We are Children of God

I was assigned to give a talk today in church. I feel like it went well enough. In my opinion, we always learn more from the process of preparing a talk than anyone who hears it. However, if you are interested in what I said in church today, read on…

As you can guess, I received a call from the Bishop, and he asked me to speak in church. When I informed my family of my assignment, they inquired, “What are you supposed to speak on?”

I answered, “Just my thoughts or something inspired from the talks in General Conference. I’m not sure what I’ll speak on yet.”

My seven-year old daughter leapt up and said, “I know!” She got a piece of paper and went to the table. About ten minutes later, she produced this:

Isn't the cutest thing? She actually wrote a talk for me!

Isn’t the cutest thing? She actually wrote a talk for me!

I felt that my daughter made a good thesis that I will expand on:

We will live with our Father in Heaven again.

From this statement, which could have been written by any of the seven year old, the following points are implied:

    1. We have a Father in Heaven
    2. Our lives have an eternal potential
      • Which Heavenly Father has made possible for each of us.

We Have a Father in Heaven; We Are Children of God

In the book of Moses, we have a detailed account of Mosess’ experience speaking with God face-to-face on a high mountain.

We read:

“And he saw God face to face, and talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.” – Moses 1:2

So – Moses was on a high mountain, speaking to God – a being so glorious and powerful that Moses wasn’t able to endure God’s presence without holy intervention. God had to bestow some of His glory on Moses for Moses to handle His presence!

The Lord then made a declaration about Himself – that He is the Lord, God Almighty – and then asked Moses a question:

“And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” – Moses 1:3

An interesting question. And let’s think about it for a second.

Some people come to this earth and have very short lives. My brother was born on October 28, 1992, and only 18 years later, he passed away on June 11, 2011. Like every inhabitant on this earth, his days were numbered.

Others live long lives. My grandmother was born on October 27, 1929 and she passed away on October 9, 2015. She lived a good 85, nearly 86 years, but this is, by no means endless. Like all who lived before her or after, her days had a beginning and an end.

Moses, who lived in anciently was acquainted with this pattern we all know – people are born, they live, and then they die. And yet he was speaking face to face with a glorious being that was also endless.

Immediately after asking this question, as Moses is bathed in God’s glory just to be able to endure His presence, the Lord then says to Moses:

“And, behold, thou art my son; …” – Moses 1:4

Now imagine Moses – who had not been raised by his own parents, but had been raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter knowing that he was not her biological child. We know that Moses’s mother was able to help nurse him as a small child, but I don’t know that Moses had any relationship afterward with his biological parents. He was raised as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter.

By the time Moses had this experience with God, he was in the desert – having been banished by the people who had raised him; having been rejected by the ones who might have been closest to resembling a father and a mother.

And then, there, face-to-face, transfigured by the power of God to endure His presence, Moses learned of his divine identity. He is a son of God.

***

One summer night, when I was about 12 years old, I was sleeping outside, in the yard, in a tent. I’m not sure if it was the darkness of night or for some other reason, but I was feeling lonely. I was at my dad’s house. Now, I’m the only child of my dad’s that’s not biologically his. Sometimes this fact troubled me. That night, I lay there in the tent, under my “California Raisin” sleeping bag, and I couldn’t fall asleep. Confused and sad, trying to understand my identity and place in my family, I looked up to the sky, and then I saw lightning.

I am a classic fraidey-cat, and when I was 12, I was especially scared of dark, ominous situations like these. I saw the lightning, and counted for thunder. It never came. However, I kept thinking, “I need to get up and get in the house.” The yard was dark and scary, and my sleeping bag was safe-ish and warm. I was too scared to move, let alone leave the tent.

The thought came to say a prayer.

I said a prayer, and I was overwhelmed with love. The threat of a storm wasn’t in my mind. In fact, the prayer that was answered had less to do with my fear of the lightning, and more about how I was feeling before-hand. In that moment, I felt God’s love, and I knew that I was a Daughter of God. Though I couldn’t pinpoint my biological identity, it didn’t matter because at that moment, I knew that I was a daughter of God.

I wish I could impart the comfort this knowledge gave me. I can’t adequately describe the deep peace that such a witness gives. All I can say is that I know I’m a daughter of God. I know He loves me, and that He knows me, personally.

It doesn’t end with Moses nor does it end with me. We are all children of God.

Imagine if we all really understood this simple truth.

