Keeping the Commandments Brings Blessings – 1 Nephi 20:16-19

You can read 1 Nephi 20:15-19 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah. See Isaiah 48.
  • The Lord is speaking through Isaiah.
  • The Lord invites us to come near unto Him.
  • The Lord does not speak in secret. He has spoken from the beginning.
  • The Lord has sent us examples who can lead us to the way we should go.
  • If we will hearken (and obey) the commandments, then we will have peace, posterity, protection.

Keeping the Commandments Brings Blessings

Before getting into today’s scripture study, I will admit that there is so much more to the scriptures than what I can discover in this reading. Even though I’ve been studying this very slowly as I blog about it, there is always more to get from the scriptures! There is always something else to learn. We can read the scriptures daily every day of our lives and still not know enough.

Today’s scripture block has a verse that has always stood out to me:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” – 1 Nephi 20:18

I wish I could remember the first time I read that scripture and liked it. I think that it was when I was a youth – in seminary, probably. Now, I want to make it clear: I had no idea what the rest of this chapter even meant. Isaiah went right over my head. I admit that often when I read Isaiah, the words just went into my head and settled there as a jumbled mess. But this was a verse I could understand.

It still stands out to me now.

We Have the Commandments

First of all, it is important to note that the Lord has not spoken in secret. His word has been declared. We are blessed with the light of Christ. The commandments have been given.

Though there absolutely are mysteries of God, His commandments, for the most part, are not a mystery. He has given them to us. He has sent prophets to preach His word. He has given us the scriptures. Not only that, but He lets us experience real consequences of commandments so we can learn them in a practical way, rather only through abstract thought.

So – we have the commandments. Are we hearkening?

Why Hearken

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—…” – 1 Nephi 20:18

The sentiment here is one of lamentation. The Lord is lamenting Israel’s choice to disobey the commandments. The Lord still laments when we make the choice not to hearken to the commandments. And why does He lament? Because He wants to be able to bless us.

I think that it is important to understand that God is a God of order. The universe is governed by the laws and principles that He has taught us. He is not an arbitrary or power hungry God. He is a loving Father. And the commandments that He has given us are in accordance to the laws of the universe. If we want to be happy, then we will keep them.

Put another way – the law of gravity is a simple, profound, non-negotiable law of this world. As parents, we have a choice. We can teach our children about the constraints of the law of gravity so that they stay safe. Now, I don’t mean that we sit a three year old down, and talk about physics, Newton’s laws, force, and gravity. Instead, we would probably just say things like, “You need to get buckled” or “Don’t climb up the counter” or “You have to wear a helmet while riding your bike.”

Or we can be “nice” parents and neglect to teach our children about the implications of this law. We can let them climb to high and dangerous heights. We can let them dangle their feet off the edge of a cliff at the Grand Canyon. We want them to be happy and free!

Of course, though this child may not know the law of gravity, he is still susceptible to it.

Imagine a two year old boy: climbing and playing in the grocery cart at a store. He doesn’t like to be buckled, so his parents have decided not to buckle him. They want him to feel happy and free. He stands in the cart. His parents haven’t told him not to stand in the cart because they don’t want to inhibit him. He falls out of the cart and hits his head on the concrete floor and starts having seizures. He has to be hospitalized for a few days as doctors monitor his brain and swelling.

Remember, this is a fictional scenario… What should the parents have done? Should they have discussed the principles of gravity? Maybe not to a three year old. But perhaps rules about staying buckled in the seat would be a more responsible way to avoid such a situation.

(NOW! Before I make anyone feel bad. I know that this can happen even with the best parenting and teachers. I’m not trying to single out anyone who has a child that is a little Houdini. A Houdini who escapes is different than a child that isn’t being taught. This is just an illustration to show that even if we aren’t taught laws, we are still susceptible to them).

The commandments that God gives to us work the same way. They keep us safe. They bless us. Sometimes the commandments are given to us because we don’t quite understand the real law. Sometimes, instead of teaching us the ins and outs of the laws of gravity (because our minds are just too simple to understand it), the Lord gives us other commandments that will help us abide the true law – resulting in safety.

No matter what, we know that our Heavenly Father is a true and living God. He really is our Father, and He loves us perfectly. We can trust Him.

After lamenting, the Lord then tells Israel what the consequence of hearkening would have been.

Peace as a River

The first consequence of hearkening to the commandments would have been peace as a river.

River
Peace as a River

What does this mean?

Well, have you ever sat next to a river? I remember, growing up, I lived in Texas. We lived near the Buffalo Bayou. I would go down there sometimes to ride bikes with my friends. It was muddy, but it remains a place of which I have fond memories. I don’t really remember peace. I just remember riding bikes. And being somewhat careful because there were a lot of snakes there.

As a youth, we moved to Pennsylvania. And we lived close to the Brandywine River. Yes, that river connotes both peace and joy. I remember floating down the Brandywine River on a tube with friends. I remember swimming in it. I remember jumping off of a bridge on Dowlin Forge Road into the River. I remember canoeing with my dad and family on it. As an adult, I would often run on the path that tracked just alongside the Brandywine River. Four seasons of the year it harbored life. Yes. Peace.

As an adult, I have lived in Phoenix. Rivers in Phoenix are not like rivers in other places. For most of the year, the river is simply a dry river bed. But during the winter months when there is a little rain, or in the summer during the monsoon season, there are days – here and there – when the rivers are flowing with water. There is nothing like water in the desert.

I also spent time in Utah – for a while, living in Midway, Utah. Midway is a town situated near the Provo River. Additionally, there are other little creeks, canals, and springs.

peace as a river
Snake Creek

There is something about the running water and lush banks that truly make rivers little oases of peace in our lives.

