Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ponderize John 8:3-11 - A bag of stones

As I thought about the experience of the woman who was "taken in adultery", a thought came to my mind.  What do we have in our personal bag with when we leave our homes each day?  Did the scribes and Pharisees make sure they had a bag of stones with them at the ready just in case there was someone who needed their judgment and punishment?  Do we figuratively fill our pouch with stones so we are ready to meet out our own self-righteous verdicts and penalties?   Let's review the story:
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
I wonder if there are better things we could fill our bag with than stones.  Perhaps we would do well to leave the stones at home and instead fill a bag with the a tube of the balm of Gilead, a vile of the oil of healing, and a box of spikenard ointment.   


The Balm of Gilead


The Bible Dictionary says this about the balm of Gilead:
An aromatic gum or spice used for healing wounds (Gen. 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). A bush producing the resin from which the balm was made grew so plentifully in Gilead in Old Testament times that the balm came to be known as the “balm of Gilead” and was exported to Tyre and Egypt (Gen. 37:25; Ezek. 27:17).
Elder Boyd K. Packer expanded  on this definition when he said:
In ancient times there came from Gilead, beyond the Jordan, an ointment made from the gum of a tree. It was a major commodity in trade. The Ishmaelite traders who purchased Joseph from his brothers were carrying this balm of Gilead to Egypt (see Gen. 37:25).  It became symbolic for the power to soothe and to heal.
There is a Balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole,
There is a Balm in Gilead, 
To heal the sin sick soul.
(Boyd K. Packer, "Balm of Gilead", October 1987 LDS General Conference)
By placing a tube of the balm of Gilead in our bag, we would be reminded to reach out and heal the physical and spiritual wounds of others as we journey on our daily path. 


Oil of Healing


The next item to put in our bag could be concentrated olive oil.  Like the balm of Gilead, this oil is used to bless and heal others.  But it also has another purpose.  Let's re-read  James 5:14-15:
 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
President Brigham Young demonstrated his faith in the power of healing when he taught: 
“When I lay hands on the sick, I expect the healing power and influence of God to pass through me to the patient, and the disease to give way. … When we are prepared, when we are holy vessels before the Lord, a stream of power from the Almighty can pass through the tabernacle of the administrator to the system of the patient, and the sick are made whole.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 252
Continuing on this theme, President Spencer W. Kimball adds some insight on the purpose of faith in both those that are doing the healing and those that are being healed.  He said: 
“The need of faith is often underestimated. The ill one and the family often seem to depend wholly on the power of the priesthood and the gift of healing that they hope the administering brethren may have, whereas the greater responsibility is with him who is blessed. … The major element is the faith of the individual when that person is conscious and accountable. ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole’ (Matthew 9:22) was repeated so often by the Master that it almost became a chorus.” [“President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick,” Tambuli, Aug. 1982, 36–37; New Era, Oct. 1981, 47.]

The consecrated olive oil reminds us to have both the faith to heal, and the faith to be healed.  The oil of healing will remind us that we can help develop greater faith in others. 


Spikenard Ointment


Let's review the story of the spikenard ointment in Mark 14:3-8:
3 ¶ And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 
4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 
5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 
6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 
7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 
8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
The spikenard ointment can remind us to keep our priorities aligned with eternal perspectives.  The phrase "She hath done what she could" reminds each of us that we have abilities, gifts, and talents that we can contribute to this great work.  The spikenard ointment was what she had to offer.   There are times when we need to step forward and offer our personal talents and abilities.  When our perspective is aligned correctly we will know when it is time to open the precious oil of our personal offering. 

