Stop Fighting Your Problems

It is human nature that when we have a problem we do all we can to solve the problem. Often this leads to feeling that we have to “fight” and “beat” the problem. It is something we have to exterminate from our lives. But sometimes in our effort to eliminate a problem, we put so much focus on it that we actually give energy to the problem, which allows it to persist despite all of our efforts.

In the Sermon on the Mount, given both to the Jews and the Nephites, the Savior taught:

Agree with thine adversary quickly…  Ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away. And behold it is written also that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. –  3 Nephi 12:25, 39-44

As I read this I sense that the Savior wants us to be at peace, to not fear when faced with difficult people or circumstances.  There is nothing to fear! We need to trust that we will be OK even though unfair or painful things are happening. All adversity is meant to bring us closer to Christ.

And yet, as I read those verses, there is also a part of me that resists, that says, “Well I can’t just ignore the problem!” or “I can’t just let that person (or group) walk all over me! What is happening here isn’t right and this needs to stop now!” Sometimes it seems that the Saviors advice isn’t very practical in the real world. We want to fight and squash out the problem. Certainly in applying the Savior’s teachings it is important that each of us pray for inspiration on how on how we should act in our specific situations.

In the Book or Mormon there are a couple of accounts that show us what the result is of literally following the Saviors advice.  The first one that comes to mind is the Lamanite converts of Ammon and his brothers.  The other Lamanites were not happy about it and decided to kill those converts. This group of converts were so committed to the gospel, that they decided they would not put up a fight or do anything to defend themselves.  They were going to literally follow the advice of the Savior, even though their lives were at risk. And what was the result? 1,005 of the converts were killed. So does that mean God failed to protect them, or the principle doesn’t apply in really bad situations? No, the rest of the story is that when the aggressive Lamanites saw that their brothers would not even fight,

…they did forebear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done. And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them. And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved. And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.  Alma 24:24-27

So, while some bad things still happened, from God’s perspective a greater good was done. It is desire to exalt all of his children, and because 1,005 willing gave up their lives, more than that number were saved.  From God’s perspective those 1,005 didn’t loose their lives, they secured their eternal lives, and helped others do the same.

Another account in the Book of Mormon that illustrates the Savior’s teachings is Alma Sr. when he was in bondage to the Lamanites (Mosiah 23, 24).  This is a fascinating account, especially when comparing it to their peers who were also subject to the Lamanites. I wrote of this in another post, A Tale of Two Cities: Deliverance From Bondage. In this post I want to emphasize that Alma’s group followed the teachings of the Savior on the Sermon on the Mount. When the Lamanites first showed up, Alma told his people to not fear, and trust that God would deliver them.  When the invading army arrived, Alma and his people said a prayer and went out a “delivered themselves up into their hands; and the Lamanites took possession of the land of Helam.” (Mosiah 23:29). To the natural man this is kind of crazy, how come they didn’t even try to stop the Lamanites? Then they are forced to be slaves to the Lamanites, and their lives are at risk if they are caught praying.  Things got really bad, but what do you expect when Alma’s group didn’t resist the Lamanites in anyway?  The bad guys were allowed to do whatever they wanted and they didn’t show much restraint.  Looks like a recipe for disaster, looks like Alma should have done something besides just giving up without a fight.

At this point it looks like Alma failed as a leader and his teachings backfired big time. But then an unforeseen miracle occurred. One morning the Lamanites all overslept, and Alma and his group were able to walk away without a fight. What a amazing miracle! What a simple solution to an impossible situation. Nothing is too hard for the Lord! I testify that as we trust him, and let go of “fighting” our problems, he has solutions we can’t imagine. Even though our problems may persist for a time, and may even get worse, the Lord can deliver us bondage! Whether it be political bondage, financial bondage, health problem bondage, relationship bondage, or anything else. As we trust Jesus Christ, letting go of any  fear tied up in our problems, God can and will deliver us in a way that is for the highest good.  I think it is important to let go of fear, I believe in both of these accounts in the Book of Mormon, both of these groups let go of fear. “Therefore they hushed their fears…” (Mosiah 23:28). When we fear we doubt the Lord, we doubt that we are OK and are going to be OK. We think we have to be free of the problem to be OK.  When we can trust that problem is perfect for our learning growth and progression, we don’t have to fight to eradicate it from our lives. We can be grateful for it because of the opportunity it provides for us to become more Christlike in some way. To the Latter-Day Saints the Savior said, “Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.” (D&C 67:3).  So as we follow the teachings of the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount, we need to do so with faith, not fear. Then we are at peace and know that no matter what happens next, even if the next thing to happen seems like the worst news possible, it will be OK and work out for a greater good.  Then we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad, no matter what our circumstances are!

I am reminded of the these verses from the Hymn “How Firm a Foundation” -LDS Hymn 85

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by righteous omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow, for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless. And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. 

