Friday, December 11, 2009

What Is Most Important To Us

We had waffles for breakfast today.  Pancakes, Muffins, Potatoes, Sausage, Bacon, O.J., Milk, and don't forget the Hot Cocoa.  Syrup, Butter, Ketchup...........(I'm always amazed at how ketchup finds it's way to the breakfast table with teenagers).  It was a most excellent meal together!  

After breakfast, I asked everyone to share at least one of the following things with the class:

* Share your feelings about seminary this year.
* Share a personal experience you have had this year while reading the scriptures.
* Share your feelings about the Savior.
* Share what activity you have done at Christmas-time that brought you closer to the Savior
* Share with us the best Christmas you ever had, and why.
With a large class like mine, you can understand how intimidating it might be for us to share something so personal.   But I think we've become comfortable with one another over the last several months to be able to share some of these personal thoughts. Here are some things they shared.

SEMINARY:  Although there is a tremendous sacrifice involved, their day goes much smoother when they have gone to seminary that morning. They love being with each other and coming to seminary to be with other youth who have their same beliefs.  They know that every school morning, there is always someone at seminary, and they like that they can count on that. They love the Book of Mormon and come to learn more about it.   Seminary keeps us on track, keeps us reading our scriptures, keeps us focused on good things.

THE SCRIPTURES: I had a few students express their LOVE for the Book of Mormon! Reading their scriptures helps them to feel more spiritual. They are enjoying studying this book this year.

CHRISTMAS: Each person who spoke about their best Christmas shared that it involved isolated, private time with his/her family.   It wasn't about gifts and getting, but it was the company they were with, and the memories they made with them.  One person shared that the year her family did the most service was the year they received fewer gifts themselves and it was her favorite Christmas. One young man shared how his family is "secret Santa-ing" a needy family this year and how good that made him feel to help someone. One young lady shared how when her family couldn't afford much one year how someone had done something similar to them and how special that made her feel

THE SAVIOR: The One who brings us together at this time of the year is Jesus Christ.  One young man shared that all of the giving that happens at this time of the year is what is most important. It all boils down to a Christ-like feeling, and a love for each other. 

This is me today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Tougher Mission

Alma 5 led me to think about some young men in my ward who are currently out in the mission field.   One is serving in Lima, Peru, another in Monterrey, Mexico, another in Montreal, Canada, and yet another in Ogden, Utah.  They're all over the place. The 3 young men outside of the country are all speaking foreign languages, have had to adjust their diet, and immerse themselves in a different culture.   They have had to really stretch themselves and grow.  In some ways, they have had it "tough".    Elder Bohne in Utah has had it tough in a different way.  His mom shared with me that it hasn't been an easy mission for him.  He's speaking his native language, food is pretty good in Utah, and he even has relatives there.  He's doing an amazing job, but he meets people every day who have already heard his message and are not open to hearing it again. 

This reminded me of Alma teaching the gospel to the members of the Church of God in the land of Zarahemla...........

while the 4 Sons of Mosiah were teaching the gospel to the Lamanites in the land of Nephi.

Alma's group has heard this message before.  This same message of the gospel is new to the Lamanites.  I don't know if it's fair to compare, but what do you think? Which of these men in the Book of Mormon have the "tougher mission"?

My class decided that although the sons of Mosiah have a more dangerous mission, Alma has the harder, tougher, rougher mission.   In Alma 5, he's asking the members of the Church to assess their spirituality.  Some of them have fallen into apostasy.   These saints have been spiritually born of God at baptism, but now Alma is trying to help them re-"member".   He wants them to recommit themselves to having a changed heart; to become a member again, to be born again, to have a spiritual conversion.   This conversion would be strong enough to effect such a mighty change in them that they "have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." (Mosiah 5:2)  Alma is trying to help them "turn back to the Lord", to avoid apostasy.

