Monday, December 5, 2016

Section 9.12 - 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 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


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:
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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Section 9.8 - Confidence


I would like to start with the definition of confidence.  I use the 1828 version of the Websters dictionary, because the definition it provides would be closer the the way Joseph Smith received it in D&C 121:45 than using today's dictionary.  From the Webster 1828 dictionary I would like to pull the first two definitions of confidence.  

CON'FIDENCE, noun [Latin  See Confide.]
1. A trusting, or reliance; an assurance of mind or firm belief in the integrity, stability or veracity of another, or in the truth and reality of a fact.
It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man. Psalms 118:8.
I rejoice that I have confidence in you in all things. 2 Corinthians 7:16.
Mutual confidence is the basis of social happiness.
I place confidence in a statement, or in an official report.
2. Trust; reliance; applied to one's own abilities, or fortune; belief in one's own competency.
His times being rather prosperous than calm, had raised his confidence by success.

First, I find it fascinating that the 1828 dictionary would reference the Bible in the definition.  Second it is clear that confidence is based both on our belief in another person and/or our own abilities.  Confidence comes from leading based on truth, knowing the perfection of He who is in charge, and a clear understanding of your own talents and abilities.

President Henry B. Eyring taught:
". . . the very fact that you have been offered the oath and covenant is evidence that God has chosen you, knowing your power and capacity. He has known you since you were with Him in the spirit world. With His foreknowledge of your strength, He has allowed you to find the true Church of Jesus Christ and to beo ffered the priesthood. You can feel confidence because you have evidence of His confidence in you.” (Henry B. Eyring, “Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood”, April 2008 LDS General Conference)

A leader needs to cultivate the trait of confidence. First by continually building and strengthening your own ability.  Reference the two enabling activities, continuously learning and continuously improving.  Without these two activities as a part of your life, you will not gain the confidence in yourself that you need to be a leader.  Second, you need to come to understand your relationship with your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  They have confidence in you, and as you come to know them, you will gain greater and greater confidence in them.  You will come to know when it is time to “be still” (D&C 101:16) or when it is time to “act” 2 Nephi 2:14.  You will come to trust their inspiration and feel of their guiding hand in your life.

For additional insight read these cross references:
Psalm 118:8
Prov 3:26
2 Corinthians 7:16
Acts 28:31
Gal 5:10

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Section 9.7 Sincerity


The Oxford English Dictionary and most scholars state that sincerity from the root sincere is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning clean, pure, sound.  There is also an often repeated folk tale about how sincere is derived from the Latin sine = without, cera = wax. According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture "without wax" would mean honesty in its perfection.
Either of these word origins is fine for our purposes.  Another dictionary definition lists sincere as free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.

In Doctrine and Covenants 121:42 it says that the priesthood should be used without hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.

There is an important distinction between a person with hypocrisy and a person who has set high moral standards for themselves and occasionally falls short.  Like most things related to the topic of leadership it all depends on where your heart is.  A hypocrite does not hold the moral values in his heart, but only claims to have the values without living them.  If, in your heart, you have beliefs that don't always match your actions, then you are not being hypocritical just a flawed human or in other words you are succumbing to the natural man (Mosiah 3:19).  I think this is what is meant in Moroni 10:4 when it talks about having a sincere heart with real intent.   Leading with love means leading with your heart.  If your heart is out of alignment, then your leadership will suffer.  Leaders must have a sincere heart without hypocrisy.

Consider this quote by Elder David A. Bednar,

     "Many of the Savior’s harshest rebukes were directed to hypocrites. Jesus warned His disciples concerning the scribes and Pharisees: “Do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:3). This strong admonition is sobering given the counsel to “express love—and show it,” to “bear testimony—and live it,” and to “be consistent.”
     "The hypocrisy in our lives is most readily discerned and causes the greatest destruction within our own homes. And children often are the most alert and sensitive when it comes to recognizing hypocrisy.
     "A public statement of love when the private actions of love are absent at home is hypocrisy—and weakens the foundation of a great work. Publicly declaring testimony when faithfulness and obedience are missing within our own homes is hypocrisy—and undermines the foundation of a great work. The commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) applies most pointedly to the hypocrite in each of us. We need to be and become more consistent. “But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
     "As we seek the Lord’s help and in His strength, we can gradually reduce the disparity between what we say and what we do, between expressing love and consistently showing it, and between bearing testimony and steadfastly living it. We can become more diligent and concerned at home as we are more faithful in learning, living, and loving the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. (David A. Bednar, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home", October 2009 LDS General Conference)

