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?

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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?!?!

The Atonement: Christ’s Advice on Prioritizing

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 6

“1. In Matthew 6, Christ is still teaching the Sermon on the Mount that began in chapter 5. Specifically, He is speaking to His apostles and servants in the church. His teachings—His ministry—are a part of His primary purpose and are the set up to His eventual Atonement. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings in this chapter fit into the work of the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.

2. In this chapter, we have examples of how not to do and how to do certain things. What are these things? What does Christ teach about them? Can you think of times when Christ models the way to do what He is teaching? How does His example help you to better understand Christ and your relationship with Him? How does understanding the way He serves, fasts, and prays help you to gain insight on the act of the Atonement?

3. Think of the last major section of this chapter (“Take no thought for your own life…” in verse 25). How did Christ exemplify this? How does the Atonement help us “not to take thought of our own lives”? Is there anything we can do to work out our salvation on our own? What do we rely on in order to receive salvation? How can you apply His example in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

So – in Matthew 6, Christ continues with the Sermon on the Mount. As I studied this chapter, I found that there are six main categories of advice that He gives (both a do and a do not). He teaches us how to give alms, pray, forgive, fast, prioritize, and remain loyal to God.

Today, we’ll focus on what the Savior teaches us about prioritizing our lives, why it is important, and how He exemplified it in the Atonement.

What do you treasure?

What do you treasure?

Prioritizing

Do

  • Do lay up treasures in heaven
  • Do keep in mind that where your heart is, there is your treasure also</li<
  • Do keep your eye single to God and full of light

Don’t

  • Don’t lay up treasures upon earth.
  • Don’t get distracted from God. If your eye is not single to God, then your body is full of darkness.

Catania, Why are you calling this prioritization, rather than materialism or financial advice?

Maybe you already know the answer to this question. Maybe you have already thought of this scripture in these terms: that the advice to lay up treasures in heaven is all about prioritization. I have to admit, however, I’ve always thought that this was merely a small sermon on materialism.

It is so much more.

The Savior is teaching us how to prioritize our lives. And the advice is simple: lay up treasures in heaven.

If we have this at the center of what we do, then we won’t waste time on the things that are corrupted by moth and that rust. Instead, we will find that we have spent our lives on doing the things that will bring us joy – both here and in heaven.

I think that this advice is less about finances and materialism because of what the Savior says in verses 22-23:

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23

By the way – there is a JST in verse 22 that helps us understand it more:

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22 – JST is included in italics

Additionally, we learn that “single” means (from the Greek translation): healthy, sincere, without guile.

This advice that Christ gives is associated with “treasures in Heaven.” If you look at the entire chapter of Matthew 6, The Savior does address materialism pretty directly (that will be the next blog post – no man can serve two masters). However, here we learn that we need to lay up treasures in heaven, and to have our eye single to God.

There are many things that we might be treasuring above God. Popularity. Fame. The “perfect” body. Perhaps we even treasure something that is good, but somehow it becomes something that causes us to take our eyes off of God’s glory. Keeping our eye on God’s glory is the key to laying up treasure in Heaven.

The Benefit of Having an Eye Single to God’s Glory

I really like the concept of having an eye single to God’s glory – or an eye of faith. It is the only way to really succeed in this life and return to Him in the life to come. And there are a few really great scriptural examples of this kind of eye of faith.

I’ve written about how Alma had an eye single to God’s glory in this blog post.

Another example of an eye single to God’s glory is that of Stephen.

In Acts, we read about Stephen. He was a Christian disciple in the early church. He had been taken by a council of the Jews and was being questioned. He stood fast to his faith, taught the council how Moses was a type of Christ, He witnessed against the council – and their wickedness, and He testified of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

The council of the Jews wasn’t too excited about what Stephen had to say. In Acts, we read:

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:54-56

Many of you are probably familiar with this story. Stephen looked up steadfastly into heaven and then saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Stephen Sees Jesus on the Right Hand of God, by Walter Rane

Stephen Sees Jesus on the Right Hand of God, by Walter Rane

Usually, when I think of this story, I kind of stop here. Stephen looked steadfastly into heaven. He saw two personages, he testified of them, and he was martyred for his testimony.

But take a second, and really think about it. Think about what Stephen was doing: He was looking steadfastly into heaven. In other words, his eye was single to God’s glory.

I don’t think that this was the first time Stephen looked steadfastly into heaven. In fact, I kind of think that he had been looking steadfastly into heaven long before this moment. He did this through expressing his faith and living as a disciple. Because he had developed his eye of faith, when he was under immense pressure, he didn’t back down out of fear. He still looked steadfastly into heaven, received a sure witness, and died protecting it.

I love this example because Stephen was literally looking into Heaven. He is a good example. His example teaches me that I can do the same – on a more spiritual level. I can look steadfastly into heaven by covenanting with God and then keeping those covenants. I can look steadfastly into heaven through prayer, scripture study, and obedience to the commandments. Going to the temple often also helps to focus our gaze heavenward.

Additionally, I know that if I will focus my eye on God’s glory, then I will be strengthened during the times of intense pressure and temptation.

Keeping my eye single to God will fill my body with light – just as the Savior promised. And it is the way that I am able to keep Christ’s charge to “lay up treasures in heaven.”