I love the imagery of this verse. If we will hearken to—which means listen to and keep—the commandments. Then we will have peace as a river. I know that there are more ways I can think about the river to better understand this metaphor, but for know that is what is coming to me.

It is also important to understand what the Savior means by peace. In the New Testament, we read:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

The Savior doesn’t offer us the kind of “peace” that is defined by the world. The definition of peace – as given by the world seems to be one that is more or less an omission of fighting or war. We don’t tend to focus much on the conditions of the heart. The worldly definition of peace is an outward definition.

The Lord, however, has another idea of peace. We learn in the Guide to the Scriptures:

In the scriptures, peace can mean either freedom from conflict and turmoil or the inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit that God gives to His faithful Saints. – Guide to the Scriptures: Peace

The Lord’s definition of peace is centered on the inner calm and comfort we feel as a result of His Spirit. In this way, we can experience peace even when we are in the middle of a physical conflict of some kind. Conversely, we can experience inner turmoil even when the outward conditions of our life seem “peaceful.”

So – when we keep the commandments, we can have peace, the kind of peace offered by the Lord. The kind of peace that comes through His living waters.

Righteousness as the Waves of the Sea

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Ocean Waves

The next thing we learn in this verse is that if we will hearken unto the commandments, then we will have “righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Again, we are given another physical metaphor to understand an abstract concept.

I have been fortunate enough to live on the North Shore of Hawai’i. In the winter time, when there is a swell, the waves are so big and powerful that I can’t really describe them.  They are amazing, powerful, and they just keep on going. All day, all night, all day, and all night again. The waves never stop.

This post is already so long, but maybe it is worth thinking about. If we hearken to God’s commandments, then a blessing is righteousness. And not simply righteousness, but unflagging righteousness – like the waves of the sea – full of energy, power, and endurance.

waves of the sea

There is so much more to study, but I need to finish for now. I still love this scripture so much. I find hope in it. I desire to have peace as a river and righteousness as the waves of the sea. I know that I can do this, if I will hearken unto the Savior. Even though there are times when it seems difficult to do, the sacrifice is a small price to pay for the generous blessings He desires to give us.

They Were Armed with Righteousness – 1 Nephi 14:8-17

You can read 1 Nephi 14:8-17 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Angel asks Nephi if he remembers the covenants of Heavenly Father to the House of Israel. Nephi responds that yes, he does.
  • The Angel shows Nephi that the Devil is the founder of the “great and abominable church” – a proverbial church which is literally anything that fights against the Lord and tries to hurt people.
  • The Devil and his “church” has influence all over the earth.
  • The Saints of God are also found on the earth, but their numbers are few.
  • The Devil will inspire those who follow Him to fight against the Lamb of God.
  • The power of the Lamb of God, however, will be with the covenant saints of the Lord. They will be armed with righteousness and the power of God.
  • Nephi witnesses wars and conflicts all over the earth.
  • The Lord would commence in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants – which He made with the House of Israel.

They Were Armed with Righteousness

There is a lot in this scripture block that I’m not one hundred percent sure of. I have my opinions. I don’t think that the “great and abominable church” is a specific church. I just think that it is anything that is actively working against Good.

I also think that that there are a lot of good people on this earth that may not have the gospel in their lives. They may not have covenanted with God. I don’t think that people who haven’t covenanted with God are evil. I think that the Lord looks on our hearts.

All of that being said, I do believe that evil exists. I know that there are true influences trying to coax us into sin, pain, and misery. I also know that we aren’t left alone on this earth.

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” – 1 Nephi 14:14

I find this so interesting. First of all, we must understand that the Power of the Lamb of God descended on the saints of the church.

If you are not familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we consider anyone who covenants with God a saint. You don’t need to be canonized to be a saint. You simply need to be committed to Christ and striving to keep your covenants.

Also, according to this scripture, the power of God goes to the Saints – all over the earth. They don’t need to live in Utah or in the U.S. If you have covenanted with the Lord, and if you are living up to your covenants, then the power of God will descend on you – no matter where you are.

Okay. Anyway – the things I find interesting…

Armed with Righteousness

Armed. The saints of God – their “weapon” is righteousness. I’m reminded of the scripture in Ephesians where Paul teaches to put on the whole armor of God:

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” – Ephesians 6:11-17

This really relates to what we are reading in 1 Nephi. Paul teaches that the whole armor of God will enable to withstand the “wiles of the devil.”

We don’t fight flesh and blood – but against spiritual wickedness – in other words, against “the church of the devil.”

If we will covenant with God, and then keep those covenants, then He offers to arm us with righteousness – armor of truth; a breastplate of righteousness; boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace; a shield of faith; a helmet of salvation; and a sword of the Spirit.

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Put on the Armor of God

With this armor, we cannot fail. We won’t be deceived. We will be destroyed by the enemy of us all (Satan!). The only “issues” with this armor is our agency. Heavenly Father won’t force us to covenant with Him. He won’t force us to become saints. He won’t force us to wear His “armor.”

But if we do, we are armed. And there is no better protection than righteousness.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – They Are Righteous Forever – 1 Nephi 12:1-11

You can read 1 Nephi 12:1-11 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to look, and he looks.
  • Nephi sees his posterity. They have multiplied exceedingly. They have had wars and contentions. They have built so many cities, Nephi doesn’t even number them. Many generations have passed away.
  • Nephi saw a mist of darkness cover the earth. He also saw various natural disasters. Many people died, but those were more righteous were spared.
  • Nephi saw the Savior come and show himself to the people.
  • Nephi saw twelve among his people who were ordained of God and chosen.
  • The Angel explains to Nephi that those 12 of his seed will be judged later by the apostles. He also tells that these will be righteous forever because of their faith in Christ.
  • Nephi also saw three more generations pass away (after the visitation by Christ) who were righteous because of their faith in Christ and His Atonement.