Cross references for additional study: 
D&C 121:42
Moroni 10:4
Joshua 24:14
Job 27:5
Philippians 1:10
D&C 5:24
Matthew 7:21
D&C 6:16
D&C 33:1

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No, I am not a vegan

Why I'm not a vegan (or a vegetarian for that matter). 
After my previous post about the Word of Wisdom, I felt I should write an additional post covering this topic. 

First, the word "vegetarian" means nothing.  There are so many levels, tangents, and offshoots of vegetarianism that applying the label to yourself or anyone only causes confusion.   Some vegetarians eat dairy, some don't.  Some eat fish, some don't.  Some eat eggs, some don't.  Some are weekday vegetarians, and some only honor meatless Monday.  And the list goes on and on.  Labeling yourself as a vegetarian is simply a label that brings on a confusing discussion.  So, I don't use it.  

I'm not a vegan either.  You see, vegans typically fall into three categories:
- They are in it for their own good health
- They are doing it to be kind to animals, promote animal rights, avoid animal cruelty, etc. 
- They are doing it do save the planet

The trouble with many vegans is that they tend to become fanatical about their particular version of veganism.  Those who are into it for the health aspects tend to look down on those have any health issues because they are sure it is caused by their diet.  Those that espouse animal rights can become downright belligerent in their treatment of people who have not joined their cause and berate anyone who puts a little honey on their toast.  Those who want to save the planet by reducing the high environmental cost of a meat-based diet often join in with the global warming crowd and pile on all the guilt and baggage that comes with it.     

If I had to put myself into a category, I would say that I eat the way I do to promote good health and to take care of my body.  For me, it is more of a life-long quest than a label, club, or sub-culture.   Don't get me wrong, all of the positive effects of a vegan diet are real and I support them.  I just don't think vegans are very good at selling their message to the public.  It almost always comes off as either condescending or fanatical.   

Now let's look back at my previous post on this subject.  Those who are trying to live both the "Do" and the "Don't" verses in the Word of Wisdom with faith rather than fanaticism are likely to end up in a spot that is neither defined by the word vegetarian, or vegan.  So what are you? What do you say when you avoid the pile of chicken at the BBQ and someone asks if you are a some kind of vegetarian.  My opinion is that if you use either of the "V" words that you immediately get labeled as some kind of Christmastime confection (fruit cake).  It is not a great conversation starter because people immediately either take offense or get defensive about their diet.  (Kind of like religion and politics.)    

So, what are you to do if you have decided to truly live the principles in the Word of Wisdom? I have found that it is much better to focus on what you are eating rather than what you are not eating.  So, when you skip the ham at Christmas dinner and someone asks you about it, you can simply respond positively with something like, "I am trying to eat things that are whole food and plant based".  If pressed for more information you could continue by saying that in your personal experience this type of lifestyle has contributed to my weight loss, improved my overall health, and increased my personal feeling of well being.  This approach is significantly less offensive and contentious than treating the ham like it is a cigarette and then going on to describe all of the negative effects of eating meat to a person who was simply curious about your diet.  

Much of our difficulty with this topic comes when we lose focus.  If we focus on revealed principles rather than man's interpretation, we are more likely to be standing on firm ground.   Perhaps this difficulty comes when we forget or mis-understand these three things, our relationship to God, our purpose in life, and our responsibility to His creations. 

