Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ponderize D&C 46:8-9 (3 - 9 April 2016)

 8 Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;  
9 For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.  D&C 46:8-9 
     As I listened to general conference in April, I was impressed by Elder Holland's use of this scripture, so I decided to spend the week pondering its meaning.   One of the first questions that came to my mind was how does seeking the best gifts prevent us from being deceived?  Then I remembered the scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:31 that we should “covet earnestly the best gifts”.  Satan has greater power to deceive us when we turn from seeking Christ and start seeking things of this world.  When Paul uses the word “covet” (meaning to yearn, crave, or have one’s heart set upon) he gives us excellent counsel.  In my mind the word covet is a more powerful word that to simply seek.  Coveting involves the heart.  When we love Christ and keep his commandments, the the signs will follow those that believe (D&C 63:9).  Then we can receive the benefit of the sign and we will remember why it is given (to build our faith) and not simply to satisfy our idle curiosity.  Remember that at testimony of the Book of Mormon comes when we have “real intent” (Moroni 10:4), or the intent to act.  The same thing happens when seek Christ with the intent to love Him and keep his commandments, the signs strengthen our testimony and we continue to draw closer to Him.   

When there was a controversy in the early Church regarding who was entitled to heaven’s blessings and who wasn’t, the Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Verily I say unto you, [the gifts of God] are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep … my commandments, and [for them] that seeketh so to do.”  Boy, aren’t we all thankful for that added provision “and … seeketh so to do”! That has been a lifesaver because sometimes that is all we can offer! We take some solace in the fact that if God were to reward only the perfectly faithful, He wouldn’t have much of a distribution list.
Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”  He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek.  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Tomorrow the Lord will Do Wonders Among You. April 2016 LDS General Conference) 

Cross References

1 Corinthians 12:31
D&C 20:37
John 5:30
Alma 32:17
Matthew 12:39
Alma 30:42
D&C 63:7-9
Matthew 24:24
Mark 13:22

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ponderize D&C 18:34-36 (27 Mar - 2 April)

    34 These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
    35 For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
     36 Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.                                               
                                                                                                    D&C 18:34-36

Several years ago someone read this scripture to me and then said that if you want to talk to God then you should pray.  If you want to hear him speak, then read your scriptures.   This advice has helped me multiple times in my life.  When I am desperately seeking inspiration for some specific guidance, then I immediately think about scripture study.  There have been many times as I have been reading and pondering my scriptures that unrelated insight about a problem that I have been working on is given to me.  This type of preparation for revelation is not unusual.  See Doctrine and Covenants 138:1-2, as well as the experiences of Joseph Smith in JS-History 1:11-12.  

     We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. To know what the voice of the Divine sounds and feels like, read His words, study the scriptures, and ponder them. [See  Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36] Make them an integral part of everyday life. If you want your children to recognize, understand, and act on the promptings of the Spirit, you must study the scriptures with them.
      Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it! (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith your First Priority”.  October 2014 General Conference) 

Cross References:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ponderize 2 Nephi 32:3-4 (20-26 Mar 2016)

3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. 4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.    2 Nephi 32:3-4 

After pondering this scripture the thought came to me that the voice of angels, the voice of the Holy Ghost, and the voice of Christ all sound the same and can be accessed in the same way.  It is through the scriptures.  There are some who think that “knocking” only involves praying.  While that is certainly a part of it, this scripture seems clear that we must "feast upon the words of Christ”.  When we are asked to knock, he is asking us to read our scriptures. 

The “words of Christ” are the scriptures and include both the standard works as well as the words of the words of the living prophets (D&C 68:4).  The meaning of verse 4 becomes more clear when you read the story in 1 Nephi 15:2-10.  Laman and Lemuel could not understand the things that their father had told them.  Why?  First, they didn’t inquire of the Lord.  Second, their hearts were hard.  Third, they didn’t look to the Lord as they ought.   They seemed to expect an answer to their questions without following the pattern of revelation.  This pattern of revelation begins with one very important element.  That is faith.  You must have faith, or firmly believe that the last phrase of verse 3 is true.  That is, “the words of Christ will tell you all things what you should do.”

When come to believe that the Holy Ghost has the power to tell us what we should do, and that we are entitled to the revelation within our stewardship, then we will be able to hear the words of Christ and we will know what we should do.  Many of our challenges with person revelation come because we do not understand the process.  Have faith, study the scriptures, pray, listen, and then act.    