In his conference talk, Elder Hallstrom stated:

“In today’s world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God. Knowing that will allow our faith to flourish, will motivate our continual repentance, and will provide the strength to be steadfast and immovable throughout our mortal journey.” – Elder Donald A. Hallstrom

Our Lives Have an Eternal Potential

When we come to realize that we are children of God, then we then start to glimpse other truths: our lives didn’t begin the day we were born, but we had a spiritual existence with God before coming to Earth. Additionally, after we die, our spirits will live on.

Heavenly Father, speaking face-to-face with Moses taught:

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

It is important to understand that God’s work is not only a spiritual work. His work is that both our bodies and spirits will be immortal. His glory is that we will be able to live with Him again.

We often hear about the promise of Elijah as recorded in Malachi – that Elijah “shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,…” (Malachi 4:6). I have always thought of this within the context of our earthly families – both immediate and extended. I’ve thought of my heart being turned to my ancestors and their hearts turned to me. I’ve thought of my heart being turned toward my children and posterity, and their hearts turned back to me.

I hate to admit that I’ve never considered that this promise applies also to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father’s heart is continually turned toward each of us. In fact, it is turned towards each of us so much so that His entire purpose: His work – and His glory is our immortality and eternal life. For Him, it is all about us.

Eternal Life is Possible Through Christ

After telling Moses His work and His Glory, the Lord taught Moses about the creation and the fall of Adam.

If you think about it, this line of teaching is kind of puzzling. Our Heavenly Father’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, so He works for our eternal life. To expand on this teaching, the Lord tells Moses that He created a world. He created our first parents. He placed them in the Garden of Eden, and then He allowed them to be…tempted?…And they fell?…They became susceptible to death?…They were cut off from God? How is death – both spiritual and physical – a fulfillment of God’s work and glory?

Lehi explains:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.”

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.”

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:22-25

The fall was a necessary part of our immortality and eternal life. Without the fall, we wouldn’t be here right now. When the Lord allowed Adam and Eve to fall, His heart was turned toward them and us. It most likely pained our Father to have his crowning creations, His son and daughter, cut off from Him. But His heart was turned toward Adam and Eve – even as they were banished from the Garden of Eden and His presence.

Heavenly Father, with His heart turned toward Adam, Eve, and all of us, knew that we, because of the fall, were susceptible to death and hell – the antithesis of immortality and eternal life. So, He prepared a solution.

Lehi continues:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall…” – 2 Nephi 2:26

Likewise, we learn in the gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

We are children of God and capable of living with God eternally through the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Paul teaches:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;…” – Romans 8:16-17

What a heritage and what a future! This knowledge – that we are children of God and capable of eternal life – empowers us.

We can look back again to Moses’s experience. The account of the Lord speaking to Moses face-to-face in Moses 1 happened on the mountain of the Lord, before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. I can’t imagine Moses having the strength or faith to complete His divine mission without such knowledge.

He had to lead a people that were his by blood but not necessarily by experience. He had to go back to the Pharaoh, where he had been raised, and fight for those whom his adoptive people had oppressed for so long. Then he had to lead the children of Israel away from a powerful Egyptian force, and through a sea! Oh – all of this while Moses had a speaking problem!

If you look at Moses’s story without a spiritual perspective, all of the odds are against Him. Yet he was enabled to complete his work because of one simple fact taught to Him by God. As Moses himself stated:

“For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten;” – Moses 1:13

This knowledge helped Moses fend off the temptations of the Devil, it helped Moses as he bargained with the Pharaoh, it helped him deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt, it helped him cross the Red Sea on dry ground, and more.

When we know our spiritual identity – that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, we, like Moses, are empowered and enabled to do great work in our lives. This knowledge can give us identity, peace, and purpose. It will strengthen us during our own trials. It will propel us to do what we were sent here to do.

If we all had the simple knowledge that we are beloved children of God – well, it would change the world.

We are children of God with the potential to live an eternal life through the love of God and the eternal sacrifice of His Son. Our little primary children know this. And we can know this. We can internalize this truth, and we can experience the power that comes from knowing He is our Father and that He loves us.

How have you come to know that you are a child of God and that He loves you? How might you strengthen your relationship with God and your knowledge that you are one of his beloved children?

The Patterns of the Creation: the Plan of Salvation and Personal Application

Click here for today’s assignment.

The Creation of the Earth, by Wenzel Hollar (click image for source).

The next part of our study on The Plan of Salvation is the creation. Before we could be sent to this earth, it needed to be created!

The creation story is amazing. You can study it for a lifetime and still learn something new. Many people are also pretty familiar with the basics of the creation, so I will not go into them here. Instead, I will just share a few things that stuck out to me – especially when thinking about the Creation in conjunction with the Plan of Salvation.

