Friday, November 20, 2015

One Short Chapter but So Many Great Truths

Although I'm doing some of these posts as part of my assignments for school, I also just enjoy sharing some of the insights I've gained from my scripture study. This week we studied Enos-Mosiah 3. For such short chapters, there's a lot of good stuff in this section! I especially like Enos because of the following insights:

1) In verse 3 it talks about how he was hunting in the forest and started thinking about the words that his father had often taught him about the gospel. The first thing that stands out to me is that his father spoke to him often about the gospel. His wasn't just a one-time or only on special occasions type of religion. He believed it, he lived it, and he taught it. What a blessing for him and for his children. That makes me want to be more vocal about my testimony, and makes me want to take the time to discuss the gospel often.
The second thing that stands out to me in this verse is that Enos went into the forest to hunt beasts. He was going into a quiet place by himself to do a common activity. I wonder how many of us take time to go into our own "forest" and spend some quiet time thinking about the words of eternal life? Enos' experience shows me that even when setting off to do something common, if our hearts and minds are open, we can end up having great spiritual experiences. Even Jesus took the time to go off by Himself for solitary communion with His father. I think of how much strength we could gain by taking the time to re-group and re-center our lives through this practice, and how uncommon it is in our hectic, loud, and over-booked lives.

2) In verses 5-8 Enos is given the wonderful confirmation that his sins are forgiven. He then asked the Lord how that was done. The Lord answered that it was his faith that had made him whole. His faith wasn't just an inert belief in Jesus Christ, it was belief that led to action. He didn't just believe what he had been taught about Jesus and the salvation He offers- he prayed all day and all night until he gained a personal witness of it. I think about times that I've wanted to know the truth of something, or have needed the confirmation that God loves me, and how much time and effort it has taken to receive those. God willingly gives us all that we have, all that we need, and much of what we ask for, but sometimes I think God tests us to see just how serious we are, or how much we're willing to give to receive those blessings. If we're not willing to pay the price, why should He just hand us those special witnesses? That would be akin to spoiling a child by giving them everything they want just because they say they want it. (And we all know how immature and out of control that kind of child is! I don't think Heavenly Father wants any of us to be like that.)

3) In verse 9 when Enos has felt the joy of forgiveness and no longer feels the burden of his sins, he starts looking outside of himself and he naturally starts to think about his "brethren"- his friends, family and community, and of their welfare. It strikes me that when we really feel loved, we want to and are able to pass that love along. To feel loved gives us the foundation for healthy relationships with others, and to truly feel loved by God gives us the ability to love others more perfectly. Feeling the love of the Lord creates a desire in us to serve others and to help them to feel His love also. It also helps us to love those who sometimes seem unlovable. On the other hand, those who don't feel loved are often self-absorbed and unable to think of others' feelings and needs. Their relationships suffer and they miss out on the deeper bonds that selfless love creates.

4) I love how in verse 12 it reiterates that the blessing of having the Lord speak to him and grant him his desire came AFTER he prayed and labored with much diligence. Enos wasn't one to just approach the Lord casually, say a short prayer, and hope that he'd receive the desired blessing. He put the time and effort into really connecting with the Lord, and his diligence was rewarded greatly.

5) In verses 13-15 Enos is praying that their records will be preserved and brought to those who don't have them. I think this shows the incredible value he placed on the scriptures. Back in his time it was a special thing to have possession of a set of scriptures. They were heavy, bulky, and hard to engrave. They didn't have a copy for every family, or even for every city. He recognized that the only reason his people were able to be taught the commandments and have a chance to try to live the gospel was because they had the scriptures. Without the words of the Lord to guide them, they would have quickly fallen prey to the whims and "wisdom" of man rather than the guidance and inspiration of the Lord. His love for the Lamanites was so great that he wanted to ensure that they had the opportunity to learn and be brought to salvation, and he knew that the scriptures were their best bet.
This makes me look at my scriptures with a new-found appreciation. I often take for granted the fact that I have my very own set of scriptures (actually, multiple sets including ones on my phone so I can literally take them with me everywhere I go.) I think about the sacrifices that were made to ensure that the scriptures survived and were then copied and distributed to the masses. I think we've all become too complacent about the value of having God's word with us. How often do we pick up our scriptures with wonder and awe about what they really contain? They do us no good if they sit unopened and unexplored. Do we realize what our life would be like if we didn't have them? I know that I personally am apt to go about things the wrong way. I used to joke that if there was a way to do things backwards I was the one to find it. I know that I wouldn't have found the right path to follow if I didn't have God's word to show me the way, and I doubt I would have found anyone to teach me if they hadn't also been taught by the scriptures. We can't learn, live, or teach what we don't know, and we wouldn't know if we didn't have the scriptures. Enos makes me look at my scriptures with more love and gratitude.