     We need not live in fear of the future. We have every reason to rejoice and little reason to fear. If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be safe, whatever the future holds. We will be shown what to do.     Christ promised that “the Father, [would send] another Comforter, … (John 14:16)     
     I fear this supernal gift is being obscured by programs and activities and schedules and so many meetings. There are so many places to go, so many things to do in this noisy world. We can be too busy to pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit. 
   The voice of the Spirit is a still, small voice—a voice that is felt rather than heard. It is a spiritual voice that comes into the mind as a thought put into your heart. (Boyd K. Packer, “The Cloven Tongues of Fire”, LDS General Conference April 2000)

Cross References
2 Nephi 9:51

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ponderize Moroni 6:4 (13-19 Mar 2016)

 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.  Moroni 6:4

This scripture helps us remember our responsibility to new members of the church.   Here are some thoughts I gleaned from this scripture.
  • Keep a record of them so we will remember them.  How can we help those we are not aware of?
  • Help them be nourished by the good word of God.   This means that we must teach the word of God, not the philosophies of men.  
  • Help them stay on the path.  Encourage them,  watch over them, and serve them.  
  • Pray for them and help them remember to pray.  
  • Rely upon Christ to help them grow in the faith.  
The phrase “author and finisher of their faith” reminds us that he is both the beginning and the end of their faith.  It is his plan of happiness and he also enabled the plan by doing his part and finishing His Father’s work.   (Reference D&C 88:106)   Think of finishing in terms of one who completes or perfects the work.  

This scripture reminds me of the quote we have all heard many times by President Gordon B. Hinkley. 

Quote: Gordon B. Hinkley
     “There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. … It is an absolute imperative that we look after those who have become a part of us. To paraphrase the Savior, what shall it profit a missionary if he baptize the whole world unless those baptized remain in the Church? (Mark 8:36). …
     I have said before, and I repeat it, that every new convert needs three things:
1. A friend in the Church to whom he can constantly turn, who will walk beside him, who will answer his questions, who will understand his problems.
2. An assignment. Activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow. Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscle of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Every convert deserves a responsibility. The bishop may feel that he is not qualified for responsibility. Take a chance on him. Think of the risk the Lord took when He called you. …
3. Every convert must be ‘nourished by the good word of God’ (Moro. 6:4). It is imperative that he or she become affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society, the Young Women, the Young Men, the Sunday School, or the Primary. He or she must be encouraged to come to sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament, to renew the covenants made at the time of baptism. …

     “I am convinced that we will lose but very, very few of those who come into the Church if we take better care of them” (Gordon B. Hinkley, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 107–9).

Cross References:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ponderize Doct. & Cov. 88:63-64 (6-12 Mar 2016)

63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
                                                                                                                  D&C 88:63-64

A first reading of this scripture might bring to your mind images of the Savior knocking on the door that has no doorknob. However, a more careful reading would remind us that we are the ones who have to knock.  I don’t think it is trivial that this scripture describes the steps to follow before we knock. We must draw near unto him.  We must seek him.  Then the door is opened when we knock.  Then, when we ask, we will receive. 

Part of the challenge we experience when we don’t feel like our prayers are being answered is that we may have failed to do the first two steps.  Part of the process of studying an problem out in your mind (reference D&C 9:7-9) is for us to draw need to the Lord  and seek to understand His will.  As you read the definition of prayer in the Bible dictionary, you learn a critically important principle.  Prayer is not about getting the Lord to give you what you want, it is about aligning yourself with Him so he can give you what you need. Or, in other words, what is expedient for you.     Faith in Jesus Christ requires that we put our trust in Him.  We must come to realize that He loves us more than anyone has ever loved us.  With this faith we can then allow our will to bend to match his will and then He can give us all that we need.  

Bible Dictionary - Prayer
"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” (LDS Scriptures Bible Dictionary “Prayer”)

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something you desire very much is not answered the way you want. It is difficult to understand why your exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not grant the desired result. The Savior taught, “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.”  (D&C 88:64) At times it is difficult to recognize what is best or expedient for you over time. Your life will be easier when you accept that what God does in your life is for your eternal good. (Richard G. Scott, "Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer”, April 2007 LDS General Conference).

