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



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Turn Discipline into Gospel Teaching Moments

Earlier this month, I was working in the office while the boys were playing in the bathtub. I heard suspicious activity, but unwisely decided not to check right away. When I finally went in, I saw foam and bubbles all over the boys, bathtub, and shower walls! It took me a second to realize what they had done: they used their baby body wash to make a bubble bath. Not a big deal, right? Easy clean up. But they had used the entire bottle that I had just bought! That soap ain't cheap, let me tell you. In fact, when we bought more last week, it had gone up in price, and I kicked myself for not getting it online when it was on sale. I reminded my son at the store not to use the soap for bubbles.

Tonight's setting was the same. I was in the office while the boys played innocently--or so I thought. When I went in to wash them up, lo and behold, another bubble bath. The good news is that is was nowhere near as big as the first and the soap bottle was still full.

My first instinct was to yell at them. Thankfully, I stopped myself and asked calmly instead, "What did I tell you when we bought the soap?"

"Not to make a bubble bath."

"That's right. But you didn't listen. So what do you think should happen?"

"Repentance."

That completely caught me off guard! But it reminded me that the whole purpose of discipline is to teach, not just punish.

"And what does that mean?"

"You don't do it again."

Someone has been listening to his Primary teacher after all. Sometimes gospel teaching can feel pointless when kids are being irreverent and not paying attention. Every Sunday I ask my son what he learned that day in Primary and he rarely can tell me. But this moment showed me things do get heard and understood and we shouldn't give up on teaching no matter how fruitless it seems.

"That's right. So what are you going to do next time?"

"Take a little bit of soap and wash myself!"

Very cute. We reviewed repentance and I let him choose his punishment for disobeying. I told him we would get a bottle of bubble bath to make everyone happy. Then when he said his bedtime prayer, I had him ask Heavenly Father for forgiveness. It ended up being a very valuable experience for both of us. I'm glad I didn't stick with my original urge that would have ruined the night for everyone. I hope I remember this moment next time I feel frustrated and turn it into another opportunity for gospel application instead.

Sharing Time: Share a time when you were able to use a disciplinary situation to reinforce gospel principles with your children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Heavenly Music

illustration by Jay Gatdula
I have been on a worldly music diet the past few months in an effort to invite the Spirit into my home and heart--and my children's hearts. I've been listening to hymns and Primary songs on my iPhone and classical stations on iTunes and the radio. I'm currently without my phone, so Sunday I dusted off my old iPod mini and resynced it with only classical, LDS, and kids music. I have heard some new beautiful music that fills my soul and moves me. In fact, I have now even become a fan of opera!

Music truly is a heavenly language that has so much power to bless or curse us. The intense emotions I've felt recently while listening to such uplifting songs has reminded me of quotes from my Hymns of the Restoration BYU class (I highly recommend it!):

"There is no music in hell, for all good music belongs to heaven. Sweet harmonious sounds give exquisite joy to human beings capable of appreciating music. . . . Every sweet musical sound that can be made belongs to the Saints and is for the Saints." ~Brigham Young

"Music belongs to heaven, to cheer God, angels, and men. If we could hear the music there is in heaven, it would overwhelm us mortals." ~Brigham Young

"The very spirit of religion is breathed into music . . . . Never, indeed, do we feel so near heaven as when listening to the performance of some grand anthem, in which the angels themselves might fitly take their parts." ~ John Taylor

"The singing of our sacred hymns, written by the servants of God, has a powerful effect in converting people to the principles of the gospel and in promoting peace and spiritual growth." ~ Heber J. Grant

"[Y]our measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, 'What do you like?' Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise." ~Harold B. Lee

"Hymns are often composed under great suffering or unusual ecstatic experiences which may be relayed to the singers and bring to them also joy, faith, and courage. . . . [The words] may add fervor and inspiration." ~Spencer W. Kimball

"Some of the greatest sermons that have ever been preached were preached by the singing of a song." ~Spencer W. Kimball