They Are Righteous Forever

I truly can’t imagine having the vision that Nephi is having right now. I can’t imagine seeing my posterity – years, decades, even centuries from now. The people that Nephi sees in vision are his posterity – either his directly or the posterity of his brothers. We will talk more about this in a later blog post, but I just want to say that I truly can’t imagine it.

As Nephi sees the distant future of the civilization that he started, he sees that the Savior will visit his people. The Savior will bless the Nephites with apostles—ordained and chosen to minister to the people. About these disciples we learn:

” And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.” – 1 Nephi 12:10

Not only that, but the remainder of the people were also righteous. We read:

“And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.” – 1 Nephi 12:11

Don’t you love that phrase: they are righteous forever?! It is my desire – to be able to achieve righteousness that lasts forever. Unfortunately, my righteousness usually lasts until about 15 minutes after I’ve partaken of the sacrament. By then, I’ve usually had some kind of judgmental thought that makes me need the ordinance again. Not to mention the ways that I stray from righteousness throughout the week.

But, interestingly enough, these disciples and Nephites aren’t righteous forever because of their own willpower and brute strength. It is through their faith in the Lamb of God. The idea of reaching some pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness kind of seems impossible.

That’s because it is.

And I often misunderstand. That “pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness” isn’t what God expects in order for us to qualify for the blessings of salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, the Lord asks us to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” And, as we have read in this scripture today, we simply need to have faith in Christ – this faith will help to qualify us so that our “garments are made white” in the blood of the Lamb.

The Savior explained:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” – 3 Nephi 27:19-20

One – Faith

First, and foremost, we need to have faith. We need to believe in Christ – that He truly did come to the earth in the meridian of time. We need to believe that He lived a perfect life. We need to believe that He ministered to the poor, needy, sick, blind, and hungry. We need to believe that He taught by precept and example. We need to believe that He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and took on the sins of the world – so we could be provided a way to be saved. We need to believe that He willingly went on the cross and gave up His life so that He could take it up again – overcoming the sting of death and hell.

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Not only do we need to believe in Christ, but we also need to have enough faith in Him to practice what He has taught.

Two – Repentance

Faith in Christ helps us to understand why we need Him. As our faith in Him grows, we become capable of seeing the need we have for a Savior. We then will heed His word:

“15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19

Three – Baptism in Christ Name

After cultivating faith and then repenting, we will then be led to baptism – a covenant that has been made available through Christ. In baptism, we will receive a remission of our sins. This principle was taught in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;” – Doctrine and Covenants 55:1

And baptism, then, leads us to…

Four – The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Often, when I think of the gift of the Holy Ghost, I think of the constant companionship of the Comforter. And, of course it is that. But think about that phrase – constant companionship. And think about the fact that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead.

We won’t just get the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead just because. We know that no unclean thing can dwell with God. And yes, we have been baptized by the time we have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but another important facet of this gift is that the Holy Ghost sanctifies us. He makes us holy. We learn:

“Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.” – Alma 13:12

Now – notice this scripture, how it comes full circle with where we started. Just so you know, the context of Alma 13 is Alma teaching about the priesthood and those called to it (just like the disciples that the Angel showed to Nephi).

They had covenanted with God in the waters of baptism, and they had been sanctified through by Holy Ghost. These people were purified and sanctified which happens to each of us when we covenant with God and then live worthy of our covenants.

Such purification and sanctification then results in our desire to remain righteous – because then we can remain both pure and holy.

I realize that there are many who misunderstand what it means to be pure and holy. Perhaps the important thing to emphasize here is that the apostles were made pure and holy through the blood of Christ. He doesn’t expect us to be some kind of extra-terrestrial being that is innately “pure.” Purity doesn’t mean prudishness or puritanism. Instead, we become pure as we go to the Lord with fulness of heart and real intent.

And then He makes us pure. We then are made clean through His blood and can be—if we will continually choose Him—righteous and happy forever.

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Thanks for reading today. This was probably a boring post, but I really like understanding what I believe in. The doctrine of Christ really is beautiful. There is so much mercy and love in it. There is sacrifice, yes, but it gives way to hope and joy.

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (8/8)

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 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

This is the final of the beatitudes that we’ll be studying. I feel like I’ve learned so much! I hope that you have, too.

This last beatitude is actually a little longer than the others. We can quote it in one verse, but the Savior actually continues on:

” Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Before I began to really study this beatitude, I wondered, why did Christ tell this one last of all? and Why did Christ explain this one more than He did the others? I’m not completely sure of the answers. (Besides, they would only be speculation, anyways). But I’m keeping them in mind. In a way, I suppose it implies importance to this beatitude. In any case, think about this while we study the beatitude.

As with the other beatitudes, we will first discover what this beatitude means. We will then see how Christ exemplified it during His great work of the Atonement.

The Meaning of the Parable

Persecuted for righteousness’ sake

You don’t have to think very long or hard to find examples of people who have either persecuted the righteous or have been persecuted because they were righteous. A few quick examples include: The people in Lehi’s Dream (1 Nephi 8), Joseph Smith (See here), The Savior (Luke 23), Abinadi (Mosiah 17), and Alma both persecuted others (Mosiah 27 and then after his conversion was persecuted (Alma 14). There are even modern-day accounts of people who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Jeffrey R. Holland shares a few examples in this talk).

The point of this list is to say that people have always been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The short list above is not even the tip of the iceberg. So many of the people I listed here who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake were martyred. What dedication! Yet the beatitude says that “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” how could persecution unto death be considered a blessing?

Jacob, the son of Lehi, was reminded about his suffering:

“Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Trusting that we’ll be blessed for enduring persecution requires us to trust in God and His perspective. It can be difficult to see how such endurance could be a blessing. I’m often guilty of thinking, “Oh, things will be alright. If I’m righteous, then the Lord will spare me of my suffering.” Sometimes, this is true. Because of righteous decisions, there is a great deal of suffering that I’m spared of – self-inflicted problems such as addiction.

