Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do Not Fear

1 Nephi 22

In today’s world, and in light of the prophecies of the scriptures regarding the second coming, it is easy to get anxious and a little fearful. There is so much deception, deceit, and destruction it is often hard to feel confident about our own safety.

But Nephi says

Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of this wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire. (1 Nephi 22:16-17)

With this promise we will be safe if we are righteous. Which still makes me nervous because I know how unrighteous I am. I know that I have so many weaknesses and I fail every day. But I also have faith in the Savior and the atonement, so I keep working at it, knowing that if I am trying, Christ will take up the slack and pull me into His arms.

Mark E. Peterson said

You do not need to fear about world conditions. You do not need to fear about anybody. Just serve the Lord and keep his commandments and build the kingdom, and as you do so you will be protected in these last days. (Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 82)

We need not fear. Only serve the Lord. I’m trying, and I’ll keep doing my best, because that’s all I can do. I know the Lord will bless me as I keep His commandments and serve Him, and I know that He will expand my abilities as I continue to have faith in Him and accept His will in my life.

The world is in turmoil, but we can find peace through the Savior and in the scriptures. May we do so is my prayer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Longing For Home

Yesterday our Stake President challenged us to be more pure and be better followers of Christ. The closing hymn for our Ward Conference was “More Holiness Give  Me”, which is one of my favorite hymns. One of my very favorite lines is “More longing for home…” There was a time when I prayed with all energy of heart to have Heavenly Father purify me and make me better than I am so that I could return to live with Him. There was nothing I wanted more than to be worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, and I was living my life that way. I was praying constantly, and as a result I felt the Lord’s hand in my life, and I felt His power helping me in everything I did. I felt more productive, more kind, more charitable, more loving.

I haven’t become a monster or anything, but I feel like I have lost focus and become too involved in the “here and now.” I don’t long for Home as much as I did, and I can see it affecting my life and my family.

I need to look beyond today – I need to focus on eternity and draw nearer to my Savior again so that my todays and tomorrows will be full and will help me reach my goal of eternal life, instead of just being a today and a tomorrow. Each day should be a step toward exaltation, not merely a step. I don’t want to be running in place, I want to be running toward my Heavenly Father. I will reach out to Him so that He can reach toward me and pull me toward Him.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why the words of Isaiah?

1 Nephi 21

When I read this chapter my first thought was “why Isaiah?” Of all the prophets, why did the Nephi quote Isaiah? Many people find Isaiah’s words hard to understand. His words definitely require a little more thought to get through. They are filled with imagery and allegory. Honestly I find Isaiah very satisfying to read. It’s not cut and dry, it’s interesting, alive, and changing, since the meaning will come from the Spirit’s testimony.

When Christ appears to the Nephites in 3 Nephi, he says

“And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye outght to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.” (3 Nephi 23:1-3)

Isaiah’s words are the words of Christ – and they are very important and significant, because they are timeless and true.

I have a desire to understand the scriptures better. I want to know the word of God, and the word of God is spoken by the prophets.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

He Led Them

1 Nephi 20

In Chapter 19, Nephi writes that he “did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” I think it is very fitting that following this statement he begins quoting Isaiah as he speaks in messianic prophecy about Israel fleeing Babylon. Isaiah speaks of the Israelites as chosen, even in their wickedness, and describes how the Lord will lead them from Babylon and through the desert and will provide for them.

This is a parallel of Lehi’s family being chosen by the Lord to leave Jerusalem. Even when Nephi’s brothers and the sons and daughters of Ishmael were being rude and unrighteous, the Lord still guided the family of Lehi. He still led them through the wilderness and across the oceans to the promised land. 

Why? Well, we read in verse 11, “For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory to another.” The Lord doesn’t cut off people in order to fulfill His own purposes, not because He doesn’t care that they are wicked. In verse 22, He reminds us that “there is no peace… unto the wicked.”

The Lord needed Israel, so He spared them. The Lord needed Lehi’s family, so He spared them. If the Lord needs us, He will spare us. If He doesn’t need us, He won’t. And even if he does spare us, if we are not righteous, there is “no peace” for us.

On the other hand, the Lord says that if we hearken to His commandments, “then [would] thy peace [be] as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.”

I love the imagery of Isaiah. This particular passage reminds me that there are sweet sweet blessings that await if I follow the Lord’s commandments. I know that He will bless me if I try to do what is right. I love having peace in my heart, and I know that peace comes when I am doing what is right and when I am involved in good, holy, righteous things.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Part of Prophecy

1 Nephi 19

The Lords prophecies are often fulfilled by man. Whether they be good or bad, men often carry out the will of God (also, whether knowingly or unknowingly).

