Scripture of the Month

For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

~2 Nephi 4:15



Saturday, March 7, 2015

True Power in Christ Alone

Guest post from Jean Vogler of www.scripturesisters.com

These past couple weeks as we’ve been reading about Moses being tempted by Satan and ultimately casting Satan out, I thought of how this is a great witness to us that true power comes only through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I imagine Satan “weeping, wailing, gnashing his teeth,” and the earth trembling because of his anger, it brings to mind a very irate child, throwing one major tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. He realizes he truly has no power over us. So what does the child do? He uses fear to demand our personal power and freedom be given to him – fear of his anger or of his potential to destroy or embarrass (breaking things, making a mess on purpose, screaming in the store or kicking the dog). He may threaten (I’m going to run away!) or try emotional wounds (I hate you! You don’t love me.).

But there is not true power in these words and actions. It is only a strong (and quite frustrating) temptation. The only power the child can gain is from the parent that gives in. How did Moses ultimately defeat Satan? By calling (aloud) on the name and power of Jesus Christ to cast Satan out of his presence. 

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” And what is love? Verse 16 states it very plainly: God is love.

Satan could not stand up to the power of Christ, because he has no inherent power in himself. He had to go. 


Empower yourself and your family through the power of Christ, and stand tall against the fear Satan puts into our hearts. Don’t give in to the temptation to use fear as Satan does either, to rule over others in torment. Instead use the power of Christ’s love for us, shown through His beautiful and holy atonement, to teach and encourage and strengthen. 

Cast Satan out of your heart, out of your home even aloud if you need to! Then continually turn to the Lord to fill your heart and home with His spirit and love. Don’t leave any empty space for Satan to try and wiggle his way back in. Call upon the power of Christ through diligent prayer and searching the scriptures to fortify your life. Receive His true power in your life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Know if the Book of Mormon Is True

photo from lds.org
A previous set of elders put me on the 12-week course for new missionaries. Last night as I was finishing up the week on revelation through the Book of Mormon, I came upon this study activity: Read Moroni 10:3-5 and discuss how these verses show what an investigator must do to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Discuss the meaning and importance of real intent and how to help investigators develop real intent.

I considered skipping it since I had read that scripture passage countless times, especially with studying Preach My Gospel, and because the discussion seemed to focus on real intent, which had been covered thoroughly in that week's study. But I decided to humor myself and do it anyway. And what I learned surprised me. There are actually four steps an investigator must complete before asking God with real intent and receiving an answer:
  1. Read the Book of Mormon. How can we know if something is true if we haven't even read it? We have to become familiar with what we desire to believe in. Reading the Book of Mormon also invites the Spirit and helps us find other answers we seek, both helpful in gaining a testimony of the keystone of our religion.
  2. Remember the Lord's mercy to His children. If we do not believe in a merciful God, how can we expect Him to hear and answer our prayers? We need to believe He knows and loves us individually and will give us the revelation we seek.
  3. Ponder the words in your heart. Reading is not enough; we must also think about what we are reading, and do so in our hearts, where we can focus on our feelings and feel the influence of the Spirit.
  4. Receive the word. We must allow the words of the Book of Mormon to enter and grow in our hearts, as Alma counseled: 
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves--It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)
After we have completed all of the above, then we can ask God through prayer if the Book of Mormon is true. We must ask with a sincere heart, meaning we really desire to know; with real intent, meaning we will act on the revelation we receive; and with faith in Christ, meaning we believe we will receive an answer. If we have put in our effort to truly know the truth, we will receive the knowledge and testimony that the Book of Mormon, and therefore the Restoration and the Church, is true.

Challenge: If you or an investigator has not received an answer, determine what step has not been done and complete it so you/they can gain that testimony.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Scripture Power: Revelation & Protection

[The second half of my talk given 1/11/15. Read the first part here.]


The second reason why we need scripture power is to receive personal revelation. We can find guidance in the word of God. Nephi wrote, “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3). By following the counsel in the scriptures, we can always know what we need to do to stay on the path back to Heavenly Father. A great example is when Joseph Smith read James 1:5 and followed its advice, praying to God and thus bringing about the entire Restoration. We may not be able to find a specific answer in the scriptures as Joseph did, but diligent scripture study invites the Holy Ghost, who will reveal to us answers to our gospel questions and life decisions.