Note that all of these oils and ointments are used to bless, heal, and help others.  The stones are used to condemn and pass judgment.   When we fill our bag each day with those things that will help bless the lives of others then we are prepared to show the love that is asked in the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39)
Finally, I would like to conclude with a statement by President Thomas S. Monson:

     "We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.      
"Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”—a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love."     
"There are many attributes which are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience, selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness. In all our associations, these and other such attributes will help make evident the love in our hearts. (Thomas S. Monson "Love-the Essence of the Gospel", April 2014 LDS General Conference

Monday, January 9, 2017

Essentialism

Essentialism as defined by Greg Mckeown in his book with that title, is the disciplined pursuit of less, or in other words it is doing what is absolutely necessary and extremely important.   OK, that is a great idea, but how do I define what is absolutely necessary and extremely important.  

Is this simply a matter of separating what I SHOULD be doing from what I WANT to be doing?
Is this another one of those "follow your passion" topics?  
Come to think of it, who defines "should"?  Why do we let others define "should" for us?

For those who are still struggling with the question, "Why am I here on this planet?", this can be a difficult exercise.  For the purpose of this discussion I am going to assume that you understand God's plan of happiness and you know what you are doing on this earth.  
 
With that as a foundation, now you can't simply separate your life into these two lists:
  1. What I should do (demands of others or demands that I imposed on myself based on my choices)
  2. What I what to do (my inner desires and passions)
There is a third column.  It is "What will help me become".  Let me explain it this way.  

Read this statement from the definition of Prayer in the Bible Dictionary of the LDS edition of the scriptures:  
"Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other." (BD Prayer)
Pause and think about that process of bringing our will into correspondence with the will of the Father.  What does correspondence mean?  Of course one definition relates to exchanging letters, but the definition we are looking for is this one, "a close similarity, connection, or equivalence."  The process of making our will similar or equivalent to the will of the Father is the path to becoming like our Father.  The very thought of the magnitude of becoming like our heavenly father tends to fill our mind with with piles of personal "natural man" type baggage.   We don't have to carry that baggage on the path to becoming.  We can leave it on the side of the road.  

As members of His church we have become programmed to create long lists of things we should do.  We assume that getting back to our Heavenly Father is some kind of checklist.   We all have this un-written list "should do's".   As I reflect on this, I'm wondering if we perceive this incorrectly.  Are we really trying to "get back" to Him?  Or are we trying to "become" like him?  There is a huge difference in this type of thinking.  Consider this quote by President Kimball:  
 “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 135.)
Ask yourself, why is there a separation in the first place?  What caused that separation?  Was it really our negligence in checking off some of our "should do's" from this imaginary list of requirements for perfection?   We allow ourselves to get confused between becoming and doing.  The goal is to become something, not just to do something.   

The other trap we may fall into is this idea of pursuing our passions.  These items fall in the "what do I want to do".   Here is the problem.  This idea of pursuing your passions is good if you are specifically focusing on using your strengths to build the kingdom, but if you find yourself listening to the wrong voice, he will remind you that you that things of this world can only be bought with money.  If you are seeking for things of this world, then you will need money.  Things of eternal significance can't be bought with money.  As we consider pursing our passions, we would be better served by asking our Father in Heaven questions related to our purpose, talents, and potential.

This exercise may be helpful.  Get a piece of paper and make three columns (landscape mode) and label each column as follows: 

Should do
Want to do
What will help me "Become" 
-




Spend some time prayerfully and  thoughtfully filling out this sheet.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ponderize 1 Timothy 4:1-3 - Forbidding and Abstaining

I was listening to an old episode of the Mormon Vegitarian Podcast and I heard a statement that I thought was quite interesting.  A fellow ward member said to the wife of the host of this podcast that she could show in the scriptures how vegetarianism leads to apostasy.
The scripture she quoted was 1 Timothy 4:1-3

 1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

One of the places I typically go when looking for greater insight on a particular scripture is to the LDS Scripture Citation Index.  You can receive incredible insights and clarification from modern prophets on difficult passages of scripture by using this index.  And, while what they say is very instructive, it is also very instructive to note what has not been commented on.  Verse 3 of the scripture passage above is an example.  There is complete silence from the brethren on this verse in regards to the "commanding to abstain from meats" phrase.   

