord, I have had experiences with Him that speak to my soul personally. I know that He loves me. I have felt His guidance, love, and support throughout my life.

    As I have sought Him – through scripture study, prayer, and covenant keeping, I have found Him. I wish that I was good at having His Spirit to be with me all of the time, but I know that it is because of my own shortcomings that I lose that contact from time to time.

    I write this knowing that there are probably some people who may doubt the existence of a God, a living God, and I can’t sit and persuade anyone that He exists. I can only bear my testimony: that I have felt His love for me. I have seen miracles occur in my life. That, as I have studied the gospel, His Spirit has enlightened my mind and uplifted my heart.

    I know that He came to the earth, lived, died, and lived again – for each of us. He loves us. He wants to be able to call each of us by name as He did Mary. I know that He delights in blessing each of us with His best blessings.

    I know that He loves us enough to make it possible for us to covenant with Him. He blesses us with His Spirit and Power. I know that He wants us to be happy. All of what He did in His life, though laced with so much pain, was done so that we could be happy.

    This Easter, I want to add my own testimony to so many others that have been given: I know that Christ lives. I know He loves me.

    ***
    Happy Easter! Please share your testimony of the Savior! If you are searching, find out more about the Savior here.

    ***
    Download the entire Easter Scripture Study Series here

Easter Study – The Triumphal Entry

The Triumphal Entry

The triumphal entry is a really nice part of the story of the Savior’s last week. It is actually a highlight of His entire life and ministry. There are a few things that I noticed while studying this event.

Christ – Giver and Fulfiller of Prophecy
Before entering into Jerusalem, the Lord instructs His disciples to get a colt.

“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” – Matthew 21:1-5

Christ understands all of the prophecies. Well, it is actually more than that. Christ, Jehovah, gave these prophecies to His prophets centuries and millennia before He came to the earth. Of course He knew the prophecies.

And, when He came to the earth, He was sure to complete everything according to the signs He had given. In the Old Testament, we read:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” – Zechariah 9:9

I guess, the thing is, knowing the Savior doesn’t have to be some difficult mystery. He doesn’t want it to be so. He has given us signs, types, and prophecies pointing us toward Him. Not only that, but he has fulfilled each sign, type, and prophecy with exactness. We can know Him if we look to the information that He has given us.

Christ the King
Again, we learn in this event that Jesus Christ is the King. There is the symbolism of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the palm fronds, and the timing of the event that point to Christ being king of Israel. (Not to mention the fact that He was a literal descendant of David, so the rightful heir to the throne). But Christ’s kingship is more than of physical Israel. He is the King of kings.

Many of the people recognize this and rejoice and praise Him as he humbly entered into Jerusalem.

“And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;

Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” – Luke 19:36-38

The people praised Him for all of the Mighty works that they had seen.

That makes me think about my own life: do I praise God? What mighty works have I experienced?

I feel like I have experienced many miracles. In fact, most days, I’m astounded by the miracles I’ve seen. I have been protected, saved, and forgiven. I have been healed and strengthened.

Yesterday, I was unpacking boxes, I came across three pictures that I keep in my room.

Me and My Dad


This is me and my dad. He is and has been a miracle in my life. He adopted me and raised me. Through the consistent way he has loved me and my siblings, he has taught me to love my children. I have experienced a very good life, I have learned to laugh, and I have learned to love because of my dad.

My dad is not my natural father. Yet, the Lord found a way for him to be in my life. I consider him a miracle.

My Bishop, Me, and Homey

This picture is of My Bishop, Me, and Homey. They are also miracles in my life. My Bishop was an example of loving service. In one of the hardest times in my life, I was able to feel the love of my Savior through my good Bishop’s service. Thanks to His wise counsel, I was able to find, meet, and marry Homey! Every day, I’m flabbergasted by the love the Lord has had for me in being able to marry Homey. I know that there are so many people who do not enjoy a good marriage in their mortal lives. I know that I’m blessed.

Me and Jack

Finally, the last picture I have in my room is this – of me and Jack. He is my biological father. For so many years I never knew who he was. Although I was blessed with an amazing father, there was a gap in my life – in my identity. Two years ago, the Lord blessed me with the miracle of finding Jack. The miracles have continued to flow for me.

These three pictures represent three ways that I have seen the Lord’s mighty works. There are so many more – too many for a blog post.

I can see why the people rejoiced in the Savior, their King. Can you imagine, being there, rejoicing there? It reminds me of His birth and the host of angels that sang as they announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds.

Even though I couldn’t be there when Christ rode in, triumphantly, to Jerusalem, I know that I can still rejoice. I can rejoice through testimony, prayer, and living a life that would bring Christ happiness.