Third, scripture power protects us from temptation and sin. The best way it does so is preventively. President Packer said, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitude and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Preach My Gospel, 19). As we study the scriptures and understand its doctrine, we will have power to put off the natural man and become more like Christ, thus avoiding sin altogether. I truly believe that I survived my teenage years because of reading the scriptures daily, consistently attending seminary all four years, and taking Institute classes all through college. As these powerful tools have fallen by the wayside over the years, I have found myself struggling more with temptation and despair. The solution is to return to scripture study, which gives us the power we need to repent and leave behind discouragement. My favorite example of this is what is known as Nephi’s Psalm, 2 Nephi 4:15–35. I love reading this passage when I feel as Nephi did. Another favorite is Alma the Younger’s account in Alma 36.

Scripture study also gives us power to avoid believing in false doctrine. President Joseph Fielding Smith promised, If we will put [the scriptures] into practice, if we will keep the commandments of the Lord, we will know the truth and there shall be no weapon formed against us that shall prosper. There shall be no false doctrines, no teaching of men that will deceive us. There are many cults and many false faiths, there are many strange ideas in the world, but if we will search these revelations then we will be fortified against errors and we will be made strong (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 2).

There are so many false ideas out there, available with a single click, and often mingled with truth to confuse us. It is best to remember that the gospel is simple and all we need to know to reach exaltation has been given to us through ancient and modern scripture (D&C133:57). By diligently searching the scriptures, praying, and fasting, our testimonies will be strong and we can be confident we will not be led astray.

We should focus on having a very firm foundation in “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Article of Faith 4). Elder Nelson promised, “Brothers and sisters, by reinforcing your study of the core doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your testimony will grow, your happiness will increase, and you will find a greater abundance of the blessings of the Lord in your life” (Ensign, January 2010). 

Just like babies, we must first receive milk before meat (See 1 Corinthians 3:2, D&C 19:22, Hebrews 5:13–14). Babies who nurse receive their mothers’ antibodies and build a strong immune system. Similarly, the milk of the gospel gives us strong testimonies and immunity to doubt and deception. Babies given solids too soon may end up with tummy issues and allergies because their digestive systems are not ready to handle such complex food. Pediatricians recommend looking for certain signs to determine a baby’s readiness before introducing solid food and starting with soft, non-acidic fruits and vegetables before meat. If babies handle the food well, they may try new ones, and it becomes easier as they grow teeth and learn to feed themselves. Likewise, we must first start with the building blocks of the gospel and build “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). Once we have proven our testimonies and understanding, we can receive more complex knowledge, finally leading up to a good piece of gospel steak. Then when questions and confusion arise over deeper doctrines, we will have our foundation to fall back on. If it’s underdeveloped, we risk damaging our testimonies and completely falling away from the gospel.

It is easy to understand why past and present prophets continually exhort us to search the scriptures diligently. We need their power to be proficient teachers, leaders, and missionaries; to receive personal guidance; and to avoid sin and deception. I testify that as we use the power found in the scriptures, we will be able to overcome any obstacle put in our way and come out even more powerful. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Challenge: Read your scriptures to receieve guidance and spiritual protection. 

Scripture Power: Teaching & Preaching


lds.org
[The first half of my talk given 1/11/15. Read the second part here.]

The chorus to one of the Primary songs reads:

Scripture power keeps me safe from sin.
Scripture power is the power to win.
Scripture power! Every day I need
The power that I get each time I read.

The power found in the scriptures is always there, waiting for us to tap into it, like the electricity in our homes. All we need to do is flip the switch to feel its power and let it light our way. We learn in Alma 17:2–3 how to do this:

Now these sons of Mosiah . . . had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God. [emphasis mine]

Why do we need power from the scriptures? As those verses show, first, we need power to be effective teachers and preachers of the gospel. The best example is of the full-time missionaries. They are given an hour every day to study the gospel individually and another hour to study as a companionship, and greenies are given an extra hour for the first 12 weeks. That may seem overwhelming, but there is wisdom in it. The Lord revealed:  

Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. (D&C 11:21)

What a promise! To achieve that, we not only need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures, but we also need to desire that spiritual power. Otherwise, our study will be meaningless. The missionary manual Preach My Gospel shares how to have meaningful scripture study:

Effective daily study must always begin with prayer. Study is an act of faith requiring the use of personal agency. Many missionaries struggle to know how to study effectively. Some rely heavily on others or on structured programs to tell them what and how to study. While learning from a good teacher is very important [especially for new missionaries and converts], it is more important for you to have meaningful learning experiences on your own [even more especially for new missionaries and converts, because your testimony of something is stronger when you’ve learned it by yourself]. Getting good results from your study depends on having a strong desire to learn, studying with “real intent” (Moroni 10:4), “hunger[ing] and thirst[ing] after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), and searching for answers to your investigators’ questions and concerns. [In our case, our own or our loved ones’ questions and concerns.]