Without help from the conference talks, I am left to try and figure this one out through study, pondering, and prayer.  Spoiler alert, this is what I came up with, avoid extremism, it can lead to apostasy.   Let's look elsewhere in the scriptures for additional insight.  You can find a similar statement about eating meat in D&C 49:18-19.  As you read this passage, notice how the words "forbid" and "abstain" are used.

 18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
 19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

The same words, forbid and abstain, were used in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.  Is it possible that these two scriptures are referring to the same behavior?  I would like to submit that the point of these two scriptures is not about whether a person should or should not eat meat, but rather it is about how gospel extremism or gospel hobbies can start you on the path to apostasy.  Elder Boyd K. Packer commented on this verse.  

"Young people, learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist.
For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12 Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God” D&C 49:181 [The context for verse 18 is verse 19: “For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air … [are] ordained for the use of man for food.” D&C 49:19 Section 49 was specifically directed to members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (the Shakers) to correct some of their erroneous doctrines. One of their beliefs was not to eat flesh-meat or fish.]" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises", April 1996 LDS General Conference)

Elder Packer cautioned us to avoid extremism, fanaticism or fads.  Could it be that meat consumption is not the issue at hand?  These scriptures could be helping us try to avoid the extremism that leads to apostasy.   

With that context and a fresh understanding of the two scripture passages above, re-read D&C 89:12-15 
 12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
 14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts,to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
 15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

I have posted this before, but it is helpful to re-read the definition of sparingly from the 1829 Websters Dictionary before continuing.  
SPA'RINGLY, adverb
1. Not abundantly.
2. Frugally; parsimoniously; not lavishly. High titles of honor were in the king's minority sparingly granted, because dignity then waited on desert. Commend but sparingly whom thou dost love.
3. Abstinently; moderately. Christians are obliged to taste even the innocent pleasures of life but sparingly
4. Seldom; not frequently. The morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, is more sparingly used by Virgil.
5. Cautiously; tenderly.

This verse does not say you can never eat meat, that you should go around forbidding others to eat meat, or that you should start your own religion of non-meat eaters.  All of those roads have a dead-end in cul-de-sac of apostasy.  Think about this verse in relation to the commands given in the garden of Eden.  There are things in this life that we are supposed to choose for ourselves.  I feel like he is saying to me.  You can eat meat if you want.  I'm pleased when you don't, but you can choose.  If you choose not to, I have some blessings that are waiting for you.  (D&C 89:18-21)

There is mounting scientific evidence that the standard American diet, that includes large quantities of meat and other animal products is harmful to us.  Just like the prohibition on tobacco in the Word of Wisdom has been scientifically proven to be correct, the nutrition guidance in verses 10-17 of the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants will also be as blatantly obvious to future generations as the consequences of smoking is to ours.  Watch this video for some eye-opening facts: Evidence-Based Eating

I believe the Lord has left this decision for each of us to decide what is best.  You are left to choose and act for yourself (2 Nephi 10:23).   Read the evidence, ponder, pray, and then act on the inspiration you receive.  That's not gospel extremism, fanaticism, following the latest fad, or looking beyond the mark.  That is how you receive personal revelation to keep your feet firmly planted in the center of the gospel.

Additional Study:    
In the spirit of proving all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21)  I commend the following authors to you as you seek to understand how the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants applies to you.  

Also, here is one of my favorite places to get fact-based information.  Nutritionfacts.org
Finally, this video has probably changed more lives than any other single source of media on this subject currently available: Forks over Knives




Friday, December 30, 2016

Discipleship: Where am I?