Patterns taught in the Creation Story
Planning and Execution
The Pattern: When it came to the creation, Heavenly Father didn’t create the Earth on a whim. He took time to carefully plan. In Moses, we learn:

“…For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…” – Moses 3:5

The Plan of Salvation: I think that we can learn that how the Lord handled the Creation is also how the Lord handled the Plan of Salvation. It was carefully considered before it was put into action. We can trust in the Lord and in His plan.

Personal Application: We can learn from the pattern of the Lord’s in planning our lives spiritually before physical execution. We can take time to counsel (in our callings or with our families) and discuss what will happen in the future. We can prepare our lives in such a way that we live deliberately. Obviously, we can’t plan every single event or situation in our lives – as there is much that happens that is out of our control. But I think that the point here, that I learn with the creation, is that I can live more deliberately and plan before I create.

Additionally, I think that we can apply this pattern to other things that we learn in the gospel. For example, in this very context – of the creation the earth. After creating the Earth and man, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. In Moses 3:15, it explains a reason why:

“And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” – Moses 3:15

When pondering this point – why did Heavenly Father put Adam in the Garden of Eden, it is helpful to approach it, and any question, knowing that everything that Heavenly Father does is carefully planned. Everything He does has a purpose. Knowing that the Lord works in this way helps us to trust Him.

Evaluation
The Pattern: Not only did God plan and then physically create the world, but he also evaluated what he did. And he evaluated fairly. After each creative period, the lord looked over what he had done, and after each creative period he saw that what he had done was good.

The Plan of Salvation: As far as this pattern applies to the Plan of Salvation, I think that, again, knowing that Heavenly Father operates this way will help us to trust in His plan. Good comes from God. If we want to experience good in our lives, then we can look to the source of all good: Heavenly Father.

Personal Application: Again, this is a pattern that can be followed. It helps to evaluate what we do, and it is also okay to recognize that the work we do is good. Heavenly Father did not gloat. He also didn’t put on an air of false humility. He simply recognized His creation for what it was: good.

This reminds me of a scripture in Proverbs:

“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good:…” – Proverbs 31:18

This scripture is about the virtuous woman. I love that she perceives that her merchandise is good. God does the same thing! Often, I find that I berate and belittle my best efforts. Sometimes it is because I don’t understand my worth or offering. Other times, I wonder if I do it under the pretense of humility. Either way, I’m not following the god-like pattern of evaluating fairly.

Marriage
The Pattern: Adam and Eve were married. Marriage, family is not a social construct.

“And Adam said: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” – Moses 3:23-25

The Plan of Salvation: Though salvation is a personal and individual experience, a crucial part of our eternal happiness will be experienced in our family relationships. We cannot ignore the importance of marriage and family.

Personal Application: I feel like this has a few applications. One – Marriage is divinely instituted, and worth every effort. We need to cleave unto one another. Two – as a woman, this is especially interesting to me. Some people feel like women are treated as “second-class” beings in the Mormon church. I do not believe this is true. I haven’t felt this in the church. While I may not hold the priesthood, I know that I am still of great worth.

Woman wasn’t created to be man’s slave. She was created as an equal. She was created of Adam’s own flesh. They are supposed to be one. This implies love, interdependence, and equality. It doesn’t necessarily mean each person has the same duties/roles, but it does mean that we, both men and woman, are important. The pattern set forth in the Creation – how God created woman, and placed both Adam and Eve in a marriage – can teach us our true worth and role as women.

*

There are so many more things that the Creation teaches us. Through the creation, we can feel more of God’s love and recognize His infinite power. What are some of the things that you learn – about your life, about the Plan of Salvation, or about God as you study the Creation?

***
Click here for tomorrow’s assignment.

Satan and the Plan of Salvation

Click here for today’s assignment

It may seem strange, but understanding Satan, and the role he plays in the Plan of Salvation is very helpful as we navigate our own lives. Additionally, Satan is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in Mormonism. Hopefully this scripture study assignment and post will help clear things up for people.

One of the most helpful scriptures that teaches us about Satan, and how he became the devil, is in Moses:

“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” – Moses 4:1

Satan was there in the beginning
Here we learn that like ourselves, Satan’s spirit has existed since the beginning. God created his spirit. I think that it is important to note, however, that God didn’t create Satan to be wicked. Satan expressed his own agency. Satan rebelled. In fact, it is understood that when Satan was still numbered in God’s kingdom (before his rebellion and banishment), he wasn’t yet Satan. He was an angel – Lucifer. (See Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 12:7-9).

Satan seeks power
Satan knew the plan that God had set forth. He knew the plan of salvation: that all of God’s spirit children would be sent to earth in families. He knew that we would be bound by the effects of the fall, and would need a redeemer. Satan also knew that Heavenly Father would send a Savior that would offer mercy, but only based on our decision to choose to repent and receive redemption. Satan knew and understood God’s plan.