Friday, November 6, 2015

David is blogging again!

David has started a new blog! It's He's been posting his insights as we go through the Pathway program and as we study the scriptures.

Is Comfort Really Worth It?

After reading 2 Nephi 28-33 this week, I've been pondering not only the many tactics that Satan uses to try to lead us astray, but also why we may be vulnerable to them.

One thing that I've noticed is that people often gravitate to what is comfortable for them. It may be comfortable because that's what they grew up with, or because it fits with their current lifestyle, or it's the easiest way and requires the least effort. Sometimes it's comfortable because it allows them to fit in with a particular group or helps them feel important or needed. Satan likes to use our comfort zone to lead us astray or to keep us away from where God wants us to be.

Think about people you know who have started out in the gospel on fire. They are filled with testimony and passion, and are eager to share their experience with everyone around them. The excitement of being born again spiritually keeps them going for months, sometimes even years. There comes a point, though, where paths diverge. One person perseveres in the faith and continues to learn, grow, and have life-changing and testimony-building experiences, while another gradually grows disillusioned and dissatisfied and slowly removes themselves from the fellowship of the saints.

I've seen it all too often. Those who are drawn away are often enticed by the lure of temporary pleasures or the false sense of security that the painless cocoon of their comfort zone offers.

The gospel really should come with a warning label. It would read something like this: WARNING: Living the gospel is HARD. It will require effort. You will be asked to get out of your comfort zone. It is not for the faint of heart or for those with commitment issues. God requires your whole heart and soul, not just the bits and pieces of your broken self. (Although He'll take those too, and make something great out of them!)

This isn't to say that living the gospel is unpleasant or awful. I think somewhere along the line people (Americans especially) have come to equate hard with bad. Who wants to have to work hard, right? Isn't the dream job one where you work smarter and not harder, and where minimal effort is awarded with great affluence? Sounds like the modern American dream, right? There's just one thing wrong with that line of thinking: EVERYTHING!! Hard work is what builds strength. Overcoming challenges and trials is what creates character. Giving something your "all" creates a sense of accomplishment and confidence that you can't get any other way.

This is just as true with the gospel as it is for every other aspect of our lives. It is only through surrendering everything to God that we become free. It is only by dedicating ourselves to living all of His laws that we see the greatest growth. It is only by doing the "hard" things that we gain the faith to know that God was with us every step of the way, and that if He was there then, He will be there always.

Giving in to Satan's temptations is easy. He makes easy look so appealing. But what he doesn't show you is what you lose. He won't show you the loss of self-respect, the crushing of your confidence, the depression and the discouragement his way brings. He won't tell you how your faith will be eroded and you'll be left wondering if there's any purpose at all to this life. He won't tell you that the enjoyment of alcohol or drugs might just lead to the prison of addiction. He won't tell you that the easy way is actually the most damaging way. Nope, what he'll tell you is that his way is fun, exciting, comfortable, and painless.. His options are sparkly, tasty, smooth, and feel good...temporarily.

It breaks my heart to see people fall victim to these lies. They often don't and can't see what they are giving up, and what God had intended for them if they could only stay faithful. They have taken instant gratification over eternal happiness and peace. In my mind, when I weigh the options it seems like a no-brainer. Why would I pick the cheap tin imitation when I can have the solid gold original? It's so hard to distinguish when you are in the dark, though. It makes me wish I could walk in and flip the light switch for them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I've been struggling lately with feelings of doubt and insecurity, especially about whether or not God really does know and care about me as an individual. I just can't fathom that a Being so powerful, who created the vastness of the heavens and the earth, and who has billions of children could really care about one solitary child. How does that work? How does He have so many of us, and yet still love and care for each of us as individuals? Even if He does know my name, why would He care about me, when He has so many others who are so much more faithful, devoted, kind, and good? I don't know the answers to any of these questions. All I can do is fall back on prayer, and recognize that when He sends me tender mercies that are tailored to this specific question and challenge, that He must be aware of me. 
The following quote is one of those tender mercies:
"Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf