A Really Nice and Not Off-putting Topic (Pride!)

I figured that I shouldn’t name the title of this blog post “pride,” because that tends to put people off. But…that’s what this blog post is all about for today. It’s been on my mind a lot. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about my pride, and I’ve come to the conclusion that nearly every problem I have – my weaknesses, my fears, my irritations, etc. – all start with a seed of pride. And if I can root out that pride, then I can get closer to my Heavenly Father.

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This has nothing to do with anything. Just pretty.

What is Pride?

President Uchtdorf explained:

“In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced his Beloved Son with the words ‘in whom I am well pleased.’ … I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I echo President Uchtdorf’s belief. I will be concentrating on the sin of pridefulness – not the idea that you are “proud” of your children when they have done something good. or the like.

So – again – what is pride?

Imagine for a moment that you are a parent of young children. You are reading the Book of Mormon together, and on this particular day, you are reading the Book of Fourth Nephi. The people had been righteous and happy, and then something begins to disturb their happiness. You read the following with your family:

“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.” – 4 Nephi 1:24

Your children, who are – let’s imagine – 5, 7, and 9, then ask, What is pride?

What do you think your answer might be? Perhaps it would sound like this: Pride is when you think you are better than someone else. You might brag. You might try to show that you think that you are better than other people by getting things like nice clothes, toys are cars. And then you might make fun of the people who don’t have those things.”

This is an adequate and true description of pride, but it is only a part of it.

In 1989, the prophet at that time – President Ezra Taft Benson – gave a general conference talk titled Beware of Pride. About Pride he stated:

“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” – President Ezra Taft Benson

Now this is interesting! Pride is enmity towards god. And I’m grateful that President Benson went on to explain enmity because, without his definition, it would still be difficult to put our finger on the core of pride. So – pride, then is – hatred to God, hostility to God, or a state of opposition against God.

I will confess that it has taken me quite a while to understand this definition of pride, and why President Benson would describe pride as the universal sin: the great vice.

***

I was about 11 years old when President Benson gave this talk on pride. I have read it once or twice in my life, but I never really applied the entire definition of enmity. It puzzled me sometimes – to hear so much about pride. I mean, I go to church. I love God. And all these people around me do, too. Do I have a problem with pride? Do I have enmity toward God? Or is this some problem that “the world” has?

I mean – I pray to Him! I love Him!

But take a closer look at that last phrase in President Benson’s description of enmity…that in being in a “state of opposition against God.” I would guess that this part of the definition is the part that is most applicable to those of us who have covenanted with God and who are striving to keep our covenants with Him because we love Him.

I will share two personal experiences that illustrate this kind of pride.

One

Years ago, I was a newly called second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency in my ward. The woman who was the prior second counselor was still serving in the Young Women’s organization, but in a different capacity. As we were transitioning, she was very helpful…maybe a little too helpful.

I’ll be honest. I felt like she was stepping on my toes. I was even getting a bit annoyed at times. Irritated. Every meeting I went to, every activity with the young women, every time I opened my mouth to speak, it seemed as if her voice would pipe up before I could get my words out. I felt purposeless, undermined, and a little confused. Why would I be called to serve if someone else was just going to do my job?

Now, I do love God. And I knew that this kind of irritation wasn’t Christlike, nor was it helpful – for anyone. I knew that it wouldn’t serve me, my young women, or this woman – who was actually my friend! I didn’t want to be annoyed. So, I prayed about it.

As I prayed, I felt prompted to pray for her – to be grateful for her service and for her love of the youth.

This began to soften my heart, but I was still frustrated with myself. Why would I let this situation annoy me so much? Not only that – she was one of my friends, and now she was driving me crazy! I didn’t want to feel this way!

After bring grateful, the spirit continued to prompt my prayer. As I searched in my heart, I felt the spirit whisper to my soul: Why does situation this bother you so much?

I tried to answer honestly. Well, it’s a problem. There are too many voices in charge, and the young women don’t know who to look to.