However, this beatitude reminds us that there are times when, even though we’re righteous, we will suffer. Some people, like many mentioned above, suffer to the death. There are times when we won’t be delivered from the difficulty and affliction we’re in until we die. We must maintain an eternal perspective while going through this life, otherwise it is impossible to endure persecution.

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There is another aspect to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I can’t help but think about the people who are doing the persecuting. What on earth is their motive? An unnamed high priest wonders the same thing when Korihor is about persecuting the people of God and preaching against the gospel:

“And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him [Korihor]: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?” – Alma 30:22

In other words, this high priest is asking Korihor, “What’s your deal? Why are you changing God’s ways and laws? Why are you trying to frustrate our happiness? There are so many more witnesses than you of God and His divinity. What gives???

Why do people persecute others? What motivated the Pharisees to hate the Savior so much? Why did Korihor, Sherem, and Nehor seek to destroy the church in the Book of Mormon. Why did mobs of people attack and then kill Joseph Smith? What motivates those who persected in the past and those who persecute others now?

In the Book of Mormon is recorded Lehi’s dream. He had a vision where he saw many people walking along a path and an iron rod to the tree of life. This path was arduous and difficult. The people needed to endure trials, mists of darkness, and even scoffing and mocking in order to finally partake of the fruit of this tree. Along this path were people in a “great and spacious building” who mocked the people who were faithfully holding tight to the rod of iron and making their way to the tree of life.

Why did they mock? What was it to them? We find out more about these people from Nephi:

“And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.” – 1 Nephi 12:18

The people in the great and spacious building were motivated by the “vain imaginations” and pride.

Other helpful examples are the excuses given by three prominent “anti-Christs” in the book of Mormon.

Why did Sherem persecute the people and preach against God? He tells here:

And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment. – Jacob 7:18

Sherem preached against righteousness because he had been deceived.

Why did Nehor preach against the church and then even kill Gideon, a righteous man? We learn in Alma:

“And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.” – Alma 1:5

Nehor preached against righteousness because he was able to get power and money for his self-promotion and teaching. Nehor later killed a righteous man, and was consequently put to death. At his execution, Nehor admits that what he had taught people was “contrary to the word of God,” (Alma 1:15).

Why did Korihor persecute the righteous? He explains it himself:

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” – Alma 30:53

From these four examples, I can only surmise that people persecute the righteous because they are proud, they are deceived, they want power and prestige over others, and because righteousness is not really pleasing to our carnal, natural minds.

I think it is important to remember the motives of those who persecute against righteousness. Sometimes the reason is pathetic- the people are confused or deceived. Other times, the reasons are insidious – they want power over people. Understanding these motives can help us to fight them off. Those who preach against the gospel and persecute righteousness can be very convincing.

Kingdom of Heaven

Next, the Lord teaches that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Before investigating this further, the first thing that strikes me is that Christ doesn’t say, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for they will be blessed with monetary riches.” He doesn’t say that they “…will experience great health throughout their lives.” He doesn’t promise friends, an easy life, or many of the things that we consider blessings.

Instead, Christ offers something that no one or thing else can offer: the kingdom of Heaven. I think that if we remember that this is the blessing, then we will also better be able to keep perspective of our current trials and tribulations. In other words, this beatitude demands us to have an eternal perspective.

Now, what is the kingdom of Heaven?

I can’t help but think of the many parables that Christ gives in Matthew 13. In this chapter alone, we learn that the kingdom of Heaven is:

  • “Mysterious” – it is not understood by the natural mind, but by the Spirit. (Verse 11)
  • Will be purged of the tares. (Verse 24)
  • Like a mustard seed – the least of all seeds, but greatest of all herbs: growing into a tree. (Verse 31)
  • Like leaven – a small amount will leaven the whole loaf. (Verse 33)
  • A treasure in a field and when a man finds it will sell all he has to buy that field. (Verse 44)
  • A pearl of great price. (Verse 45)
  • A net that is cast into the sea and gathers of every kind. All of the bad is discarded, then all truth and goodness is included. (Verse 47)

As I look through this list, I’m struck by a few things: the kingdom of Heaven is, of course, God’s kingdom. It is perfectly cleaned. In fact, it has been cleansed by Him. The tares were cast out. The garbage caught in the net was discarded. Only the pure remains.

Additionally, I’m formulating another idea of the kingdom of heaven. It is abundantly rich. Like the mustard tree, it is large and strong even though it had humble beginnings. It is a pearl of great price. It is everything in the earth that is good and true. I really love understanding this concept. I have recently gotten into yoga and meditation. There are so many good practices from eastern religions. As I’ve learned more about them, I remember to keep the Savior at the center of everything that I’m learning, but that the gospel is all truth circumscribed into one great whole.

This is the kingdom of Heaven: all that is good, just, and true. It is all that is beautiful and joyous. It is every pure and good thing. It isn’t just this ethereal idea of people floating around in clouds and blowing trumpets (although there may be some of that…who knows). My point is it is more than that. The kingdom of Heaven is substantive. It is all of everything – truth, goodness, purity. I need to remember that God isn’t just offering us a life of hanging out in the sky. He offers us the abundant life. To those who are righteous to the point where they will endure persecution because of their righteousness Christ offers everything in His kingdom.

Understanding this makes martyrdom, even, seem like a small price to pay for everlasting joy and abundance.

Jesus Christ – His Atonement and Persecution

Now that we understand more about this beatitude, we will look at how it can possibly relate to Christ’s Atonement.