Nephi says “…as for those who are at Jerusalem… they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel…” (1 Nephi 19:13)

This prophecy is not the same as a commandment for faithful Saints to persecute the Jews. On the contrary, the wicked who fulfill this prophecy will be subject to punishment of their own.

However, there are other prophecies of which we may be proud to take part.

Wilford Woodruff speaks of fulfilling the revelation that a temple would be built in Far West, MO.

“On the morning of the 26th of April, 1839, notwithstanding the threats of our enemies that the revelation which was to be fulfilled this day should not be, and notwithstanding that ten thousand of the Saints had been driven out of the State by the edict of the governor, and though the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum Smith, with other leading men were in the hands of our enemies, in chains and in prison, we moved on to the temple ground in the city of Far West, and held a council, and fulfilled the revelation and commandment given unto us, and we performed many other things at this council.” (“Leaves from My Journal,” Millennial Star, October 10, 1881, 645–47)

Elder Carlos E. Asay mentioned that “Prophecy will be fulfilled, with or without us,” but also states that “…I believe that all members can become a part of prophecy fulfilled…”

I believe that we as faithful Saints and followers of the Lord can become a part of prophecy fulfilled. But we should be very careful and mindful of the parts of the prophecy that we partake in.

It is my desire to read and understand the prophecies of the Lord so that I may be a righteous part of prophecy fulfilled. I want to be part of the fulfillment of the prophecy “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” I do not  want to be part of the prophecy the before the second coming “shall many be offended,” or “men’s hearts shall fail them,” or many “shall betray one another.”

Let us learn of the prophecies of the Lord and prayerfully fulfill the prophecies of righteousness, not wickedness. As Elder Asay stated, “Prophecy will be fulfilled, with or without us.”

Friday, January 8, 2010

“I did not murmur against the Lord”

1 Nephi 18

When Nehpi’s older brothers tied him up on the ship, and the ship was tossed around in the ocean, Nephi comments that he “did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”

What humility and faith! I murmur a lot when things are going right, not to mention when things are going poorly. And especially if I feel afflicted. Now, I don’t necessarily murmur “against the Lord,” but I don’t think any murmuring is appropriate.

My institute teacher when I was living with my parents, Dr. Wally, is a great example to me of never murmuring. He and his wife endured a lot of trials, and didn’t murmur against the Lord or anyone.

I want to be more like Nephi – more humble, and more willing to accept what the Lord has for me. It is hard when people around you are complaining and “murmuring” – but it can be done! I can be an example to those around me who may murmur.

I will murmur less, and praise more. I will find the silver lining in every cloud, and thank God for my blessings each day. I will work harder at seeing the blessings in my afflictions. If I am tried and tempted it is only so that God can prove me and my faithfulness. I will not let Him down. I will show Him that through every trial and affliction I will stay true to the faith and that I will praise Him through my weaknesses and trials.

God allows us to be tried and tested. Actually, if you remember that we were present in the counsel in Heaven, we chose to come and be tried and tested. You and I jumped up and down, waving our arms saying “Pick me! Pick me! Send me down there so I can become like You!”

And here I am. Am I becoming like Him?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Faith to Move Mountains

1 Nephi 17

I have thought a lot about what it means to have faith to move mountains. I want to have faith to move mountains, but I don’t know exactly what that means.

I have studied it before, but perhaps it is time to delve into the study of faith once again. More importantly, it is time to delve into the practice of faith again.

Here is a prime example of my lack of  faith. I lack faith that the Lord will teach me about faith. If only I could simply have faith in Him and confidence through the Lord.

I will practice having faith that if I study and pray and try to live my life correctly, Heavenly Father will teach me what it means to have “faith to move mountains.”

Or in Nephi’s case, faith to build a ship.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hard Truth

1 Nephi 16

This chapter starts off with Nephi’s brothers complaining that Nephi had spoken hard things to them. In part of his reply, Nephi stated:

“…the righteous have I justified…the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.”

I have experienced this many times. When people speak truth to me about my actions or thoughts, I feel horrible. Their words cut me “to the very center.” Unfortunately, I am a lot more prideful that I will usually admit. When something cuts me to the very center, I often reject the counsel, statement, or advice as false and/or preachy or just the person being unkind. I have often given this attitude the false face of being hard to be offended. I told myself that I don’t get offended easily, because when people say things that cut me, I just brush it off.

Perhaps there is some kind of balance. I don’t need to be offended when I hear hard truth, but I should probably think more on it. I should ponder the meaning of the truth that I have heard, and look inside myself for things to change, and ways to grow.