How have you seen His mighty works? How do you rejoice?

***
For the rest of the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.

Heart Failure and Rescue

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” – Luke 21:25-26

There is a new Mormon Message based on this scripture. Watch it!

I always like the Mormon Messages, and this is no exception. I think that we can relate to this one.

I haven’t been in a near-death situation like Elder Nelson. But I have been in a few car wrecks, I’ve seen my marriage fall apart before my eyes. I have seen a sibling pass away. I have had my own experiences where I’ve thought that my heart may fail me. But it didn’t.

Like Elder Nelson, I was buoyed up by the support of the Savior.

Elder Nelson says, “If you’ve got faith, you can handle difficulties.” I feel like this is true.

An Experience
A few years ago, I was a single mom. It was this exact time of year. I think it was like December 5 or 6, in fact. It was a Monday night, and I was driving home from work.

As I was driving through a green light, I saw the car across me in the intersection who was turning left. When it was too late, I realized that she was turning left, regardless of the fact that I was going straight through the intersection. We collided, head on.

Thankfully, my children weren’t with me.

I stepped out of my car, called my mom, called the insurance company, someone else called the police (there were many witnesses). Even though I am no insurance adjuster, I could tell that my car was totalled. The airbags had deployed, and I was bruised up a bit. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But, before I could worry – about the fact that I had no money, and wasn’t even sure if we were going to have a Christmas, before I could worry about how I would get to work without a car, a feeling of comfort washed over me.

The night before, I had attended tithing settlement. I was straight with the Lord. I knew that I was trying my best to be as obedient as possible. I knew that the Lord would provide for me. I knew that I didn’t need to worry.

Just as instantly as my heart was comforted, I noticed the other driver. She was an Au Pair. Her employer showed up to the scene of the accident, and he was worried. He was worried about Christmas, what would happen to his insurance, etc. I remember noticing the distinct difference between him and me. He was rich – with a Mercedes and Volvo. He had a nice long coat, and looked like he was doing fine financially. I was not rich – money-wise. I was a single mother – struggling. And yet, I was calm while he was frantic. This was only because of my testimony of the gospel, and because of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

***

Elder Nelson, in this Mormon Message says, “Men’s hearts shall fail them because they forget their identitiy and purpose.” – How interesting.

1. The Lord strengthens and supports us.
2. The way that the Lord strengthens us is by teaching us our identity and purpose.

I have found that as I get closer to the Lord, he strengthens my confidence. This is not some kind of falsified conceit. It isn’t temporary self-esteem, either. But when we go to the Lord, we gain a sense of who we are – His beloved Children. We recognize our nothingness, yet feel the love of His mercy reaching down to help us in whatever we need. As we overcome our weakness, we gain confidence – in ourselves and in the power of the atonement. I know that, in and of myself, I’m powerless. However, I know that in weak things I’m made strong – because of My Savior. We need to understand our identity to keep our hearts from failing us. This scripture illustrates the connection between strength of heart and confidence:

” 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” – 1 John 3:21

Through the gospel: understanding it and keeping the commandments, we can come closer to our Savior. He will give us confidence, a knowledge of our identities and purpose, and, when we face troubling times, our hearts will not fail us.

Joy and Thanksgiving – Miracles of Christ and Gratitude

Today, we’re reading an actual story from the scriptures! That’s right – this isn’t some kind of list, allegory, or other literary element, but it is the story.

Today’s story is the story of Christ healing the ten lepers.

“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” – Luke 17:11-13

I am struck by the fact that the lepers could recognize the Savior from afar off. Yet there were so many who would interact with the Savior and not recognize His divinity.

I wonder, do I recognize him from “afar off” or am I blind to Him even with so much Spiritual interaction?

Even though this story doesn’t bring up gratitude yet, recognizing the Savior from “afar off” can be accomplished through humility and gratitude. When I really think about it, I can see the Savior in everything…especially if I’m taking the time to be grateful.

I can see the Savior "afar off" when I look at the world around me.

I can see the Savior "afar off" when I recognize the family and blessings I have around me.

The Savior doesn't seem "afar off" when I really think about it.

“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” – Luke 17:14

I find this response made by the Savior to the Lepers really interesting. He doesn’t really go up to them. He doesn’t heal them by touching them. Instead, he tells them to go to the priests. On the way, they are healed.

Imagine being one of the lepers in this situation. I wonder what kind of miracle they were expecting. If they could recognize the Savior, maybe they had heard about the miracles he had performed. Were they expecting more than instructions to go elsewhere?

I’m not sure what they were expecting, but when I think about this idea, I think of how, when I’ve seen the Lord from “afar off”, and asked for a blessing, often, I kind of have in my mind how I want the miracle to happen. Sometimes, I even question the instructions I receive from the Lord, or the way that He chooses to bring about my blessing.