A review of the definition of God in the LDS Bible Dictionary may help.  
"Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through His Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to Him that differentiates man from all other created things: man is literally God’s offspring, made in His image, whereas all other things are but the work of His hands (Acts 17:28–29)."
I you understand your relationship with your Father in Heaven then you won't be sidetracked into the trap of believing that God's creations are more important to Him than His children.   In the first chapter of the Bible he made it pretty clear what our responsibility is to His creations.  
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
This verse in 1 Nephi may also shed some light on this idea.  
36 Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. (1 Nephi 17:36.)
While we may have been given dominion over the other creations we are also expected to take care of them.  He didn't say to eat them, he said to have dominion over them.  The question of eating them clearly answered in Doctrine and Covenants 89:12-13.  If we follow those principles we will be standing on safe ground.  
 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. (D&C 89:12-13)
You get additional clarification of this subject in the 49th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
 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. 20 But it is not given that one man should apossess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. 21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need. (D&C 49:19-21)
Perhaps it would help us if we approached this from a different perspective.  Rather than thinking of dominion in terms of authority or superiority, think of it in terms of being a steward over the earth who will be held accountable for how he or she treats it.  
13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. (D&C 104:13-14)
Adding clarification to this idea that we have responsibility for this earth, Elder Russell M. Nelson said: 
     "The Creation, great as it is, is not an end in itself but a means to an end. We come to the earth for a brief period of time, endure our tests and trials, and prepare to move onward and upward to a glorious homecoming. Our thoughts and deeds while here will surely be more purposeful if we understand God’s plan and are thankful for and obedient to His commandments.     "As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another." (Russell M Nelson, "The Creation", April 2000 LDS General Conference)
Finally, what do I believe?  I believe that we should follow the principles contained in the Lord's law of health in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  I believe that we should focus more on the "Do" part of that section and quit obsessing with the "Don't" portion.  It is not about what you can't eat it is all about what you can and should be eating.   If more clarification is needed, then I would suggest that you base your lifestyle on eating these four categories of food in their whole food (not processed) state if possible:
  • All grains
  • Vegetables of all kinds
  • Fruit of all kinds
  • Beans, Legumes, and nuts
Everything else should be eaten sparingly or should be abstained from.  Particulalry you should abstain from those things that have been proven not promote good health.   Is that too simple?  Well, it is simple.  For some reason we think that if it isn't a complicated micro-nutirent diet that takes 300 hard cover book pages to explain, that it can't possibly work.  

If you approach the Lord's law of health in the same way you read His parables, you will come to know that it has to be so simple a child can understand, but with enough profound and deep meaning to hold the interest of the oldest and wisest sage.   

Additional Resources

Monday, October 24, 2016

Section 9.5 Endurance

Endurance and Leadership

As a youth I had a poster hanging in my room.  The picture on the poster was of a runner on a long road that stretched on into the distance without any visible end.  The caption at the bottom of the post loosely quoted Ecclesiastes 9:11 when it read, “The race is not to the swift, but to those who keep on running”.  For clarity, here is the actual text of that verse.
11  I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.  Ecc. 9:11
Life is not a sprint.  It is a test of our endurance.  Leadership callings may also test our endurance.  One of the traps that leaders often fall into is treating their calling with a sprint-like mentality.  Often it is better to slow down, settle into a sustainable pace, and let some of the proximate problems take care of themselves while you take the long view.   I invite you to reference another great passage in Ecclesiastes where it says that there is a season and a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1-8).  This helps me to keep the challenges of life in perspective.

In D&C 10:4 we are reminded to not run faster or labor more than we have strength and means, and Mosiah 4:27 reminds us that all things should be done in wisdom and order.   Consider this quote by Marvin J Ashton:
The ingredient that is essential in learning to endure is consistent effort. In our race for eternal life, pain and obstacles will confront all of us. We may experience heartaches, sorrow, death, sins, weakness, disasters, physical illness, pain, mental anguish, unjust criticism, loneliness, or rejection. How we handle these challenges determines whether they become stumbling stones or building blocks. To the valiant these challenges make progress and development possible. (Marvin J. Ashton, “If Thou Endure it Well”, LDS General Conference October 1984) 
All of us are in the race of life and will be faced with difficulties.  Because leaders are leading with love, they will experience an additional measure of these challenges as they feel the pain and struggles of those who they lead.   Endurance is another key trait of effective leadership.

