How to Develop and Measure Personal Charity

I gave a talk today on Charity. It went pretty well. I had to cut some material out as it was 11 pages long! I had a lot of quotes. I don’t usually do that, but I felt impressed to use the material I chose. It’s a bit long but I think worth the read:

Good morning Brothers and Sisters! I have been asked to speak on developing and measuring personal charity. Charity is on of my favorite topics to study. I consider it the “all-encompassing attribute.” I hope you can catch a glimpse of the many wonderful things I have learned as I’ve studied for this talk and I pray The Holy Ghost will teach each of us the things we need to know and apply in our lives.

Let’s begin by defining charity. We begin in the Bible Dictionary which states that Charity is “The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive.”

And of course, in our church, one of the most well-known scriptures regarding charity is found in Moroni 7:45-47. It reads:
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

That is kind of an overwhelming list. I started really studying and trying to develop the attribute of charity as a missionary. It was overwhelming then. But now, with children in my life, it seems almost impossible! Suffereth long? Not easily provoked? I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of work to do!

OK, so we have an idea of what Charity is, but why do we want to develop this gift? Let’s go to the Doctrine and Covenants section 12 verse 8. It reads:
8 And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.

So if we want to help build God’s kingdom, we need to have charity. But why else?

Let’s look at 1 Nephi 11: 21-23 This is the prophet Nephi speaking with and angel of the Lord regarding a vision Nephi’s father Lehi had. His father’s vision included a tree, and Nephi tells us about that tree here:
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.

The phrase “most joyous to the soul” really stands out to me here. Who doesn’t want more joy in their lives? This isn’t something that brings temporary happiness. This is true, pure joy. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of joy! And this is how we receive that joy, we need to have charity in our hearts!

OK, one more “why” scripture. Let’s go to Matthew 25:31-46
31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Eternal life. There it is. That’s really what this is all about. What is this life for? What is our ultimate goal? We want to return to our Heavenly Father someday. We want to be worthy to be in His presence again. How will we get there? By developing charity.
Now, we’ve defined it, we know why we want it, but how do we develop charity? Let me share with you some of the ways I have learned we can develop this most wonderful gift.

We begin with Forgiveness
Kathleen H. Huges, former 1st counselor in the general RS presidency, said “All of us long to possess Christ’s pure love, called charity, but our humanness—the “natural [man]” in us—gets in our way. We get angry, we become frustrated, we berate ourselves and others—and when we do, we cannot be the conduit of love we need to be if we are to become an instrument in Heavenly Father’s hands. Being willing to forgive ourselves and others becomes an integral part of our ability to have the love of the Lord in our lives and to do His work.”

And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said “Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin”3 and “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”4
Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.

But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.
Our Savior has spoken so clearly on this subject that there is little room for private interpretation. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,” but then He said, “… of you it is required to forgive all men.”7

May I add a footnote here? When the Lord requires that we forgive all men, that includes forgiving ourselves. Sometimes, of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive—as well as perhaps the one who is most in need of our forgiveness—is the person looking back at us in the mirror.”

He continues, “Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect.19 People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.
The merciful will obtain mercy.”

Though often difficult to do, forgiveness is an integral part of developing charity. We can not have Christ’s perfect love for others and ourselves if we can’t let go of hurt.

We move on to Judgement
In the 2010 General RS meeting our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, shared a story which many will remember because it was also made into a Mormon Message.
“A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
John looked on but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
Tonight I’d like to share with you a few thoughts concerning how we view each other. Are we looking through a window which needs cleaning? Are we making judgments when we don’t have all the facts? What do we see when we look at others? What judgments do we make about them?

There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize. Thus the commandment: ‘Judge not.’”

It is obvious when someone points it out that if you are casting judgement then your heart is not filled with charity. Yet in every day life it is often easy to justify our judgements, isn’t it? Like Lisa, let us not decide as we look through our own dirty windows that we have all the facts straight regarding the actions and intentions of others. This was beautifully summed up by the bumper sticker President Uchtdorf quoted which read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” Judging others hinders our progress and denies us the ability to develop or even feel Christ’s love.