After yesterday’s post about receiving inspiration from the same source as the Apostles, I have been pondering ways to hear the still small voice more clearly. Hearing that voice more clearly is one of my greatest goals. I think humility is one of the things I need the most. Pride has always been a big hurdle for me. I always feel like I am making progress, only to realize that I haven’t come nearly as far as I thought. Which I guess is part of pride.

During our pillow talk last night, I mentioned to my husband that I think the Spirit speaks to me most often as images. I see images in my mind of what the Spirit wants to tell me. I don’t hear a voice nearly as often as I see an image. A vision, I imagine. They aren’t frequent, and the are rarely clear. And unfortunately, I rarely give them a second thought. Only after the fact do I realize their source.

My goal this year will be to hear the holy Spirit more clearly. Or I guess in my case, to see it more clearly. I think this means also realizing more clearly whether the image I see is from the Spirit, or just me thinking. Although, I believe that they are often the same thing, if we are living closely enough to the Spirit, our thoughts are more often than not inspired.

I will follow the promptings I receive, I will write down when I receive a prompting so that I can remember what it was like. And perhaps I will be able to fine tune my reception to have clearer communication with the Lord.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Same Voice

1 Nephi 15

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught that everyone can receive guidance from the Lord the same way that Apostles receive guidance. He says

“As an Apostle I listen now to the same inspiration, coming from the same source, in the same way, that I listened to as a boy. The signal is much clearer now…”

Lehi’s family crossed the wilderness together. It was the same wilderness for all of them. However, when Lehi had his visions, Nephi asked to receive confirmation and testimony of the same visions (and did), whereas Nephi’s brothers did not seek to learn.

Nephi asked his brothers, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”

To which his brothers answered, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Nephi’s brothers hadn’t asked the Lord because they didn’t believe that the Lord would answer them.

But Elder Packer’s testimony simply echoes the testimony Nephi bore to his brothers:

“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? If ye will not harden your hearts and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

The Lord is no respecter of persons. He does not withhold testimony from any who are earnestly seeking a testimony. He does not give revelation only to those in high positions of authority in the Church. He gives revelation, confirmation, and understanding to anyone who has a sincere heart, asks in faith, believes they will get an answer, and keeps the commandments.

I love how Elder Packer mentioned that the voice is clearer now for him. I imagine Elder Packer keeps the commandments a little more consistently than most of us. I imagine that he has a little more faith, a softer heart, and that beyond believing he will receive I imagine Elder Packer knows that he will receive. And I imagine that the more we keep the commandments, the clearer the influence of the Holy Ghost will be in our lives. As we strive to believe, have faith, live the gospel, and ask with sincerity, I believe that the Lord will answer our prayers and give us understanding and a testimony.

If I ever find myself struggling for faith, I remind myself of what Alma said, “Yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye can believe…” (Alma 32:27, emphasis added) And tears come to my eyes every time I read about the humble father who brought his son before the Savior with the plea, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 8:24; exclamation added) If we can be like that father, and no more than desire to believe, the Lord will bless us and help us find our faith. And as we grow in faith and obedience, we will be blessed with inspiration and revelation from the same source to which the prophets look. As we grow in truth and light, the voice will become clearer and clearer until it is as if we are speaking face to face with God.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Armed With Righteousness

1 Nephi 14

There are two forces in this world – God, and everyone else. Either you’re on God’s side, or you’re not. I think more people are on God’s side than we realize. I’m surprised each day by the sheer number of people I hear who praise God and have faith in Him, and try to live their life pleasing to Him (the best they know how – and that is different for all of us!)

There is always a battle between good and evil, and in order to protect ourselves and our families we need to be armed with righteousness.

As a mother it is my responsibility to arm my children with righteousness.

Elder Packer gave a talk many many years ago about fitting our children with the shield of faith. It sums up my feelings on the subject, so I will simply share this quote:

As it has been since the beginning, the adversary would divide us, break us up, and if he can, destroy us. But the Lord said, “Lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, … taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (D&C 27:15, 17; emphasis added).

The ministry of the prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family. That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry.

The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Lest parents and children be “tossed to and fro,” and misled by “cunning craftiness” of men who “lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14), our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.

The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.

It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.

In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis.

Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Shield of Faith’,” Ensign, May 1995, 7

It is my goal this year to more fervently fit a shield of faith for my children. It is my responsibility as their mother to work with their father, my husband, in outfitting them to be protected from the fiery darts of the adversary. I cannot do it alone, I need the Lord’s help, and so with prayer and scripture in my hands and heart I will move forward to prepare my children to serve the Lord.

Other related reading: L. Tom Perry, “Build Your Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 1974, 98
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