Christ, The Atonement, Treasures in Heaven, and An Eye of Faith

Of course, Christ was the perfect example of everything that we should be – proper prioritization included. Throughout Christ’s life, He focused on laying up treasure in Heaven.

For now, we’ll look only at His experience of the Atonement – and how He chose to lay up treasures in Heaven by prioritizing God above all else.

In the Garden of Gethsemane
Christ never gave into His own desires. Even though He suffered greatly, He still prioritized the will of God. While suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, three times He said:

“O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” – Matthew 26:39

Christ – doing the will of God – was laying up for Himself treasure in Heaven. The treasure He obtained was resurrection for Himself and all mankind. He also obtained the great treasure of an Atonement that could exalt all of us.

Christ’s Capture
After suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas came and betrayed the Savior with a kiss. As Christ was being arrested, Peter smote off the ear of an officer. Christ healed the injured man and said to Peter:

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” – Matthew 26:53-54

Again, Christ prioritizes God’s will above all else. Even though He finished suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, there was still much more to suffer and endure. His Atonement and work was not yet done. He still had to keep His eye single to the glory of His Father in order to finish the work of the Atonement.

Christ made the deliberate choice to allow Himself to be arrested and judged. He could have escaped the officers and high priests. He could have had twelve legions of angels defend Him.

However, He knew what His work was. He understood God’s will and God’s purpose for Christ. Instead of laying up treasures on earth and protecting Himself, physically, Christ chose to lay up treasures in Heaven and finish His work of the Atonement.

The Judgment of Christ
Again, Christ had a chance to lay up treasure on earth rather than in Heaven when He was judged by Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again. Yet Christ submitted to their judgment.

Pilate was relatively uninformed of the divinity and mission of Christ. He only knew that the Jews he ruled over were stirred up. Pilate was motivated by treasures on earth, so He wanted to pacify these angry constituents. Yet, Pilate also seems to be worried about condemning an innocent man – who is potentially the very Son of God.

Jesus is condemned before Pilate. (The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Video)

Jesus is condemned before Pilate. (The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Video)

The contrast between the two (Pilate – who lays up treasure on earth; and Christ – who lays up treasure in Heaven) is striking:

“When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” – John 19:8-13

Pilate – who prioritized his earthly wealth and stature – went against his intuition and was swayed by the Jews argument – that by letting Christ live, he was jeopardizing His relationship with Cæsar.

Christ, on the other hand, prioritized God’s will. Though He had more power than Pilate and any other earthly force, Christ submitted to the will of God. Christ was judged and then condemned to death by crucifixion.

The Crucifixion
Christ faithfully kept His eye single to God’s glory. This steadfastness enabled Him to perform the work of the Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane and accept His capture and judgment. Of course, He would still have to overcome another great hurdle – the actual crucifixion.

I can only imagine the pain of the crucifixion, but the only time Christ cries out is when His father forsakes Him. We read:

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Mark 15:34

I think that this is worth mentioning because we know – Christ always had an eye single to God’s glory. He never looked away from God. Yet God looked away from Him. Elder Jeffery R. Holland humbly and succinctly explains the reason that Christ had to be forsaken, even though He never took His gaze off of His Father:

“With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.” – Jeffrey R. Holland

While we struggle to keep our eye single to God’s glory, we will not have to endure what Christ faced. We will be blessed with the companionship of the Spirit when we live worthy of it – exercising our eye of faith. Of course, there are times when there seems to be a pavilion that covers the Lord’s hiding place. (See Doctrine and Covenants 121:1.) However these “pavilions” are usually caused by our own lack of faith or even disobedience. Even when it is difficult to “see” the Lord, we can follow Christ’s example and keep our eye firmly fixed on God’s glory.

Christ’s gaze had always been fixed on His Father, and while on the cross, Christ continued to lay up treasures in heaven by sacrificing His very life – even while Heavenly Father forsook Him and left Him to finish His work by suffering alone.

Because Christ prioritized God, He submitted to the excruciating work of the Atonement. In doing so, the Savior did lay up treasure in Heaven not only for Himself, but also enabled all of us to lay up treasure in Heaven, too.

***
What can you do to prioritize God and lay up treasure in Heaven? How can you keep your eye single to His glory? How does Christ’s example in the Atonement help you to better understand this teaching from the Sermon on the Mount?

My Faith, Captain Moroni, and The Atonement

Eczema Rash

It’s been a while, I know. These past few months, I’ve been consumed with teaching for BYU-Idaho and also prepping for homeschool (for the first time ever). Recently, my husband has also made some big life decisions, which are very exciting.

So, even though I don’t feel particularly “stressed out,” I know that my life is stressful. In fact, I know this is true because of this crazy eczema rash I’ve gotten all over my hands and arms.

I’ll spare you a picture.

When the crazy rash started getting bad, I asked Homey for a blessing. In this blessing, it was indicated that the rash was caused by stress, and I needed to learn how to manage it. (Getting rid of stressors isn’t really an option right now).

The rash got worse.

Well, I was getting pretty desperate, and one of my friends gave me a topical prescription cortisone product for my rash. It would clear up for a few days, I’d stop with the prescription, and it would get worse. This went on for a few months (!) Over time, the rash got much, much worse. What started as a small rash under my wedding ring became a rash on 8 of my fingers, up both hands and arms…yikes.