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

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Visions of Glory Quotes

Visions of Glory is a book describing a series of near death experiences that a person known as Spencer experienced.  Spencer does not claim that his visions were exactly prophetic, but suggests that we read prayerfully to discern what applies to us. Below are a series of quotes from Visions of Glory that resonate with me, I believe there is truth and principles to apply in these quotes. I believe as we live these principles it will bring us closer to Jesus Christ and the establishment of Zion.   Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

“She said I had been prepared from before the foundation of the earth for this mission, and that I should never again doubt that any earthly event, accident, illness, or even death could stop it from occurring.” pg 74

In order to receive the key, and the assignment it represented, one had to be prepared by sacrificing their will, their earthly possessions, their health if called upon, or even their lives if need be, to follow the path God ordained to prepare that person with charity, faith, doctrinal purity, sound understanding, and most of all, perfect obedience to God’s will. This is the course Christ had submitted Himself to, though His suffering was far greater and for all mankind. This lesser suffering we go through is to prepare an individual for their specific mission. Pg 84

The image I saw revealed that even though we only perceive one plane of existence, there are an infinite number of planes, stacked, or layered, in the same space. These planes are not truly “universes” because they are less about infinite stars and suns and worlds as they are about God’s organization and exaltation of all of His creations and His assigning unchanging glory and laws to each plane.    pg 88-89

It was shown to me that God does not dwell in a reality limited by time or distance. He exists outside of time and can move forward or backward through the construct of time. He created what we call “time” for our perception and progression, but He is not Himself subject to it. Anywhere in His creations, and any “when” in His creations, he is there. He can and does act in the past, present, and future, but to him it is all “now” and “here,” before his eyes. He can as easily speed up time for His purposes or stop it from progressing, all without our being aware of it. Since He can also see the end eternal outcome of all things and all people, He can influence or change anything, anywhere, and anytime He desires to bless the eternal outcome of our lives.      All of the things that we accept as mortal laws, like gravity, physics, light, heat, or speed, are all creations of God. We are bound by them unto life or death, but He is not. They are “laws” that belong to the Telestial order. They function by His command and as He decrees, but He is not an inmate of the Telestial order, and therefore He is not subject to these “laws.”  pg 100-101

This was all for our learning, to teach us to rely totally and only upon Christ. It was a hard lesson to learn because we had to keep relearning it on higher and higher levels.  Pg 154

We had the mind-set that the Lord expected us to provide for our needs, and that He would lead us to obtain them. We developed complete faith in this process. We learned much later, however, that this is a lesser law, and that we were really being brought to a greater faith that would allow us to rely upon Him for everything. We learned this in greater degrees as we continued our journey to Zion. We were taught it in as many ways as it took until it was a perfect and powerful truth – until we simply had nothing but Him, and it was enough. – pg 158

Here in our little part of Zion, our hearts were changing, our bodies were changing, and our spiritual IQ was changing. We still had a fullness of the priesthood, as we first discovered just before the first great conference, and we were learning every day what that meant.  It took us years to understand that we had to evolve into Zion, not just march to it.  It was a process that involved stripping away everything belonging to the world and replacing it with total faith in God.  We had to learn that we did not need anything from the telestial world.  All we needed was complete faith in Christ. It was a hard transition to make, but it was one of the reasons our journey to Zion took so many years – not to cover the distance, but to evolve spiritually so that we would be worthy to be in Zion when we actually arrived there.  Pg 168

I had to get very low and near death to realize that I was asking for the wrong blessing.  I was trying to have the Lord make me arrive on my own terms  which was with my medicine. I humbled myself and told the Lord I would go anywhere He wanted, to Zion or to Heaven, and I would go on His terms.  I just had to learn that the Lord was my salvation, and not a bottle of medicine.  Pg 169

We had the priesthood power, but not the spiritual maturity and understanding to use it flawlessly.  Like this fine brother, we had to learn how to be of perfect faith, and how to release our grip on “things” as our salvation.    There were other lessons we had to learn before we arrived in Zion. If we had fully understood what we had, we could have just “traveled” to Zion in a heartbeat by the power of God. That knowledge was not revealed to us because we had to walk there and in the process to be stripped of everything we had except a few rags of clothing before we learned to rely totally upon God, and to use His priesthood to provide things we had always previously relied upon society and hard work to provide. The law of “by the sweat of thy brow” had been amended, but it would take us years to grow into that sweet knowledge.  Pg 170

We just kept thinking, “Behold the majesty of the Lord!” and we went forward without fear.  – pg 176

As soon as we ceased to fear, we awoke one morning to a new phenomenon. There was a pillar of light in the front of our camp and one at our rear.  – pg 180

We knew too much of God’s power to be afraid anymore, and we had consecrated our lives to Christ, which meant we did not fear what the world could do or how our lives might end. I tell you, we had no fear. – pg  181

Yet every time a challenge and loss stripped us of something we needed, our faith grew stronger still, rendering that thing unnecessary.  Pg 181-182

We arrived at Zion on foot and in rags. All of our vehicles were abandoned and our supplies were gone. Even our pockets were empty. We had been stripped of everything we relied upon, everything that had produced our earlier confidence, even food and clothing. It was this process of sacrificing everything earthly that had sequentially taught us to totally trust in God, to have utter confidence in Him, rather than in our “things.” We arrived with a pillar of fire before us and a pillar of fire behind us, and we lacked for nothing. We had been beaten down, and in that same process we had been elevated to the stature of Zion.  pg 185

Even for us, the first citizens of Zion, this was our journey – the systematic stripping away of everything we possessed, and everything we thought we needed to survive. It was this process that had purified us and taught us how magnificent life is with total confidence in our loving God. It was the only way to learn this exalting form of purity.  Pg 215

