Scripture of the Month

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

Friday, June 20, 2014

We Believe in Grace

lds.org
I have heard and read many explanations on the relationship between grace and works, yet I never fully understood until I read today the Ensign article "Salvation: By Grace or by Works?" by Gerald N. Lund. Now I can tell my mainstream Christian friends we do believe we are saved by grace. If they ask how works is involved, this passage explains it well:
Paul said we are justified through and by faith (see Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:28), which is the first principle of the gospel. In other words, faith is the principle that activates the power of the Atonement in our lives, and we are put back into a proper relationship with God (justification) as faith activates that power. . . . [A]nother analogy can help us see more clearly the role faith and works play in achieving salvation:

We are like a powerhouse on a mighty river. The powerhouse has no power residing in itself; the potential power rests in the energy of the river. When that source of power flows through the generators of the power plant, power is transferred from the river to the power plant and sent out into the homes (lives) of others. So it is with faith. The power to achieve justification does not reside in man. Man requires the power of the atonement of Christ flowing into him. If no power is being generated, one does not—indeed, cannot—turn the generators by hand (justification by works); but rather, an effort is made to remove those things which have blocked the power from flowing into the generators (working righteousness as a result of faith). With this background then, one can understand why the scriptures clearly stress that faith includes works (see James 2:17–26); that is, obedience, commitment, and repentance—these are the works of faith that open up the channels so that the power of the atoning sacrifice of Christ can flow into us, redeem us from sin, and bring us back into the presence of God. Disobedience and wickedness dam those channels. (How literal is the word damnation!) The righteous works in themselves do not save us. The atoning power of God saves us. But our righteous works, activated by our faith in the Savior, are the condition for the operation of that power. Thus, each of us has something to say about whether he will be able to seek the gift and power of the Atonement in his behalf.
Another line that stuck out to me stated, "When one is given the gift . . . of the Holy Ghost, he has overcome spiritual death to a degree, for he has come into the presence of one member of the Godhead." I had never thought about the gift of the Holy Ghost like that before. What a gift indeed!

Challenge: Read the article so you can better understand grace and works and be able to share your knowledge with those who do not understand or think we do not believe in grace.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gender Roles in the Church

photo by Dominik Gwarek

I have been gearing up for a post about the Ordain Women Movement, but this blogger beat me to it and did a great job. Plus, I love her style!

"Mormonism, Feminism, and Being Snarky"

I also encourage you to join the Facebook group Mormon Women Stand. The admins post powerful quotes and talks and invite discussion about gospel truths.

Just some points to remember about women and men:
  • Men are not better than women, and women are not better than men. Neither is superior over the other. We are simply different.
  • We are incomplete without each other (1 Corinthians 11:11). We are supposed to become one, like two halves of a puzzle fitting together to complete a beautiful picture (Genesis 2:24).
  • We were given different innate qualities and different opportunities to develop those qualities. However, both men and women are supposed to develop all the qualities of Christ (3 Nephi 27:27).
  • We share the most important role we can be given: parenthood. For we are here to become like God, and God is a Father. Therefore, we are preparing to become eternal parents like Him. 
  • Men are not the priesthood and should not be referred to as such. They are priesthood holders or bearers. The priesthood is the power of God.
  • Women can act in God's name and perform miracles through faith, prayer and fasting, and obedience.
  • Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties."
  • Instead of focusing on what we think we lack, let us focus on improving what we have (Alma 12:9-10, 2 Nephi 28:30-31, Matthew 25:14-30). Let us magnify the callings with which we have been blessed.
Discussion: Are there any questions or concerns you have about gender and Church doctrine or practices?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Liken All Scriptures


The Liahona
[Adapted from my sacrament talk given June 15, 2014. Read the first part here.]

Being able to make connections between the scriptures and our own lives takes practice; that is why we should have effective personal scripture study. Reading the scriptures is good for surface-level understanding and knowledge, but internalizing the message and gaining a testimony of the doctrine and principles require searching, pondering, and praying. Even if we have trouble finding a specific answer in the words of the scriptures, engaging in daily scripture study invites the Spirit to give and opens our hearts to receive personal revelation. 

Such deeper study takes time and effort, but it is not impossible to achieve. Start by finding a consistent time when you can focus and be uninterrupted. You may have to be creative. Don’t worry about how much you read; quality is more important than quantity. Take advantage of cross references, institute manuals, and other study guides to help you understand context and meaning. Then pray to know personal application. Write down any thoughts and feelings you receive during study time or later in the day. 

Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being.
We must also remember that what counts as scripture is more than just translated records of old. It also includes modern-day revelation. The Lord revealed in Doctrine and Covenants, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (1:38). Who are these servants? Amos clarified, the Lord “revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (3:7). This truth is repeated in Doctrine and Covenants: “that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled” (42:39).

Although there is only one president of the Church, all the apostles are considered prophets. When they speak to us at general conference or other Church broadcasts and write articles for the Church magazines, we need to listen and obey just as we do with what we read in the scriptures, especially because what our leaders say is meant specifically for us in our day.

In this age of modern technology, it is so easy to access the guidance of our caring Church leaders anytime, anywhere. We can listen to talks while driving or exercising. We can watch and discuss the messages for family home evening. We can read an article related to what we are reading in our personal scripture study for added insight. We have so much knowledge before us, more than in any other dispensation. We must use it in order to be successful in both our temporal and spiritual lives.