I’ve asked Homey for two more blessings. The same basic info was related: Heavenly Father Loves me, Christ has suffered the Atonement and has perfect empathy, this is caused by stress, and I needed to find natural ways to alleviate the issue.

As I write this now, I realize what a blessing that Priesthood blessings are. However, I will admit that during the final blessing, I wondered why I could just be healed. I know that God has the power to do it, so why can’t I be healed?

Of course, as this thought went through my brain, the words of the blessing rang out: this trial is to help you build faith in your Father in Heaven.

Okay.

Captain Moroni

Today, I read about Captain Moroni in my scriptures.

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” – Alma 48:17

In the past, I’ve read this scripture with complete awe for Mornoi. What a cool dude. Untouchable. Untouchable by Satan, and also – by me. I want to be like Moroni, but he is so good…too good. I can’t come close.

However, I’ve been studying the Atonement in the Book of Mormon. I know that There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Christ. With this in mind, I have come to the realization that Moroni wasn’t just born cool and faithful. His faith and example come through his discipleship, which came as a result of his >firm faith in Christ. (See Alma 48:13. This means that becoming like Moroni, who could shake the very powers of hell, is possible–through Christ.

Part Three
So..if I want to be like Moroni, then I need to develop stronger faith.

I’m not sure if I’m a super faithful person or not. When I was younger, like most young people, I had faith. I was innocent and closer with nature. Then, I got older, more disconnected with what probably matters, and logic became important to me. I have always had a testimony because I’ve been able to logically understand the gospel. It makes sense to me, and discovering the mysteries of God is important to me as it galvanizes my testimony (logically).

Yet, I need to have faith. I need to be willing to suspend my so-called logic, and just develop a purer faith in the Savior. I suppose that is what this skin rash is designed to do in my life because my faith is wavering.

Now, I want to say that carefully. My faith isn’t wavering in a “I wonder if the gospel is true” kind of way. I will not and cannot deny the truthfulness of the gospel and my testimony. Instead, I think my faith is wavering in the same way as the man who uttered to Christ, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”

How I relate to this man!

I believe. I believe that Christ created the world, that He came, lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected. I know that He answers prayers. I know that He loves me. I know that He will speak to my soul when I search and am willing to listen. However, I have this rash that is spreading and getting worse despite my pleas.

And, as I plea for help, I feel the doubt creeping in my head, “He can help, but I doubt he’ll help me. I’m not strong or special like some people. (ie – Captain Moroni)” Stuff like that. Not helpful, and ultimately self-fulfilling.

So…as I read the story of Captain Moroni, I am both humbled and comforted. I don’t have to be a Captain Moroni to become like Captain Moroni. Instead, I only need to humbly go to the Lord, ask Him to help my unbelief, and let Him work a miracle in me through the Atonement.

His Atonement will help me to be the faithful woman and disciple that I want to be – rash or not.

***
What do you do to strengthen your faith during times of trial?

Declaration (Staying Faithful to the End)

Next week, I’ll be turning 35. I’m practically middle-age. In some ways I can’t believe it, yet in other ways it really isn’t all that big of a deal. For all of these 35 years, I’ve been attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was baptized when I was eight, participated in the youth programs of the church, I completed personal progress, and attended early morning seminary while in high school.

As an adult, my commitment to the church hasn’t changed. I have gone to the temple (and I go regularly), I have graduated from Institute, I have had children, and have held various callings in the church.

For 35 years, my life has been marked by consistent activity in the church and, for the most part, a thriving testimony.

first thing in the morning...at nearly 35 years old...yeah.

first thing in the morning…at nearly 35 years old…yeah.

There are many people like me. Who are born and raised in the church and who live lives of faith.

But the thing is, even with such faith and devotion to the church, there are no sure things, or at least it seems that way. Even if we’ve lived faithful lives, we still have to keep pushing forward. We can’t coast or become complacent. Not only that, but our faith is continually tested, and we can find that even after a lifetime of faith, we’re giving up.

Now, this is not me saying that I’m giving up. I’m just thinking about how it happens.

Several years ago, I had a discussion with a friend. It went something like this:

Friend: I have a such a strong testimony of the church, I love it so much. I can’t imagine my life without it.
Me: I know what you mean. I feel the same way.
Friend: But sometimes I get afraid. What if I don’t keep the faith? What if something happens, and I stop going to church or forget my testimony?
Me: [I thought for a moment] You know, I’m not afraid of that.
Friend: Really? [I could tell that she thought I was being a little too self-assured.
Me: I think that I’m more afraid that there will be a time when I’m not working as hard. When I’m not praying like I should be praying. When I’m not feasting on the words of Christ. When I’m not attending the temple with clean hands and a pure heart. When I’m not serving in the church diligently and cheerfully. I’m afraid that there will be a time that these things start to “go”, and then I’ll be afraid that I leave the church.

We both agreed that the way to stay strong in the gospel is by doing the small things. But this conversation I had with my friend haunts me when I hear things like A general authority doubting the church. Or how I’ve recently had friends who, after decades of devotion to the church, decide to leave it. Somewhere along the line, for various reasons, people lose their faith, their commitment, or both.

