Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spiritual Insights

As I've been re-reading the Book of Mormon again I've been trying not to just skim over it, but to be deliberate in seeking new perspectives or insights. This morning it didn't take long before I found verses to ponder in 1 Nephi, chapter 16.

There are multiple mentions of Lehi dwelling in a tent, and in verse 6 it says, "my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel." It goes on to speak of how Nephi and his brothers took the daughters of Ishmael as wives, a necessary step for ensuring posterity. This made me think of how we sometimes have to "dwell in a tent" in a temporary place on our journey. It isn't until everything necessary is in place that our journey can continue. Sometimes our sojourn "in a tent" or in a wilderness is short, others times prolonged. "Dwelling in a tent" can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It might mean that we've given up or lost things of value in our life. To top it off, the journey itself is often frustrating, scary, and difficult, so getting stuck "in a tent" can feel like adding insult to injury. Knowing the outcome of Lehi and Nephi's story gives me hope, though. It clearly demonstrates that if we listen to the Lord and do the things He is guiding us to do, He will eventually lead us to our "promised land."

Another small insight came in verse 12 when it said, "we did depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman." The river was named after Lehi's oldest son, Laman, but could the name also have symbolism? Laman has come to be associated with rebelliousness, and this verse made me think of how we sometimes have to cross over a river of rebelliousness in order to continue our journey.

In verse 16 it speaks of how the family followed the directions of the Liahona, or compass-like ball the Lord provided. The ball led them in the "more fertile parts of the wilderness." When we follow the Lord's guidance, He takes us to fertile areas, even when they are in our own "wilderness." His tender mercies are with us even in our most challenging times.

The last insight of chapter 16 is in verse 38, when Laman is speaking of his perception of Nephi, and how he believes that Nephi is trying to be a king and ruler over the group. Even though Nephi had done nothing that was not in the best interest of the family, Laman constantly felt threatened and belittled by the fact that the Lord had chosen his younger brother to be their leader. Never mind the fact that Nephi was willing to seek out the Lord and trust in His guidance. All that Laman could see was that someone lesser than himself was being put in charge of him. This severely rankled him, as is shown throughout the remainder of the story. What strikes me most about this is that Laman's biggest problem was pride. He couldn't bear the idea of someone else telling him what to do, whether that was Nephi, or the Lord Himself. He thought he knew what was best, and he had a really hard time accepting counsel. This is a pretty normal human trait, but Laman's example shows us how a negative trait can turn into a serious stumbling block if we're not careful to keep it in check.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Savior's Peace

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”

The first scripture I quoted (John 14:27) is one of my all-time favorites. It's one of the few that I have (mostly) memorized. I think it really speaks to me because there have been so many times in my life when I have needed the Lord's peace more than just about anything else. During the hardest trials,  the peace of knowing that everything will be okay gave me the strength to keep going, and the courage to face whatever challenges came my way. The Savior's peace didn't take away my struggles, nor did it suddenly make everything okay. That's not how it works.

The peace that Jesus promised His apostles (and us) is greater than the temporary or conditional peace that the world hopes for. The world thinks that peace comes only when there is no conflict, war, worries, trials, or personal dissatisfaction. In contrast, Jesus teaches us that true peace can come regardless of what is going on in our lives or in the world around us. As He said, we will have tribulation in the world, but we can be “of good cheer” anyways, because we know that He has overcome the world. Because of Jesus Christ and His gospel, we know who we are, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. We have the peace of knowing that this life is just another step on our journey, not our final destination.

I'm not even sure I understand how the Savior gives us peace when everything around us says that we should be anxious, stressed, and unhappy. All that I know is that it is possible to feel that peace in the midst of the storms of life, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Be Not Troubled

Matthew 24: 6-7 says, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Even though the world will be in commotion, Jesus has told us not to fear.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “We believe that these severe, natural calamities are visited upon men by the Lord for the good of his children, to quicken their devotion to others, and to bring out their better natures, that they may love and serve him. We believe, further, that they are the heralds and tokens of his final judgment, and the schoolmasters to teach the people to prepare themselves by righteous living for the coming of the Savior to reign upon the earth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], Italics added).
We can overcome our fear when such catastrophes occur (and even when we're just anxious about daily life) in a few different ways:
1) Prepare ourselves. Spiritual preparedness should be our first priority, but we can also prepare physically by having emergency supplies, food storage, and plans in place in case of crisis. As the scriptures state, “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
2) Remember what Mister Rogers’ mother taught him as a boy when he would see scary things on the news, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Focus on the positive side of the disaster. Although it is easy to get sucked in to the sadness and negativity, there are always miracles and blessings that occur also.
3) Become one of the helpers. “…whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). We can follow our Savior’s example and reach out to those in need, putting service before our own worries and cares. When we do this, we often find that our troubles appear smaller and more manageable. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Taking Up Our Cross Daily, and Losing Our Life for Christ's Sake

Luke 9:23-24 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

“Even before the Savior’s Crucifixion, the image of “taking up one’s cross” would have been a familiar and perhaps troubling one for the disciples. Crucifixion was a common means of execution in the Roman Empire, and its victims were made to carry their own crossbeams to the place of execution. By using this imagery, the Savior vividly taught His disciples what they must be ready for and called upon them to follow His example by submitting to the will of the Father in their lives.” (New Testament Student Manual;

In this one statement, Jesus made it clear that to follow Him would require sacrifice, and maybe even physical death. Being one of His disciples wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

A cross signified death, and a cruel and ignoble death at that. It wasn’t something that any human would willingly submit to or ever volunteer for, yet the Savior made it clear that He would ask every one of His followers to do just that, but in a symbolic way. Although some will be required to die because of their discipleship, most will be required to give their life in a different way. 

To take up one’s cross daily would mean to symbolically  accept the death of our “self”, as we give our life in service to others. We have to let our selfishness and self-interest die in order to let our higher nature thrive. Ego has to give way to charity, self-absorption has to be eradicated bit by bit, and love has to overcome pride. We must follow our Savior’s example of serving, giving, teaching, and loving. 

President Ezra Taft Benson gave some examples of ways we can lose our lives in service: “Opportunities to lose oneself for the good of others present themselves daily: the mother who serves her children’s needs; the father who gives his time for their instruction; parents who give up worldly pleasure for quality home life; children who care for their aged parents; …time for compassionate service; giving comfort to those who need strength; serving with diligence in Church callings; community and public service in the interest of preserving our freedoms; financial donations for tithes, fast offerings, support of missionaries, welfare, building and temple projects. Truly, the day of sacrifice is not past”

There are plenty of opportunities to lose our life daily. We just need to open our eyes and actively look for those occasions. 

The amazing thing about losing one’s life for Jesus is that He will recompense us for every sacrifice we make, in ways that we cannot imagine.

President Ezra Taft Benson described what happens in the lives of those who “lose their lives” for the Savior: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).