Realistic vs. Faithful

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.

This is a classic case of the (so-called) realist vs. the man of faith. Being realistic, practical, and prudent is good—in its time. But this wasn’t a time to be realistic. When the Lord asks something of you, it’s time to exercise confidence in the Lord, and if you can’t do that, learn to do it. If you find yourself putting practicality over your trust in the Lord, then you need to change. It’s that simple.

And you can.

Nephi not only had the right attitude, he explained how to get the right attitude. What had Nephi been doing right before his father told him about his new assignment? He’d been speaking with the Lord.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi. . . did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Ne. 2:16)

“Yeah,” you might say, “but the thing I’m being asked to do is a really big deal!”

Really? I guess God didn’t know that, so you better tell him. Tell him that your agenda is more important than His. Go ahead—tell Him. See what He says. Maybe He’ll change His mind. Just be prepared for when He ends up changing your mind. And don’t judge your future, faithful self against your present “practical” self—that will just embarrass you later.

God knows what He’s doing with you. Trust Him.

Preparing for General Conference

 If you want a great pattern for preparing for LDS General Conference, re-read Mosiah 2. This is the chapter where King Benjamin is about to present his son as the new king and give his last sermon. But the first part of the chapter talks about how the people prepared for his talk. Check out what they did, and notice how it can apply to us as we prepare for conference:

1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

The first thing they did? Show up! They came! We’ll read later that the words were written down for those who couldn’t hear, but the people didn’t wait for it to come out in the Ensign. They were present. That doesn’t mean you have to be at the conference center, but it will help a lot if you are at your TV or radio at the time it’s taking place.

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

Obviously we don’t do animal sacrifices, but do you remember what Jesus said replaced burnt offerings? A broken heart and a contrite spirit. Approach general conference in a spirit of humility, repentance, and sacrifice, and not only will the experience be awesomer, but you’ll change what the Lord asks you during conference to change, and you’ll be what the Lord asks you to be.

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Carry a spirit of gratitude. If you’re struggling to feel spiritually motivated, either about the gospel or the things taught in the gospel, take a half hour and go for a walk, or find a quiet place to kneel. Pray to your Father in Heaven and just list off to Him the things you’re grateful for. “I thank thee for…” “I thank thee that…” “I’m so grateful that…”

At first it may feel forced, but keep it up until you are filled with gratitude. You’ll be amazed how powerful gratitude is in increasing spiritual desire. Approach general conference with a spirit of gratitude, and you’ll see a huge difference.

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.

Involve the family. If possible, watch together, and don’t shoosh people when they interrupt to say something relevant to the talk. They are likening the words to you and your loved ones–that’s what you’re supposed to do. Experiencing conference together builds the family up, and reminds all how much the Savior is a part of your family. And, yes, conference bingo is good, too.

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

However you are watching, face the speaker. Face the TV, radio, or computer, where the talk is happening. Not only will it send a message to your own brain that this is important (thus helping you pay attention), but it will help others see how much you want to be involved. They are less likely to ask you to come help them clean up the garage, because they will see that doing so would interrupt. If you’re listening passively to the background radio, your likely to get distracted and/or interrupted.

8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Don’t just suck in the words and expect them to stay. Take notes! Bring a notebook, portable device, or computer to write down things that catch your attention. Even more important, write down thoughts that the Spirit gives you while you listen. That is God’s revelation to you personally. You can trust that the guidance will come, but if you have no way to record it when it happens, you’ll forget. Believe me, no matter how powerful the experience, if you don’t record it, you will forget.

If for whatever reason you can’t be present for conference, take advantage of the many means the church has provided to review it. The Internet archives are available immediately, so you don’t have to wait for the Ensign. The video is up within minutes after the session ends. The audio will be available within a day or so, and the text will be up within a week. Don’t miss conference. If you can’t attend, make sure a week doesn’t pass before you’ve watched or read the entire four sessions (or five, if you’re a guy).

Never in the history of the world has there been such remarkable tools for reviewing the words of God. Even after you do watch the whole program, either live or afterward, go back through and read more carefully. The first time through is a marathon. The second time through, go through carefully, deliberately, taking the time necessary to learn all that you can from the talks. If you have a portable device or laptop, download the audio and listen to it often. Read the words, cross-referencing with the given links.

Do these things, and this may be the best conference you’ve ever participated in.