 Alma asks a series of questions in this chapter.  I counted over 40. The questions are to help the saints do a self-evaluation of their spiritual state.  The way he poses these questions somewhat suggests where they should be spiritually. What I like about this is that it's as if he's asking each of us, personally.  Similar to a temple recommend interview, I suppose.  As we read the Book of Mormon, this gives us a chance to self-assess the conditions of our own hearts.  Ironically, those who are humble enough to take the time to do this self-assessment are probably those whose hearts are already changed; softened.   It's those who feel that their hearts are sufficiently changed, but need more softening, who will probably be the ones to overlook this chapter in Alma.

I feel like writing to some missionaries today.  Do I dare send them some fruitcake? 'Tis the season!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stepping-Stones or Stumbling-Blocks?

This is my class.  We're different shapes, sizes, and colors.  But we're all stones, building the kingdom, one by one.

We identified a pride cycle in Alma 4 today. The Nephites had just been humbled by war with the Amlicites/Lamanites. They became "awakened to a remembrance of their duty".  As they were successful in performing their duty (to "establish the Church more fully"), there were many souls baptized into the Church, and they were blessed with prosperity because of their faithfulness and righteousness.   THIS IS WHERE THINGS GO BAD.  Pride and arrogance follows just after they enjoy the comfort of their wealth.  Their hearts are set on their riches and worldly things. Their inequality sets them apart from one another, and contentions build between them.   I think we just found ourselves all the way around the pride cycle, on the verge of war again. 

We noticed that when the saints were humble, they were stepping-stones to those who were not in the Church of God.  Their positive examples, their duty to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" to "mourn with those that mourn" and to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places", brought others to Christ, as evidenced in the baptism of about 3,500 people (Alma 4:5). 

But our other observation was that when the saints became proud, "there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God." (Alma 4:9)  Their negative examples became a stumbling block to those outside of the Church, leading them away from Christ.

A real struggle in this PRIDE CYCLE seems to be when we are blessed with prosperity.  That is a big part of our test here on the earth.  What will we do with what we've been given?  Do we use it all on ourselves?  What does keeping it do to us?  How will it feel to give it away?  Since that's a test we all have to face, you'll have to decide on an answer that suits you.  But in the scriptures, those who have been promised exaltation while in mortality, have willingly let go of their worldly wealth and prosperity.

Entertain the thought of each of us, lining up together, side-by-side, bearing pure testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel, one by one.  Picture yourself allowing others to lean on you and your testimony, using you as a stepping-stone to Christ. Imagine the strength of the Spirit as this is all happening, and the joy of those who are finding Christ for the first time through your example and the truth being taught.  Try to imagine how uplifting and unifying it would feel to be a part of that!  Now THAT feeling is "true prosperity".

Monday, December 7, 2009

How Do We "Mark" Ourselves?

This was my seminary teacher uniform today. Levi's jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. I felt comfortable, yet uncomfortable at the same time.  Physically comfortable, spiritually uncomfortable.  What is expected of me as a seminary teacher is that I am to come dressed in "church attire"; basically, wearing a modest dress or a skirt.  Coming to seminary dressed the way I did could be taken as a sign of rebelliousness.  It would be a way of outwardly "marking" myself to separate myself from others who are like me.  It's an outward expression of an inward feeling.  By dressing this way, I am sending a message of being casual about the scriptures and sacred things.

In Alma 3, the Amlicites (who are apostate Nephites) have joined forces with the Lamanites in war against the Nephites.  They have chosen to "separate themselves" from the people of God by marking their foreheads with red.  Because they look just like the Nephites, they must distinguish themselves from them so they are not mistakened for Nephites in battle by the Lamanites. As far as I can tell, this is the first time in the Book of Mormon that there are a wicked group of people who have separated themselves from righteousness.  In the past, the righteous have always separated themselves from wickedness. 

In today's world, modest and immodest dress can be a "mark".  We can also choose to "mark" ourselves by the jewelry we wear, the language we use, our diet, our choice of entertainment, our hairstyle, etc.  Elder M. Russell Ballard warned: “There is an entire subculture that celebrates contemporary gangs and their criminal conduct with music, clothing styles, language, attitudes, and behaviors.... “I do not believe that you can stand for truth and right while wearing anything that is unbecoming one who holds the priesthood of God. To me, it is impossible to maintain the Spirit of the Lord while listening to music or watching movies or videos that celebrate evil thoughts and use vulgar language” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 51–53; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 38–39 ).