Persecution for Righteousness’ sake

Well, at first glance, I think that it is really easy to see the relationship between this beatitude and the Atonement. The entire Atonement is fraught with persecution and suffering. Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

One
Christ was righteous, and I mean Righteous. He is the essence of all righteousness. His example is perfect. He was pure. The Atonement – which was taking on our sins and imperfections and paying the price that justice demanded of them so that we could receive mercy – could only be performed by Him. Because of His purity, only He could offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson

It is interesting to me, too, that Christ – immediately after paying the price of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane – would be betrayed, falsely accused, and arrested.

Two
After being arrested, he is taken before Pilate and questioned. He then is taken to Herod where he is treated like some kind of circus freak. (Herod wants him to “perform”). This is all before the real persecution starts. But it’s bad enough already. Can you imagine being falsely accused and then taken before local judges/magistrates where they treated you like some kind of freak show? How horribly humiliating.

But Christ’s persecution – all because He was righteous – doesn’t end there.

Christ is sentenced to death, primarily because a mob chanting, “Crucify Him!” refused to release a known robber. The Pharisees and wicked people that condemned Christ were largely offended by who He was – the son of God – one who healed, served, and performed miracles. Instead of seeing that Christ was their promised Messiah, because they had been so far removed from righteousness, they persecuted it.

As Christ endured His sentence, He also endured a great deal of persecution.

Nephi describes Christ’s experience succinctly:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

AFTER Christ had already suffered the pains of every sin and infirmity of every person in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ then suffered the humiliation of false accusation, arrest and judgement. Then, He continued to suffer mocking, scourging, and smiting.

Matthew relates what happened to the Savior as He hung on the Christ but before He gave up the ghost:

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” – Matthew 27:39-43

I find this to be one of the most bitterly ironic passages, or paradoxical, maybe hypocritical? I don’t know. But this passage is annoying, at best, and I shake my head in amazement. These unbelieving Jews, the people of the covenant, didn’t understand their own religion or their God. And what they persecute Christ for demonstrates their ignorance and pride.

They walk by Him, wagging their heads. This implies a sense of persecution and mockery, for sure.

Then, they tempt Christ, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” They claim that because He can’t save Himself, then He’s obviously not capable of saving anyone else. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand their own laws and ordinances. They didn’t understand the symbolism of the blood sacrifice that they offered – as a type of the sacrifice that He would offer.

The thing that is ironic here is that because Christ didn’t save Himself in that moment, he saved Himself and all mankind. Had Christ not endured persecution for righteousness sake, and He had the power not to, then He would not have been able to finish His work. By staying on that cross,and by dying, He was saving Himself and others!

Three
Thankfully, we have the advantage of hindsight when thinking of Christ and His Atonement. We know that three days after being crucified, He was not in the garden tomb. He was risen. And He lives.

Sometimes it is easy to think that we could endure the persecution that those who lived in the past endured, but we forget that they didn’t have the advantage of hindsight.

When I think of Christ’s experience being persecuted, I am reminded of the fact that sometimes the wicked do have the power to hurt us to the point where we may die. Sometimes the wicked do obtain material wealth and power over others. We see this with war criminals. We see this with the Pharisees that condemned Christ.

But we must maintain perspective. The devil had power to bruise Christ’s Heel, but with that very heel that had been bruised, Christ was able to crush the devil’s head.

Righteous will prevail. It’s worth enduring persecution for.

The Kingdom of Heaven

Because of all that Christ suffered – even unto death; because He chose to descend below all, He was able ascend above all and inherit the kingdom of God.

And, because Christ has suffered our sins, we can covenant with Him and also become joint heirs and inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

***
Last week, I went to the Mesa Easter Pageant with my kids. When Christ was being crucified, T-Rex was perplexed, “Why didn’t he fight?” He asked. It was cute, and it was a good question.

That’s the thing, though. Christ didn’t fight the immediate problem. He could have He could have escaped and destroyed His executioners. He could have avoided all persecution. He could have silenced the Pharisees or He could have given into their traps. Of course, Had he done that, then the Atonement would not have been performed, Salvation for all would have been thwarted and niehter the Savior nor anyone else would have been able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

And, as I write this, maybe the right answer to my little boy is, “Oh, but He did fight. He fought the true fight of agency and mastery over sin and temptation. He performed His work. He was resurrected. He lives. He didn’t get diverted by a little difficulty (okay, crucifixion is more than a “little” difficulty). Instead, He stayed focused on His real battle, and He conquered.

***

What have you learned about being persecuted for righteousness’ sake? Have you experienced this in some way? How did you endure?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (4/8)

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 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:6
Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

This beatitude has been fun to study, and I have to admit that my conception of hungering and thirsting after righteousness has changed a little bit. I hope that what I write will make a little bit of sense and will be beneficial to you, too.

Hunger and Thirst I- What does it really mean?

First of all, I think that it is helpful to understand, at the most basic level, what hungering and thirsting is.

I have to admit, that as a citizen of the United States, and having lived a very blessed life, I’ve never been starving. Because I’m a human, and because I’ve made a few bad decisions while hiking and biking in the desert, I do know what it is like to feel a little dehydrated. Still, I don’t know what it is like to be on death’s door because of a lack of water.

And, usually, when I have thought of this scripture, this is how I’ve conceptualized “hunger and thirst.” I have thought of it more as “starvation and dehydration.” Rather than a simpler form: hunger and thirst.

So – while I’ve never been truly starving, I have been hungry. There have been times when I’ve been a little hungry. (Like between one meal to the next). There have been times when I’ve been super duper ultra hungry (after running a marathon, for example). Hunger is no stranger to my life.

Thirst has been a common experience, as well. In fact, I think I’m thirsty right now.