My Suffering Vs. Your Suffering

A couple nights ago, Jenni was showing me a blog that’s kept by a mother who had a very recent miscarriage. Reading a little of that made me think a little about our own situation. We’ve never had a miscarriage. We’ve never lost a child. We’ve never had any close calls in that regard, and we’ve never had any major health issues with our kids. It’s a little odd, really.

We’re so blessed, and I’m so grateful for what the Lord has done for us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But it does feel a little hollow to read others experiences, or hear them talk about their own losses – and sometimes they are serious, serious losses. How do we comfort someone who can’t have children? How can we offer real understanding to someone who lost a close family member, or has a never-ending flow of surgeries and medical bills?

And what do they think of us? Are they offended if we try to offer assistance? Are they subconsciously bitter for not having what we have been so bounteously blessed with?
I suppose a few might be, but I doubt most of them are so offended. But it does leave me thinking. I have never been one to say, “Seeing their circumstances makes me count my blessings for not being in that situation.” Something has always bothered me about that, and until recently, I haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly it is.

I was listening to an interview with a guy named Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. Talk about a challenge! He says that sometimes people come up to him after a speech (he’s a motivational speaker), and say things like, “After seeing what you are going through, I’ll NEVER complain again.” That bothers him a little. Of course they’ll complain again. They will suffer in other ways. He says, “There is no hope in comparing suffering, but there is hope in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He’s right. I can’t pretend to understand the difficulty that a parent goes through who loses a child, or of someone who gets a divorce, or someone who suffers from depression, because I’ve never experienced any of those things. I can’t even say that I’ve had my own suffering that measures up to what they’re going through, because whether that’s true or not is totally irrelevant. Jesus Christ DOES know. Jesus Christ knows how to comfort them – and me. He is the source of all hope. Though I may not have the answers to give, or the true empathy they need, I know who does, and whatever I can do to help them recognize His role in their lives, will do more than anything else I can do.

Helping people come to Christ does more to help those who are suffering than even removing from their lives the cause of suffering. Does that make sense? Let me say that again, because I think it’s the key to the whole matter: if I can do something to help you turn to the Lord, it will do more for you than if I can remove the cause of your suffering.

And if you are one of those people who have so deeply suffered, then you are doubly equipped to help those around you. You can help with the suffering AND help them turn to the Savior.

If you are experiencing more than you can handle, whatever it is, the Lord is ready and willing to help. Start by just asking God for His help. Humbly go to Him and tell Him everything you are feeling. And then listen. He’s real, and He will answer you. I promise you, PROMISE you, He’s real. God lives, and wants to hear from you. He wants to help you. He wants to Heal you.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Melchizedek

There is a tradition in the church (based on a statement in the Lectures on Faith) that Melchizedek was Shem, son of Noah. While this may or may not be true, there is a great deal more that we know about him from the Joseph Smith Translation of the bible. For example, we know that:

He had strong faith, and even as a child stopped the mouths of lions.

Through his faith, he quenched the violence of fire.

He was a high priest in the Melchizedek (or Holy) priesthood.

He was the King of Salem, and was called a prince of peace.

He and his people sought to join their city with that of Enoch.

Having obtained such peace, he was called by his people the king of heaven, or the King of peace.

He was keeper of the storehouse of God, and collected the tithes of the people.

Obviously, Melchizedek was a great man, and though we know little about the details of these facts, they certainly cast a light on the righteousness of the man, and his closeness to the Lord.

Here’s the record:

Genesis 14:25-40

25 And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.

36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.

37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;

38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.

39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.

40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.

Sixty Days to Live…

play-with-me-baba For family home evening tonight we watched a movie called, “Return with Honor,” about a young guy who gets in a terrible car accident, and has a near death experience where he is asked what he has yet to accomplish in his life.  He gives his response and he is told that he has sixty days.

It got me thinking.  What would I do with my life if I knew I only had sixty days to live?  Obviously I would wish to be able to raise my kids and take care of my wife, but if I knew that wasn’t an option, and I only had sixty days left, what would I do with it?

I was listening to an advice call-in program on the radio one day, and I don’t remember what the caller was asking advice on, but the advice given was interesting.  “Your doctor just called you and said you have six months of life left, and not a day more.  I’m not saying this just to make you think about it, I want you to decide what you need to do in that six months, and then YOU DO IT!  Six months.  That’s all you get.  What ever you would do if you only had six months to live, do it.”

So, what would you do?  What would you stop doing?  What would you change?  Who would you visit?

Think about that  – whether sixty days or six months, whatever you would do in that time if you knew you were going to die, do it.