How we behave and dress in sacred places is also an indication of our reverence for and understanding of what is about to take place at that location.  Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: "How we dress is an important indicator of our attitude and preparation for any activity in which we will engage.....Our manner of dress indicates the degree to which we understand and honor the ordinance in which we will participate." (Gen. Conf. Oct. 2008)   This would apply to us if we were attending the temple or any church meeting, especially sacrament meeting.  Reverence is an inner respect that is reflected in our appearance or behavior.   

When we are out in the world, we can still hold onto this reverence and let it dictate how we present ourselves as Latter-Day Saints.  Our attitude and behavior should still reflect the covenants we've made with the Lord, since we have taken upon us His name.  We represent Him at all times, in all things, and in all places.  Our attitude shouldn't change just because we're not at church.  Perhaps we aren't aware that the way we appear matters to anyone, but it does. Perhaps we don't mean to "mark" ourselves as a sign of rebellion to rules, laws, and restrictions. If we just asked ourselves the question: "How would the Lord want me to represent Him?"  The answer to that question should help us assess ourselves.

In my old age, I've notice that people change as their understanding matures.  It must start with the inside and it begins to show outwardly. It's a countenance.  In the following chapters of Alma, he will address this very topic with the Nephites. Stay tuned....... 

In the mean time, back to my seminary teacher uniform tomorrow. I did miss wearing the nice shoes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Look Out! False Doctrine Ahead!

President Ezra Taft Benson's quote sticks in my head: "The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel.......Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ."  Whenever I come across an apostate in the Book of Mormon like Nehor, President Benson's quote reminds me of those orange traffic cones: Beware! Avoid! Caution! Pay attention to this!  President Benson also adds, "The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time."

In Alma 1, Nehor, an apostate Nephite, establishes his own church where he teaches:

  1. Teachers and priests should be popular (priestcraft - 2 Nephi 26:29) 
  2. Teachers and priests should not labor with their hands, but should be supported by the people
  3. All mankind are saved at the last day, and have eternal life (discounting the significance of, or need for, the Atonement of Christ)
  4. "Men need not fear nor tremble, but lift up their heads and rejoice" (sin is okay, therefore, no accountability, no opposition)
  5. No need for church standards

This just didn't make sense to us.  As a class, we tried to imagine:  "If we believed this, how would we live?"  Just a few thoughts we had were:

  1. We could act any way we wanted since we'd receive eternal life whether we worked hard for it or not.  Why work at all?  Why "serve" at all when you could get paid for the same work? 

  2. We could dress any way we wanted; standards are not necessary.

  3. We could choose to be taught by the most popular teacher.  What would that teacher need to offer us in order to win us over?

It was obvious that we were leaving out Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Everything comes down to, and through, the Atonement. The only way we can achieve eternal life is through Jesus Christ. Repentance is necessary in order to be cleansed of our sins because no unclean thing can dwell with God. 
If we wanted Nehor's plan, we would have just sided with Lucifer in the war in heaven.  Why make it all the way down here to earth, and then choose Satan's plan when we rejected it in the pre-mortal existence?

This type of church is easy to believe; easy to follow.  It's appealing, BUT NOT TRUE!

Alma the Younger, the chief judge of the Nephites, wisely states: "and were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction." (Alma 1:12)

Something to be aware of so we can avoid it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Faith, Covenants, & Love

Alma (the Elder)

One verse in Mosiah 27 caught my eye today; Mosiah 27:14.  The account of the conversion of Alma the Younger is primarily the focus of Mosiah 27. But within this account, I am touched by the example of his father, Alma, most of all.  

Mosiah 27:14 reads: "And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith."