The Lord extends the invitation to all of us to follow him. He stands at the door and knocks. (Revelation 3:20).   His arms of mercy are extended to all of us.  The simile that is used several times in the scriptures about how He will gather us as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings applies to all of us.  We have to allow Him to gather us in and protect us.  If we run away when the arms of mercy are extended, then we won’t receive the benefit of his protecting arms. His invitation is for us to come to him. We are all invited.   We know that the fruit of the tree of life is the greatest of all the gifts of God and is the most precious and desirable of all other fruits (1 Nephi 15:36).   God’s greatest gift was manifest when he sent His Son to redeem his people.  It is clear that we must reach out and partake of the fruit.  Just as we have to accept the invitation to come unto him, we also have to reach and partake.  There is no force or coercion.  We simply have to make the choice to come to him.  

Elder Daniel L. Johnson said:  

Those of us who have entered into the waters of baptism and received the gift of the Holy Ghost have covenanted that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, or in other words, we declare ourselves to be disciples of the Lord. We renew that covenant each week as we partake of the sacrament, and we demonstrate that discipleship by the way that we live.
Making the covenant to be a disciple of Christ is the beginning of a lifelong process. . .  As we repent of our sins and strive to do what He would have us do and serve our fellowmen as He would serve them, we will inevitably become more like Him. Becoming like Him and being one with Him is the ultimate goal and objective—and essentially the very definition of true discipleship. (Elder Daniel L. Johnson, “Becoming a True Disciple”, October 2012 General Conference)

The road to discipleship does not go through a list of callings.  Your refiners fire may be through addiction, wayward children, loneliness, depression, scoutmaster or even nursery leader.  Your personal path to becoming a disciple of Christ begins with dropping to your knees.  That’s the first step.  Do you want the rest of the checklist?  Here it is:  Step 2 is consistent scripture study, and step 3 is acting upon the promptings you receive. Don’t make it too complicated.  The path is easy.  The yoke is light.  The storms will come.  And the rock of your redeemer will give you a sure foundation with power to become His sons and His daughters.   


I invite each of you to take some time very soon and ponder where you are on the path to discipleship.  Ask yourself, “What am I becoming?”  “Am I on a path that will help me and others become despises of Jesus Christ and more fully enjoy the blessings of the holy temple.   

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ponderize Jacob 4:14 - Looking Beyond the Mark

After hearing Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk "Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus" in the last general conference.  This quote has been on my mind.

"While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders.”

This phrase "looking beyond the mark comes from Jacob 4:14.  

 14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.  

If you look in the footnotes to Elder Cook's conference talk you will see that he wrote an article in the Ensign in 2003 on this topic, titled "Looking Beyond the Mark"
This article is significant because he wrote about specific was we can recognize when we are looking beyond the mark.  He said we look beyond the mark when we:
1. substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths
2. engage in gospel extremism
3. seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration
4. elevate rules over doctrine.

Perhaps one shield against the temptation to look beyond the mark comes from Mosiah 4:27.  Notice the principles of wisdom, order, requisite, and diligent are evident in this verses.  
 27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.  Mosiah 4:26-27

The gospel of Christ is simple, but we sometimes make it overly complicated and by so doing fall in the trap of preaching "more or less" than the simple doctrines of the gospel. 
 67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
 68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10:67-68)


This has caused me to wonder if our "mark" might change as we mature and progress in the gospel.  For some who are struggling with daily prayer and scripture study their mark may be different than for someone who has mastered that habit.  We start to wander off the path when we take a gospel principle that we are personally working on and try to convince others that they should also move over and use our personal spiritual journey as their own.  Each of us goes through phases where we concentrate on a particular gospel topic in order to gain a deeper understanding.  This is good and spiritually healthy.  However, when we have opportunity to teach or speak in Church we are commanded to teach the pure doctrine of the gospel.  We look beyond the mark when our personal gospel study, personal inspiration, and individual revelation is shared in such a way to convince others to elevate your current personal gospel topic above the basic doctrines and principles of the gospel. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ponderize Moses 4:21 - Enmity

This week’s ponderize came to me during a recent visit to the temple.   When I heard the word enmity, I decided to spend some time pondering what it means.