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I Cannot Save Myself

I last wrote about the unexpected success of Alma and his people.  It is interesting at how different Alma’s experience was compared to the people who had not received his teachings, the people of wicked King Noah (Mosiah 19-22). They too were brought into bondage by the Lamanites, King Noah was killed, his priest’s fled.  The Lamanites taxed them at a rate of 50%. Life was hard, so eventually they attempted to fight off the Lamanites.  To the natural man it makes sense to fight off the bad guys, to fight for freedom. Yet, they were defeated by the Lamanites several times, suffering great loss. Finally they got to a state where they were the humbled to the dust. The account says:

And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies. (Mosiah 21:13)

Wow, what a place to be in. This is right where the Adversary wants us; in bondage to him. Satan and his forces want us stuck in this scenario, with no hope of deliverance.  He wants us to feel discouraged, depressed.  Since we have failed to fix things, he wants us to believe that things can’t be fixed. Whether it is a personal weakness, a challenge in our health, relationships, or finances, he wants us to give up in despair.

But that does not have to be the end of the story, it is not supposed to be the end of the story, there is still hope.  The account continues:

And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions. (Mosiah 21:14)

The Lord allows these scenarios where we cannot fix things so that we will turn to him. There is nothing too hard for the Lord! As we turn to him there is hope! He can deliver us from bondage! We need the mercy of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives. We need him to deliver us from the bondage of our sins, we cannot overcome the tendencies of the natural man on our own.  We cannot change our hearts, but he can! We cannot change our carnal mindset, but he can help us change! We cannot heal our relationships, but he can! We cannot heal our chronic health problems, but he can! As I have mentioned in my last few posts, one of the elements of accessing miracles is to swallow our pride and acknowledge, “I cannot do it, but God can.” There is where these people of King Noah (now lead by his son Limhi) found themselves.  They had tried to do it on their own, with their own strength, and it wasn’t enough. I believe that the Lord blesses each of us with challenges on the road of life that we cannot change, so that we will turn to him, learn of him, and trust him. I have had a few of those, and I have tried desperately to change them with my own willpower and strength. I have wanted to win the battle and stand on the victory stand and tell everyone how I did it. I have had to struggle with my pride, and feelings of failure and self doubt. I now realize all of this has been divinely orchestrated to bring me closer to Christ, to acknowledge that he is my Savior in ever way.  Jesus Christ wants to deliver us, but it must be on his terms, not ours.

He did deliver the people of king Limhi. As they humbled themselves, the Lord blessed them, and eventually help came from the land of Zarahemla, and they found a way to escape to the land of Zarahemla.   The Lord wants to deliver us, to redeem us, but the victory is his, because of his goodness, not ours.

I have wondered at the statement by Moses, after seeing a great vision of God’s creations, he was left to himself and he fell to earth and had no strength for many hours.  He then said,

I now know that man his nothing, which thing I never had supposed. (Moses 1:10)

I think I’m getting closer to understanding this scripture. Compared to God we are mere infants, and we can do nothing.  Christ even said in John 15:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

That is very direct, Jesus Christ told it like it is. We can do nothing without him.  Of our success, our blessings, our freedom, all we can say is, “Jesus Christ has been merciful to me.” I think of the brothers of Joseph in Egypt; as they came for grain, he forgave them for their betrayal, gave them food and the land of Goshen to live in. Could they take the credit for their homes in the land of Goshen? Were they entitled to the land of Goshen? Had they earned the land of Goshen? No, this was a gift to them. They were given the land of Goshen because Joseph was a merciful person, because he was kind and generous. They were able to live in freedom and prosperity in  Goshen because Joseph was good, not them.  We are in the same situation, everything good in our lives has come because God is good, not us.  Everything of true worth that we have done, we have done with God’s help. Our lives and every breath we take is a gift from him. And as King Benjamin told his people, we are at best unprofitable servants to him. He doesn’t need us to help him with his work, but he invites us to join him, to walk with him, to help him with his work so we can become like him.  And because we have a loving Father in Heaven, there is hope for me and you. God wants to bless us, he wants our lives to be good. He wants us to have the kind of a life that he has, Eternal life! This life is not meant to be a pleasure cruise, it is a boot camp for exaltation!  And the sooner we learn to walk with him, and let go of our natural man selfishness, the happier our lives will be.   As we let go and let God work through us, giving ALL the glory to him, he changes us to become like him, and all things become possible!

If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to share.

 

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The Unexpected Success of Alma over Amulon

In the scriptures are many stories where God delivered his people without the people even having to fight. I wrote an post, God Will Fight Your Battles, that refers to many of these accounts.  I have been thinking about the principles in my last post, Unexpected Success, and how these principles are seen in these accounts.  One of these is the account of Alma and Amulon in Mosiah 23-24 in the Book of Mormon.

Alma had left the wicked society of King Noah. He and the people that went with him established a peaceful community. However, his peaceful city was discovered by Amulon, one of King Noah’s wicked priests who was now in league with the Lamanites.  As they approached Alma’s city, the people were afraid. The natural man response might have been to fight, resist, or do something to stop the bad guys.  However, Alma told his people to not fear, and that God would deliver them.  They all prayed that God would deliver them, and then Alma went and delivered he and his people into the hands of Amulon.  He didn’t even try to stop or resist this invasion. Sounds kind of wimpy to me… at least from the natural man perspective.