Then I felt an answer to this concern: Yes. It’s a problem. God’s is a house of order. And there is a simple solution. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why you are bothered and annoyed. You don’t need to have a spirit of contention or anger.

As I searched in my heart, I realized: The reason why this bothers me so much is because I feel stupid. I don’t like being told what to do. And corrected all the time. I’m not an idiot.

As I voiced this in my prayer, I realized, And my annoyance turns into a temptation to prove to her that I’m NOT stupid! That I’m the one who’s in charge!”

Pride.

The Spirit whispered to me, You know you’re not stupid. You know that I know that you’re not stupid. What does it matter what anyone else thinks?

I started to understand what the Lord was trying to teach me. I was worried – not so much about the organization of God’s house; not so much about His young women. I was worried about what my friend thought about me, and what the young women thought about me, and what that ultimately meant about me. In other words, I was more concerned with their opinions than with the truth – what God’s opinion about me was, and what my responsibilities to Him and the Youth were.

Because of my prideful worries, my heart was beginning to turn in opposition against Him, and I was allowing space in my heart for anger and frustration.

Thankfully, the Lord corrected me. I was able to see clearly. A good, positive solution for the legitimate problem was found, and our friendship remained intact. In fact, she never knew about the feelings I was having!

If the Lord hadn’t helped me to discover that pride was at the root of my anger, then the outcome would have ben drastically different, probably petty, and damaging for all involved.

Two – More of my pride

I had just moved to a new ward, and I was getting acclimated to the people and place. I received a text from the missionaries asking me if my daughters could help a sister in our relief society.

(We homeschool, so this seemed to be an option). Before putting much thought into it, I responded “Of course!” and after I sent the text, I felt a prompting: You’re daughters can’t help her today. Just because they are homeschooling doesn’t mean that ‘nothing’ is happening. They can’t help – they have schoolwork to do!

I didn’t want to let the missionaries down, so I texted them to say that actually, the girls couldn’t help, but I could. They responded, “Thank you Sister Choco! You are a SAINT!” uh … oh… After receiving that message, I felt another prompting, You can’t help her at that time! You have an appointment with your scriptures and prayers. If you put it off now you will have trouble doing it in the future. This is sacred time. You can’t help her today.

It was really hard, but I knew I had been prompted by the Spirit, so even though the missionaries had just called me a “SAINT!” I immediately texted them again, and backed out of serving a sister – in need. I felt stupid about it. And conflicted.

I felt pulled in two directions – one because I knew that it was the Spirit that prompted me to say no. But also because serving is a good thing to do! And I wanted to serve and help. Not to mention that I felt horrible for flaking out on the missionaries and this woman!

Later on in the day, I kept my appointment with prayer and scripture study, and I pondered the troubled feeling I was experiencing.

I expressed sorrow that I wasn’t serving this woman in my prayer. But then I felt a prompting from the Spirit: Why are you troubled about this? It was a spiritual prompting.

Why was I troubled? I realized Well, I want the missionaries and the people here in this ward to know that I am willing to serve.

The answer: What does it matter what they think? I know that you’re willing to serve.

Pride.

Ah ha! My willingness to sere is good! Yes! But my concern about others knowing it – is pride! Sneaky little thing. And that concern was setting me in a state of opposition against God – which is ENMITY!

I’m sure many of you can relate to me here. There is no open hostility or hatred that I feel towards Heavenly Father. But there are so many times that my state is in opposition against Him. This is why President Benson stated:

“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.” – Ezra Taft Benson

and:

“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.” – Ezra Taft Benson

A Solution

Before this sounds too dreadful, I want to mention that in each example I gave earlier, as soon as I recognized that my real problem was pride (rather than the perceived problems – an overstepping helper and a reputation) – as soon as I realized my real problem, a feeling of hope came over me.

This is because pride is a relatively simple sin with a very simple fix. (key word: SIMPLE!)