I have no doubt that Alma the Younger was foreordained to do a great work.  In Mosiah 27:8-10, he is described as a wicked young man who uses his abilities to influence others to turn away from God.  While he was involved in seeking to destroy the church of God, his father, Alma, has "prayed with much faith" that his son would come to know the truth; to know of God.  Because of Alma's faith, the Lord sends an angel to show Alma the Younger the Lord's power, which he cannot deny. The power from the faith of Alma (the Elder) and his people, was enough that God was moved to answer their prayers.  Alma the Younger goes through a tremendous process of repentance and sincere transformation to become the great man that he was.

There is much to be said for the prayers of the faithful.   Faith in God is a real power.  God moves things and affects people according to the faith we have in Him, and according to His will.  It's real.   I have seen it and I have felt it.  We are also strengthened by the covenants we make with Him.  With those covenants come added strength and power as we are faithful.  We come to trust in God and he honors our trust with the showing forth of his power.  Alma's prayers were an exertion of his faith in God to be able to effect a change in his son.  

It is all a manifestation of love. Alma's love for, and trust in, God. Alma's love for his son. God's love for Alma and a recognition of his faithfulness.  God's love for Alma the Younger. Through Alma the Younger's transformation and maturity, he expresses his love and respect for his father, and develops a trust and love for God.

Although Alma the Younger is the focus of this chapter, I'm grateful to have been affected by the faithfulness of his "dad".

Monday, November 30, 2009

BUILDING the Kingdom

We're here to BUILD the kingdom of God on the earth.  The word BUILD means "to construct by assembling and joining parts or materials, to establish, increase, or strengthen."  Does this mean that if we're NOT BUILDING, we are "weakening, deconstructing, or diminishing?"  It's very interesting to observe how a little negative can put a significant dent in a lot of positive. Buying a new outfit and receiving multiple compliments on it could boost our spirits!  But one negative criticism about it may dampen our desires to ever wear it again.  Or, we might have given a great talk in sacrament meeting.  But someone may have pointed out that we talked too fast or that we didn't look up enough while speaking.  After hearing that, maybe our talk was just okay, instead of great.

Alma the Younger

In Mosiah 26:1-4, Mosiah 27:1-2 and 8-10, the "rising generation" were among the unbelievers.  They couldn't relate to the words passed down to them from King Benjamin, being that they were small children during his time.  They were disconnected from the teachings of the Church, so they began to tear it down.  The four sons of King Mosiah (Ammon, Aaron, Omner & Himni), and Alma's son, Alma, were among the unbelievers.   Alma the Younger was wicked, idolatrous, articulate and influential.  "And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.  And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king—" (Mosiah 27:8-9)

I brought some snap-together building blocks to seminary and asked a few class members to build me a structure of some kind......a castle, a fortress, a kingdom. I also privately asked one of them to be as annoying as possible (he had fun with that), and tear down what the others were BUILDING while they were working. It was so easy for him to tear down in seconds, what the others took several minutes to BUILD.  What ended up being a small tower, could have been a kingdom.  It only took one person to do the damage.

So what if Alma the Younger could harness his efforts to BUILD, rather than destroy?  What would it take? A change of heart?  What would it take for US TO BUILD, and how could we do it?  I imagine that as we BUILD the kingdom of God here on the earth, a softening of the heart would need to occur to effect a change in us and others.   This is what we considered.

Mosiah 2:17
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."
(The "crown" helps us remember King Mosiah for the book of Mosiah, "two glasses" on his tray helps us remember chapter 2, we decided he looks like he's "17-years-old" to help us remember verse 17, and he's "serving others" which is what the SM is about.)

I kept pondering on how to help our class continually work on keeping our hearts softened, and BUILD the kingdom while doing it.  This Scripture Mastery scripture kept coming to my mind.  This then led me to think of President Monson's birthday request that he mentioned in this past General Conference (Oct. 2009).  The ideal gift that members worldwide could give to him would be to "find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her."