Cross References:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ponderize 2 Nephi 2:27 (28 Feb - 5 March)

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.                                                                           2 Nephi 2:27

This scripture highlights a critical gospel principle as it relates to the plan of happiness.  It answers the age-old question of “Why am I here?”.  Why are we here?  We are here to choose liberty and eternal life, or to choose captivity and death.  That is it.  That is all there is to it.    Other Book of Mormon prophets called this the way of life and death.  There is no more simple doctrine than that. That is the great mystery that philosophers and gurus on the tops of mountains have been pondering for centuries.  

The phrase “all things are given them which are expedient unto man” is very enlightening when you think about it in terms of the way of life and death.  Consider the thought that your Heavenly Father loves you.  If you believe this is true, then the follow-on thought would be that if he loves me, he would want me to return to live with him.  As a loving Father, he has given us everything we need (all things) that are necessary for us to return to him.  In his infinite love he provided us a Savior, but before that, he provided us a place where we could come and find out for ourselves if we want to return to him (choose the way of life) or if we want to choose the captivity of the devil.  

This is the grand purpose of life.  We came here to find out for ourselves if we love God more than we love evil.  We were put in a situation where we had a perfectly level playing field.  We have all we need to demonstrate to ourselves what we are made of.   Every day that is what we are doing.  We are choosing what we want to be, who we want to follow, and where we want to live after this life.   Choose wisely.  

The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him with resurrected, exalted bodies. Heavenly Father desires us to be together in the light and filled with hope. In contrast, Lucifer labors to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to hinder their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us would become “miserable like unto himself”  2 Nephi 2:27 Lucifer wants us ultimately to be alone in the dark and without hope. (David A. Bednar, “We believe in being chaste”, April 2013 General Conference)

Cross References:
Alma 21:31  The fall of Adam placed us in a state where we could act and not be acted upon.
2 Nephi 10:23  Free to choose the way of life or the way of death
3 Nephi 27:33  Narrow is the way that leads to life, broad is the way that leads to death

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ponderize 3 Nephi 11:29-30 (21-27 Feb 16)

 29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.  3 Nephi 11:29-30
I selected this verse because recently I had an experience that started a discussion about the difference between contention and conflict.

Conflict is needed for progress in an organization.  We have conflict when we share the same end result but see different paths.   Conflict is healthy and can be used in  counsels and on team to help come to a better understanding of the issues and to help gain alignment.   So, when we see and feel conflict we should view it as an opportunity to improve the solution and grow the team.  Without conflict, we cannot grow, progress, eradicate mediocrity, or experience joy.

Contention on the other hand is conflict turned personal and ugly. Contention is to be avoided. There is no progress when contention is present.  We are warned in the scripture that contention originates from a heart that is under the influence of Satan.  A person with a contentious spirit is not exhibiting Christ-like attributes.

To draw a brief sports analogy, you see contention when a basketball player stops playing the game and starts playing the player.  Wise coaches recognize when this is happening and will send in a substitute while the player sits re-focuses on the game.   Likewise we are wise to put ourselves on the bench when we feel the spirit of contention being stirred up in our hearts.

     The Savior did not limit His warning against contention to those who were not keeping the commandment about baptism. He forbade contention by anyone. Even those who keep the commandments must not stir up the hearts of men to contend with anger. The “father of contention” is the devil; the Savior is the Prince of Peace.
      Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.  (Dallin H. Oaks, “Loving others and living with differences, October 2014 general conference) 

Cross References:
Romans 16:17 - Avoid divisions and offences
Matthew 5:22 - Don't be angry with your brother
Doct & Cov 136:23 - Cease to contend with each other
Proverbs 17:14 - Avoid contention and strife
2 Timothy 2:24 - Be gentle, apt to teach, patient

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ponderize James 5:14-15 (14-20 Feb 16)

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.

James 5:14-15

As I studied and pondered this scripture I felt that there are two parts of a healing blessing that need to take place to make the healing effective.  The first part is the responsibilities of the person receiving the blessing and the second part is the responsibilities of the men exercising their priesthood to give the blessing.  