We know that enmity is the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

If you look in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, you find the following definition.  (Again, I use this dictionary when I am pondering things that were revealed to Joseph Smith because this is the context he would have been using)
EN'MITY, noun
1. The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence. It expresses more than aversion and less than malice, and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.
2. A state of opposition.
With the definition of enmity in my I have been pondering what this scripture means.
15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15 (See also Moses 4:21)
Consider these two questions:

  • Why was it necessary for God to cause those that follow Satan to have a hatred toward the children of Adam and Eve?  
  • How does Satan use that hatred to try and destroy us? 

I think this passage of scripture in Moses 7 helps us understand these questions:
 32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
 33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; (Moses 7:32-33)
Here is the point.  Satan and his followers hate the children of Adam and Eve because they have been given bodies.  These bodies allow us to have experiences to help us grow, develop, make choices, and become like our Father.  If Satan can convince us that we should also hate our bodies, then we are more inclined to abuse them or use them contrary to God’s design.  Additionally, if he gets us to hate ourselves, then we also lose sight of the fact that those who are around us are our spiritual brothers and sisters, and we begin to hate them as well.  If we hate God’s children, then how can we love Him?  Hence the first and second great commandments.  Love God, and Love each other.  Satan twists the enmity that God put between Satan and the people of this earth as a protection, and he turns it into a tool to destroy us.  We must be careful and not be fooled by this lie.  We must turn our back on the master of hate and embrace the Master of love.

Here is a list of the references to the other uses of the word Enmity in the standard works:

  • Doctrine and Covenants 101:26
  • Moses 4:21
  • Ephesians 2:16
  • Luke 23:12
  • Numbers 35:21
  • Numbers 35:22
  • Romans 8:7
  • James 4:4

Monday, December 5, 2016

Section 9.12 - Kindness

Kindness

I believe it is appropriate that I end my list of desirable leadership traits with kindness. This last leadership trait ties closely with my core principle, “Leadership is Love in Action”.   In my life, I have found that more leaders have difficulty with the kindness part of leadership than they do with being an enforcer of the rules or an assigner of tasks.   We would all do well to remember this poem.

                I have wept in the night
                For the shortness of sight
                That to somebody’s need made me blind;
                But I never have yet
                Felt a tinge of regret
                For being a little too kind.
                Author unknown, in Richard L. Evans, “The Quality of Kindness,” Improvement Era, May 1960, 340      

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught:
Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known.
Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.
Kindness is the essence of a celestial life.
Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others.
Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.
(Jospeh B. Wirthlin,”The Virtue of Kindness”, April 2005 General Conference)
We need to remember that our team members are children of our Heavenly Father.  President Thomas S. Monson exemplifies this principle better than anyone.  He said:
"May we begin now, this very day, to express love to all of God’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances, or total strangers. As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way. (Thomas S. Monson, Love-the Essence of the Gospel, April 2014 General Conference) 
Here are a few cross references to consider.
2 Peter 1:7
Colossians 3:12
1 Chronicles 19:2
Proverbs 19:22
Psalms 117:2

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Section 9.11 - Meekness

Meekness

Meekness is perhaps one of the most misunderstood leadership traits on my list.  It is often considered to be synonymous with weakness, but that is far from the truth.

We do know that meekness is required to be acceptable before God.  “...for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart..” (Moroni 7:44)

Meekness is a trait of Christ, 'Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.' Matthew 11:29.