Life at this point was not easy for them, their lives were threatened, they were forced to labor as slaves. The account says that “so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.” Then they were told anyone caught praying would be executed.  I think it would have been easy to have a lot of fear, to feel hopeless.  Perhaps some wanted to fight t he occupying army.  But “the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions saying: Lift up your head and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them  out of bondage.” (Mosiah 24:13).  Then it describes how the Lord did comfort and strengthen them, and “they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” (Mosiah 24:15).  Then a miracle occurred, the Lord told them that he would deliver them the following day and that they should prepare to leave that night. As they arose the next morning their task-masters were in a profound sleep, and Alma and his people were free to simply walk away.

Notice how Alma and his people line up with the principles I outlined in Unexpected Success.

  1. I wasn’t worried about failure, I felt no stress or pressure.
  2. I was looking forward to it, even though I wasn’t good enough.
  3. I knew I would be OK even though I would likely fail.
  4. I knew that I was not good enough to succeed! And I was still at peace with myself.
  5. God can do it, whatever “it” is. There is nothing too hard for the Lord.

As I have studied the account and these 5 factors, I think the people met all of these… except I’m not sure about #2.

The account tells us that they “hushed” their fears. They submitted to the Lamanites and to the will of God, knowing they could not deliver themselves. They submitted cheerfully and with patience to the will of the Lord.  I don’t think it would have been possible to be cheerful and patient in this situation if they did not have great faith and hope that God would deliver them, that it was OK to be where they were and that it was all working towards a greater good. Being cheerful indicates they were connected to the Spirit of the Lord, and they knew that the will of the Lord would be done.  I think hushing their fears and yielding their natural man strength to the Lord, allowed a much greater power to work for them.

They did not have to “fight” to change things. They did not try to force anything, and they trusted in God’s purposes and timetable.  I would say that they were at peace while in bondage. Thus the Lord was able to perform the unexpected miracle of causing the task-masters to sleep in. A very simple solution from God’s vantage point. God was able to deliver them even though they did nothing to deliver themselves, except yield to God.  They did not “earn” deliverance by trying every possible strategy to escape. Sometimes we think God will only help once we have exhausted all of our resources and tried everything. As if he will only help after we have failed in every possible way. But these people didn’t even make one attempt to escape. There is great power in letting go of all fear, yielding everything to God, acknowledging that we can’t do it, being at peace (cheerful) in the present, and being patient because the Lord’s timing is for the greatest good, All of this allowed the Lord to provide the miracle they could have never orchestrated on their own.

What miracles will appear in our lives as we follow this pattern? In Brent Satterfield’s book, “Faith to Produce Miracles” these principles are explained in greater depth, I highly recommend it.

If you have any insights or thoughts to share, please do!

 

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Unexpected Success

I have had two different experiences in my life where I had huge, unexpected success. These events seem to break all the rules that are taught by success experts and gurus, and I have pondered for years how they came about and how to reproduce them.  A few years ago I started to write a book called, “Unexpected Success,” I thought I had it figured out. But as I was at the point where I thought I was nearly finished with the book, the results in my life told me that I did not have it all figured out. What was the missing piece? I still wasn’t sure.  Recently I have been reading a new book by Brent Satterfield, “Faith To Produce Miracles”, and he helped me find a missing key.

First let me give you a brief overview of the two events in my life. One was when I got on the Ballroom Dance Team at BYU in January, 1984. I really wanted to be on the dance team, but I was not a student at BYU. I had applied to admitted on the winter block, which meant that I would start school in February. In the fall of 1983, I snuck into a beginning ballroom dance class, but that was not nearly enough preparation to be on the team. In January I went to the Ballroom Dance Team tryouts just to see what they were like, I wanted to go through the experience once so I would be better prepared if I were too try out another time. I knew I couldn’t get on the team, I wasn’t good enough and I had not started school yet. But I went through the tryout process and just had fun.  In the end I got on the team, even though I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t in school yet.  That is crazy! How did that happen?

The other unexpected success was a bowling game. Around Thanksgiving, I think it was 2005, I took my family bowling. I am not very good at bowling, my score is usually over 100, if I get 120 that is a really good game for me.  I will usually get 1 or 2 strikes in a game, 3 strikes would be really good for me. The bowling ally was having a turkey give away; if a person bowled 3 strikes in a row, they would win a turkey.  Even though I had never bowled 3 strikes in a row, I thought it would be fun to win a turkey.  It turned out that I bowled 8 strikes in a row! That is crazy! How did that happen? I have bowled a number of times since then, and has always been like before, 1 or 2 strikes in a game.

As I have analyzed these events, here are some things they both have in common.

  1. I wasn’t worried about failure, I felt no stress or pressure.
  2. I was looking forward to it, even though I wasn’t good enough.
  3. I knew I would be OK even though I would likely fail.

Now here is the missing piece I stumbled onto in Brent Satterfield’s book. I brushed across this idea, but had never quite hit the nail on the head.  It was this:

4. I knew that I was not good enough to succeed! And I was still at peace with myself.

Most success gurus will tell you that you have to believe that you can do it. Yet, if anyone had asked me before the dance tryouts if I thought I would make the team, I would have answered, “There is not a chance I will get on the team tonight. It is impossible” The same would have gone for the bowling game; if someone had asked me, “Do you think can win a turkey with 3 strikes in a row?”  I would have said, “Small chance, but maybe if I am lucky.” If they had asked, “Do you think you can bowl 8 strikes in a row?” I would have said, “There is no way I could do that.” So I knew I wasn’t good enough, and yet at the same time I was at peace with myself. There were no feelings of frustration, or inadequacy. I was OK with who I was even though I knew I wasn’t good enough.