We can’t change our pasts. We can’t change the things that have happened to us that might give us sensitivities or fears. We can’t change the experiences that shaped the core of our personalities. We can’t control what people think about us. We can’t change any of the problems that are beyond our control. But we do have control of our pride. We have the choice to repent and set ourselves in alignment with God instead of being in opposition against Him.

And we can feel the blessings and joy that flow from this decision.

***

How do we detect and then overcome pride? The short answer: Humility.

I think that the most effective way to do this is through earnest prayer.

I know that if we will go to the Lord and keep asking questions until we get to the root of the problems we are facing, then He will help us to find the possible undercurrent of pride that might be creating drag in our lives. …

Ask, ask, ask…it might go like this:

Why?**Why am I frustrated? Because she is stepping on my toes.** Why does that make you mad? Because I don’t like it.** Why don’t you like it? It makes me feel stupid.** Who cares if you feel stupid? Maybe people around me will think I’m stupid. ** Why does it matter if they think you are stupid? If they think I’m stupid, maybe they won’t walk to talk to me. Maybe they’ll reject me. ** Why does it matter if they reject you? I know you’re not stupid Choco. I will never reject you.

Keep asking questions until you get to the bottom of your problem, and I guarantee that this will also be accompanied with a feeling of patient love that only a living and loving Father in Heaven can give.

***

This post is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up. Remember that nature abhors a vacuum. When you start to recognize the pride that may be lurking deep in your heart, fill it with something good! Pride is always trying to creep right back in.

I have found that one of the most effective things to fill our hearts with is gratitude. It is probably the simplest and most effective way to get out of a state of opposition against God and on board with Him instead. I read a great quote:

“To be grateful is to pause, think and ponder on the goodness of our existence. For people of faith, stopping our busy-ness to consider our blessings (no matter how small) is more than a nice idea–it is a transformative process in which our souls are drawn upward in love to God, who then points us outward to lift others.” (From Mormon Newsroom – The Global Gift of Gratitude)

Okay…so really, this is the end. We lave a living and loving Heavenly Father. I have experienced His loving tutelage and miracles in my life. I also know that pride is a real problem – THE ESSENTIAL PROBLEM for the natural man and woman. Despite this immaturity and pride, our Heavenly Father still loves us and He is patient with us as we stumble through our existence on this earth.

If we will seek, He will help us find the ways that we need to correct ourselves to be sure that we are aligned with Him. He has provided us with a Savior, who has atoned for our sins – so we can be realigned and made at one with God. Such alignment with a loving God will bring us sublime happiness and joy – because His state is a state of happiness and joy.

***

Thanks for making it this far. What do you do to strip pride from your heart, so that you can feel peace and joy in this life?

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Traveling on the Paths of our Lives

Last week, I blogged about distinguishing between the difficult path and the fiery darts. Today, I’m going to write more about traversing that difficult path – even with the ability to discern.

Mostly because I’m traveling that difficult path myself.

(warning: personal post ahead!)

The past few weeks have been a little bit tough for me. First of all, you have to understand that for the past four years, Homey and I have been building our own business. I’m sure that this will come up several more times on the blog, it’s a huge part of my life right now, and I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined.

So, we have been on this “path” – that includes the business. We knew it would be hard when we started it, and we are still on it now. Starting your own business comes with all kinds of financial and general “life” challenges (working with your spouse – when prior to that he worked at an office; financial strain while you try to make your business work; plus things like kids, dinners, cleaning the house, etc). Thankfully we have navigated these fairly well.

Even if you are traveling on your own path to your own proverbial promised land full of faith, you will still face stressful situations. I think about it like climbing a mountain. Even if you have faith and joy in every step, you can’t change the fact that you are climbing a mountain. The closer you are to the top, the thinner the air gets. Despite your faith, your trust, and your gratitude, the air is still thinner! There is still a great challenge. It is not easy to take each step up.

And this is in no way a statement on your faith or willingness. It’s just a fact about that path (remember! Don’t confuse the path with the fiery darts! The path is the path).

Back to what I was saying before. Two weeks ago, I started having a twinge in my back. I thought I had tweaked it in a workout. Each day it seemed to get worse. It was waking me up at night.

On Saturday night, the pain was enough that I decided I would stay at home from church on Sunday. I got very little sleep, and my pain was acute – even with ibuprofen. Homey took the family out to church. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to help loosen up my back.

I had been walking for about ten minutes – feeling really good, actually. And I don’t know what happened, but my ankle just gave out, rolled, and I was doing a long trip and fall (over nothing) while a car was slowly pulling up to the stop sign I was next to. Embarrassing.

Oh I have to also mention, my eczema on my hands had been flaring up. I think that I ate something I was allergic to. So I was really itchy, my back was hurting, and now I found myself on the ground with a sprained ankle.

The woman in the car didn’t laugh at me. She rolled down her window and asked if I needed I ride. I thanked her, and then said no. She went on her way. I sat on the sidewalk for a moment, trying to sum up some pride. A minute later, the same woman pulled up again. She turned around and said, “Let me help you.”

I felt the Spirit whisper Let her help you.

So, she took me home, and I checked out my ankle went to wash my knees (they were bloody from my fall). That’s when I noticed a huge, new, blistering rash on my chest – the left side only – the same side that had been hurting for the last week.

This discovery devastated me. Nothing seems to be working! For years, we have been working so hard. For years I’ve been trying to manage my stress as we have started our own business, started homeschooling the kids, we have sold our house, and nearly every belonging (home, beds, dishes, piano, sewing machine, wedding rings!) – to make this dream work. For years I have tried my best, and I feel joyful and hopeful in my heart, but my body seems to betray me!!!

My husband came home, and I was in so much pain: my back, my hands, my knee, my ankle. And now a new rash. I was telling him about my day, then worrying – what is wrong with my skin? I had no idea, and then I had a thought … it’s shingles.

I realized it had to be shingles – the pain, the blistering rash. My husband and I agreed that we would go to the doctors first thing in the morning (it was Sunday night…) and I felt 10x more defeated than I was feeling earlier in the day.

I told my husband, “I know that the Lord can help us. I know that He will deliver us. I know that He has the power to do anything at any time. But I don’t know if I have the strength to make it. Will I have any skin left? Sometimes I doubt I will be able to physically manage all of this stress. I’m a mess!

Why is it so hard to trust in God?

I received a text from an angel friend:
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I hate to admit this, but there are times when I fear – even though I know that fear is completely irrational and faithless. I lack faith – in myself. I know that the Lord can deliver me, but there are times that I doubt me.

Sometimes I think: “Can I make it? Will I fall apart? Will I self-destruct?”

Stupid!

If I let myself think these things, then we know exactly what will happen.

If God thinks I can, then I can.

And I know this because, as my friend mentioned to me – I have had so many experiences where I have weathered the storm, where God enabled me and empowered me to “make it.”

I have experienced His tremendous power time and time again. I’ve seen and experienced miracles and tender mercies. So what if my skin itches? So what if I am a little sick? So what if I have a sprained ankle?

I’ll make it – hobbling and with itchy skin then. I know I can do it because the lord thinks I can do it, and through His grace, He will enable me to do it.

Don’t Fear!!!

“Fear not! I am with thee
O be not dismayed;
For I am thy God
And will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee
And cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous,
Omnipotent hand.” – How Firm a Foundation

I hope that by sharing my experiences you will also be encouraged to overcome fear. Follow the advice of my wise friend. Remember the miracles you have experienced. Keep walking, keep striving to mountain peaks where God is guiding you to. The air will be thin. You will experience exposure, high wind, and fatigue. But keep walking. The Lord believes in you. You can believe in you, too. And then we can make it to the mountain tops.

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Hope for the Best and Expect the Worst…

I’ve heard it said over and over again, “Hope for the best and expect the worst.” I understand the concept behind the adage. But I think that I’m less and less of a believer of it.

Today, in sacrament meeting, we sang the following:

“When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliverance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness,
We’ve proved Him in days that are past.” – We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

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There is hope smiling brightly before us.

***

About four years ago, Homey and I started our own business. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. Both Homey and I, when we started it, knew that it would push us right to the very edge – past anything we have ever experienced. Simultaneously, we knew that we could trust God, and that we would be fine. There would definitely be times when things didn’t feel fine, but we could trust that we were okay.

This thought came the exact instant I told Homey, “it’s time to quit your job and be serious about the business.” Both my own spirit and the Comforter were aligned on this – I knew this instinctually, in my gut, in my Spirit and because of the Spirit – we needed to devote more time to the business. I knew that we needed to take the risk, have Homey quit his job, and focus our efforts 100% on the business. I knew, the Spirit gave me a deep impression that now was our chance – and that if we didn’t take it, there might not be another “right time for it.”

We went to the temple, we referred to our patriarchal blessings. And we knew that this was not only something we wanted to do, but perhaps a part of the work we should perform in this life. It would enable us to be the kind of people God sees in us, and it would enable us to do the work that He would expect of us.

And, thank goodness for the Comforter – even while Homey was still employed with a very secure job that gave us a very secure lifestyle – I knew that we would be pushed right to our limit. And I also felt overwhelming comfort, “You’ll be pushed to your limit, but you will be delivered. You know the pattern – the Lord delivers when your back is at the wall.”

(But He doesn’t deliver us before our backs are to the wall).

***

That was four years ago. Since then, Homey and I have been working, working, working. We have lived off of savings. We have sold our house. We have moved to Hawai’i, to the mainland – the intermountain west, and then to the East Coast. We have sold nearly all of our belongings (everything we own fits in a small portion of my in-law’s basement – for a family of six!). We own no couches, bookshelves, or dishes. We have had an amazing ride. We have been blessed by the Lord.

And we have been stretched.

At one point along the ride, a well-meaning individual said, “Well, you know – you have to hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

I smiled, and was grateful for the concern. I nodded my head, but I didn’t agree. And the idea has been ruminating in the back of my head for months.

***

In First Nephi, within the first chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read Nephi’s courageous declaration:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Hope for the best, and expect the worst? Not really. Nephi didn’t “hope” that he would obtain the plates. No, he was committed to obtaining the plates. He tried once and twice – lost his entire family’s inheritance, and nearly lost his life. Then he finally entered into the gates of Jerusalem – armed only with the Spirit and with no plan at all. Perhaps the chain of events didn’t happen as he had expected, but his primary expectation and his hope were aligned – He would obtain the plates. No plan B. No other option. That was that. He would obtain the plates or die trying.

Now, maybe you’re wondering, “Well, Nephi was commanded.” Let’s look at another example.

***

We have a record – in the Book of Ether – of a group of people that originated from Babel, during the time that the Lord confused their languages. One family – Jared’s family and his brothers – prayed to the Lord that they would be able to communicate with each other. So, Jared had his brother – who was highly favored of the Lord – pray to spare their family.

And the Lord did.

Then, Jared asked his brother the following:

“And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.”  – Ether 1:38.

So – Jared’s brother decides to ask God to drive them out of the land – and perhaps to a promised land. The Lord has compassion. He gives Jared’s brother some instructions, then makes the following promise:

“…And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.

And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And thereshall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:42-43

Unlike Nephi and his family, Jared and his brethren were not commanded to flee Babel. They had a righteous desire, they asked the Lord, and the Lord granted accordingly (Ask and ye shall receive…). They would have to do a lot of work, they would travel across the entire world – from Babel to the Americas. But the Lord would grant them according to their prayers.

It would push them right to their limits, but they didn’t have to worry because it would work.

Hope for the best and expect the worst??? NO! Plan B? Plan C? NOOOO! There is one plan! It is to do what God will have us do! There is one expectation – that the Lord’s will will come to pass, and that his promises are sure, that hope isn’t some silly thing that kids do, but that it will anchor our faith by giving us vision.

***

Imagine that you are walking along the iron rod, toward the tree of life. Do you say, “Well, I’m hoping that I will make it to the tree of life, but I don’t expect it. In fact, I expect that I will wander off on a strange road and get lost – the worst possible outcome.” Do you say, “I’ll hope for the best, but expect the worst,” as if you are an agent to be acted upon, rather than an agent to act – empowered by the infinite grace of God???

***

I will admit that many, many times in my life I have said, “I won’t get my hopes up.” There is a glimmer of an opportunity, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t want to be disappointed, so I kind of ignore them. Of course, I’m sure you can guess because I expected the worst, I received the worst.

And I’m learning that hope – it isn’t some kind of silly thing. True hope is a facet of faith. It will make an anchor for us so that we succeed. Hope will help us put one foot in front of the other. Hope will give us the vision to find opportunities when our backs are against the wall and every resource appears to be exhausted. Hope gives us the courage to walk into a dark city at night, on an errand from the Lord, with nothing but the Spirit to guide and protect us. Hope gives us the audacity to go to the Lord and ask him for the blessings that He is willing to grant us but can’t until we ask for them.

Hope is how we cheerfully submit to all of the will of God – enduring anything that is thrown before us, knowing that our expectations – deliverance and success – are sure because He Is Sure.

 

Always Remember Him

I haven’t written in a while, I’m not going to give some kind of recap of life or excuse. Let’s just continue on… 🙂

As I sat in church today, I kept thinking about the covenant we make each week in sacrament meeting: to always remember Him.

And I wondered why, why is it so important to always Remember the Savior?

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Getting outside helps me to remember Him

Now, this line of questioning is not out of doubt or disbelief. It is a way to seek more knowledge and understanding in my life. Why do we always remember Him?

One

We must always remember Christ because we have been commanded to.

Two

I happen to believe that God is not arbitrary and that each commandment serves some kind of real function.

As I pondered this thought – remember the Savior, I realized that we are commanded to always remember Him because it is the way. It is the secret to our success.

In 2 Nephi, we learn:

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

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

After we first covenant with God in the waters of baptism, we aren’t done. We still have a life to live. We still must navigate the test of mortality.

Nephi tells us this. After baptism, all is not done. We must still rely on Christ’s ability to save us.

And we must do a few things: 1) Press forward with a steadfastness of Christ; 2) Have a perfect brightness of hope; 3) Have a love of God and of all men; 4) Press forward; 5) Feast on the words of Christ; 6) Endure to the end.

Then, we will have eternal life.

Now, think back on that promise made each week when partaking of the sacrament – to always remember Him.

In the covenant we make – to always remember God – we are given the help we need in order to do the 6 points needed in order to inherit life. Remembering Christ – ensures our steadfastness in Him; remembering Christ will help us to have a bright hope. Remembering Christ fills our hearts with love for Him and for others. Remembering Christ can help us to have the tenacity we need to push on and press forward in our lives. Remembering Christ will encourage us to feast on His words and stay close to Him. Remembering Christ helps us to endure to the end.

I love the elegance of God’s laws, commandments, and blessings. When we keep our covenants, we are empowered with exactly that which is needed for us to receive the gifts that God wants to give us.

What do you do to always remember Him?

Plutarch and Alma

I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…

Plutarch Knowledge Quote

Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.

Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?

Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.

As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.

Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27

Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.

It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.

If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.

Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.

Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.

I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.

Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.

How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?

Faith and the “Reality Distortion Field”

Something pretty for this post...Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all. :)
Something pretty for this post…Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all.

In the most recent General Conference, President Monson stated the following:

“May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary – a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals.”

As you probably know (if you read this blog often), I could write an essay of at least 3,000 words on this subject. But I’m striving for brevity. So, here are a few thoughts on the faith we need to help inform our choices and empower us to accomplish our goals.

In our society, it may be tempting to think of faith as some kind of quaint virtue, or perhaps something even worse.

Faith is the first principle of the gospel. It is a subject we hear about time and time again.

