Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pray Always

Last week I shared powerful scriptures to remember when faced with temptation. However, the devil is very powerful as well. We need a lot more tools than just a scripture to defeat him. The most powerful tool available to us is prayer. Brigham Young said, “Prayer keeps a man from sin. Sin keeps a man from prayer.”

Prayer keeps a man from sin
The Lord admonishes throughout the scriptures to pray always to avoid sin:
  • “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38)
  • “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (D&C 10:5)
  • “Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation” (D&C 20:33)
  • “Pray always, lest ye enter into temptation and lose your reward” (D&C 31:12)
  • “Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or in death. Even so. Amen” (D&C 61:39)
  • “What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place” (D&C 93:49)
  • “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him. . . . ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (3 Nephi 18: 15, 18)

Get the message?

Sin keeps a man from prayer
We’ve all heard that the time we feel least like praying is when we should pray the most. But do we really do it? Do we really believe it? We should, because it’s true. Sin makes us feel ashamed and unworthy to kneel before Heavenly Father. Satan tells us that we are too unclean to talk to God. But by staying away from Him, we only make our situation worse: we become more vulnerable to sin again and we feel more miserable and hopeless. This is exactly what the devil wants.

Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him and seek repentance and forgiveness through Christ’s Atonement. He wants us to pour out our heart and soul to Him in prayer. He wants us to talk to Him, ask for His help, and trust in Him. He promises so many blessings if we pray! And if we really want to follow Christ and not Satan, then we should pray, “for if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray” (2 Nephi 32:8). And when we’re not praying vocally, we should always have a prayer in our hearts (see Alma 34:27).

Challenge: Next time you don’t feel like praying, for whatever reason, remember that is what Satan wants. Follow the Spirit instead and talk to your Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Go, and Sin No More"

There are many examples throughout the scriptures of people experiencing a change of heart and completely repenting of their sins. Others show loyalty to God in the face of evil. The most amazing thing about these people is their attitude toward sin:
  • Joseph: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)

  • Christ: “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” (D&C 20:22)

  • Nephi: “Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?” (2 Nephi 4:31)

  • Jacob: “Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:49)

  • King Benjamin’s people: “the Spirit . . . has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2)

  • High priests: “they . . . could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence” (Alma 13:12)

  • King Lamoni’s people: “their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil” (Alma 19:33)

  • King Lamoni’s father: “Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast . . . I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:15, 18)

  • Captain Moroni: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17)

  • Three Nephites: “there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them” (3 Nephi 28:39)
The scriptures also share much wise counsel concerning sin:
  • King Solomon: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” (Proverbs 1:10)

  • Paul: “we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6); “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

  • Christ: “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11); “entangle not yourselves in sin” (D&C 88:86)

  • Lehi: “arise from the dust, my sons, and be men . . . put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound” (2 Nephi 1: 21, 23)

  • Jacob: “Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Nephi 9:39); “turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast” (2 Nephi 9:45); “let us remember him, and lay aside our sins” (2 Nephi 10:20)

  • Amulek: “the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations” (Alma 11:23)

  • Alma: “wickedness never was happiness”(Alma 41:10)
Challenge: Pick a scripture that strikes you as a powerful reminder to avoid sin, withstand temptation, and repent. Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it often. Another option is to frequently read 2 Nephi 4.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Often when we discuss controversial topics and deep doctrine, all we reap are vastly differing opinions and interpretations, criticisms of others’ ideas, and overall confusion. Such discussions do nothing to aid our testimonies of the gospel, only bringing out doubts and questions.

I strongly believe in focusing on the basics of the gospel. Without a very firm foundation in “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Article of Faith 4), we cannot have a strong testimony of higher doctrine. We must first start with the ABC blocks of the gospel and build “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30) for deeper understandings.

Just like babies, we must start with milk before we get meat (See 1 Corinthians 3:2, D&C 19:22). Timothy further clarified, “For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13–14). Babies who nurse receive their mother’s immune system. Similarly, the milk of the gospel gives us immunity to doubt, sin, and deception by giving us strong testimonies. Once we have exercised our faith and proven our testimonies and understanding, we can receive greater knowledge, or meat. When questions and confusion arise over these higher principles, we will have our testimonies to fall back on. Otherwise, with a weak foundation, we will completely fall away from the gospel. Christ gave us another analogy in the parable of the sower: the seeds that fell upon stony places scorched and withered away when the sun came because they had no deep roots (See Matthew 13: 1–23).

It is best to remember that the gospel is simple; we should not try to make it complex. The Jews did and lost their understanding (See Jacob 4:13–15). Also, all that we need to know to reach exaltation has been given us: “And for this cause, that men might be made partakers of the glories which were to be revealed, the Lord sent forth the fullness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity” (D&C 133:57). Even in the temple, the highest place of learning, the focus is the plan of salvation.

Have faith: the mysteries of heaven will be revealed in due time, and probably not until we need to know them—when we are exalted. For now, let us put our energy into learning the fundamentals of the gospel and keeping our covenants so that we can return to Heavenly Father.