Alma asks this question to disaffected church members:

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” – Alma 5:26

It seems like this is a relatively common phenomenon, people have a change of heart, they feel the love of the redemption offered through the Atonement of the Savior. But the feeling fades away. This can lead to something as simple as inactivity in the church or perhaps even something more serious like apostasy and leaving the church altogether. In any case, the result is the same, we forget the witness we’ve had in the past, and fail to live up to the covenants we’ve made. This has serious consequences. And…above all…it defeats the purpose of everything we’re doing right now.

I’m not living faithfully now so I can give up later. I’m not spending countless hours serving at church, Driving hundreds of miles to attend the temple, donating thousands of dollars for tithing, attending 3 hour church services weekly, etc., etc., etc. –I’m not doing all of these things now to simply give up on them later!

I know that the decision to leave the church, or at least stop attending, isn’t made that way. No one thinks, Okay, I’ve dedicated my life to the Savior, but now I’m done. I understand that other things happen. We face hardship in our lives that test our faith. We may be hurt or offended by another in the church. For various reasons, commitment can be hard to maintain. Our faith is tested, and fear and doubt creep into the tiniest corners of our hearts.

My question..and, up to this point, my crappy answer

And it makes me wonder, how do we do it? how do we endure to the end? How do I make sure that I remain faithful? This seems like a hard thing to predict because I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know the trials of my faith that I’ll face in the future. I don’t know how I’ll react when I’m facing the trials that I can’t predict. I find myself asking, Will I remain faithful?…gee, I sure hope so. This answer is unsatisfactory. It seems so powerless. It’s as if I’m leaving my eternal salvation up to chance.

The thing is, I know that my salvation isn’t up to chance. It is up to me. We were sent to this earth to be agents to act, and not to be acted upon. We are free to choose our destiny: liberty and eternal life or captivity and death. Our salvation (or damnation) isn’t something that will just happen to us.

Developing an Eye of Faith to Ensure Continued Commitment

It seems that the key is to develop an eye of faith. Alma is a great example of this. When he is in his “comatose” state (after seeing an angel), he is in excruciating pain: caused by his many sins. He cries to God for mercy, and Jesus snatches him out of his agony. After this, but before regaining consciousness Alma has the following experience:

“Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.” – Alma 36:22

Immediately after Alma sees this snapshot of Heaven, he awakens. And, I believe, that this vision pushes him forward in faith. Of course the harrowing and hallowing experience of redemption of sins is a major reason for His faithful service to God. But think about Alma, he did more than just remain a kind of faithful guy. He served missions, was hated and persecuted, was put in jail. He was tested – and probably in more ways than we can understand. It had to be more than feeling the joy of redeeming love that motivated him to stay faithful. I think that the joy of redemption coupled with his faithful goal: he longed to be in the presence of the Lord. He could see what he wanted.

I don’t think that Alma said, “Gee, I hope that one day I’ll be able to experience Heaven…Gee, I wonder if this will happen to me…I sure hope so.” This is, obviously, speculation. But I’m inclined to believe that Alma said to himself, “I will be with the Lord one day…It will happen to me…I will remain faithful.”

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There are other examples, too. Imagine Nephi or Lehi after witnessing the vision of the fruit of the tree of life. Do you think that after this vision, they woke up and said, “Gee, I sure hope that I really do partake of the fruit of the tree of life one day? or did they say, “I will partake of that fruit. I will remain faithful to the end.”

Making A Declaration or A Choice

While I’ve been supposing that these prophets made declarations of faith and commitment to themselves, there is an instance of a prophet declaring his intentions of sustained faith and endurance.

“…till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.” – Job 27:5

Often, I’ve thought about this scripture as being about integrity or the strength of Job. But perhaps it was more than that, and I think it is the answer to my aforementioned question. Job’s declaration is an expression of his eye of faith.

Job refused to remove his integrity. Job refused to give up his faith. Job would receive the blessings of salvation. This isn’t a brazen or proud statement. Job is confident in his own ability and in the Lord’s mercy. Job refuses to see anything else happen. He will not deviate.

Conclusion

I know that this seems simplified, but I really think that is the key. If I make the decision right now to always remain faithful, then I will. If I choose right now to refuse to remove my integrity, then I will do exactly that.

I have a testimony of the gospel. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I know that He loves me. I know that I’m a daughter of God, and that He loves me, too. I know that God wants us to be happy, and that He has given us a way to accomplish this–through the Savior. I don’t want to forget what I know. I don’t want to let doubt or fear creep into my heart and dash my testimony to pieces. I want these first 35 years of my life to be relevant and worthwhile, not a waste of time. I want to experience the blessings and happiness that the Lord has in store for me. I also want to please Him through my own actions and choices. I want, like Alma, to be in the presence of the Lord, one day.

And so, I’m committing not to remove my integrity from me. I will not lose faith. I will stay true to the gospel and to the covenants that I’ve made. I know that there will be more trials that I face in my life–until the day that I die. But I will not let them get in the way of my ultimate goal.

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Have you developed an eye of faith? What is it that you “see” for yourself? Have you made any declarations concerning your intentions for this life? What is it? If you have made covenants with the Lord, how will you remain faithful to them–even when they are severely tried?

Co-existence of Faith and Reasoning (or why I believe in Science AND Religion)

I read this article on NPR today which asks, Does Science Require Faith?