But there is another nugget I got from Satterfield’s book that I didn’t recognize.

5. God can do it, whatever “it” is. There is nothing too hard for the Lord.

When Moses parted the Red Sea, he had to know that he could not do it, but God could. When Elijah called fire down from heaven to burn his sacrifice, he had to know he couldn’t, but God could. When the brother of Jared presented his 16 stones to the Lord, he had to know he could not make them luminescent, but God could. None of these prophets could have even begun to accomplish what transpired without God’s help. They did take action, and they exercised faith, but the victory goes to God. When we truly have an eye single to the glory of God and surrender our ego, our desire to make things happen, our desire to be successful and the praise of man, and recognize that even with our best efforts we are still unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2), then God can open the windows of heaven to create a miracle far beyond our capacity.

Christ taught these principles in John 15, when he referred to himself as the vine, and us as the branches. A branch cut from the vine produces nothing. He even said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” We need to be connected to the Savior Jesus Christ, his strength, his wisdom, his power, and then all things become possible.

This is in stark contrast to Korihor’s philosphy of man succeeding because of his strength, intelligence, and management ability (Alma 30). In a nutshell Korihor outlined how the world teaches us to be successful; work hard, be smarter than your competition, overpower obstacles, believe you can do it, persevere and you will win.  We do need to work and persevere, but what is we should be working at?  Christ taught us to, “Take no thought what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink. Consider the lillies of the field; they toil not…. seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” So we should be working, but most people are working really hard to secure for themselves what God said he would provide if we would seek to build his kingdom.  If we consider how lillies grow, they are at ease. They don’t stress. They flow with the process of growing. They don’t worry or fear. We need to trust that as God has provided for the lillies, and the birds, and all of his creations, he will provide for us in ways we don’t even know about.

There is much more that could be said about all of this. But that is enough for now. Feel free to share your thoughts, I will probably return to this subject later.

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Walking On Deep Water

I was reflecting on Christ’s invitation for Peter to walk on the water with him (Matthew 14:22-33).  It is interesting to me that this occurred when there was wind, waves, and deep water. Peter didn’t get a chance to practice on some puddles by the shore. He wasn’t allowed to figure it out in knee deep water. I have been amazed that he was able to make that leap of faith, and step out onto water that was so challenging.  But then yesterday it occurred to me that maybe that was the best way for it to happen.  If Peter was in a boat near the shore where the water was only knee deep, he would likely have trusted in his own ability. He would know that even if he didn’t walk on water like Christ, he was going to be OK, because he could handle knee deep water. But out in the middle of the sea, he could not trust in his own ability. There was no way his natural abilities were sufficient for the scenario.  He had to abandon all of his past experience, all of his natural ability, and trust completely in Jesus Christ.  The only was going to get through this was by focusing on and having faith in Christ.  In shallow water it would have been harder to let go of his own ability to wade in shallow water. This deep sea scenario forced him to abandon all of his skills, except faith in Christ. And when his focus was on Christ, the wind and the waves and the depth of the water didn’t matter. None of those were limiting factors for Christ, and they did not have to be limiting factors for Peter. But when he took his focus off of Christ,the he began to doubt and thus began to sink.

For each of us the Lord wants to stretch our faith. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a situation you simply cannot handle on your own. A situation where you cannot find the solution, a situation where it seems there is no way to resolve the problem and move forward. Perhaps that is your deep sea opportunity to abandon your natural man resources and put all your trust in Jesus Christ. Nothing is too hard for the Lord,his grace and healing capacity is sufficient to help us no matter how deep the water is, no matter how stiff the wind, and no matter how big the waves. There is always hope!

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The Flow Of Life

My mind has been captured with thoughts of all the things that sustain the flow of life on our planet.  In a way life on this planet sits on a razors edge of probability, there is such a small likelihood that all the needed systems would be in place… I am amazed! It is also amazing to me that God has set things up on this planet so that life continues to sustain itself indefinitely.  Whenever man makes something, it breaks down after a period of time. Cars, phones, houses, clothes, etc; everything breaks down over time.  We need to repair and maintain our roads and everything else.  People are constantly buying new things because their stuff is wearing out. But when God  organized this planet, he set up a series of symbiotic cycles than sustain each other and just keep going. These ecosystems have been running for thousands or millions of years, and don’t need a repairman to come fix them.

To this end there are many different “cycles” flowing on our planet.  There is the water cycle; rain water falls down to the earth. The water is essential for plant and animal life. It flows in rivers, lakes, and oceans. The water is also constantly being taken back up through evaporation, creating clouds, which then fall as rain.  If not for this cycle, life on this planet would be significantly disrupted, it might not even exist.