"Music is part of the language of the Gods. It has been given to man so he can sing praises to the Lord. It is a means of expressing, with poetic words and in melodious tunes, the deep feelings of rejoicing and thanksgiving found in the hearts of those who have testimonies of the divine Sonship and who know of the wonders and glories wrought for them by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." ~Bruce R. McConkie

"Good music, especially sacred music, makes things more spiritually understandable. It is edifying and conducive to understanding. It prepares emotions for response to promptings of the Holy Spirit."  ~Richard G. Scott

"As one who spends most of his time in the world of words, [I am] continually impressed with the power of music to comfort and counsel in a way that often exceeds the power of the spoken word." ~Neal A. Maxwell

"Enjoy music, not the kind that rocks and rolls, but the music of the masters, the music that has lived through centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have a taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to the temple. The more often you go, the more beautiful will be the experience." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

"Sometimes I feel we get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer." ~J. Reuben Clark

"The symphonic strains of scriptural music can give our lives lilt and tone, a way of tuning our lives by reference to a celestial scale. The melodies are the marching music for the traveler on the strait and narrow way." ~Neal A. Maxwell

"Why not go through your collection? Get rid of the worst of it. Keep just the best of it. Be selective in what you consume and what you produce. It becomes a part of you. . . .

"How wonderful is the music instructor who will teach children and youth to play and will acquaint them with good music in their formative years, including the music of worship. To have such music as a part of one's life is a great blessing. . . .

"You degrade yourself when you identify with all of those things which seem now to surround such extremes in music: the shabbiness, the irreverence, the immorality, and the addictions. Such music is not worthy of you." ~Boyd K. Packer (emphasis mine)

Challenge: Raise your standards for music and listen to that which brings the Spirit.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Knowledge: What It Is, Why We Need It, and How to Obtain It



Sacrament talk given on June 21, 2015.

My talk is a continuance of the month’s theme on Christlike attributes. When we think of what it means to be Christlike, we usually think of characteristics such as charity, mercy, obedience, and virtue, not knowledge. But the Doctrine and Covenants reveals that “the glory of God is intelligence” (93:36) and that God “comprehendeth all things” (88:41). Jacob in the Book of Mormon said God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9:20), and Ammon said, “he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things” (Alma 26:35).

Knowledge and intelligence are not interchangeable words, however. Elder Bednar, in his book Increase in Learning (which I highly recommend everyone read), explains the hierarchy of learning.

Generally, knowledge refers to facts, information, and abilities obtained through experience or education. . . .
[The Prophet Joseph Smith said], "God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge." . . .
Understanding is the keystone that is erected upon the cornerstone of knowledge and precedes intelligence. Interestingly, the word understanding is described in the scriptures in relation to the heart. . . .
The word understanding as used in the scriptures does not refer solely or even primarily to intellectual or cognitive comprehension. Rather, when the Holy Ghost confirms in our hearts as true what we know in our minds, understanding occurs. . . .
Understanding is a spiritual outcome; it is a result. 
Intelligence is the righteous application of knowledge and understanding in action and judgment. It is the capstone that is constructed upon the cornerstone of knowledge and made stable by the keystone of understanding. . . . [U]nderstanding leads to righteous action. . . .

Intelligence is always linked to righteousness. . . .

Interestingly, knowledge is associated with diligence. Significantly, intelligence is linked to obedience. . . .

We might ordinarily think of doctrine as something we study, something we learn, and something we strive to remember. However, the Lord indicated in this revelation [D&C 101:78] that doctrine is something you and I should act in. Ultimately, the Savior is interested not just in what we know but [also] in spiritual intelligence--in how we apply what we know for righteous purposes. . . .

Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the Church are active in us--an active and integral part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, and what we think.

Obtaining knowledge is the first step in becoming intelligent. It is important to know what type of knowledge we need to gain. D&C88:77–80 explains:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
That ye may be prepared in all things . . .