Okay. So it has been established. I can’t speak for you, but I have experienced hunger and thirst. And, well, I’m actually going to speak for you – or at least I’m going to assume that while you might not have expereinced starvation or dehydration, you have been hungry and thirsty at least once in your life, if not on a daily basis.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is exactly what Christ is trying to get us to think about in this scripture. He’s talking about that daily, consistent hunger and thirst – the one that reminds us to eat and drink. I don’t think that he’s really talking about famine or starvation. I believe that He’s talking about something much more universal here.

Hunger and Thirst II – What do you crave?

Now that we’ve established what we mean by hunger and thirst – the daily experience we all have before we eat or drink – we will move on to the next part of this “hunger and thirst” equation.

Christ says, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (emphasis added). Because of the word, after, I think that I’m guessing that this is more of a craving. Instead of just a basic level of hunger, this scripture is asking us to consider our cravings.

Let’s go back to a physical understanding of hunger/thirst/cravings. In my own experience, I typically crave what I’ve been consistently feeding my body.

For example, when I’m eating a lot of bread, chips, Doritos, candy, and hoagies and a few hours go by when I haven’t eaten anything, guess what I want? Something bread-y, salty, chip-y, hoagie-y, then topped off with some candy. Rarely do I say, “I’d really love some Brussels sprouts” when I’m eating a junkier diet.

On the other hand, when I’m consistently eating fruits, veggies, good fats, and quality meats, then I find myself craving an apple or a salad or a spoon of coconut oil with dark chocolate. I find that, when I condition myself to healthy eating, I honestly crave junk food less…way less.

We are always consuming. In order to stay alive, we must consume. So – we can, to a degree, control our cravings by feeding ourselves a steady diet. Once we have established a habit, then we will find that we hunger after what our body has grown accustomed to.

I think that we can apply the same concept to our spirits. When we “feed” our spirits a diet full of violence and sex, we come to crave these things. Do you think that a person who is subsisting on a spiritual diet of bloodshed is going to say, “I want to go to church!” Instead, it seems like such consumption begets more consumption.

Likewise, if we are regularly consuming a spiritual diet of righteousness – when we are praying/meditating, studying the scriptures, attending the temple, and doing things that will restore our Spirits, we then start to crave it.

SOOOO… if we want to hunger and thirst after righteousness, we need to consistently consume a “spiritual diet” of righteousness. It is after such consistency that we will then start to crave our daily scripture study, prayer, etc.

We will be filled

Again, I’m going to relate this to physical hunger/thirst/satiety. I can speak from experience: when I’m eating the nutrients that my body needs and expects – including lots of healthy protein, some healthy carbs, and plenty of healthy fat, I’m satisfied. I’m full. I don’t get hungry.

When I’m overloading on the stuff that makes my insulin spike, I find that a few hours later (when my insulin is, most likely dropping), I’m hungry. Forget that, I’m hangry! It has taken me some time (and trial and error) to discover that eating processed and overly sugary foods (even if they are billed as “healthy”) will cause these shifts in hormones that then start a domino effect of hormones. I don’t want to get geeky here. The main thing is – I feel hungry all the time when I’m not eating a diet that is appropriate.

Like, I mean, if I sit down to a dinner with pasta and bread, I don’t stop when I feel full. I do what Louis CK has said, “I stop when I hate myself.” Seriously, though…it seems like my brain doesn’t get the message that I’ve eaten, eaten, and eaten – until I’m unbuckling my pants. Then, I don’t feel full, I feel bloated, uncomfortable, and depressed.

I think that this is the same spiritually. When we are filling our minds and spirits with the elements that nurture us: scripture study, prayer, temple attendance, faith, hope, and charity, then we feel full! We feel nourished, we feel strengthened, we feel energized and ready to face what life throws at us. We experience spiritual satiety.

However, when we start to consume materials that are destructive (p*rn comes to mind), then we experience addiction. We are never filled. We consume, consume, and consume until we hate ourselves and everyone around us, too.

This beatitude is truth. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, then we are filled.

Christ’s Example and the Atonement

As if this blog post isn’t long enough, I want to tie it in to the Atonement. Christ exemplified this beatitude in His life and in the performance of the Atonement.

Christ Hungered and Thirsted after Righteousness

When we think of this beatitude and Christ’s Atonement, we must keep in mind that first Christ had consistently consumed a “diet” of righteousness. He was raised by righteous parents. As a boy, he was taken to the temple and chose to spend time there. Throughout the duration of His life he made righteous decisions. He had a knowledge of the scriptures and a close relationship with His Father (most likely maintained through study and prayer). In fact, when He was baptized, even though He was perfect, he did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” (See Matthew 3:15.)

Christ had a steady spiritual diet of righteousness. He was accustomed to hungering and thirsting after it. He had developed a lifestyle of righteousness, and craved it.

In regards to the Atonement, I find it interesting that Christ describes His experience in the garden of Gethsemane as partaking of the “bitter cup.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.)

All of us, having sinned, are relatively familiar with “the bitter cup.” I know what it is like to feel the sorrow that comes from the sins I have committed. Sure, because of the Atonement, I don’t necessarily have to “pay” for them, but I think that each of us taste a drop of this bitter cup any time we commit sins and transgressions.

However, Christ had never sinned. He had never tasted of the bitterness that comes from sin and distance from God. I’m not suggesting that Christ had never experienced hardship. Instead, He never had experienced the pain and suffering that comes as a direct result of the sins we commit because He had never committed one. He hadn’t experienced guilt, shame, or sorrow in this way.

Can you imagine the shock of this bitter cup? For each of us, we experience the bitterness that comes as a product of our own sins. But Christ had to experience all of it. After a lifetime of perfect righteousness, he had to descend below and take on every single sin – from a negative thought about another to a murder. He experienced the bitterness of every sin in order to perform an Atonement for all of us. Whether or not we choose to repent, He has already suffered for our sins. Prior to the Atonement Christ had only tasted the sweetness of righteousness and obedience. I think that what Christ had to endure in the garden of Gethsemane – the gall of this bitter cup – would have been impossible for someone who was accustomed to bitterness to endure.