In fact, in the doctrine and covenants we learn:

“And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:25

This scripture teaches us that, not only was Satan a spirit of God’s, but that he had some kind of authority. His rebellion was intentional. It was not based on some kind of misunderstanding.

Back to the scripture in Moses

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

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;” – Moses 4:2-3

Satan came in opposition to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ was the firstborn of Heavenly Father, and was the Spirit chosen to fulfill the role of Savior of the world. He was Chosen from the beginning, and he sought only to do what the Father would. Satan not only opposed Heavenly Father, but he opposed Jesus – who had already been chosen to fulfill the role as Redeemer.

Satan is Cast Down
Heavenly Father cast Satan out of Heaven – this wasn’t arbitrary. Satan’s banishment was a consequence of the following actions:

  1. Satan Rebelled Against God – We have been discussing this point throughout the blog.
  2. Satan sought to destroy the agency of man – Agency is the ability for us to choose. We will learn more about this when we study the fall of Adam, but agency has been a right that God has granted to us since the beginning. We can make our own choices – even if they go against God’s will. Coercion and force has never been a part of God’s plan. Satan knew this, yet he didn’t want us to have agency. He wanted our only power. And, interestingly enough, Satan used his agency to rebel against God – hoping to take our agency.

    I’m not sure if I’m making sense, but I think it is kind of funny – Satan expects to be able to have agency, but doesn’t want to grant this ability to anyone else. Hypocrite!

  3. Satan wanted God’s power – In this sense, I find Satan to be the most amazingly proud, and nearly idiotic, Spirit ever to exist. Why did he think that he should have all of God’s honor, glory, or power? Satan was greedy. He wanted our power. He wanted God’s power. Yikes!

Back to Moses…

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

Satan started and lost a war in Heaven
As a part of his rebellion, Satan convinced about 1/3 of God’s other spirit children in heaven to take a stand against Heavenly Father. Satan started a war in heaven. (See Revelation 12:7-9.)

“War in Heaven,” by FriaLove. Click image for source.

This war was fought with testimonies and ideas – with Christ at the helm. And, obviously, Satan lost. He, and the other hosts who rebelled against God, were cast out of heaven: without the opportunity to ever come to earth or participate in the plan of salvation. They were cast out of God’s presence: into eternal misery.

Lucifer (Satan) becomes Satan
When this Spirit, Lucifer, was cast down, he then became Satan: the devil, the father of all lies. We need to recognize that he isn’t a good guy. We know that he started a war in Heaven, and, the thing is, he hasn’t stopped warring.

“Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:29

Satan continues to make war with us. He also still has the three same motives: to rebel against God, to take away our agency, and to usurp God’s power. He tries to accomplish this through temptation. He lies to us. He tries to trick us into sin which leads to captivity and misery. Not surprisingly, when we give in to the temptations of Satan, we lose a measure of our agency – and we hand it over to him. Satan is still this boldly proud and incredibly wicked being. He hasn’t changed. He still wars against God, Christ, and all of Zion.

Understanding Satan – his origin and his motive – helps us to understand more about the Plan of Salvation. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This test is a real test, with real adversity and real consequences. Satan is powerful and relatively good at what he does. However, we can remember that the same power that overcame Satan in the Heavens will overcome Him here: faith and testimony in the power of Christ.

What can you do to continue to strengthen your faith and testimony in the Savior, and ultimately overcome the influence of Satan in your life?

***

Click here for tomorrow’s assignment.

Are Mormons Christians?

I have heard the question Are Mormons Christians asked more than once. And every time, I give the answer Yes!

Mormons are Christian.

Sometimes, I wonder the root of the confusion. So, here are a few facts that should help anyone understand the relationship Mormons have with Christ.

Jesus Christ – photo by AllAboutMormons. Click image for source.

One
The official name of the church is: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that this is His church.

Two
We believe in God, the eternal father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. (See Articles of Faith 1:1.)

This is the first thing anyone should know about Mormons. We believe in God, and we believe in Jesus Christ – His only begotten son.

Three
Not only do we believe in Jesus Christ, but we believe that He is our Savior. We believe that He has atoned for our sins, and has made it possible for us to overcome death and hell.

We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (See Articles of Faith 1:3.)

***
I could give all sorts of examples that show how we believe in Christ, but I want to only include one more scripture plus my own testimony:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – 2 Nephi 25:26

I have been blessed, throughout my life, to have faith in Christ. When I was younger, I don’t really know what motivated my faith. In some ways, it seems like I was born with this faith. It was simple, and brought me peace as a child and young adolescent.