President Monson's Jar of "Warm Fuzzies"

President Monson received a large jar containing hundreds of "warm fuzzies" from a group of Primary children.  Each "warm fuzzy" represents an act of service performed during the year by one of the children in Primary.  Our class has adopted this activity in hopes of offering ourselves to the Lord in service by serving others.  Each day we meet for seminary until the end of the school year, we will be logging our service and adding "warm fuzzies" to our jar.  We will present this to "someone special" (to be revealed at a later date) at our seminary graduation in June.  It's not about just filling the jar.  It's about changing ourselves (our hearts) and those we serve.  It's about becoming like Christ, and contributing to BUILDING his kingdom. 

Maybe with a combined positive effort, instead of contructing a small tower, we could BUILD one of these!

Friday, November 20, 2009

They Know What They Need to Know

Today I had some interesting demographics in the classroom.  One girl.  All others were boys.  Why?  Lastnight was the opening night showing at midnight of New Moon.  (Funny.) 

Today we covered Mosiah 23-26.  I decided to ask the class to divide up into four groups.  Each group was assigned a chapter to read.  They were to select two verses from their chapter they felt would be the most important to share with teenagers.  In other words, as a group, they had to choose two that most applied to THEMSELVES.   Once they chose their verses, they had to be able to defend their selection.  I also chose two verses from each of these chapters I felt most applied to them.  I wrote my choices on notecards and taped them to the board, facing away from them so they couldn't be seen.  At the end of class, we would try to see if their selections matched mine, just for fun.

Let me share with you a few of the verses they selected:

  • Mosiah 23:14 "And also trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments."

  • Mosiah 24:14 "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

  • Mosiah 25:18 "Therefore, Alma did go forth into the water and did baptize them; yea, he did baptize them after the manner he did his brethren in the waters of Mormon; yea, and as many as he did baptize did belong to the church of God; and this because of their belief on the words of Alma."

  • Mosiah 26:24 "For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand."

The best part of this activity for me, was hearing them defend their selections.   They felt very sure and confident about what they chose.  What I like about activities like these is that there isn't one right answer.  As long as they could defend their verses, their answers were "right".  They told me that it was important to be led by righteous men of God.  They said that through our belief in the Atonement, the Lord will ease our pains and burdens.   They shared how important it is for us to make covenants with the Lord, such as baptism, and that we receive strength from the Lord through our covenants.   They shared how we belong to Christ as we take upon us his name.   

And there was more.

It just made me leave class today with some "happy" in my heart to know that they are aware of what they need to cling to in these latter-days.  They are so bright and intelligent.   I love that about them.  When I was their age, our leaders told us that we were the strong, rising generation.  I still believe that was true.  But now the people from my generation are the teachers of an even stronger, rising generation.  What a priviledge it is for me to be their teacher.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Indiana Jones & Scripture Mastery

This cute picture (as well as 24 others) was passed along to me by my CES Coordinator.    I don't know who created these, so I can't give him his due credit, but whomever he is, he's got my gratitude and admiration.  My class loves these, and they're very effective for remembering each Scripture Mastery scripture.  This picture helps my class remember the Scripture Mastery verse Alma 32:21.

"And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
As a seminary teacher, I'll do anything to get them to remember scriptures like this one.  We play games, we repeat them over and over until we're able to recite them in our sleep, we use object lessons, we sing songs, we highlight them, we chase them, we act them out, we draw them out, we play more games, and on and on. I use this picture as a flashcard.  When they look at it, they're able to tell that:

1.  This scripture is found in "owl"-ma (Alma)
2.  In the 32nd chapter, as indicated by the 32 oz. drink
3.  (somehow we have to remember the "verse 21" part without a visual prompt)
4.  And Indiana Jones helps us understand the two ledges/cliffs, and the meaning behind the scripture.

    I'm constantly reminded that I'm from another generation than my class.  Indiana Jones movies are a part of who I am!  It makes perfect sense to me for the creator of this Alma SM picture to include the two cliffs to teach FAITH.  Well................most of my class hadn't seen this movie clip because they're a lot younger than when Indiana Jones movies were popular.  (Yep, I'm feeling older by the hour.)  And obviously, the person who created this Alma SM picture is close to my age, poor old guy!