The irony of the “bitter cup” that Christ had to partake was that drinking of the bitter cup was the ultimate test of His righteousness. Partaking of the bitter cup was the sacrifice that He was called to endure. Had he not hungered and thirsted after righteousness for His entire life, He never would have been able to endure partaking of this bitter cup.

I think it is also important to realize that the “bitter cup” is only the effect and consequence of sin. It isn’t the “fun,” convenient, or tempting part of sin that gets us to commit it in the first place. It’s not like Christ had a fun, raucous time partaking of the bitter cup. Instead, He only experienced the distance from God (which distance He had never before experienced), the pain, the shame, the guilt, and the sorrow that comes from sin. He didn’t experience laughter or stupor. He didn’t experience the “adrenaline rush.” He only experienced the after effects which are, in fact, the sobering realities of sin.

It was the “bitter’ cup He drank. Not the pleasure cup. He didn’t get to eat the bag of Doritos, he only felt the bloating that comes afterward.

Because Christ hungered and thirsted after righteousness, He knew that He would have to “drink the bitter cup” and experience the pain and sadness of imperfection and sin. Without such a hunger and thirst after righteousness, I don’t think that anyone would have been able to endure the extreme bitterness of the Atonement.

One last note on this (I know this post is long), His suffering in Gethsemane (“the bitter cup”) was only a part of the Atonement. He would still endure persecution and judgment. He would still endure being nailed to a cross and forsaken by His Father. Only a pure hunger and thirst after righteousness could enable Christ to persevere the depths of His duty.

Christ was Filled

Nephi teaches:

“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.” – 2 Nephi 25:13

Christ rose again – filled – with glory, life, and healing in His wings. Because of what He did in Gethsemane, not only was He filled, but He can fill us.

When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we come to the Lord, we accept His Atonement in our lives, and we are comforted. We are made capable. We are strengthened. We are filled.

***
How have you developed a spiritual diet of righteousness? How has it been a blessing to you (how have you been filled?

Joy Project–Week 5 of 52

Week five of the Joy Project

January 27, 2014 – Good Health

Unfortunately, it seems like it takes bad health to help us appreciate good health. I mean, I really try to appreciate my health. I eat fruits and veggies, I floss my teeth every day, I drink water, and I run. But I still get sick or injured, and when I do, I realize how wonderful good health is.

It’s even worse when our little ones get sick.

Today, T-Rex and I were doing some grocery shopping, and suddenly he started crying. Like really crying. I mean, I haven’t heard him cry this way since he was teething.

Fortunately, he is old enough to tell me what is wrong. He clutched his ear and started shouting, My ear!!! It really hurts mommy! I wanna go home. Unfortunately, for him, he’s the youngest of four, we needed groceries, and I was halfway done. I gave him a muffin to distract him for a few more minutes. When he lost patience, I went over to the medicinal section of the store, found a box of eardrops, ripped them open, dropped four drops in his ear, then, for good measure, I let him play with my phone. (This is huge. My kids don’t get to touch my phone, ever.) He seemed okay, so I finished my shopping.

By the time we were leaving, he was clutching his ear again. I felt a little horrible at this point (only because I was talking to the cashier and had to be accountable for my stalling). I explained to her that we had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon (his well check-up! Perfectly timed!), and I tried to convince her that I really do care about my children.

We got home, I gave him Acetaminophin, and let him watch a movie. He settled down, and later was proscribed an antiobiotic for an ear infection. (This is the first ever ear infection for any of our children!)

Where’s the joy in this?
Joy is good health. It is a body that functions. And joy can even be bad health because it is knowledge that we are here, on this earth, enjoying this world in any way possible. Joy is experiencing a sick day – making the nice, healthy days even more dazzling.

January 28, 2014 – An Adventure and Hope

We went on an adventure today–to the thrift shop.

I forgot to take a picture, but I’ll be better in the future, I promise!!!

In my quest to be a better, more exciting but also wiser mother, I’ve decided to kind of “package” our chores and errands a little differently. I needed to take a load of clothes and stuff to Goodwill, so I announced that this weeks’s adventure would be to the thrift shop!

Apparently, I’m better at sales than I previously imagined, as the kids were excited.

Usually, I do adventures during the school day with the younger two. My older kids are reasonably jealous, but for now, that’s just how it is going. I can’t do adventures after school, and we already have enough going on over the weekends. So, Panda was delighted to hear that this adventure would be happening while she was sick at home.

Panda, Sasquatch, the T-Rex, and I loaded up our goods, got a few dollars, and headed to the local Goodwill. I don’t think that I’ve ever taken my kids to the thrift shop. We sifted through books and trinkets. I didn’t let them look through the toys. (We probably donated half of them! Our house is overrun with toys that the kids don’t play with anymore!) We found a few treasures and took them to the register.

It was another successful adventure…for the most part. I kept feeling a mixture of sadness due to Tiger’s absence and hope. I’ve been thinking about homeschooling lately. In some ways, the idea seems insane to me. But I also have many other reasons why I’ll be doing it. As we took our little adventure to the thrift store, everything about my life felt so natural and meaningful. It was a confirmation to me that homeschooling next year is the right thing for our family.

Joy is a little adventure. It is family. Joy is receiving small, simple whisperings that you are on the right track–even though the right track can be so unconventional and crazy.

January 29, 2014 – The Perfect Morning

I've got a great life.
I’ve got a great life.

I really can’t complain. I get to study my scriptures, at my table, with this little helper every morning.

Joy is a playful puppy who will take a break to rest his shaggy little head in your lap while you read scriptures.