But unexplainable faith only lasts a short time, then it needs to be strengthened. It needs to be tested. My faith in Christ was tested as a youth. I was grateful to have it tested. I wanted to have more than a miraculous faith in Christ. I wanted to have an abiding, deep faith in Christ, that would ultimately become true knowledge.

I have come to know the Savior more over the years. I have searched for Him in the scriptures. I have also done what I can to keep my covenants with the faith that obedience will be rewarded with increased testimony. It has – my mind has been enlightened and my heart has been filled. I can’t accurately describe what I have felt, but I am confident that if you want to know your Savior, you can also experience a spiritual manifestation of His existence and His role as the Messiah.

One of the strongest testimonies I have, in regards to Jesus Christ, is that He loves us. Not only have I felt His love – through blessings and feelings. But I have also felt the love that He has for others.

A few days ago, I was in the hospital (for a hysterectomy). As I was going through recovery, the shifts for nurses changed, and I had a new nurse – Sara. She was efficient and business-like. In fact, she almost seemed cold. She wasn’t a bad nurse, but everything was just quick and to the point. It didn’t really bother me one way or another.

About an hour into her shift, she had to take me for a walk. Now, as I mentioned, I had just had a hysterectomy. Walking is important in recovery, but, as you can imagine, I wasn’t going anywhere fast. We walked, slowly, down the hall. I was feeling a little uncomfortable, and had the thought that I should ask her a question.

My nurse had an obvious accent, so it was an easy conversation starter. I asked her where she was from. And she answered: “Yugoslavia.” I have never known anyone from Yugoslavia. I told her this. And I began to ask her more questions. When did she come to the U.S? Why? She explained that she had been displaced because of the war, and she lived with her family in Germany for years first. When the war was over, she had no place to return, so she an her family moved to Phoenix.

I told her, it must be hard – to be so far from her home. She agreed. Then I asked how she had liked living in the U.S. She explained that it had been good up until this last year – her husband died five months ago.

When she said this, my heart filled with compassion for this woman. I took her hand, and said, I’m sorry. She tried to stay strong, and only looked at me. We both started crying. Laughing she said, “Oh! I didn’t mean to make you cry! I’m sorry.” I assured her that it was okay. It was a sad thing, and that I wanted to hug her. I was glad that she had told me, and She shouldn’t apologize.

She seemed relieved when I said this.

The rest of the evening went well. We talked a lot. She was warm and kind. But the thing that made me stop in my tracks was the realization that I had as we shared that first small cry: Jesus Christ (and Heavenly Father) love her so much. She is a beloved spiritual daughter. I felt compassion – not because I am some kind of loving or Christ-like person. I felt the compassion that the Savior has for her. I felt like a conduit of His love. I knew that Christ loves her and wants to bless her, and that I – through listening, crying, and loving her, was helping the Savior express the Love He has for her.

I was overwhelmed by this feeling – of the Savior’s love for this little Yugoslavian woman. I prayed for her (in my heart) immediately. I wanted to be a blessing to her. I also became cognizant of the fact that – not only does the Savior love Sara, but He loves everyone. He Loves me. I was reminded of the compassion that He has had for all of us – even to the point where He sacrificed His own comfort and even life, so that He could succor us and save us. I was reminded, while in the hall of the hospital, smiling and comforting Sara – that Jesus Christ knows each of us personally. Nothing happens in our lives that He’s not aware of. He wants us to make time for Him. He wants to bless each of us. He wants us to be happy.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know that He Lives. I know that everything that He has ever done or will do is for our sake. He is perfectly selfless. He will bless us with the best blessings, and he delights in doing so. I know that Jesus will bless us through one another or other mysterious ways. I know that we can become more aware of His love for us as we come to Him in prayer, in the scriptures, and through Service.

Do you know that Jesus Christ is your Savior? Have you felt His love? How have you felt it?

Do you have more questions for Mormons? If so, you can read more of the Mormon FAQ’s on my blog. You can also find out more about what Mormons think of Jesus Christ here. You can find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints here.

FHE – The 13th Article of Faith

Last night, I taught a lesson on the 13th Article of Faith. We watched videos, talked about some of the words in the 13th article of faith, then we played a game. Well, it was a scavenger hunt.

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” – Articles of Faith 1:13

Each person in our family was assigned to seek and then find something that was either virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.

Panda found something lovely…

Panda found a paper flower that she made – it was lovely.

I found something virtuous – my wedding ring.

Tiger found a book that was of good report.

And Dad found a small praiseworthy sculpture.

Dad’s find.

The kids had fun “scavenging” for these good things. We closed our FHE by talking about the unique thing of the thirteenth article of faith: it teaches us what kind of saints we should be. The rest of the articles of faith teach about our faith – principles and tenets we believe in, but the thirteenth article of faith is all about what we believe we should be doing.

What did you do for FHE?

Check out another FHE experience here.

Easter Study – The Olivet Discourse

For the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.

After Jesus teaches the Pharisees at the temple, He goes with His apostles to the Mount of Olives. They are wondering what He means by the destruction of the temple, the destruction of the Jews, His coming, and the end of the world.

Olivet Discourse

I’m not a bible scholar, so I don’t understand everything that the apostles know or understand, but it seems to me that they are still having a hard time grasping the fact that He will be dying a few days later; that His life with them was His coming to the earth where He would overcome sin and death through the atonement and resurrection, but that it wouldn’t be the end of the world or righteousness. That would happen later.

I have a feeling that they were aware of some of the prophecies, but it is important to remember that Christ – dying and then being resurrected – was unprecedented. I can’t see why they would understand it perfectly.

Signs of Christ’s Coming
Throughout Matthew 24 (or Joseph Smith—Matthew) the Lord gives various signs of what the world will be like before and when He comes.

One of them sticks out to me. He talks a lot about being deceived:

“…Take heed that no man deceive you;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5

“For many shall come in my name, saying—I am Christ—and shall deceive many;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:6

“And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many;” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:9

“For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22

The part of the warning that really stands out to me is the idea of being deceived. Have you ever been lied to? I have. Sometimes the lies are little – no big deal. Other times, they are big and I end up believing…There are lies that I’ve believed for years. So, when I see this warning: not to be deceived, I feel a little puzzled at first. How?

Jesus tells us the answer:

“And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived,…” – Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37

We need to treasure the word of God. Not only that, but we need to be sure that when we do treasure up His word, we let it infuse our lives with the Spirit. It is through the Holy Ghost that we will know truth. We can also rest assured that the Holy Ghost will not testify to something meant to deceive us because the Holy Ghost cannot bear false witness. So…in order to have the Holy Ghost in our lives, we need to treasure the word of God: learn it, know it, and live it.

Jesus reiterates the nature of His second coming by relating the parables of the fig tree, the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats.

I’m not going to reiterate these parables here, but I will say that you should check out this post about the ten virgins.

In parables of the virgins, the talents, and the sheep and the goats, there are examples of people who were prepared for the coming of the Lord and those who weren’t prepared for it. None of the people knew when their master would return. They just knew that one day the bridegroom would come, there would be a reckoning of talents, or the sheep would be divided from the goats. Those who were prepared for the coming of the Lord had done work in one way or another. They were wise. They may not have had as much fun, but they were ready when it mattered. None of them were deceived.

As Easter nears, I hope to do a better job remembering that not only did Christ live, die, and then live again for me, but that He will return. The time before His return will be trying. Many people will try to deceive (and may even accomplish this) the very elect. I don’t want to be deceived. I want to keep my eye on the Savior – the Word, and let His Spirit infuse my life, so that I will understand, recognize, and rejoice in truth and be ready when He comes again.

***

Charity Seeketh not Her Own

So…I feel like today’s subject really relates to what we have been studying the past few days (envieth not and is not puffed up), but it is valuable to study each of them in a different light. Today’s study has been no less valuable.

Charity seeketh not her own. In other words, charity is not selfish. I feel like it is probably more than that, too. Charity seeks for others. When pondering this subject, the first thing I thought of was the following scripture:

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Not only does charity not seek her own, but there is a great reward in seeking the Lord’s way – When we seek the Lord, we will find ourselves. It seems counterintuitive, but it is true.

This is especially obvious when you compare the stories of Cain and Nephi.

Cain

  • Cain loved Satan more. (Moses 5:18)
  • Cain was offended when God didn’t respect his offering. (Moses 5:21)
  • Cain is loved enough by God to be warned. (Moses 5:23-25)
  • Cain was angry at his warning, and didn’t listen to the Lord. (Moses 5:26)
  • Cain makes an oath with Satan – secret combination. (Moses 5:29-30)
  • Cain is motivated by power. (Moses 5:31)
  • Cain kills Abel. (Moses 5:32)

    Cain and Abel, by Titian

  • After Cain kills Abel, he thinks that he is free.

    “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.” – Moses 5:33

    I think that this response is really telling. Cain thinks that he can gain freedom through hurting others. He is seeking his own welfare, power, and glory. He is so overly concerned with himself that he is even willing murder. His selfishness destroys him and any sense of decency that he may have had.