Cross References:

  • Eccl. 3:1-8
  • D&C 10:4
  • Mosiah 4:27
  • Jacob 4:14

Section 9.6 - Knowledge

Knowledge and Leadership

My favorite scripture on this topic is in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19.   I had this quote hanging in my room all the way through high school and college.  It contributed to the motivation I needed to drive forward with my studies.  
 18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
Having the advantage in the post-mortal world is nice, but how does it help you be a better leader in this life?

Zig Ziglar is credited with this quote,"Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”

Joseph taught the Saints that knowledge was a necessary part of our mortal journey, for “a man is saved no faster than he [gains] knowledge,” [Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 4:588.]

History is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers, but with leaders who believed that reading a varied of subjects helped them cultivate the knowledge that helped them improve their organizations.  Reading can improve intelligence and as a result lead to greater innovation and insight.  Reading expands your vocabulary and improves your abstract reasoning skills.  Reading increases your verbal intelligence making you a better communicator.  It gives you a basis for greater empathy and understanding.  There is also evidence that it improves your health and improves the longevity of the you mind.  With so many leadership benefits tied to pursuit and acquisition of greater knowledge It is difficult to understand why any leader wouldn’t seek to cultivate the critical leadership trait of knowledge.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said it very well:
     "Brethren, you have a duty to learn as much as you can. Please encourage your families, your quorum members, everyone to learn and become better educated. If formal education is not available, do not allow that to prevent you from acquiring all the knowledge you can. Under such circumstances, the best books, in a sense, can become your “university”—a classroom that is always open and admits all who apply. Strive to increase your knowledge of all that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” (Articles of Faith 1:13) Seek knowledge “by study and also by faith.”  (D&C 109:7) Seek with a humble spirit and contrite heart. (See  D&C 136:33)  As you apply the spiritual dimension of faith to your study—even of temporal things—you can amplify your intellectual capacity, for “if your eye be single to [God’s] glory, your whole [body] shall be filled with light, … and [comprehend] all things.” (D&C 88:67)
     "In our learning, let us not neglect the fountain of revelation. The scriptures and the words of modern-day apostles and prophets are the sources of wisdom, divine knowledge, and personal revelation to help us find answers to all the challenges in life. Let us learn of Christ; let us seek out that knowledge which leads to peace, truth, and the sublime mysteries of eternity. (See  D&C 42:61) (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Two Principles for Any Economy”, October 2009 LDS General Conference. 
Cross References: 

  • 2 Nephi 9:13-14
  • D&C 93:36
  • Abraham 3:19, 22
  • D&C 88:7

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Conspiring Men (Doctrine and Covenants Section 89)

Recently I have been re-pondering the principles in the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants section 89) This phrase has occupied many of my thoughts.
"In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days." D&C 89:4
I have heard people say that this statement applies to drug dealers.  While I agree with that statement, I wonder if  is it limited just to them, or are there others who are conspiring against our health and well being? Who are these evil and conspiring men?  What are they conspiring?  What makes them evil?

Let's start with a principle that will help frame this discussion.  In Jacob 4:14 it speaks about "looking beyond the mark."  In his October 2016 LDS Conference talk Quentin L. Cook said:
"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. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios. In both examples, others are encouraged to accept private interpretations. “If we turn a health law or any other principle into a form of religious fanaticism, we are looking beyond the mark.” (Quentin L. Cook, "Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus", October 2016 LDS General Conference)
As I cover this subject, I want to make sure that we are focusing on the core doctrine and principles of the Word of Wisdom and not advocating extremism when it comes to this important passage of scripture.