Meekness is often used in the scriptures with humility.  If they are synonymous, then there would not be a need for them both to be used.  It is instructive to understand the difference between the two.   Look at the Definition from Websters 1828 Dictionary.
MEEK, adjective [Latin mucus; Eng. mucilage; Heb. to melt.]
1. Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.
2. Appropriately, humble, in an evangelical sense; submissive to the divine will; not proud, self-sufficient or refractory; not peevish and apt to complain of divine dispensations. 
Meekness is a trait that is an outward expression of your inward character.  When we are humble and submissive to God’s will then we begin to emulate him by being gentle, mild tempered, and not easily provoked.  Meekness is the outward demonstration of inward humility.  The desirable leadership trait of meekness will improve your relationships with those who you serve as their leader.  By cultivating the trait of meekness you are developing other characteristics that are manifest in your interactions with others.  Neal A. Maxwell said:
Required, in particular, is meekness of mind which recognizes God’s perfect love of us and His omniscience. By acknowledging these reassuring realities and accepting that God desires our full development and true happiness, we are readied even as the learning experiences come. Such meekness requires genuine intellectual honesty, owning up to the learning experiences of the past and listening to the Holy Ghost as he preaches to us from the pulpit of memory.
As the Lord communicates with the meek and submissive, fewer decibels are required, and more nuances are received. Even the most meek, like Moses (see Num. 12:3), learn overwhelming things they “never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10.) But it is only the meek mind which can be so shown and so stretched—not those, as Isaiah wrote, who “are wise in their own eyes.” (Isa. 5:21; see also 2 Ne. 9:29 and 2 Ne. 15:21.)  (Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit”, April 1985 LDS General Conference) 
In addition, consider these cross references:
Matthew 11:29
Psalms 37:11
3 Nephi 12:5
Moroni 7:43-44
Alma 37:34
Matthew 5:5
D&C 52:16
Ether 12:26

Monday, November 21, 2016

Section 9.10 - Gentleness

Gentleness

When you see the word "gentle", or "gentleness" in the scriptures it is almost always contained within a list of other desirable traits.   However, it is worth considering separately as a desirable leadership trait.  If there were no distinction between gentleness and the apparent synonyms that occur around it like submissive, meek, and humble, then why include it?

First, let's review definition from the Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
GEN'TLENESS, noun
1. Genteel behavior.
2. Softness of manners; mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition; meekness.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness goodness, faith. Galatians 5:22.
3. Kindness; benevolence.
4. Tenderness; mild treatment.
Note how the definition brings to mind different actions than simply being meek, submissive, or humble.  Gentleness is the outward expression of these desirable traits.  For example, read Proverbs 15:1
1. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
A person who is cultivation the desirable leadership quality of gentleness approaches conflict in a significantly different way than those who are not meek, submissive, or humble.

Consider this short list of scriptures that use the word gentle.   What principles related to gentleness do you see in these scriptures?
 24. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (2 Timothy 2:24) 
 2. To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. (Titus 3:2) 
 23. And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. (Alma 7:23) 

As the love of those you lead grows, and as you improve the other traits of meekness, humility, and submissiveness, then your interaction with others will become one of the gentleness that the Savior demonstrated.  The ultimate expression of this was evidenced when he asked his Father to forgive his executors (Luke 23:34).

President Thomas S. Monson said:
I would hope that we would strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions. (Thomas S. Monson, "Love-the Essence of the Gospel", April 2014 LDS General Conference) 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Section 9.9 - Persuasion

Persuasion
An often neglected trait of leadership is the fine art of persuasion.  With the tremendous stress and pressure that leaders feel it is easy for them to become impatient with others.   In the scriptures the word forbearance is sometimes uses as an appropriate synonym for persuasion.

Note how it is used in Proverbs 25:15
15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.     
One of the definitions of Forbear in the Websters 1828 dictionary is “To be patient; to restrain from action or violence”.  Patience and restraint allow us to use the gentle art of persuasion in our leadership.   I also like how it is used in Ephesians 4:2 “forbearing one another in love”.   This clearly resonates with the core principle that leadership is love in action.  

President Howard W. Hunter said:
To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character. (Howard W. Hunter, “The Golden Thread of Choice”,  October 1989 LDS General Conference)
We would become better leaders if we cultivated the trait of persuasion.  Often we are tempted, in the urgency of the moment, to coerce, demand, or order those we lead. A soft tongue and long forbearing are more lasting and effective methods of influencing and leading.

For additional insight, consider these cross references:
2 Corinthians 6:3-4
Colossians 3:13
Ephesians 4:2
3 Nephi 7:18
2 Nephi 33:1