We need not only heavenly knowledge, but also worldly, such as history, geography, politics, and culture. When it comes to secular education, there is not one right way to seek it. President Kimball said, “Some are inclined toward formal university training, and some are inclined more toward the practical vocational training. We feel that our people should receive that kind of training which is most consistent with their interests and talents. Whether it be in the professions, the arts, or the vocations; whether it be university or vocational training, we applaud and encourage it.” There is also the informal education we gain from reading, watching the news and documentaries, visiting museums and historical sites, attending cultural events, traveling, and talking to people.

Gaining an education allows us to provide for our temporal needs and to understand and help our brothers and sisters. It encourages us to discover and develop our talents, which we can also use to bless others and build up God’s kingdom.

In our efforts to seek wordly knowledge, we must be careful not to let it lead to pride and rebellion. Nephi warned: “When [men] are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:2829). We must balance secular learning with spiritual learning and obedience. Only then will we have true and righteous wisdom.

Spiritual knowledge will also help us in our educational goals. A few examples that come to mind are one man who became literate by reading the Book of Mormon, a young man who suffered a brain injury and relearned to read also by reading the Book of Mormon, and missionaries who learn their mission language through scripture study (like Elder Groberg in The Other Side of Heaven.)

The scriptures tell us how to increase our spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

  • Study the scriptures (2 Nephi 32:3)
  • Rely on the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:5)
  • Ask for divine help (James 1:5)
  • Serve God (D&C 76:57)
  • Seek out of the best books through study and faith (D&C88:118)
  • Attend church and learn from each other (Moroni 6:5, D&C88:122) [which can also be done through home and visiting teaching, and attending seminary and institute]
  • Keep the commandments (John 7:17), including the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:19) [by taking care of our bodies, our minds are clearer and stronger and better able to learn and retain information]
  • Fast and pray (Alma 17:23)
  • Be diligent and obedient (D&C 131:19)

It can be a daunting task studying the gospel, especially the scriptures. Elder Caussé promised, “God would indeed be unjust if the gospel were only accessible to an intellectual elite. In His goodness, He has ensured that the truths regarding God are understandable to all His children, whatever their level of education or intellectual faculty. In reality, the fact that a principle can be understood even by a child is proof of its power. President John Taylor said, 'It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it.'”

If you are having a hard time grasping the gospel, start with the primary teachings. It is important to have a strong foundation of the basic principles of the gospel to build upon. We must also remember to be patient with our learning, just as we are with our children’s. Knowledge comes “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). 

If we find ourselves losing knowledge and understanding, it is a sign we are being disobedient (D&C 93:39) or prideful and complacent (2 Nephi 28:30). The task to become intelligent like God takes a lot of work and perseverance, but it is absolutely essential to our salvation. Elder Rector, a former general authority, said,

Ignorance is expensive; in fact, it is the most expensive commodity we know anything about. Certainly we make many mistakes through ignorance. If it is a violation of a commandment of God which we have never received and thus do not know, then the Lord does not hold us guilty of the sin. “… to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) And in Paul’s words, “… where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Rom. 4:15) But even though we may not be guilty of the sin because of our ignorance, neither can we receive the blessing, which is predicated on obedience, without rendering obedience to that law. Therefore, we are denied the blessing through our ignorance. If it is a traffic law we have violated through ignorance, the penalty assessed us is exactly the same as if we had known. Also, if we stick a finger in an electric light socket, we will receive the same shock, irrespective of our knowledge of electricity. I repeat, ignorance is expensive. Particularly is this true since the Lord has decreed, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6)

We will receive blessings as we increase in knowledge, understanding, and intelligence:

  • We will have joy (D&C 42:61)
  • We will have happiness, peace, and lengthened life (Proverbs3:13) [because if we’re making wise choices, we aren’t putting ourselves in physical and spiritual danger.]
  • We will attract more intelligence, wisdom, truth, and light (D&C 88:40)
  • We will have power to overcome evil (D&C 93:37)
  • We will know gospel mysteries and our understanding will reach to heaven (D&C 76:510)

We are also promised that we will be able to take our intelligence with us into the next life and have an advantage over those who have not gained wisdom (D&C 131:1819). We can be glorified as our Father in heaven through becoming intelligent like Him.

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.