In that same October 2016 LDS General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson also gave a talk on the Word of Wisdom.  This is his closing statement in general priesthood meeting:
"Brethren, may we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of Wisdom, a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul, I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do." (Thomas S. Monson, "Principles and Promises", October 2016 LDS General Conference)
First we receive a caution to not look beyond the mark from an apostle, then we receive instructions on how to avoid doing that from the prophet.  Did you catch it?  President Monson said we observe the principles set forth in the divinely appointed plan of the Word of Wisdom.  We seek out the principles of the word of wisdom and we do them.  So what are principles, and what are the principles in the Word of Wisdom.  In chapter 4 of David A. Bednar's book, "Increase in Learning" he provides a clear description of what principles are:
  • A doctrinal statement answers the question of "Why?"
  • A principle answers the question of "What?"
  • The application answers the question of "How?"
We start going down the path of looking beyond the mark when we dictate the "How" to people rather than helping them understand the doctrine and principles.  We should apply the "teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves" approach.

As an example, this is also how the idea that you can't eat anything with caffeine in it got started. Don't ingest caffeine is an application, not a principle.  This is an example of looking beyond the mark.  Most people have decided to avoid caffeinated soft drinks (and soft drinks in general), not because it is expressly forbidden in the Word of Wisdom, but because they understand the principle. They know that there are evil a designing people in this world who create things that do not bring health to the navel and add marrow to the bones.  So, those that seek to follow this principle simply avoid those drinks in favor of drinks that support and promote good health.

Rather than focus on what you can't eat (as most Word of Wisdom discussions do), we should focus on the principles of good health in the section.  There are 8 verses that list the the “Do”  (D&C 89:10-17) part of the Word of Wisdom as opposed 5 verses in the “Do Not” portion (D&C 89:5-9)
Is there enough information in these scriptures to help us avoid the evil and conspiring men in our day?

Before re-reading this passage, we should define four words used in this section.  Herb, sparingly, prudence, and fruit.  It would be inappropriate to use a 2016 dictionary to define terms as they were used in 1830, so let's go to the on-line Websters Dictionary from 1828

HERB, noun erb. [Latin herba.]
  1. A plant or vegetable with a soft or succulent stalk or stem, which dies to the root every year, and is thus distinguished from a tree and a shrub, which have ligneous or hard woody stems.
  2. In the Linnean botany, that part of a vegetable which springs from the root and is terminated by the fructification, including the stem or stalk, the leaves, the fulcra or props, and the hibernacle.
    The word herb comprehends all the grasses, and numerous plants used for culinary purposes.
  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.
PRUDENCE, noun [Latin prudentia.] Wisdom applied to practice.
  1. Prudence implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity in discerning and selecting them. prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.
  2. Prudence is principally in reference to actions to be done, and due means, order, season and method of doing or not doing.
FRUIT, noun [Latin fructus. The Latin word is the participle of fruor, contracted from frugor, or frucor, to use, to take the profit of.]
  1. In a general sense, whatever the earth produces for the nourishment of animals, or for clothing or profit. Among the fruits of the earth are included not only corn of all kinds, but grass, cotton, flax, grapes and all cultivated plants. In this comprehensive sense, the word is generally used in the plural.
  2. In a more limited sense, the produce of a tree or other plant; the last production for the propagation or multiplication of its kind; the seed of plants, or the part that contains the seeds; as wheat, rye, oats, apples, quinces, pears, cherries, acorns, melons, etc.
    (Note: there are 6 more definitions of this word in the 1828 dictionary, but these first to definitions are sufficient for this discussion) 
Now, with those definitions in your mind, re-read the 8 "Do" verses of the Word of Wisdom.
 10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
 11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
 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.
 16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
 17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
Here are the principles I picked out of this section of the Word of Wisdom
  • Eat wholesome herbs (Vegetables)
  • Eat fruit (Fruits, seeds, and grains) 
  • Flesh of beast and fowls is to be used sparingly
  • Eat grains (all grains)
Even though there are only 4 basic principles in this section it opens up hundreds, if not thousands, of different things we should be eating.  Most people get hung up on things the "can't" eat.  I can't eat milk, or I can't eat meat, I can't eat fat, I can't eat carbs, I can't eat sugar, or any of the other fads that come and go.  Instead we should be focusing on what we should be eating to promote good health.

By focusing on the principles of of the word of wisdom, we avoid an entire classes of foods that have been created and processed by people who's motive is not your good health, but is to addict you to their food and keep you as a "user".  It has been said that there is no money in pushing sweet potatoes, kale, and quinoa on people, but there is huge money in pushing chicken nuggets, fries, and diet coke.  Those items are designed to keep you coming back for more.

Let's pause and discuss this idea of sparingly vs. moderation.  Some claim they are living the word of wisdom by saying that they eat meat in moderation.  The word moderation is never used in this passage of scripture.  In fact it is only used once in the entire LDS standard works and that is in Philippians 4:5 and that verse has nothing to do with eating meat.  So where did this idea of moderation come from?  Again, it is caused by ignoring the principle and making up an application.  By definition, this is looking beyond the mark.  The principle is to use the flesh of beasts and fowls sparingly (frugally or seldom).  There is sufficient scientific evidence that eating meat is not healthy.  It should be obvious that this principle of eating meat sparingly should be as religiously followed as avoiding tobacco use.    However, if you start preaching that you can not eat or use any animal product ever, then you may want to evaluate if you are looking beyond the mark.   The best definition I have ever heard of this is that moderation applies to the good things in your life, while sparingly and abstinence apply to the things that are not good.

To complete this discussion, we should look at what have the prophets and apostles have said in general conference about these verses?  Using you will notice that there has been a dearth of references to this section of the Word of Wisdom.  Here are about the only two quotes that specifically address items in the "do" verses.  Neither of them are very recent.
     "In this revelation the Lord counsels us to use meat sparingly. I have often felt that the Lord is further counseling us in this revelation against indiscriminately killing animals, for He has said elsewhere in scripture, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.”  D&C 49:21
     Wheat is particularly singled out as being good for man, as is the fruit of the vine—vegetables and all fruits. This is the wisdom of the Lord on the matter of sound nutrition and diet.
      The Word of Wisdom allows us to know that the Lord is vitally concerned about the health of His Saints. He has graciously given us counsel for improving our health, endurance, and resistance to many diseases. (Ezra Taft Benson, “A Principle with a Promise”, April 1954 General Conference)
    "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.]
     Another scripture counsels, “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; … cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated”  D&C 88:124
     Honor the principle of the Word of Wisdom and you will receive the promised blessings. “All saints,” the revelation promises, “who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments,” are promised that they “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones” and “shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint”  D&C 89:18, 20
     The Word of Wisdom does not promise you perfect health, but it teaches how to keep the body you were born with in the best condition and your mind alert to delicate spiritual promptings. (Boyd K. Packer, The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises, April 1996 General Conference)
So, you have to ask yourself “Why?”  Why has there been no significant mention of the "do" portion of the Word of Wisdom in General Conference recently?  On the surface, it seems strange considering the current state of health of the Church population in the more developed countries.  I would like to offer 3 ideas:
  1. Perhaps with so much else going on, this portion of the word of wisdom is not a real priority.  The people who are really suffering from not following these principles are those who live in the wealthy 1st world countries and have access to an abundance of animal based and highly processed foods.  It would not seem to be prudent to spend much time in general conference on the overweight American problem when there are many members of the Church around the world who do not have enough to eat.  
  2. Perhaps the commandment and the blessing are enough to stand on their own.  It is a basic commandment that has blessings that quickly follow obedience.  Obedience to things that appear on the surface to be temporal usually have blessings that are easy to recognize.  Another example of this would be the law of tithing.  
  3. Perhaps this is a wheat and tares issue.  By imposing the "do" portion of the word of wisdom on members we would uproot some of the weaker members.  By allowing all to grow together until the harvest then it will be easy to see the difference between the wheat and the tares.
Going back to my first question, who are these evil and conspiring men?  They are those who would try to harm our physical bodies by creating, marketing, and distributing food, drinks, or drugs that would harm us.  How do we identify them?  Just like most things, it is easy when you know how.  Any time someone comes up with a new diet or a lifestyle all you need to do is simply run it through the filter of the Word of Wisdom.  Is it in alignment?  Then you are probably on a good path, but if it is in direct conflict with the revelations of God then you are probably building on a sandy foundation with materials provided by evil and conspiring men.