Now concerning judgement, consider this story related by our prophet:
A woman by the name of Mary Bartels had a home directly across the street from the entrance to a hospital clinic. Her family lived on the main floor and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One evening a truly awful-looking old man came to the door asking if there was room for him to stay the night. He was stooped and shriveled, and his face was lopsided from swelling—red and raw. He said he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success. “I guess it’s my face,” he said. “I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says it could possibly improve after more treatments.” He indicated he’d be happy to sleep in the rocking chair on the porch. As she talked with him, Mary realized this little old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. Although her rooms were filled, she told him to wait in the chair and she’d find him a place to sleep.
At bedtime Mary’s husband set up a camp cot for the man. When she checked in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and he was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, he asked if he could return the next time he had a treatment. “I won’t put you out a bit,” he promised. “I can sleep fine in a chair.” Mary assured him he was welcome to come again.
In the several years he went for treatments and stayed in Mary’s home, the old man, who was a fisherman by trade, always had gifts of seafood or vegetables from his garden. Other times he sent packages in the mail.
When Mary received these thoughtful gifts, she often thought of a comment her next-door neighbor made after the disfigured, stooped old man had left Mary’s home that first morning. “Did you keep that awful-looking man last night? I turned him away. You can lose customers by putting up such people.”
Mary knew that maybe they had lost customers once or twice, but she thought, “Oh, if only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.”

I am certain that if you asked this humble man who was blessed by this woman’s charity he would say that he was. But if you were to ask Mary Bartels who was blessed, she would say that she was. As it is with all of us who embark in the service of our God. While there are times for us to humbly accept service from others, the times we give loving service provide an increase of the spirit in our lives and a heart more full of the love of God.

Serve and Welcome
OK, so we have forgiveness of others and self, and not judging others. How else can we develop this gift of Charity? Once again, Sister Hughes has some insight for us:
“How does it happen? One kindness, one expression of love, one thoughtful gesture, one willing hand at a time.” (We’ve all heard that old expression “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So it is with charity)

She goes on: “To become consistently charitable is a lifelong quest, but each act of love changes us and those who offer it. Let me tell you the story of a young woman I met recently. Alicia, as a teenager, had drifted far from the Church, but later she felt stirrings to return. She often visited her grandfather in a retirement home on Sundays. On one of those days she decided to attend the Latter-day Saint meetings there. She opened the door and found a Relief Society meeting, but no empty seats. As she was about to leave, a woman motioned to her and scooted over to make room for her on her chair. Alicia said: “I wondered what the woman would think of me. I was covered with body piercings, and I smelled of smoke. But she didn’t seem to mind; she simply made a place for me at her side.”

Alicia, heartened by this woman’s charity, returned to activity. She has served a mission and is now sharing that same kind of love with other women. The elderly sister who shared her chair understood that there is a place for every woman in Relief Society. Sisters, we gather for strength, but we bring with us all our weaknesses and imperfections.
Alicia told me something I will never forget. She said: “I only do one thing for myself when I go to church: I take the sacrament for me. The rest of the time I watch for others who need me, and I try to help and nurture them.”

What a different world it would be if everyone thought like this. How easy it is to get wrapped up in our own problems, our own insecurities, our own issues, whatever they may be. But if you’re feeling down about your life or yourself, you can’t feel the love the Lord intends us to feel from Him or toward others. Sister Susan W. Tanner. former YW general president, told about a time in her life when she was a teenager and struggled with insecurities because she had a bad case of acne. After many visits to the dermatologist her skin was not showing any signs of improvement. She said:

“It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me,“You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”
There it was. She was teaching me the Christlike principle of selflessness. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own” (Moro. 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances.”
We all struggle at different times with different insecurities and weaknesses. But the answer is always the same, “Forget yourself and go to work.” As we do this we will feel the Savior’s love for us and for those we serve increase drastically. There is no greater way to develop charity for others than to willingly serve them.