There is the cycle of O2 and CO2 between plants and animals.   We breath O2, and exhale CO2. We need the O2 to survive and the plants need CO2 in photosynthesis and for growth.  We need them and they need us.  If photosynthesis wasn’t working, all life on this planet would cease. Photosynthesis takes sunlight and turns it into sugars usable by plants, and then animals eat the plants. The domino effect reaches all life on our planet. And God set all this up to just keep running indefinitely with no repairmen needed!  Again, when men make things, they tend to run out of gas. If I start a fire with a match, the match cannot be used again, it is done. Our energy sources tend to get used up and need to be renewed often. We haven’t set up any man made systems that can just keep running on their own for thousands of years.

There is a symbiotic relationship between flowers that need pollinating and the bees and the other pollinators.  Each needs the other for survival. If either one isn’t there, all  life on our planet will be disrupted.

There is a symbiotic relationship between living organisms, and fungi and bacteria. When living organisms die, we need fungus and bacteria to break down the dead material so that it becomes part of the soil. If that wasn’t happening, we would have piles of dead things all over the place. What would we do with all the dead trees, grass, and animals? Soon our world be covered with dead stuff. We take it for granted how seamlessly this process works, of dying things returning to the dust, but again we have not been able to create something like it that just keeps on working.

I was thinking how amazing our physical senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are.  Just imagine if life started out with a single cell that somehow became alive. That cell would be using elements around it to help sustain its life. How long can it last? Eventually this little cell will die, but before it dies it needs to be able to replicate itself, and when it replicates itself, the daughter cell needs to be young and fresh.  How does an old cell replicate itself and create a younger cell? We take it for granted, but that is amazing! Just imagine a 20 year old car.  Let’s say you take it apart and reorganize the parts to make a different car. When you got done, you would still have car made of 20 year old parts that are likely to break down soon. Let’s say you make a new car with half the parts from the 20 year old car, and half the parts brand new.  Well, those 20 year old parts are still likely to break down soon, we can’t expect them to be younger just because the other parts are new.  And yet old cells replicate and the new cells are young. When a child is conceived, the new little life has young cells.  Let’s say the father and mother are 30 years old, somehow the new little infant growing in the womb doesn’t have 30 year old cells. The cells that make up this infant are young and new, they don’t have 30 years of wear and tear on them. How do you do that? How do young cells come from parents who are 30 years old?  We don’t know the answers, but it is divinely orchestrated.

But now let’s go back and pretend there is a single cell organism that somehow came to life, and can replicate younger cells.  It would have no “awareness” of the environment because it would have no senses. So how does this little cell develop the ability to sense its environment? How could it develop sight, the ability to see a distance away from its current location and be aware of other things around it? That is astounding! Each of the physical senses is amazing, and bear witness of a divine creator. And then the development of male and female genders that must come together to perpetuate the species. Again, this is beyond mere coincidence.  The probability of all of this coming together without a creator is so small it’s impossible.  Imagine finding a 500 page book out in a desert. Of course someone must have written the book.  It would be laughable to say that over time the elements came together  in just the right way so that the pages, and the words with a coherent story line,and the illustration on the cover, all just happened to be there.  Even if you took 500 pages, and left them out in the desert, and left several bottles of ink nearby, would it ever come together as a 500 page book without an author? Of course not! And yet the simplest life form, the simplest ecosystem, is more complex than a 500 page book.

And so I am very, very grateful for all of the amazing life all around me. I am grateful for the goodness of God orchestrating such a wonderful world for me to be in.  Things are not perfect here, but we are all each richly blessed in ways we are not even aware of.  And as I look at my challenges, I realize that God has figured out solutions to much more complex problems than the ones I am looking at.  None of my problems have God stumped, he knows how to help me though them. I am his son, I have divine DNA within me, and it is his plan to exalt me. All the genius of creations were designed to give his children a school ground where they could learn through experience to become more like him. A Savior has been provided to give us the needed grace to learn through mistakes and sin. Everything we need has been put in place, there is nothing to fear!

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What Does Zion Look Like? part 2

So, I just barely published the first article on what Zion looks like. I want to try to write down what it looks like to me.

As the scriptures have stated, it is a place where there is no poor, no in equality, and everyone is pure in heart. That means rather than being prideful and ego driven, we act with love. Every man esteems his neighbor as himself. (D&C 38:24-25)  We see the divinity within each of us. There are no feelings or thoughts of us or anyone being inferior or superior. We reach out to serve others with love,kindness, and compassion. There is no false pretense or ulterior motive. There is complete trust among all people, no reason to doubt or mistrust another person.

Given that there is no poor, there is more than enough for everyone. We all gladly share all that we have, there is no fear of running out (or any fear of anything at all). There is no lack or neediness.  All things required are present. There is complete confidence that there is endless supply available to all of us. There is no need to horde or take more than is required, it would be like trying to store up more air than we can breath in a day; what would be the point in that? We recognize that all that we have is a gift from God, he is the provider of all that is good.

The love of God is in the heart and mind of every person. We are truly of one heart and one mind.  In 1 Nephi 11:22-23, in a discussion with an angel about the tree of life, Nephi says, “And I answered him, saying; Yea, it is the love of god, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And he spake unto me, saying; Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”  And so we are all filled with this love, and our lives are filled with joy beyond description. Jesus Christ is among us, and we live in his presence!

We all live in perfect health. There is no sickness, illness, or disease of any kind.

We are all creators of light and truth. We create what we envision. The elements and intelligences of creation honor our desires, because we are all pure in heart. There is no resistance in the flow in our lives.

I’m sure there is more, feel free to share any thoughts you have on this.

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What Does Zion Look Like?

The scriptures tell us, “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness, and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18). Also,  in D&C 97:21 it says, “Therefore, verily thus saith the Lord, let ZION rejoice, for this is ZION – THE PURE IT HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice…”

That is how we define Zion, but what does that look like? What would such a society be like? Can you picture it? Do you have a vision of it? Do you look forward with an eye of faith and see it? Can you see elements of Zion in your life now? What changes need to be made  in our world for Zion to become a reality? What changes need to be made in your heart and mind for you to be in a Zion state today?

I just found this article from President Spencer W. Kimball, he gives all of us something to think about as we seek to establish Zion.  Click here  or see below to read the article.

Becoming the Pure in Heart

Spencer W. Kimball

This important address was delivered at the April 1978 general conference. At the direction of the President, it is reprinted for renewed individual and family study.

Becoming the Pure in Heart

I should like to talk about the building of Zion through sacrifice and consecration. For many years we have been taught that one important end result of our labors, hopes, and aspirations is the building of a Latter-day Zion, a Zion characterized by love, harmony, and peace—a Zion in which the Lord’s children are as one.

The vision of what we are about and what should come of our labors must be kept uppermost in our minds as we learn and do our duty in all aspects of gospel living and Church activities. In the fifty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord shares with us a glimpse of this Latter-day Zion:

“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.

“For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. …

“Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;

“And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand; …

“And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.

“Behold, I, the Lord, have spoken it.” (D&C 58:3–12.)

This day will come; it is our destiny to help bring it about! Doesn’t it motivate you to lengthen your stride and quicken your pace as you do your part in the great sanctifying work of the kingdom? It does me. It causes me to rejoice over the many opportunities for service and sacrifice afforded me and my family as we seek to do our part in establishing Zion.

In the earliest years of this dispensation the people faltered in attempting to live the full plan of Zion. Because of their transgressions, the Lord chastened them in these words:

“Behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

“And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (D&C 105:3–5.)

The Lord further counsels that we must learn obedience and be developed in character before he can redeem Zion. (SeeD&C 105:9–10.)

Creating Zion “commences in the heart of each person.” (Journal of Discourses, 9:283.) That it would take some time to learn our lessons was seen by the prophets. In 1863 Brigham Young stated:

“If the people neglect their duty, turn away from the holy commandments which God has given us, seek their own individual wealth, and neglect the interests of the kingdom of God, we may expect to be here quite a time—perhaps a period that will be far longer than we anticipate.” (Journal of Discourses, 11:102.)

Unfortunately we live in a world that largely rejects the values of Zion. Babylon has not and never will comprehend Zion. The Lord revealed our times to the prophet Mormon, who recorded this statement in a closing chapter of the Book of Mormon:

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But … Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

“For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Morm. 8:35, 37.)

This state of affairs stands in marked contrast to the Zion the Lord seeks to establish through his covenant people. Zion can be built up only among those who are the pure in heart—not a people torn by covetousness or greed, but a pure and selfless people, not a people who are pure in appearance, rather a people who are pure in heart. Zion is to be in the world and not of the world, not dulled by a sense of carnal security, nor paralyzed by materialism. No, Zion is not things of the lower, but of the higher order, things that exalt the mind and sanctify the heart.

Zion is “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.” (D&C 82:19.) As I understand these matters, Zion can be established only by those who are pure in heart, and who labor for Zion, for “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” (2 Ne. 26:31.)

As important as it is to have this vision in mind, defining and describing Zion will not bring it about. That can only be done through consistent and concerted daily effort by every single member of the Church. No matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice, we must “do it.” That is one of my favorite phrases: “Do It.” May I suggest three fundamental things we must do if we are to “bring again Zion,” three things for which we who labor for Zion must commit ourselves.

First, we must eliminate the individual tendency to selfishness that snares the soul, shrinks the heart, and darkens the mind. President Marion G. Romney has referred to the tragic cycle of civilization, a cycle propelled by anyone who seeks for power and gain. Was it not this that led Cain to commit the first murder “for the sake of getting gain”? (Moses 5:50.) Is not this the spirit of the anti-Christ in which “every man prospered according to his genius, and … every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime”? (Alma 30:17.) Did not Nephi single this out as the spirit which led his generation to destruction?

“Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.” (3 Ne. 6:15.)

If we are to avoid their fate, we must guard against the very things that caused their downfall. The Lord himself declared to our grandparents: “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine property.” (D&C 19:26.)

He further counseled his young church by saying:

“Behold, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with many who are in the church at Kirtland:

“For they do not forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, the pride of their hearts, and their covetousness, and all their detestable things, and observe the words of wisdom and eternal life which I have given unto them.” (D&C 98:19–20.) It is incumbent upon us to put away selfishness in our families, our business and professional pursuits, and our Church affairs.

Second, we must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other. There must be unanimity in our decisions and unity in our actions. After pleading with the Saints to “let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24), the Lord concludes his instructions on cooperation to a conference of the membership in these powerful words:

“Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27.)

If the Spirit of the Lord is to magnify our labors, then this spirit of oneness and cooperation must be the prevailing spirit in all that we do. Moreover, when we do so, we are told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that “the greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concentrated effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 183.)