  • Cain lies to God and asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” (Moses 5:34) – This seems to be a peak in his selfishness. I can’t even comment on it – other than Wow…Yet…I can’t act like I’m all that much better. I need to learn what not to do from Cain. In some ways, there are times when I essentially ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” I think that this happens when I’m not looking out for what is good for others. When I’m only looking out for myself, then I’m not being my brother’s keeper. It is tempting to do this.

    As I ponder what this means, I realize that it doesn’t mean that I do every single thing for others. This is impossible and impractical. It is not good for me and it doesn’t really help others. If I’m being my brother’s keeper, then I will be praying often – to the Lord – and looking outward. I would serve. And I would be interested in the lives of my brothers and sisters. We can learn a lot from Cain.

  • Cain is cursed. He doesn’t inherit Abel’s fields. Instead, he becomes a fugitive and a vagabond, unable to yield from the earth. (Moses 5:35-38)

In the example of Cain, we see the truth in the Lord’s declaration that “He that findeth his life shall lose it;.” Because Cain went about looking for his life through shortcuts and sin, he eventually lost it. It’s funny that when we are “seeking our own” that is the last thing we’ll ever find.

Luckily, we have a good example, too. (There are a lot of them, actually).

Nephi
(see Helaman 10:4-5)

  • Nephi is blessed.
  • Nephi, with unwearyingness declared the word. (I get tired just by reading the word unwearyingness!)
  • Nephi didn’t fear others.
  • Nephi didn’t seek his own life.
  • Nephi sought the will of God. – This is hard! In the end, we see that it is the best thing to do, but we don’t experience that kind of satisfaction, really, until the end! In the meantime, seeking the will of God is kind of hard. We have to forgo natural desires and the reasoning of the world. We have to exercise faith. Yet, seeking God’s doesn’t seem all that hard when we actually do it. He blesses us all along the way. He comforts us and strengthens us to keep the commandments. We just have to seek Him and not our own.
  • Nephi strove to keep God’s commandments.
  • Nephi will be blessed forever.
  • Nephi is made mighty in word and deed.
  • Nephi is given God’s power – to do anything. God knows that Nephi won’t ask anything contrary to God’s will. God completely trusts Nephi. – I think that this is basically one of the awesomest things ever. God loves us enough to endow us with His power. But he won’t give it to us if we aren’t ready for it. He is a perfect parent. I can understand him, too. I mean, I am a parent, and I would like to see my children be able to do all that I do – if not more. However, I know that I won’t give them many freedoms or blessings until they are ready for them. This isn’t because I’m power-hungry. It is because I don’t want them to hurt themselves.

    Heavenly Father is the same way. When we have been trained correctly, we will be able to have power like His. Just as Nephi did. Elijah also had this power – the sealing power. Nephi gave up his life and will to the Lord, and eventually foudn it.

Charity seeketh not her own. When we try to do things our own way, we will come up with hardship and failure. However, if we put our trust in the Lord, and seek His will, then He sustains us with His power and we are able to obtain charity. It is powerful to know that Charity never fails. And it is even more remarkable to see that God’s power is completely rooted in Charity: selflessness, and love.

I want to seek God’s will. I’m trying to be better at this. Currently, I’m actively praying to do His will, even though I don’t always follow through on it. I’m still pretty selfish. I have a lot of room for improvement, but I want to be selfless one day. I look up to examples like President Monson. I know that through prayer and practice, I can one day be a person who isn’t just looking out for myself. I really want that for my life.

What do you do to seek God’s will and increase in Charity?

Joy and Thanksgiving: List – Happiness and the Priesthood

Okay…can I start by saying that I really loved this scripture assignment. I just love the scriptures. I just love learning, and I really like the things that I learned today.

” 2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” – Abraham 1:2

So, first of all, Abraham realizes that he can enjoy more happiness, peace, and rest than what he had been experiencing. So, he decided to look for the blessings of the Fathers – as he knew that these blessings were the source of happiness, peace and rest. The blessings of the Fathers = The priesthood.

I would have to think that he had experienced some happiness, peace, and joy, and he wanted more. I can relate to this. When I was a youth, I had the opportunity to participate in Girls’ camp. Girls’ camp was always one of the most spiritual experiences I had back then. I loved the way that the Spirit felt. I wanted it in my life. Over the years, I started to get it – God was the source of the joy I felt in nature with the other young women. God was the source of peace I felt, and I could go to Him to feel more of it. I didn’t have to wait until girl’s camp to feel His blessings.