The last scripture we have, and most vital to planning our individual futures, is patriarchal blessings. President Monson shared
The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. . . .
A patriarchal blessing is a revelation to the recipient, even a white line down the middle of the road, to protect, inspire, and motivate activity and righteousness. A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities.
The key word there is possibilities. Giving a patriarchal blessing is not fortune telling or seeing a vision of fate. It is a revelation of all that we have potential for if we but obey God, keep our covenants, and follow the Spirit. It is the Lord allowing us to see ourselves through His eyes. He is telling us what amazing things we can do and have and become if we are faithful. Because patriarchal blessings are so personal, we should always consult them whenever making life-changing decisions. The Church magazine the Liahona added, “Other priesthood blessings you receive throughout your life may expand on themes mentioned in your patriarchal blessing. Know your blessing well enough to tell when those extra explanations come.”

With all the ancient and modern scriptures and revelations we have, we are well prepared to plan out our lives, both for here on earth and in the eternities. There is no question, decision, or problem we cannot overcome. We must be wise and use the treasures we have been given so that we are never steered wrong, just as Lehi and his family were given the Liahona to follow while in the wilderness. Alma explained the value and symbolism of the Liahona:
And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.
And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell. (Alma 37:3847)

Challenge: Let the scriptures--ancient, modern, and personal--and the Spirit direct the course of your life.

The Value and Purpose of the Scriptures


Mormon
[Adapted from my sacrament talk given June 15, 2014. Read the second part here.]

The Lord told Lehi in a vision to take his family out of Jerusalem and into the wilderness. After they left, the Lord commanded that Lehi’s sons return to get the brass plates, which contained their genealogy, the Law of Moses and other commandments, prophecies, and Jewish history. They could not continue their journey into the wilderness until they had the scriptures of their times. When Nephi obtained the brass plates, he “searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children. Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise” (1 Nephi 5:21–22). Nephi read the scriptures to his family and “did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23). 
 
We too can liken the scriptures for our profit and learning as we plan out our lives and face obstacles in our plans. President Monson said of planning our lives, 
The way to exaltation is not a freeway featuring unlimited vision, unrestricted speeds, and untested skills. Rather, it is known by many forks and turnings, sharp curves, and controlled speeds. Your driving skill will be put to the test. Are you ready? You are driving. You haven’t passed this way before. Fortunately, the Master Highway Builder, even our Heavenly Father, has provided a road map showing the route to follow. He has placed markers along the way to guide you to your destination.
That road map can be found in the scriptures. Everything we need to know to return to Heavenly Father has been given to us through the words of past and present prophets. 

There are 3 instances in the Book of Mormon in which Nephi assures us that everything written on those ancient records are sacred and of worth to us: 1 Nephi 6:5–6, 1 Nephi 19:6, and 2 Nephi 33:3. Furthermore, in abridging the plates, Mormon wrote many times that a hundredth part of the history could not be written, implying that what was written was specifically included for a reason. This gives us confidence that everything we need to plan our future and resolve any issue can be found in the scriptures.  

Therefore, we must learn how to apply what we read to our own situations. This may seem difficult because of time, cultural, and language differences. However, Elder Jay E. Jensen explained,
Story parallels begin with stories in the scriptures or from the events surrounding them. As you read and study these stories, you will see a word, a phrase, or a principle that seems as applicable today as it was in the past. As you continue your prayerful study, other principles will become apparent. As you put the principles together, you will begin to bridge the gap between the prophets and people who lived in the past—they-there-then—and us in our day—I-here-now. . . .
We can bridge the gap between scripture stories and our lives by recognizing the parallels between the two.
The key is to focus on the principles. For example, the story of Nephi killing Laban is an extreme scenario. It is a far chance any of us will be told to chop off someone’s head, impersonate them, steal their records, and then kidnap their servant. However, the principle of obeying a request from the Lord even when it doesn’t make sense is very applicable to each of us. This story is also a reminder that God is in control, that He not only knows the bigger picture, but also is the One who draws it. If He asks us to do something we don’t want to do, we can be assured it is for a good reason. Sometimes we are told the reason and sometimes we are able to discover it for ourselves, both of which apply to Nephi’s experience recorded in 1 Nephi 4:10–18. 

We can follow Nephi’s example when faced with a command that is challenging for us. Nephi was always obedient, whether or not he understood why. He wrote of one such time he did not know why: 1 Nephi 9:3–6. Mormon shared the same feelings about how he was commanded to combine the records: Words of Mormon 1:3–7. Both men acted on the faith they had that the Lord knows all things and uses us to accomplish His works.

(We know now that this wise purpose was to prepare for when Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages translated from the Book of Mormon, as explained in the heading to Doctrine and Covenants Section 10. Nephi and Mormon were able to plan for a future far beyond their lifetime, a future which affected us, by listening to the promptings of the Spirit. Who knows but the Lord how our present actions will affect the future of the world.)

Heavenly Father had the scriptures written for us. He knows we gain hope and strength from other people’s experiences. And like any good parent, He wants us to learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making our own. Remembering what Elder Jensen said about principles, there is no challenge we face today that has not been faced before.

Challenge: When you read the scriptures, look for principles that you can relate and apply to your life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spiritual Growth for Young Mothers

lds.org
While researching for an upcoming talk in Church, I came across this old Ensign article:

Spiritual Growth for Young Mothers

Stay-at-home moms shared their tips on how to have personal spiritual time despite obstacles such as staying with sick children on Sunday and not being able to fast while pregnant. I was floored with their wise and creative solutions, and I felt very guilty for having let go of my spiritual time, especially since I am not a very busy mom and I am blessed with modern technologies that allow me to access the gospel library anytime, anywhere. I am going to make more use of my new iPhone and try to listen to talks whenever I can. I am also going to start using nap time for personal scripture study.

Sharing Time: How do you incorporate personal spiritual activities throughout your day?