Anyone reading this blog knows I’m a religious person. Yet, I’m also deeply logical. I might have majored in English, but have always been interested in science. I am naturally curious, and spent the first 17 years of my life really thinking that I’d be an astronaut one day. (Most people get over that phase by age 10 or so). The point is, I find myself in a not completely unique situation – especially amongst Mormons: I’m a Mormon that also believes the theory of Evolution. I find that science is helpful for our species as a whole. I think that it behooves us to understand more about the world around us in a scientific way. I know that there is a lot that we don’t understand about our natural world that is not answered by religion.

Yet, I also know that God is God. He is the master astro-physicist, biologist, chemist, physician, neurologist, etc.

Sunset in Maui - Haleakala...both science and religion in one picture!

Sunset in Maui – Haleakala…both science and religion in one picture!

So, I found these two paragraphs in the NPR article especially interesting:

Sometimes faith is used as an alternative to reason, a way to designate (and sometimes denigrate) beliefs that are aren’t based on arguments or evidence, or that aren’t assessed critically. On this view, science and faith almost certainly conflict; science is all about arguments, evidence and critical assessment.

At the other extreme, faith can simply mean something like a guiding assumption or presupposition, and on this view, science does require faith. Science as an enterprise is based on the premise that we can generalize from our experience, or as “The Mathematician” put it, that induction works.

And this is exactly what I want to address:

Faith – not an alternative to reason

I can tell you, if faith was truly an alternative to reason, then I wouldn’t be a Mormon. It helps to understand exactly what faith is.

“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

Often, we spend a lot of time focusing on the first part of the definition: “ye hope for things which are not seen…” but this isn’t all. Alma includes one more qualification for faith: which are true. If you believe that the world is flat, you can believe it with your entire heart. You can believe it to your death. But it is merely belief and not faith because faith is belief in something that is true. I know…there may be a few more concerns with what I’m saying, but follow me for a second.

Truth, with a CAPITAL T, does exist

Oh, as an English major, I had plenty of class discussions about truth. I had a teacher challenge us by saying, “You can’t find a definition of truth. Truth is relative. What is true to you may not be true to me.” And, to an extent, I understood what he’s saying.

But he’s wrong.

He was questioning conventional wisdom, often confused with truth. After his class, I went to him and told him my definition of truth. I have to admit, he didn’t seem very excited when he heard my answer. I approached him, saying: “I’ve got a definition of truth for you.” Originally, I think that he eagerly expected me to say that Jesus Christ was the truth and the light, but his demeanor changed when I quoted the following scripture:

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

Seriously, can you think of a better definition of truth? Truth is not relative because truth doesn’t change. Pretty awesome–especially when you then apply this definition to the scripture in Alma: faith is believing something that is true – that is, was, and always will be. Back to my earlier example: the truth of the matter is the earth is round. It is right now, it was, and as long as the earth exists, it will be. Our opinion of the matter doesn’t change the truth.

And in this way faith and reasoning dovetail quite nicely.

Of course, I feel like there are still a few unanswered questions: how can you be sure you have faith, that you are believing in something true when you don’t have a perfect knowledge? This is when I rely on past experiences and tools that the Lord has promised each of us: namely the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost will both sustain our faith and testify of truth

You can get a sense of the truth even without empirical evidence through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead, which means he is omniscient and omnipotent. Additionally, His role is to guide us to truth and then testify of it.
We learn:

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

Now, just because this is simple doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. In fact, I have spent the better part of the last 35 years trying to discover how the Holy Ghost speaks to me. The whisperings of the Spirit are whisperings they are nuanced. It requires great discipline to hear and understand what the Spirit speaks to my soul. I am not always holy or able to “hear” what He is teaching me. His method of teaching is line upon line and precept upon precept. It is also still and small, which can get smothered in a world that is loud, big, and fast. Additionally, gospel learning and understanding is a rather scientific process: we are taught in The Doctrine and Covenants to first study out the solution of our problems in our minds, then pray to see if it is right. In other words, we hypothesize, and then through prayer and work, we test out our hypothesis. Sometimes, we get it right. The Holy Ghost sanctifies the experience for us, and we through the spirit and a measure of reason, gain understanding or answers – we may feel a burning in our bosom or we will feel enlightened (See Doctrine and Covenants 6:15, Doctrine and Covenants 11:13, and Doctrine and Covenants 76:12).

However, there are times when our hypothesis is proved wrong, and this is displayed through a “stupor of thought.”

Even Alma, in the Book of Mormon, asks us to experiment upon the Word.

Faith isn’t passive. It isn’t some abstract belief that we hang onto irrationally. Instead, it is rooted in reason–reasoning that surpasses our mortal understanding.

And I suppose that this, in my mind, is where science and faith intersect. Neither the best scientists nor the most faithful saints are bound by “conventional wisdom”. They think. They test out their theories. They believe that there is more to this life than we understand. They seek. And they find.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” – Matthew 7:7

What do you think about science, religion, reason and faith? Can they co-exist? Is it a silly argument? Are they at odds with one another?

Handmade Gospel Book for Youth – Part 2

This is the second part of the gospel book I’m making for my daughter who will be twelve next summer. You can see part one here.

Faith

For the second major part of this book, I concentrated on Faith. Before starting this group, I studied a little bit about faith – what I wanted my daughter to understand about it. I tried to remember that she is turning 12 – I wanted to gear it toward her age. I also found a few of the standards from For the Strength of the Youth that could be grouped with Faith.