Third, we must sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord. We begin by offering a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” We follow this by giving our best effort in our assigned fields of labor and in our callings. We learn our duty and execute it fully. Finally we consecrate our time, talents, and means as called upon by our file leaders and as prompted by the whisperings of the Spirit. In the Church, we can give expression to every ability, every righteous desire, every thoughtful impulse. Whether a volunteer, father, home teacher, bishop, or neighbor, whether a visiting teacher, mother, homemaker, or friend—there is ample opportunity to give our all. And as we give, we find that “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven!” (Hymns, no. 147.) And in the end, we learn it was no sacrifice at all.

My brothers and sisters, if we can do this, then we will find ourselves clothed in the mantle of charity “which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moro. 7:46–47.)

Let us unite and pray with all the energy of heart, that we may be sealed by this bond of charity; that we may build up this latter-day Zion, that the kingdom of God may go forth, so that the kingdom of heaven may come.

 

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Angels Among Us

I think there are heavenly angels among us, and at times we walk right by them without knowing it. Sometimes they help us in subtle ways that we are unaware of. We are not alone in our struggles.

I had one such experience, and it didn’t even dawn on me until years later that one particular person in a challenging situation was most likely heaven sent. It was when I was 22 years old, and my college roommate talked me into taking a summer sales job selling childrens books. We were sent to work in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I went was a door-to-door salesman.  My roommate had a car, but I only had a bicycle.  So, I rode my bike around different neighborhoods in Tulsa.  After being there for a week or so, I visited a home where there were two young children, around ages 5 and 8. The mother didn’t buy any books, but the 8 year old girl was very friendly and as I walked to the next home, she chatted happily with me.  When I went up to their door she waited on the sidewalk. I did not sell anything at that house, and this little girl chatted with me as I walked to the next house. This continued as I made my way up the street.  I also noticed that her little brother (who had down syndrome) was now tagging along as well.  They followed me for maybe a half an hour or so. I was starting to be a little bit concerned about this little down syndrome boy and suggested that the older girl get her brother back home.  She agreed, and I watched for a few minutes as they walked down the sidewalk. Once I was certain they were close enough to their home that there would be no problem I went on my way.

I think it was the next day (maybe two) I was riding my bike in a nearby neighborhood, and a man in a minivan pulled in front of me and stopped in such a way that caused me to stop my bike. He got out of his minivan and asked if I knew the family with these two little kids. As he described them I knew who he was talking about. He said to me, “They think you tried to kidnap their daughter. You should go over there and set the record straight.” I thanked him  and headed straight over there on my bike.

Once I got there I met with the mother and father of the two children. They were very skeptical of my story that she followed me down the street.  I showed the father the sample books I had with me. They were not yelling at me, but I could see they doubted me. After about five minutes the little girl came out of the house and stood next to her mother. I pointed at her and said, “Just ask her, she was there.” She then quickly hid behind her mother, and I could see that she was terrified of me, and she wouldn’t say a thing. I was really surprised, because the day before she had been so friendly and bubbly as she chatted with me. I realized that her parents fears that I had tried to kidnap her had poisoned her perception of what had happened, and she now believed I had tried to kidnap her. That was alarming to me, so I continued talking with her parents.  After about 15 minutes I had them persuaded that I was OK, and that their fears were not based on the truth. I gave them my phone number and told them where I was staying if they wanted to contact me.  The father did in fact call me about later that evening, and he seemed a little surprised but also pleased that I had actually given him my correct phone number.

I think it was the next day, or maybe even later the same day, as I was riding my bike in the area, a police car stopped me. The parents of the girls had reported me to the police before I returned to their home to clear things up. I told the officer all that had happened, he asked me to wait while he radioed in.  After a few minutes he told me that they had withdrawn their charges and I was free to go.

I did not think much more about it for a few years, it was just one of those things that happened. And then one day as I recalled this memory, it suddenly dawned on me that if the guy in the minivan hadn’t warned me and persuaded to go “set the record straight,” it might have turned out very differently. It dawned on me that he played a significant role, and I wondered who he was. At the time it happened I somehow assumed he was a neighbor of theirs, but he never said that. As he spoke with me I sensed that he was on my side, he wasn’t accusing me or questioning me, he didn’t seem to doubt that I was innocent at all. If he had been their neighbor, and they told him about it, he most likely would have called the police when he saw me. But he just encouraged me to get over there and “set the record straight.” Who was he? If he hadn’t done that the police would have found me, and I would have had to defend myself against attempted kidnapping charges. The little girl would not have spoken in my defence, she was now terrified of me. Things could have gone very badly for me. But since I went to their home before the police found me, it all worked out just fine.

I again asked myself, “Who was the guy in the minivan?” I have come to the conclusion he must have been a heavenly messenger, perhaps a translated being like John the Beloved. He did a good job of speaking with a southern accent, but I am confident he was sent to prevent problems that could have potentially sent my life into a horrible mess.  Someday I will know exactly who he was, and when I see him I will give him a hug with sincere “Thank you!”  It is also comforting to know that God is mindful of me, he is aware of the details of my life, he can see the beginning to the end. And if there is something that would keep me from accomplishing my life purpose, help has been and will be sent to aid me in my time of need. I am not in this alone, all of heaven is pulling for me… and you!

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