Your gospel study is most effective when you are taught by the Holy Ghost. Always begin your gospel study by praying for the Holy Ghost to help you learn. He will bring knowledge and conviction that will bless your life and allow you to bless the lives of others. Your faith in Jesus Christ will increase. Your desire to repent and improve will grow.

This kind of study prepares you for service, offers solace, resolves problems, and gives you the strength to endure to the end. Successful gospel study requires desire and action. . . . Like Enos, as you hunger to know the words of eternal life and as you allow these words to “[sink] deep into [your] heart” (Enos 1:3), the Holy Ghost will open your mind and heart to greater light and understanding.

As you feel the joy that comes from understanding the gospel, you will want to apply what you learn. Strive to live in harmony with your understanding. Doing so will strengthen your faith, knowledge, and testimony. Acting on what you have learned will bring added and enduring understanding (see John 7:17).

The lessons the missionaries study are very thorough. I didn’t get why they needed to read and learn all those details just to give a brief and simple lesson, until I read in Preach My Gospel, “Although you will not teach all you know about the doctrine, your increased knowledge will build your testimony and your ability to teach with spiritual power” (19). This is confirmed in D&C 84:85: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”

Although we are not full-time missionaries, the same principle applies to us. If we study the gospel completely and treasure that knowledge, we will be blessed with what to say and how to say it when sharing it with others, including our own families or fellow church members. 

For example, one day when I was talking to a former neighbor (and now dear friend) about the gospel, she asked me a question regarding the Atonement. I read to her Alma 7:11-13, which gave her a new and personal understanding of the Savior and His suffering. It was pivotal in her accepting the rest of the gospel and being baptized. Had I not been familiar with this passage and its application, she may not have found the peace she was looking for. 

Challenge: Read your scriptures so you can be a better missionary and teacher, at home and at church. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Christian Message in the Disney Movie "Frozen"

photo from disneystore.com

Disclaimer: I normally take Disney movies at face value, as purely entertainment. I only wrote this to show that what you look for is what you will find, and I looked for and found the good. 

Ever since Frozen came out, many have argued that it has a gay rights hidden agenda. While it can be interpreted that way, the directors revealed the message is that love conquers negativity--more specifically, fear. That statement may apply to fear of homosexuals, but it made me see the movie from a different perspective--a Christian one, in fact.

When the king and queen bring Elsa to the troll leader, he tells her that "fear will be your enemy." Paul wrote, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear" (2 Timothy 1:7). Discouraging feelings do not come from God but from the devil, our biggest enemy, who seeks to destroy us.

Elsa leaves the kingdom to avoid hurting anyone, but she is still a danger because she still operates under fear. She must leave fear behind in order to control her powers. But she cannot do it alone. She does not learn to conquer her fear and use her powers for good until she experiences an act of true love first: when her sister, Anna, sacrifices herself to save Elsa. In the same way, we cannot overcome our fears and use our talents for good until we feel the love of our Savior, who sacrificed Himself for us. In fact, our ability to love comes from Him: "We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19, emphasis mine).

Anna's sacrifical act literally thaws her own frozen heart as well because "only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart." Everyone at first believes this to mean romantic love, but it ends up being selfless love, or charity:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth . . . (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, emphasis mine).
This perfect love has the power to cast out fear (1 John 4:18), as it did in Elsa. This perfect love only comes from God (2 Timothy 1:7), for God is love (1 John 4:16). Therefore, only God can get rid of our fear through His abounding love. When we rely on God we have no reason to fear. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" wrote David. "The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalms 27:1)

By using the power of His infinite love, made manifest through the Atonement of His Son (John 3:16-17), we can overcome fear and be filled with charity, and our weaknesses can become strengths (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Challenge: Let the love of God cast out your fear and fill you with charity and strength.