Faith I

A few thoughts about Faith.


These pages speak about faith in general terms. I thought back to when I was twelve. I couldn’t remember what I thought or knew about faith. I’m pretty sure that when I thought of faith, I thought of the object lesson where someone falls backwards – hoping that their friend will catch them.

I quoted Alma 32:21, and encouraged Tiger to memorize it. Then, I explained a little bit about the scripture. Finally, I encouraged her to do what she could to cultivate her faith.

Faith II

An Illustration of Alma’s lesson on a seed of faith.

In this layout, I wanted to help Tiger understand Alma 32, where Alma likens faith to a seed. I included eight steps: Experiment upon the word, plant a seed in your heart, a good seed will swell, the seed will sprout if it is good, the seed will grow and knowledge replaces faith, exercise more faith to nurture your testimony, if you neglect the tree it dies, and diligence brings for fruit.

The Plan of Salvation

Illustrated Plan of Salvation Part One

Illustration of the Plan of Salvation – Part Two

Illustrated plan of Salvation – Part three

Illustrated Plan of Salvation – Part Four

The Next four layouts (eight pages) are all about the plan of salvation. I had fun with this. In fact, when I was working on this, it spawned the idea I had to do a scripture study series on the Plan of Salvation. I felt compelled to teach about this divine plan because when we understand it, we can be on a path that will help us to better understand our own specific purposes on this earth.

Sabbath Day

Sabbath Day Importance and Activity Ideas


In this layout, I included my own feelings about the Sabbath day. I also wrote down some good ideas of things to do on a Sabbath day.

Sacrament Meeting

My Favorite Sacrament Hymn and Thoughts on Sacrament Meeting


Sabbath day and Sacrament Meeting are closely related, but I wanted the two to have their own complete layouts. In this layout, about Sacrament meeting, I shared with my daughter a powerful experience I had at a baptism – and how that translated into my increased understanding of sacrament meeting. I also included the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite sacrament hymns: Jesus Once of Humble Birth.

Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge: The ten places on earth and Modern-day Inventions I’m grateful for.

The Gratitude Challenge the ten physical abilities, material possessions, things about today, foods, and things about the gospel I’m grateful for … plus a scripture.

I took the gratitude challenge and included it in this layout. Fun!

More on Gratitude

Ways to have gratitude in your heart.


I feel like gratitude is important, so I used it for two layouts (four pages total). In this layout, I included a quote from President Monson: “To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

On the next page, I wrote a fun list of things to do that will help us to have gratitude in our hearts.

Go Forward with Faith

Encouragement to press forward with faith.

On this layout, I drew a cute picture that was heavily inspired (read: basically copied) by Judy Kaufman. Then, on the next page, I wrote a page about pressing forward with faith. It is kind of like a letter/note. I included this inspiring quote: “To help you become all that the Lord wants you to become, kneel each morning and night in prayer to your Father in Heaven. Express to Him your gratitude and the desires of your heart. He is the source of all wisdom. He will answer your prayers. His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying. Even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in the quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. You should find quiet times to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. Be thankful that God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes.” – Richard G. Scott.

This quote was basically the inspiration for the entire layout.

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So – that’s it for faith. Check in later, for the next section based on Divine Nature.

FHE – Faith

Last night, homey taught FHE. He taught a simple lesson on Faith.

He referred to Alma 32 where Alma taught that having faith is like planting a seed. It requires work. It requires an experiment. It requires us taking a chance.

But, our chance will be rewarded. We will know whether or not that seed is good. It will either grow or it will not grow. Faith is worth that chance.

As we spoke about faith, our two older daughters have the “standard” answers down pat. But I had this feeling, like I really needed to probe a little bit more. I’ve had that feeling a lot lately. As they get older, I can see that they know what they are supposed to say. But I want that to begin to transition into them saying what they believe.

So we talked about that. Homey shared a time when he really started to feel his faith grow into a testimony. It was when he was fourteen and he went to EFY. I told the girls that sometimes, when my faith is being confirmed by the Spirit, I feel enlightened – like everything just makes sense. We encouraged them to do the things that would help them to cultivate their faith and testimony.

We talked about how, if you plant a seed, and it begins to grow, it is good. But, if you don’t take care of it, then it will die. If our plant dies because of our negligence, then it is foolish to blame the seed. Likewise, if our testimony dies because of negligence, it is foolish to say that the gospel isn’t true. The gospel didn’t fail us. We failed in nurturing our testimony. The girls seemed to understand this concept (it helps that we have dying basil plants on our back porch!). We talked about the things that they need to do if they want to feel more of the Spirit in their lives.

Anyways. FHE wasn’t anything crazy or spectacular. I’m still pretty down and out – getting better, but I still get tired and am not contributing as much as normal. So, Homey had to go it alone. Plus, Tiger had a volleyball game, so we got a late start. But the discussion on faith was the perfect thing…

I’m not sure what the girls took from FHE, but I had my own thoughts. Again, I realized that we are nearing a threshold. They are getting older. Tiger will be a young woman next year. I felt impressed that there is much I need to keep teaching them. And I won’t be able to do it the same way that I teach Sasquatch and Rex (the three year old and one-year-old, respectively). I will need to be more attentive and flexible. I will need to open up a discourse for my daughters. I will need to be able to be the kind of parent that they can trust, but without being too “friendly” or permissive. There is a lot to learn, but I am hopeful.