For the person who is sick
1. If you are sick, then you should call for the elders.  While it is noble for the priesthood to offer to give a blessing, the person receiving the blessing needs to take that first step of faith and ask for one.  
2.  The person who is sick needs to exercise faith sufficient to be healed.  Think of the story in the New Testament about the woman with an issue of blood.  (Matthew 9:20-22)  She exercised faith sufficient to be healed.  

For the men giving the blessing. 
1. Blessings are done in the name of the Lord.  Do not forget who’s priesthood you are exercising.  
2. Remember that it is a prayer of faith.  Faith needs to be exercised by both the person giving the blessing and the person receiving the blessing.  
3. Fasting and prayer are appropriate preparations for giving a blessing.  The act of fasting and prayer helps bring our will in alignment with the will of God.  Note this passage in the Bible dictionary.  
Bible Dictionary; Prayer  - "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them."
Finally, there is a connection between healing physically and healing spiritually (sins forgiven).  This supports the doctrine that all things are spiritual.  Having faith to be healed allows the atonement of Christ to cleanse and heal our body of its infirmity and to heal our spirit that is damaged as a result of sin. 

Cross References:
D&C 42:48-51 - He that hath faith to be healed will be healed if not appointed unto death.  
D&C 67:3 - If we are fearful, we will not receive the blessings
3 Nephi 17:8 - We must have faith sufficient to be healed
Matthew 17:21 - Healing takes place after prayer and fasting. 
2 Nephi 32:8-9 - Before acting in the name of the Lord you must pray
Article of Faith 7 - We believe in the gift of healing. 
Moroni 10:8-11 - The gift of healing is a gift of the spirit 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ponderize Mosiah 3:19 (7-13 Feb 2016)

I chose this scripture because I thought it would be a good review of what it takes to come unto Christ.  
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. 
As we strive to come unto christ we must put off the natural man.  But what does that mean?  How do we do it?  The key phrase is in the middle of the verse, “through the atonement of Christ the Lord”.  Certainly, we must become as a child and submit to the will of the Father.  But the atonement helps us do that.  Our part is to yield to the Holy Sprit.  When we submit our will to the will of our Heavenly Father then we are able to put off the natural man through the atonement.  Putting it in this perspective broadens our understanding of the atonement.  We tend to focus on the redemptive power of the atonement without remembering that there is an enabling power of the atonement that allows us to put off the natural man and become like our Father.  We must come to understand that the way back to our Father is through the atonement.  It makes us what we are not.  It gives us a new heart.  It gives us the vision to see who we can become.  

The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see  Mosiah 3:19) That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here on the earth to develop godlike qualities and to bridle all of the passions of the flesh. (David A. Bednar, “We believe in being chaste”, April 2013 General Conference)
The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.  Neal A. Maxwell. “Swallowed up in the will of the Father”, October 1995 General Conference) 

Cross References: 
Moroni 8:26 The Comforter fills us with hope and love. 
Mosiah 16:3-5  What it means to be carnal.  

1 Corinthians 2:14  The natural man does not receive the things of God.  

Ponderize 2 Nephi 31:20-21 (31 Jan - 6 Feb 2016)

 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
 21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

I chose this scripture more because of the second verse rather than the first verse.  Of course I appreciate the doctrine of pressing forward with faith in Christ.  That that it key, but I wanted to think more about the second verse.  

Particularly I focused on a couple of phrases.  
First there is no other way to be saved other than through Jesus Christ.
Second, is the concept of the pure doctrine of the gospel of Christ.   

As I pondered this scripture I was reminded of President Packer’s statement
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” Boyd K. Packer

Often we focus on the application of the gospel at the expense of teaching pure doctrine.  This is evidenced when people select faith promoting stories over teaching from the scriptures.  When we replace diligent scripture study with reading someone’s interpretation of the scriptures.  Teaching pure doctrine is like drinking from the source of the stream.  This is the undiluted and pure message of the doctrine of Christ.  

Cross References.  
1 Nephi 8:24  Press forward to the rod of iron
Alma 31:5  Preaching of the word has a more powerful effect than the sword.  
Jeremiah 15:16  Feasting on the word
Matthew 7:24  Whoever hears and does is wise
3 Nephi 11:30-40  Explanation of the doctrine of Christ.  
3 Nephi 2:2  Satan tries to lead us away from the doctrine of Christ. 
D&C 10:67  Doctrine of Christ

D&C 68:25  The doctrine of Christ includes the first principles of the gospel