Concerning charity, the missionary guide Preach My Gospel says:
“Charity is “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). It includes God’s eternal love for all His children. We are to seek to develop that kind of love. When you are filled with charity, you obey God’s commandments and do all you can to serve others and help them receive the restored gospel.
Charity is a gift from God. The prophet Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works, your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you labor. You will come to feel a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father, and you will labor in their behalf. You will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness. You will avoid judging others, criticizing them, or saying negative things about them. You will try to understand them and their points of view. You will be patient with them and try to help them when they are struggling or discouraged. Charity, like faith, leads to action. You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself.”

Some notes I had in the margins of my copy from my mission: “Tell your companion why you love them. Thank a teacher or leader for something they taught that touched you. Compliment someone. Leave an anonymous uplifting note for someone. Pray for others specifically by name. Make a daily list of things you’re thankful for and then say thank you to Heavenly Father. Write down one thing you did well each day. Pray for your companion during companionship prayer. Give someone a hug. Pray for Charity. Be obedient. Polish someone’s shoes.” Again, one small act of kindness at a time. Do what you can each day to serve and increase in love for yourself, for others and for the Lord.

Care for Your Temple
This one may not seem so obvious but Sister Tanner said:
“The restored gospel teaches that there is an intimate link between body, mind, and spirit. In the Word of Wisdom, for example, the spiritual and physical are intertwined. When we follow the Lord’s law of health for our bodies, we are also promised wisdom to our spirits and knowledge to our minds (see D&C 89:19–21). The spiritual and physical truly are linked.
I remember an incident in my home growing up when my mother’s sensitive spirit was affected by a physical indulgence. She had experimented with a new sweet roll recipe. They were big and rich and yummy—and very filling. Even my teenage brothers couldn’t eat more than one. That night at family prayer my father called upon Mom to pray. She buried her head and didn’t respond. He gently prodded her, “Is something wrong?” Finally she said, “I don’t feel very spiritual tonight. I just ate three of those rich sweet rolls.” I suppose that many of us have similarly offended our spirits at times by physical indulgences. Especially substances forbidden in the Word of Wisdom have a harmful effect on our bodies and a numbing influence on our spiritual sensitivities. None of us can ignore this connection of our spirits and bodies.”

So things like eating well, exercising, and steering clear of any substance that can become addictive or is harmful to our bodies allows us to feel more fully the love of the Lord. Our charity increases as we care for this gift the Lord has graciously given us.

Be kind to others
Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed:
“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” 14

President Monson shared a story about kindness, or unkindness I suppose, in October 2010 General Conference. He said:
“Forty-seven years ago this general conference, I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At the time, I had been serving on one of the general priesthood committees of the Church, and so before my name was presented, I sat with my fellow members of that priesthood committee, as was expected of me. My wife, however, had no idea where to go and no one with whom she could sit and, in fact, was unable to find a seat anywhere in the Tabernacle. A dear friend of ours, who was a member of one of the general auxiliary boards and who was sitting in the area designated for the board members, asked Sister Monson to sit with her. This woman knew nothing of my call—which would be announced shortly—but she spotted Sister Monson, recognized her consternation, and graciously offered her a seat. My dear wife was relieved and grateful for this kind gesture. Sitting down, however, she heard loud whispering behind her as one of the board members expressed her annoyance to those around her that one of her fellow board members would have the audacity to invite an “outsider” to sit in this area reserved only for them. There was no excuse for her unkind behavior, regardless of who might have been invited to sit there. However, I can only imagine how that woman felt when she learned that the “intruder” was the wife of the newest Apostle.”

And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in April 2012:
“In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”12
Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.
Let us be kind.
Let us forgive.
Let us talk peacefully with each other.
Let the love of God fill our hearts.
“Let us do good unto all men.”13
The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that [you use] it shall be measured to you again.”14
Shouldn’t this promise be enough to always focus our efforts on acts of kindness, forgiveness, and charity instead of on any negative behavior?”

Recognize His love
In order to feel the Lord’s love for us we need to recognize it. Elder Jean R. Cook of the 70 said:
“Recognize His love. “Pray … with all the energy of heart” 16 for this gift. Do so in meekness with a broken heart, and you will be filled with hope and love from the Holy Ghost Himself. He will reveal Christ to you. 
    It is part of the gift of charity to be able to recognize the Lord’s hand and feel His love in all that surrounds us. At times it will not be easy to discover the Lord’s love for us in all that we experience, because He is a perfect, anonymous giver. You will search all your life to uncover His hand and the gifts He has bestowed upon you because of His intimate, modest, humble way of granting such wonderful gifts.
    Ponder with me a moment the following majestic gifts: the glories of all creation,  the earth, the heavens; your feelings of love and joy; His responses of mercy, forgiveness, and innumerable answers to prayer; the gift of loved ones; and finally the greatest gift of all—the Father’s gift of His atoning Son, the perfect one in charity, even the God of love.”
As we come to recognize God’s love for us, we can then begin to share that love with others.

Now we come to the great question; how do we measure personal Charity? Let me offer some suggestions from others more experienced than I.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:
My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
Do you secretly envy another?
Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!
And we can also rate ourselves on these statements found in the Atribute Activity on page 126 of Preach My Gospel (it is best to use the response key that goes with this activity):
14. I feel a sincere desire for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. (Mosiah 28:3)
15. When I pray, I ask for charity—the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:47–48)
16. I try to understand others’ feelings and see their point of view. (Jude 1:22)
17. I forgive others who have offended or wronged me. (Ephesians 4:32)
18. I try to help others when they are struggling or discouraged. (Mosiah 18:9)
19. When appropriate, I tell others that I love them and care about them. (Luke 7:12–15)
20. I look for opportunities to serve other people. (Mosiah 2:17)
21. I say positive things about others. (D&C 42:27)
22. I am kind and patient with others, even when they are hard to get along with. (Moroni 7:45)
23. I find joy in others’ achievements. (Alma 17:2–4)

Brothers and Sisters there is much more to be said about charity. I have not even shared a hundredth part of the information I studied, and there is much more studying to do! In closing may I sum it up this way. To develop charity is to become even like our Savior. He did everything He did for one purpose; to please His Father. If we keep the same motive in mind and act in ways that are pleasing to God we can not help but develop charity. Heavenly Father loves us, Jesus Christ loves us, and if we follow them we will develop a stronger, more perfect love for ourselves, for others, and for the Lord Himself.

I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and performed the greatest act of charity the world has ever known, for us because He loves us. I know this is His church and that we are guided by a living prophet today. I know the goal of developing charity can seem overwhelming. But we are God’s children. He wants us to succeed. We must pray for help to develop this gift, and then go to work with our whole heart and soul as if everything depends upon us. Don’t forget, this happens one kindness, one expression of love, one thoughtful gesture, one willing hand at a time. May the Lord bless each of us in our quest to develop this perfect love is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Words from our living prophet: (this is like “bonus” material the I didn’t get to)
Thomas S. Monson
I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.
There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.
Needed is the charity which refuses to find satisfaction in hearing or in repeating the reports of misfortunes that come to others, unless by so doing, the unfortunate one may be benefited. The American educator and politician Horace Mann once said, “To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is godlike.”11
Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.
Charity, that pure love of Christ, is manifest when a group of young women from a singles ward travels hundreds of miles to attend the funeral services for the mother of one of their Relief Society sisters. Charity is shown when devoted visiting teachers return month after month, year after year to the same uninterested, somewhat critical sister. It is evident when an elderly widow is remembered and taken to ward functions and to Relief Society activities. It is felt when the sister sitting alone in Relief Society receives the invitation, “Come—sit by us.”
In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing [their] best to deal with the challenges which come [their] way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”

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Patterns of Light

I found this quite interesting. My husband and I have been interested in light and it’s connection to Christ for a long time. It is a good topic to study in the scriptures. My husband actually wrote a paper on it. Anyhow, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles does a 3 part series on it here.