Since my kids were really little, I’ve had the thought that what I did with them as a child would lay the groundwork for what our lives would be like when they became teenagers. That time is nearing. I know that I need to improve. I want our home to be filled with love, acceptance, and kindness. I want it to be a place where they feel free to grow and learn. I want them to develop their own testimonies. I want them to learn to love the scriptures. I want them to develop their own relationships with the Savior. I feel a heavy burden as their teenage years near, but I am also really comforted. We have instituted the practice of FHE. We speak openly about the gospel and scriptures. We pray together. I know that these small and simple things will bring to pass great things for the lives of every member of our family.

Anyways…a simple FHE. We had no special activity or treat. And that’s totally okay. We did have the Spirit – that is the key ingredient. 🙂 I’m amazed at how much FHE teaches me.

What did you do for FHE? As you prepare and execute FHE, what are some of the things that you learn? How does FHE help you?

Having an Eye of Faith – Scripture Chain

I’m intrigued by the concept of having an eye of faith. I think that it interests me so much because it has been hard for me to develop, yet I know that in many facets of our lives, visualizing ourselves accomplishing our goals will help us to see them through.

Can you imagine yourself reaching your goal – whether it is losing weight, getting a certain job, writing a novel, winning a golf tournament – do you see yourself obtaining that which you are working for? Chances are, if you can’t visualize it, then you won’t be able to accomplish it.

This concept holds true for obtaining eternal life. The Lord asks us to develop an eye of faith. Doing so will help us to achieve our ultimate goal of eternal life.

So – here’s the scripture chain.

Matthew 6:22 – Look to God

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22
Notice, especially, the footnotes for the word “single”:
1. This is a Greek Idiom for healthy, sincere, without guile.
2. JST explains that the phrase “to the glory of God” should proceed included.

This scripture teaches us what we should be envisioning with our eye of faith: our eye needs to be single – to the glory of God, then our whole body will be full of light. This is the vision we must see with our eye of faith. Then we will be blessed.

The Lord doesn’t ask us to imagine ourselves keeping the commandments. He doesn’t ask us to imagine ourselves getting some kind of calling or even making a covenant. He tells us to envision His glory. It is the glory of God that will fill our souls with light and enable us to achieve our goal. Of course we need to keep the commandments and make covenants, but that should not be the focus of our eye of faith.

This makes sense to me. Sometimes, I forget to think of the glory of God. I forget about His power and mercy. I forget about His love and grace. Instead, I begin to focus too much on my flaws, then I get overwhelmed by the idea of perfection. I become discouraged and distracted. If we focus, instead, on the glory of the Lord, then our beings will be filled with light and hope. He will help us overcome our natural weakness and flaws. We will be able to see through to the time when our eye of faith is realized.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:68 – Be Sanctified

“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:68

Here we learn that in order to have our minds become single to God, then we need to sanctify ourselves. To be sanctified means to be made pure. This happens as we repent, are cleansed in the waters of baptism, and continually work to keep the commandments and renew our covenants. As we keep our eye on God and work to become more like Him by being sanctified, then there will be a time when we do see him.

If we think of this scripture on very practical terms – as far as having an eye of faith concerning other goals – then I think that we apply this scripture to mean that we need to do what it takes to achieve our goal. If the goal is to run a marathon, for example, we can’t simply imagine ourselves crossing the finish line. We must also “sanctify” ourselves, by waking up early, running, eating right, signing up for the marathon, and logging in the miles. As we do this, not only are we are better able to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize: of crossing the finish line, but we will actually do it, too!

Acts 7:55-56 – Look Steadfastly

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:55-56

This scripture is part of the account of Saint Stephen. Notice the phrase in the quoted verses, “[he] looked up steadfastly into heaven.” Stephen was steadfast in his vision. I have a feeling that Stephen spent his entire life looking to Heaven. He didn’t happen to finally have an eye of faith at the end of His life. Stephen had looked to heaven, steadfastly, for a long time and eventually saw – literally – what he had seen with his spiritual eyes for so long.

Not only do we have to look, and be sanctified, but we have to be steadfast. We have to maintain an eye of faith even when the vision we have seems completely impossible.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:38 – Seek the Lord

“And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.” – Doctrine and Covenants 101:38

Here we learn that sometimes we’ll have to seek the face of the Lord, and we may even need to be patient.

I forget this so much. It isn’t that the Lord’s face is hard to find, but it can be when I’m not being spiritually tuned into Him. When I really think about it, the Face of the Lord can be seen in everything around me. Have I ever mentioned how beautiful it is where I live?

This is where I live!

A few nights ago, I was busy in my house, getting ready for dinner, etc, when I happened to notice the sunset. Sunsets in Arizona are pretty much amazing. I decided to turn off the stove for a minute so I could go outside and enjoy the winds, the oncoming monsoon, and the amazing sunset.

I realized how often I go without taking much notice of the world around me – because I’m so focused on what is happening before my eyes. I don’t always seek the beauty of the world around me. I don’t always seek the face of the Lord in His creations and my blessings. So often, my little pathetic life is getting in the way of the bigger picture I need to have.