I know that Abraham never went to Girls’ camp, but I like to think that he had experienced “small” spiritual experiences, and realized that he’d like to have more of it in his life. He was ready to make covenants with the Lord. He was ready for the Priesthood.

It’s also interesting to me to think that the Priesthood has to do with happiness, peace, and rest. Of course, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the Priesthood has everything to do with happiness peace and rest. God lives in a state of happiness. We cannot participate in this happiness without covenanting with Him. And we need the Priesthood in order to do so.

So…Abraham lists his desires; and these desires can be fulfilled through the power of the priesthood. They will contribute to his peace, happiness and rest.

How I've marked this list in my scriptures.

Abraham’s Desires

  1. Possess great knowledge – Abraham knew that the source of all knowledge was God, and through the priesthood, we could be connected with God and blessed with more knowledge. When we really take time to think about it, this fact is obvious.
    • The Gift of the Holy Ghost –

      “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Moroni 10:5

      The power of the Holy Ghost teaches us truth. In enlightens our minds and brings all things to our remembrance. The gift of the Holy Ghost is a priesthood ordinance. It enables us to have the power of the Holy Ghost with us all the time.

    • The Temple – Through regular temple attendance, we infuse our lives with the Lord and His spirit. We learn more about the gospel there: Christ’s role, our dependance on Him, and how to return to Him. We can go to the temple for all kinds of divine guidance. And the temple has been brought to us by the power of the priesthood!

    Our knowledge increases with the power of the priesthood. And, as we learned earlier, knowledge is necessary in experiencing joy.

  2. Be a greater follower of Righteousness – One of the biggest threats to our personal righteousness is temptation. When we have the blessings of the priesthood, temptations are not taken away, but our ability to overcome and withstand them is increased. We have the blessings and protection of the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can also make covenants in the temple – which both help to increase our righteousness. And, since righteousness and happiness are connected, as we become more righteous, we will also be happier.
  3. Be a Father of many nations – I hate to admit this, but I think that since I have a two-year-old, I sometimes forget that our posterity can bring us joy. In some ways it seems so abstract. Yet, it is true already…
    In fact, a few days ago, Sasquatch painted the T-Rex’s dresser with Butt Paste…

    So Beautiful

    I was fixing her lunch, and she did it so quickly. When I realized she was up to something, I told her that putting butt-paste on the dresser was naughty. Very, verrr-yyyy naughty. Typically, I have her repeat things I say (brainwashing, anyone?) so that they will begin to be convinced of what I’m trying to teach. So again, I said, “Oh, No…that is very, ________” and I paused so she could fill in the black. She finished my sentence, “Beautiful. It is very very special and beautiful.” It was impossible for me to be upset anymore. She truly brings me joy.
  4. Be a Prince of Peace – I love that this was one of Abraham’s desires. He wanted to be a peacemaker; he wanted the Lord’s peace. It makes me wonder about Abraham’s personality and life. I mean, Abraham’s father had views and morals that were quite different than Abraham’s. Maybe he had a tough time getting along with his dad. Abraham couldn’t go to his father for the priesthood. Maybe there was discord in Abraham’s life that he wanted to resolve. Maybe this was a challenge for him, so he desired to be more peaceful…or…maybe…I’m putting too many of my own traits onto Abraham! Often, I want to be a better peacemaker, and I’m frustrated with myself when I get frustrated with others. – any way you look at it, I like knowing that the power of the priesthood can help bring peace in our lives.
  5. Receive instruction – We can all receive revelation – even without the priesthood. But it seems like the conduit of revelation opens wider when we have the power of the priesthood in our lives. Can you imagine trying to seek consistent, daily revelation without the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  6. Keep the Commandments – The priesthood helps us with knowledge – to know the commandments, and righteousness – to keep them

Abraham, in order to receive the blessings that he desired, became a rightful heir of God. For a man, that means covenanting with God, and holding the priesthood. For a woman, that means covenanting with God in the waters of baptism and at the temple. For both men and women, it means living up to the covenants we have made through the atonement of Christ and the power of the Priesthood.

I know that the priesthood can bless our lives. I didn’t live with a strong priesthood influence in my home. Okay, I didn’t have any priesthood influence in my home. While my parents did the best that they could, like Abraham, I sought to have more of His blessings in my life. I’m grateful to have been blessed to marry a righteous holder of the priesthood. His willing service blesses our home. Homey’s dedication to the gospel and priesthood authority has helped to infuse our home with the blessings of the priesthood. We enjoy more peace and happiness in our home. Truly, the priesthood is the blessing of the father’s, and can bring us happiness and joy.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between the power of the priesthood and happiness? How have the blessings of the priesthood brought happiness in your life?

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

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