    The most important part of learning Scripture Mastery scriptures is the application of them in our lives.  If we can learn them so well (master them) that we can recall their meaning at crucial times in our lives, then it has been all worth the study and work.  Coming to KNOW these scriptures changes who we are.  As the doctrine in these scriptures settle in our minds and seep down into our hearts, we begin living the doctrine because it has become a part of us

    We can't always call on Indiana Jones to help us learn and remember each Scripture Mastery scripture, but aren't we lucky that we had his help with this one?

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Awesome History with Stick Figures

    King Limhi

    Today's blog is about an activity we did in class that I wanted to share with you.   It's hard to understand the Book of Mormon without understanding the history and background information.  In my opinion, this goes for any book of scripture.  A scripture taken out of context is understandable, but when taken in context (knowing who the scripture was directed to and why, the culture, time period, location, etc.) it helps to deepen our understanding of what's being taught and how to apply it.  No, seminary isn't a "history class". But the history is like the "scenery" in a play.  It sets the stage for what's really going on.

    (Sorry; bad lighting in my photo.)  Today we covered a stretch of scripture; Mosiah 19-22, which involves Limhi, his people, and their escape from bondage to the Lamanites.  We have four devotional groups in our class.  I assigned each group one chapter to cover.  Each group received one of the bags pictured above that corresponded to their assigned chapter.


    In each bag are these little cardboard stick figures.  I went through the chapters lastnight and labeled the characters ahead of time.  Each group needed to simply read through their chapter, manipulate the stick figures any way they wanted to bring/act out the storyline, and then teach the rest of us what they found.  This actually made the storyline quite interesting! As each group ended their chapter, the next group would continue where they left off, which made for a nice, continuous story.

    They have an "at-home" assignment tomorrow.  It covers more storyline in Mosiah 23-24 (Alma & his people).  On Thursday, we'll bring it all together, and we'll discuss the notable principles in all of those chapters (Mosiah 19-24).  We'll take a step back and "view the play with the amazing backdrop and scenery".

    I'm very proud of my class!  They "get it", and I guarantee you that they'll never forget how they learned their Book of Mormon history from sticks.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    It All Goes Back to the Basics...

    A young man from my ward left on his mission a few months ago.  Before he left, he was assigned to speak in sacrament meeting in various wards throughout our stake.  When he spoke in our ward, his assigned topic was the 4th Article of Faith.  "A very simple topic", I thought.  As he began to speak, I realized how much this young man will need to lean on the truth of these principles and ordinances he's speaking of in the next few years of his life.   He helped me reflect on the importance of revisiting the 4th Article of Faith, even many years after my baptism. After all, we do learn the Articles of Faith in Primary, and we're expected to know that specific Article of Faith by the age of eight in preparation for baptism.  We've heard it over and over again.  But I've come to realize that there are many levels to understanding the 4th Article of Faith.  It reads:

    "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."

    This is what we teach in our Church.  These steps are listed in sequence, as each one builds upon the other. The most elemental, basic principle of the gospel is developing faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. As I was skimming through my November 2009 issue of the Ensign Magazine (the General Conference Issue), I looked to see whether I could find at least one of these four (Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism/Covenants, or the Holy Ghost) in each talk.  What do you think I found?

    In Mosiah 18, Alma has taken a group of "believers" to the Land of Mormon.  They have physically and spiritually separated themselves from sin and the evil influences in the Land of Lehi-Nephi.  Now they can enter into a covenant with the Lord and be cleansed from their sin as they are baptized in the Waters of Mormon.  Alma taught them the words of Abinadi, "...and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord."  (Mosiah 18:7)  It's very simple and basic, and necessary.  Once we've developed faith in Christ, repented of our sins, and demonstrated our faith by being baptized, we can then be given the gift of the Holy Ghost—referred to in the scriptures as the Comforter—to guide us as we strive to live a Christlike life. We're covenanting to be like Him as we are "...willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;  Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places." (Mosiah 18:8-9) 

    The first principles and ordinances of the gospel take on deeper meanings each week as we partake of the sacrament, and even deeper as we enter into temple covenants.   We understand more as we're ready to receive more, for the Lord teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Ne. 28:30)