We may know that we need to have an eye of faith and look to the Glory of God, but there are times when this “vision” isn’t so apparent. We may need to seek His glory. Often, seeking Him isn’t so difficult – it is just a matter of turning down the distractions. No matter how you do it, we need to seek. If we do, we will find Him.

Alma 36:22, 28 – Reaching our Goal

“Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

And I know that he will raise me up at the last day, to dwell with him in glory; yea, and I will praise him forever,…” – Alma 36:22, 28

In this final scripture, Alma (the younger) is teaching his son shortly before His departure from mortality. He relates the experience of his conversion to his son, Helaman. He had endured the pains of his own sins, then he felt the joy of repentance. After repenting, Alma caught a glimpse – of God sitting on his throne, the beauty of the angels praising and singing. Alma longed to be there.

This vision became the picture Alma saw in his eye of faith.

We can study Alma’s life after his conversion. He spent his time devoted to the Lord. He was sanctified through keeping the commandments and making and keeping covenants. He was steadfast and didn’t waver once he had covenanted with God. He sought the Lord diligently and with patience through prayer and fasting. Because of Alma’s eye of faith, he was, eventually, able to know that he would be able to go where his soul longed to be.

How do you keep an eye of faith? How has having an eye of faith helped you to get through trials and difficulties in life? What are your favorite scriptures that teach us about having an eye of faith?

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Read this blog post for more information on marking scripture chains in your scriptures.
or
Check out my free eBook Getting More from the Scriptures: Techniques and Projects for Effective Scripture Study.

Easter Study – The Cleansing of the Temple and The Cursing of the Fig Tree

While the Triumphal entry was a really high point during the last week of Christ’s life, it doesn’t take long to get back to reality.

Before approaching Jerusalem, the Lord laments.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42

His people were wicked. They didn’t recognize Him. Israel refused to know their Lord and see Him – even though He was physically before their eyes. This experience provides an interesting backdrop for what happens next.

(The accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ a little bit as to the chronology of events. So, I’m going to look at this following Mark’s chronology…I find his especially interesting).

The Cursing of the Fig Tree
When Christ approaches the fig tree and finds it barren, he curses it.

At first glance, it can seem like the Lord was being impatient or maybe in a bad mood. But I don’t think that this is the case. The fig tree hadn’t filled the measure of its creation. I feel like this is symbolic. The House of Israel – and the Jews especially had been a chosen people. They had been carefully planted and tended, yet they refused to bring forth good fruit.

In the allegory of the vine, the Lord explains:

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…” – John 15:2

We know that we shouldn’t bring forth bad fruit, but that isn’t enough. We can’t simply “abide in Christ” and bring forth no fruit. We can’t be like the fig tree, without fruit. It isn’t enough to be a member of the House of Israel. We need to bear good fruit. We need to do good work.

Cleansing the Temple
When the Lord gets to the temple, he sees so many people there doing wicked things. The temple, He explains, is to be a house of Prayer. But the people have made it a “den of theives.” Christ takes this treatment of the temple very personally. And for good reason: It is His Fathers house: His House.

Jesus Cleansing the Temple

I like thinking about this in relationship with the cursed fig tree. Both the temple and the fig tree have specific purposes, and neither one was being met. In the case of the Fig Tree, it was cursed because it didn’t bring forth fruit. In the case of the temple, it needed to be cleansed and made Holy again.

Cleaning the temple wasn’t the only thing that the Savior did at the temple. There were some people at the temple who weren’t mistreating it.

“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.” – Matthew 21:14

They understood the true reason for the temple – that through the temple, they could go and be with the Lord, partake of His goodness, learn of Him, and be made whole.

We are blessed to have temples now. Temples are the house of the Lord, and when we go there, we learn more of the Savior, feel His peace, and enable the healing powers of the atonement to infuse our lives.

“I hope you use the temple constantly because you will gain the blessings that are there that you cannot gain anywhere else on the face of the whole earth. The temple stands as a monument for all to see. It stands as a statement that we as a people believe in the immortality of the human soul. Everything that occurs in the temple is of an uplifting and ennobling kind, and it speaks of life here and of life beyond the grave. It speaks of the importance of the individual as a child of God. It speaks of the importance of the family as the creation of the Almighty. It speaks of the eternity of the marriage relationship. It speaks of going on to a greater glory. It is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.” – Gordon B. Hinkcley

I truly love the temple. I know that through repeated temple attendance and worship, I have grown closer to the Savior. It is a holy and sacred place. The Lord cannot tolerate sin or wickedness to usurp His power found in the temple. This is why Christ needed to cleanse His temple anciently, and it is why we need to go reverently to the temple now.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree, continued
In the Account given by Mark, after the temple was cleansed, the apostles notice that the fig tree had been dried up and withered – all on account of Christ’s cursing it. The apostles are somewhat amazed by the withered fig tree.

Jesus responds simply to their amazement:

“…Have faith in God.” – Mark 11:22

That’s what it is all about – the cursed fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, healing in the temple, everything. It is all about having faith in God; Having faith in our Savior. We need to have faith in the power of God and Christ. He is the Master, the Creator, the Redeemer. He is our King, the Father of our redemption. If we have faith in Him, not only could we make a fig tree wither, or a mountain move, but through faith in Him and His infinite power, we can be healed – from pain, trials, and ultimately death and Sin.

What do you do to remember the Lord, to fulfill the measure of your creation, and to exercise faith?

***

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