January 30, 2014 – An Active Three-Year Old Boy

Setting up
Setting up
The throw
The throw
strike!
strike!

These days, my house often sounds like a bowling alley. The T-Rex loves these cheap bowling pins we got from an unnamed box-store years ago. The T-Rex is picky. He must get a strike. If he doesn’t get a strike, it is likely there will be a mild melt-down. However, when he gets a strike, he jumps, he dances, he does the splits. I love his little celebrations.

Joy is having a three-year old boy in the home. Sure, life can a little wild, competitive, and emotional, but it is joyful nonetheless.

January 31, 2014 – Subbing

Wow.
Wow.

Today, I had the chance to sub for Sasquatch’s preschool. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work. I came away with the realization that we don’t pay our teacher enough! 😉

Joy is hanging out with a bunch of eager four and five year olds. Joy is seeing them learn. Joy is reading with them and teaching them about Punxatawny Phil. Joy is also knowing that I was subbing, and that Mrs. G. will be back on Monday!

February 1, 2014 – Righteousness

wild times
wild times

Homey, his brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and I went to the Phoenix Open. It was a lot of fun. I’ve never been to a PGA event before. I have to admit, I’m not all that into golf.

Homey, however, loves golf. You have to realize that saying Homey loves golf is the understatement of the century. I’m sure that many of you can relate.

It was fun to go to a PGA event – to see truly great golfers and to see Homey so excited.

The Phoenix Open, however, isn’t like most Golf Tournaments. It is rowdy. People drink a lot. There is a lot of swearing and girls dressed very immodestly. The tone is “party.” It isn’t too different than a football or hockey game. Actually, I think that most of the football and hockey games I’ve been to have been a little more family friendly.

Even though we had a lot of fun, there was a general sense of disappointment(?) when we left. I’m not sure if disappointment is the right word. Discomfort, for sure. My sister-in-law said, “I feel like I need to take a shower to rid me of the spiritual filth.” I understood what she meant.

While we had fun, I came home with a greater appreciation for the gospel. The gospel teaches me to love my body, my temple. The gospel teaches men to appreciate and love women–rather than objectify them. The gospel teaches us that wickedness never was happiness and why this is true.

Joy is righteous living. Joy may not seem as exciting – in a worldly perspective – but that worldly perspective is skewed and just plain wrong. Joy is control over my body and emotions. Joy is consciously experiencing the world around me. Joy is appreciating the talents of others in an uplifting way.

February 2, 2014 – Serving Others

I don’t have a picture for this, and I don’t have details, but I have my little “Joy is” statement.

Joy is serving others. Joy is praying to God that you can help someone. Joy is receiving an inspiration that you don’t even understand. Joy is following that prompting, quietly and anonymously serving someone, and then finding out later that she was in true need of the service provided. Joy is knowing that Heavenly Father is mindful of all of us, and if we let Him, we can be instruments in His hands to bring happiness and comfort to others.

***
What has brought you joy this week?

Charity Thinketh No Evil

First of all, I noticed that this is one of the more inward concepts about charity. It is something that we do – on our own – and it can’t be seen by others.

Charity thinketh no evil…I have to admit, there are times when I have a problem with this.

Christ explains the issue – with our inward thoughts and how they affect us, entirely:

“And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” – Mark 7:20-21

I know that I have a problem with evil thinking because I still have a problem with sinning. I know that if I think about my sins, which I realize that I should, I would see that they all have one thing in common: They start in my brain.

King Benjamin wisely taught:

“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” – Mosiah 4:30

We must watch our thoughts, words, and deeds. As I think about this scripture, I realize that if we watch our thoughts, we don’t have to “watch” our words and deeds so much. Watching our thoughts, and keeping them pure will help us to say kind words and do good deeds.

Making sure that we don’t think evil seems fundamental to charity. It increases the love we feel from the Lord and the love we ultimately show to others. We can’t do this if we taint our mind with evil thoughts.

In Paul’s epistle to Titus, he states:

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” – Titus 1:15

Interestingly enough, we see here that when we sin, we reinforce that bad behavior in our brains. I know that there is science behind this, too. We do things (good or bad), and create neural pathways in our brains – that get stronger over time or based on the strength of the initial experience. If what we’re doing is sinning, our mind is defiled, and soon nothing is pure.

I’m fascinated by this idea. I once knew someone who was addicted to p*rnography. It was horrible. Because of this addiction, he wasn’t able to look at any image without thinking of it in a vile way. I felt so sad for him – nothing was pure for him.

So, we need to be charitable, full of Christ’s love, and thinking righteous uplifting thoughts – no evil. As we do, we create an environment in our mind that will lead us to righteous words, deeds, and habits. Everything around us will be more pure and beautiful. Our experience will be better, in general.

I love this idea. Sometimes I’m plagued with “evil” thoughts – even in the most ridiculous ways.

Today, I was shopping for jeans. I have to admit, I still haven’t lost my baby weight. This is really depressing for me. I had to get new jeans, though, and I knew that it wouldn’t be a fun trip.

I got to the store, tried on a few pairs, and felt pretty much horrible. I was tempted to think, I hate my body. I wanted to say that to myself, but I’ve been trying not to. Because I know that my body is a temple. It is a gift from God. Even if I have a larger “stature” than I’d like, I’m still grateful for my body.

I fought for this body. It is a blessing.

Today, in the dressing room, I wanted to throw my hands up, say, forget it, I hate my butt, and then eat a piece of cheesecake. But, I realized that these thoughts were evil They don’t come from the Lord. They don’t sustain me, and they won’t help me achieve my goals.

I had to take the time to think differently – I love my body. I love that it works. And, instead of getting a cheesecake, I got a salad…All those good choices led to much better thoughts (even though the jeans were bigger than I’d like!)

What do you do to think righteously? How do you combat evil thoughts?