    And "thank you" to a young missionary who inspired me with a simple sacrament talk.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009


    Several years ago, I recall hearing President James E. Faust (1920-2007) speak about his mission to Brazil. I researched the year he was called to serve; it was 1939, just prior to WWII.   This is a picture of him around the time he served his mission.  Doesn't he have a resemblance to Harrison Ford?  He mentioned that at times it was discouraging for him and the other missionaries there because of their low baptism rate.  Those were the early days of missionary work in South America.  During one particularly slow year of President Faust's three-year mission, there were only three convert baptisms among the 70 missionaries serving in Brazil. Still, he and his fellow missionaries worked hard.

    According to the LDS Newsroom, these are the current statistics for membership in Brazil today. 

    • Membership 1,060,556
    • Missions 27
    • Temples 5
    • Congregations 1,849
    • Family History Centers 299
    The effects of President Faust's missionary efforts weren't immediate.  He eventually saw the growth of the Church in Brazil as a General Authority of the Church. He shared this experience to teach that we must never give up on building the kingdom of God, and never deny what you know is TRUE.  Continue to share your testimony even when you feel like no one is listening.

    There are many heroes in the Book of Mormon, but Abinadi is one that I have always admired.  He taught the truth, no matter what.  I'm sure he felt like no one was listening to him when he spoke to Noah and his priests.  But he taught what he knew was true about Christ and put his life on the line for it. That's integrity.  If we were faced with giving up our lives to defend our faith, would we?  Could we?   Abinadi's testimony converted at least one person that we know of; Alma.  Abinadi's testimony, through Alma, had an effect on the entire Nephite nation, and continues to do so with us in the Latter-days.  

    When we speak the truths of the gospel, it gives the Spirit the opportunity to teach others by testifying to them that what we are saying is true

    I wrote a little note to myself in my scriptures about Abinadi at the end of Mosiah 17.   Isn't he one of your heroes too?

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...

    I used to sit next to my friend, Kehau, in sacrament meeting when I was a kid. She and I, apparently, were not very attentive to the speakers, because this is where we perfected our craft of making paper "fortune tellers".   Her dad was the usher who handed out the programs to the congregation.  When there were extra, we'd make "fortune tellers" out of the programs, similar to the one pictured above. (True confessions.)  

    It's been decades, but do kids still make these?  This is how you play: one person (the operator) holds the "fortune teller" and asks the other person (the client) to make choices.  With each choice the client makes, the operator opens and closes the device one time for each letter in the word, or number, the client chooses.   The last step is to pick a number that will correspond with "your future".  When we were making these, we'd write only "futures that had happy endings" on the inside.  (Maybe we'd put one in there that was disasterous just to make us giggle.)  But if you played this enough times, you could guarantee your "future" by making the appropriate choices from former trial and error.  "Yellow, 4, 7, and I was going to marry the cutest boy in the ward!"  Easy. 

    Real life is definitely more complicated, and we don't get to "redo" some of the choices we make. We can't keep playing the game of life and go back when we don't like where we're going, or can we? 

    In Mosiah 11-12, we're introduced to King Noah, and the TURN in lifestyle the people have made as they follow this worldly king.  Abinadi, a brave prophet of the Lord, calls them to repentance and tries to warn them of what the consequences will be if they don't TURN back to Him.  Most of the Nephites living with King Noah couldn't/didn't see the path of bondage and destruction they were on.  They were distracted and were enjoying too much of what they viewed as pleasure and happiness. In Mosiah 11:29 it tells us that "...the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi..."  Hard hearts keep us from hearkening and learning. Perhaps they didn't realize that the Lord keeps His word, and their destiny, as outlined by Abinadi, was SURE if they chose not to listen.

    The beautiful part about the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that if our choices send us down the wrong path, we can receive forgiveness from the Lord through our sincere repentance and, thereby, alter our future.   There is a way to TURN BACK to Him.

    We make choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice after choice every day.  If we can combine our string of choices to fall in line with God's commandments, then He promises us "futures with happy endings."