Faith is a virtue, but it isn’t relegated to moral interests. Faith is real power. (By the way, virtue is power – not just something for boring, prudish people! You can read more about virtue here.)

Without faith that a seed will sprout, we won’t keep watering it, fertilizing it, and nourishing it. Therefore, without the vision, or faith, of what a seed will be, though that vision is so different than the seed itself, the seed will never become a plant.

Because faith is a true principle and power, we see can faith at work – not only in a religious sense, but in any case.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. It was often said that he had a “reality distortion field.” The “reality distortion field” or “RDF” is described as follows:

“RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. (Reality Distortion Field, Wikipedia)

There is plenty of criticism regarding Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” but the fact also remains: he believed a personal computer could be created. And it was created. He believed that they could figure out a way to put all of your songs in your pocket, and with the iPod, they did.

Later, now that we have been able to enjoy the success of Jobs’ ability to “distort” reality, we celebrate him as a visionary. We say this as if Jobs possessed some kind of magical ability. I don’t think that gives him enough credit. It really isn’t easy to “distort reality.”

I believe that this “reality distortion field” could be renamed to faith. Faith seems to “distort” our present knowledge and lead us to believe that with God, anything is possible.

Of course, faith is not a distortion. Alma teaches,

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Alma 32:21, emphasis added

Notice the last phrase – which are true. We learn more about truth in Doctrine and Covenants:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

Though faith doesn’t often seem to coincide with our current notion of reality, faith is a belief in that which is true – past, present, or future. And the truth is, we don’t know everything right now. There is so much we can’t see, so much we can’t sense. Relying only on what we currently know and experience is an actual and incredibly detrimental distortion of reality. A distortion of true reality – past, present, or future – will result in our impotence.

So, how do we develop the faith that empowers? How do we choose to distort what we think we know now and believe in something that is yet to happen?

We can simply put our faith in God. He is our Father. He knows all. He created all. He does have all of the information. He will enable us to sense and see what we need to know in our lives – even if what He reveals to us isn’t aligned with our current sense of “reality.”

When we exercise our faith, we may be misunderstood. Some may say that our “reality” seems “distorted,” but with faith in God, reality is never distorted. God isn’t bound by time – past, present, or future. He sees and knows all now. Through the Holy Ghost, and according to His will, our Heavenly Father can impart with us the knowledge we must know in order to achieve our goals. In other words, with faith, we can also become “visionaries.”

I don’t know…when I think about faith this way, it just seems so powerful. Why wouldn’t we want to develop it?!?!

Book of Mormon for Teens – Timeline and Authors

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teenagers. You can see the first one here.

Before I really get into the Book of Mormon, itself, I wanted to have a few pages showing the timelines and authors of the Book of Mormon. As I wrote in Tiger’s Book:

“Sometimes when you are reading the Book of Mormon, it can be a little confusing to keep track of what you are reading. There are accounts of things as they happen, flashbacks, and the changing of hands with the records.

Hopefully, this timeline and author chart will help you keep the events and authors of the Book of Mormon straight!”

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The timeline – there is a lot to fit onto one page!!!

Several years ago, I did my own “story of the Book of Mormon” project. (You can read about it here.) As a part of this project, I created my own Book of Mormon timeline. I highly suggest this type of project. It really helped me to understand the Book of Mormon.

In any case, here is a copy of the timeline that I created: BoM Timeline (available as a PDF Download).

I also felt like Tiger should understand the authors of the Book of Mormon and the way that the plates were handed down. I found a very handy flowchart of the Book of Mormon Authors online here.

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Authors of the Book of Mormon

These two pages are chock-full of information. I didn’t have much space to make anything “cute!” No worries, though. I really think that this information will be helpful.

Finally, I included a quote that I really love about the Book of Mormon:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement – that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon.” – Tad R. Callister (emphasis added)

Thanks for letting me share this project with you. I am so excited to actually get into the Book of Mormon now. I’m excited to be able to share my testimony with my daughter in a way that I hope she will be receptive to.  I’ll share more with you later!