Part 1:

 

Part 2:

 

Part 3

The Sabbath

Recently we had an opportunity to reevaluate our Sabbath Day observance. This is a pretty tricky topic. People within the same faith can have very different opinions about what it means to keep the Sabbath holy.

As my husband and I prayed about what we should be doing with our Sundays, we found that the Lord is very willing to help us fill our time with His work. We believe that Sunday is a day of rest from worldly affairs, like work or shopping, but a day to be actively engaged in the Lord’s work. Some of the things we felt impressed to add in to our Sundays are service, home and visiting teaching, lessons with our boys, and reverent family activities.

It’s not that we were doing bad things on the Sabbath. We have always tried to keep Sunday special. But we found, as we looked at our plans, that while we were doing good things, we were not doing the best things. Once we decided to make some changes, the Lord gave us plenty of opportunities to serve. I’m thankful that we have had the chance to look at how we’re spending our Sunday time together because it’s precious time with our children in which we can be developing great traditions and habits.

We also found, in our studies on the Sabbath, that there are no real check lists for what to do and not to do on Sunday. We believe that it’s because keeping the Sabbath Day holy is a personal matter between you and the Lord. What’s OK for one person may not be OK for another. The bottom line is, we should be worshiping the Lord in all that we do. If a particular activity detracts from that, then we should probably skip it on Sunday. For example, I recently spoke with one of our leaders about this topic and he said that his parents go to a family function every year, which is held at another family member’s home, on Sunday. This house is on a lake and has a beach. The couple who attends is older, and they go to be with family, to fellowship, and to build relationships. However, this leader does not attend with his own family because he knows that his children would be on the beach, or water-skiing, or something of that nature. He feels those are not Sabbath Day activities. So, while his parents can attend and still feel a spirit of worship, he and his family cannot. They make it a point to get together with that family on another day.

Though it is sometimes difficult to opt out of certain activities on Sunday, it is always worth it. Any time there is a sacrifice made for the Lord, He blesses you tenfold. And ultimately we will be accountable to Him for all our actions.

For more about Sabbath Day observance, go here: Sabbath Day

Personal Inspiration and Revelation

A couple weeks ago the Sister missionaries form our church (The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints) shared a spiritual message when they were over my place for lunch. At the end of their message they committed me to write down the inspiration I received each day from the Holy Ghost. Then I would be able to recognize it better and see God’s hand in my life.

The first few days I tried to pay attention, but I didn’t recognize anything coming to me. So I started praying to either recognize the inspiration I was getting or to get inspiration. I am currently a student of Brigham Young University Idaho as part of their online Pathways program. In our Teachings of The Living Prophets class that week we had to study the talks of Elder Richard G. Scott. Well, after I prayed about receiving inspiration I went to do my homework. Elder Scott’s latest talk was “How to Receive Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life”. Coincidence? I think not. As I read it I felt somewhat rebuked. I felt the Spirit teach me, or remind me I guess, that the Lord won’t just give me revelation for the sake of giving me revelation, I have to be ready to DO something with it. And I also have to work harder to get the inspiration and revelation. I can’t just ask, I have to improve what I’m doing. Not that I’m doing wrong things, but it’s more things like I find myself saying prayers rather than praying, or reading scripture rather than studying it.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from his talk:

“When I am faced with a very difficult matter, this is how I try to understand what to do. I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures that will be helpful. That process is cyclical. I start reading a passage of scripture; I ponder what the verse means and pray for inspiration. I then ponder and pray to know if I have captured all the Lord wants me to do. Often more impressions come with increased understanding of doctrine. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures.”

“There are some practical principles that enhance revelation. First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight.
Another principle is to be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit. A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life.
Another enemy to revelation comes from exaggeration or loudness in what is stated. Careful, quiet speech will favor the receipt of revelation.”

“When it is for the Lord’s purposes, He can bring anything to our remembrance. That should not weaken our determination to record impressions of the Spirit. Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.”

“One must be ever mentally and physically clean and have purity of intent so that the Lord can inspire. One who is obedient to His commandments is trusted of the Lord. That individual has access to His inspiration to know what to do and, as needed, the divine power to do it.”