Challenge: Next Sunday, attend your ward’s Gospel Essentials class to strengthen your foundation in the ABCs of the gospel.

Photo from wbd on Stock.xchng

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Small and Simple Things

The final act of becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We may constantly have the Spirit with us if we are worthy, a blessing made manifest through warnings, guidance, comfort, and peace. While we often focus on these more important blessings, we must not forget the Holy Spirit's whisperings about small things, which show that Heavenly Father cares about the little daily happenings in our lives. These whisperings are in fact tender mercies of the Lord.

They come as feelings or distinct thoughts about something we should or should not do, and we may or may not understand why. Although not following these whisperings does not result in major consequences, they often make the day go smoother and serve as reminders that Heavenly Father loves us. I have been reminded of His love a number of times:
  1. One morning a few weeks ago, I was loading up the dishwasher for a wash cycle. As I shut the door I had the impression to move a plastic cover I had put in. I ignored it, thinking the worst that would happen is it would fall through, which sometimes happens. However, once the cycle was done, I noticed smoke coming from the dishwasher and smelled a nasty burnt odor. I stopped the dishwasher, opened it, and was horrified to see the particular plastic cover melted at the bottom. It took me all day to clean the mess and rid of the odor and a couple weeks to get the smell out of the dishes and dishwasher, which still has a slight burnt smell to it.
  2. Similarly, I was ready to run a laundry cycle sanitizing all our germ-filled towels (golf, kitchen, floor towels). I put in one from the kitchen that I only use as decoration. It was pastel yellow, embroidered with bees and flowers and the words “Bee Happy.” My mother gave it to me, and I thought it was too cute to let it get dirty. I had the faint impression not to put it in, but as the next towel laundry day was not near, I threw it in. It came out no longer pastel yellow.
  3. During college, I sometimes had impressions to bring a textbook or reading book with me to school. Sometimes I did, to my delight when I found out a class had been cancelled and I had the needed textbook with me to do another homework assignment. Other times I did not, and while waiting for an appointment or with down time at work, I would have nothing with me to do and plenty later waiting for me at home.

These examples also show another reason for small whisperings: they prepare us for bigger promptings and test our obedience. I recognized the Spirit in these incidents after the fact. Had I recognized and followed them then, my days would have gone better.

Heavenly Father truly does watch out for us and wants us to be happy. He cares about those little things that will make life easier so that we can focus on the bigger things. He cares about preparing us for more important guidance and tests of obedience. He blesses us with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is our duty—and a very rewarding one—to listen and obey.

Challenge: Next time you receive a small prompting that seems insignificant, recognize it as a tender mercy of the Lord and an opportunity to show your obedience.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tender Mercies

In General Conference April 2005, Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk entitled “The Tender Mercies of the Lord.” He chose this topic because of a tender mercy he experienced the conference six months earlier in which he was newly sustained as one of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Bednar emphasized throughout his talk that “the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings” (100).

I can testify that this statement is true. I went to the public library recently to search for Harry Potter 3 and an Agatha Christie novel, but to no avail. I was extremely frustrated and felt like I had wasted my time. Before leaving, we went to the little used bookstore in the library. I looked through the bookcases and saw the mystery section. Lo and behold, what did I find? Two copies of And Then There Were None! I kept browsing and moved to the children's section. What was there? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! And the best part? I spent $1.50 total.

Elder Bednar admonished, “We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live” (100).

This fortification applies not only to spiritually troubled times, but also temporally troubled times. A few weeks ago at Walmart, a woman came up to me and gave me a $3-off coupon for an item she noticed I put into my cart. Being under financial stress, I was very grateful for the small but helpful savings.

Such tender mercies as I have shared are reminders that the Lord constantly watches over His children. “Let me suggest,” Elder Bednar said, “that one of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through His abundant and tender mercies” (99).

However, sometimes we may not think tender mercies apply to us because, as Elder Bednar pointed out, “we may falsely think that such blessings and gifts are reserved for other people who appear to be more righteous or who serve in visible Church callings. I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are available to all of us and that the Redeemer of Israel is eager to bestow such gifts upon us. . . . God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit ‘the chosen’ to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitely determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen” (101).

I admit I had that false notion several months ago because I was not feeling very spiritually high and feared I had lost a lot of light. One day a coworker asked me a gospel-related question. I answered him with such promptness and simplicity that he was very impressed. He told me he had asked that same question to many people, including LDS missionaries, and had never received such a fulfilling answer. Having been able to give the answer he was looking for made me realize the Spirit was still with me and the Lord could still use me as an instrument in His hands.

I know that the tender mercies of the Lord are not coincidences but timely blessings the Lord gives us to protect us, comfort us, and let us know He cares about each of us.

Sharing Time: Share a tender mercy from the Lord you have experienced recently.

Bednar, David A. “The Tender Mercies of the Lord.” Ensign. May 2005: 99–102.