Here, we see that the Savior chose to bless them “from afar” off – as they went to the priests.

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.” – Luke 17:15-16

This is the most famous part of the whole story – only one of the Lepers turns back to thank the Savior for the miracle that just occurred.

We always assume that he was the only one grateful.

It is a little more than that, though. I think that the point is – he was the only one to express His gratitude and recognize that it was the Savior who healed him.

Maybe the others were “grateful” internally. I’m sure that the others rejoiced. Who knows, maybe they said some great things about Jesus to their friends and others. It is easy to imagine that this would be so – lepers were outcasts, and people weren’t healed from leprosy on a regular basis. There would undoubtably be some kind of celebration made by the other lepers. But – the thing is – they never took the time to celebrate with the Savior. They didn’t stop, turn around, thank him, and fall down at his feet – overcome with humility and thanks.

I have to admit that I often let the blessings I receive from the Lord go without recognition of my gratitude. I am grateful for the blessings I have; I want them. They make my life better. But I get self-centered and forget to fall at His feet, weeping with thanks.

“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” – Luke 17:17-19

Finally, the Savior’s response – “Were there not ten cleansed?”…Man, I feel so sorry at this point. How is it that we forget so quickly the power and mercy of the Savior?

This response teaches us of the spiritual implications of gratitude. Having gratitude is more than just saying “Thanks.” Here, we see that we need to give glory to God. Gratitude is an act of humility and faith. It is a form of worship.

Because of this gratitude – this spiritual conviction, the Savior healed the Leper not only physically, but made him spiritually whole. This is the kind of gratitude I need to cultivate.

What are your thoughts?
***
For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.

I’m so Lucky, It Makes Me Sick

There are times when I get a little overwhelmed. As I sit and wonder what on earth it is that overwhelms me, I think it boils down to
Expectataions

Whether these expectations are self-imposed, or they are expectations that other people have of me, I start to feel burdened and even overwhelmed by them.

There is nothing I can really change about how other people act or treat me, but I can change how I choose to react. Not only that, I can change how I choose to view my world. Both Sasquatch and T-Rex are sleeping right now. Part of me thinks I should be working out. Yet, I know that there won’t be many more 70 degree days this year. So, I’m sitting on my hammock. Life doesn’t really get better than this…

My Backyard...I'm Jealous of Me

There are a lot of things that I still need to do today. I haven’t exercised, there are dishes that need to be done. I have to prepare for mutual. I have other things on my mind, too. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the weather, sit back for a second, and show my gratitude for the beauty of my life by experiencing it rather than busy-ing myself to death.

(Don’t you think that I’ll end this post without a scriptural tie-in)…

Sometimes, I feel like I have to justify my desire to sit down and experience the beauty of Christ’s gifts. I mean, I really do feel a little guilty for sitting on the hammock right now. I’m not one of those women who needs to feel “babied.” I like working hard. I know that there is much for me to do. I don’t like to complain, and I don’t consider myself to be a woman who always feels like I need “me” time…All of that being said, there are times when I tend to forget “that good part.”

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that [Jesus] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

There are times when I am “careful and troubled about many things:”. I begin to fret, complain, and sometimes even murmur. I am sometimes tempted to think that things would be better if I didn’t have so many obligations and duties. Instead of learning to balance them out, I just keep piling them on, until like Martha, I want to whine and request for help. (Now, don’t get me wrong, here. I really like Martha. She’s pretty amazing. But I think there were times when she got caught up in her expectations.)

Christ’s tender response was not that she should continue to work harder, but that, perhaps, not everything that she busied herself was needful. It may have been nice, but not necessary – even if it is was to serve the Savior.

Do you do that? I totally DO! Being “cumbered about much, serving” can seem pretty awesome, and often, it is. But there’s a point – when the frenzy is just that: frenzy. And instead of receiving spiritual nourishment from sacrifice and service, we become tired and maybe even resentful.

So…today, I’m choosing “that good part.” I will choose to identify beauty around me, and love every second of it. I’m going to sit on a hammock, read my scriptures, maybe even snooze. And in about 30 minutes, I’ll be back “on” kids will be home, but I think I’ll feel ready to tackle the rest of the day.

This Holiday season, I’ll choose “that good part”. Of course I’ll cook and wrap presents. But maybe I’ll scale a few things back so that I can actually sit and read a story with my kids, or make a Christmas craft, or even just sit and listen to Handel’s Messiah.

And, above all, instead of following the expectations that have been placed on me, I’ll follow the Spirit.
What do you do to remember “that good part?” I recognize that the title of this blog is “that good part.” Can you tell I have a problem with this sometimes?

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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