“When we are acting as instruments in behalf of others, we are more easily inspired than when we think only of ourselves. In the process of helping others, the Lord can piggyback directions for our own benefit.”

“Communication with our Father in Heaven is not a trivial matter. It is a sacred privilege. It is based upon eternal, unchanging principles. We receive help from our Father in Heaven in response to our faith, obedience, and the proper use of agency.”

I realized I was kind of coasting along, but to receive revelation we need to be actively involved in the work. It was a really good experience and a great reminder for me to step it up a bit! It’s easy to get caught in the trap of reading scripture, saying prayers, going to church, serving in a calling, but not actually working hard at being a disciple of Christ; and that’s where a person can get into trouble. It’s easier for Satan to get in if you’re getting lazy!

Easter

So I’ve been trying to post to my blog and every time I have tried to connect to blogger.com I have been redirected to MyLDSmail.com. Weird redirect!

That said, I will be more consistent now that I can access my blog again!

Happy Easter to all. I am so grateful for my Savior and what He has done for me personally. He knows and loves each of us, and suffered for us so we could return back to our Father in heaven. His love is incomprehensible and I hope we all take a moment this Easter to ponder on what He did for each of us.

The Plan

It’s so simple. The ageless questions “Why are we here?”, “Where did we come from?”, “Where are we going after this life?” really do have answers. The above is a diagram of God’s perfect plan for us. The plan we chose to be part of well before we ever came to this earth. It is so just and yet so merciful. I love it! Questions? Post ’em here.

The Church

What is a “Mormon” anyway? Most people really don’t know unless they have friends or family who are members of the Church. And where does the name “Mormon” come from?

First of all, let me begin by saying we are Christians. The real name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, along with other books of scripture, one of those being entitled The Book of Mormon. So, what’s the Book of Mormon and where does it come from?

To answer that, I must give some Church history. As we read the Bible we find God has always called righteous men to be prophets to lead and teach His people such as Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jonah. The people than had the option to accept or reject the teachings of the prophets. When a prophet died or was killed another would be called. God kept with this pattern until the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. When Christ was on the earth He did many things, one being He set up His church. He called 12 apostles and gave them the Priesthood, or the authority to act in His name. However, after Christ’s death & resurrection the apostles were all eventually killed. The church fell apart and righteous men tried to pick up the pieces and go forward.
Then we come to the reformers, those who tried to change religion during times of religious oppression. And finally, when the “New World” was settled the time was once again right for God to call a prophet to lead His people. In 1820 in upstate NY lived a young boy named Joseph Smith. Joseph and his family were in the middle of a time of religious revival. Each religion contended against the next. His own family members belonged to different churches. He was confused about which church was right. He trusted in his Christian upbringing and turned to the Bible for guidance. He read in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . .”. And so, he did just that. He went out to the wood to pray and got an answer which would later be known as the first vision. He said:
I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the dsun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him!

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His son Jesus Christ. He was told to join none of the churches, that Christ’s church was not on the earth at that time. He was called as a prophet to restore that church back to the earth in it’s purity. The Church was founded April 6, 1830. The priesthood of God was restored to the earth, prophets and apostles were called, Temples built, all things that existed in the time of Christ’s ministry were restored! Today we have a prophet and apostles onthe earth, Temples on every continent, and all blessings that come from the restoration of Christ’s church.

So, what’s the Book of Mormon then? The scriptures say “by their fruits ye shall know them”. The Book of Mormon is one of the fruits of Joseph Smith’s labors. When he was called to be a prophet he was shown where an ancient record was buried. It was in a hill in NY called the hill Cumorah. He was commanded to translate this record and did so by the power of God. For the complete explanation I refer to the Title Page of The Book of Mormon:

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.
The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.
In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto him and obey the laws and ordinances of his gospel may be saved.
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
In addition to Joseph Smith, the Lord provided for eleven others to see the gold plates for themselves and to be special witnesses of the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon. Their written testimonies are included herewith as “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.”
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.