Before getting married, my wife and I received a lot of marital advice. One insightful recommendations was to "cherish your spouse's quirks." I have a lot of quirks, and I'm so grateful my wife not only bears with them, but cherishes them. Let me share a quirk of mine.
When I get a new book, I love to read the entire book. I study the front cover, the back cover, the copyright text in small print, and the preface. And then I start reading chapter one. As a result, I've read many overlooked prefaces over the years. Often they are written by the author; other times, they are written by an expert in the same field or by someone famous.
And yet, in all my reading, the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants is unique. Do you know of any other book with a preface written by the Lord Himself? The heading of Doctrine and Covenants section 1 explains, "This section constitutes the Lord’s preface to the doctrines, covenants, and commandments given in this dispensation." If the Lord takes the time to write a preface to a book, it must be important!
There is much to draw from the Lord's preface to the Doctrine and Covenants. The revelation "inform[s] readers of the subject and purpose of the volume," explains "why God revealed these commandments" to Joseph Smith, "paint[s] an apocalyptic picture of the wrath that God would unleash against the wicked" unless they repented, and gives a "'voice of warning' to the world to prepare them for Jesus Christ's second coming" (Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers).
In describing the purposes of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord also identifies the purposes of a prophet.
And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.
A prophet is the voice of the Lord. A prophet is not important because of who they are; a prophet is important because of what they say and do as the Lord's mouthpiece.
The Lord has established His kingdom on Earth in such a way that "fulness of [His] gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers" (D&C 1: 24). God does not care about worldly accomplishments; instead, he cares about "the heart and a willing mind" (D&C 64:34).
In a recent interview with a reporter from The Atlantic, the prophet Russel M. Nelson reflected, "I doubt if I’ll be judged by the number of operations I did [as a heart surgeon], or the number of scientific publications I had... I doubt if I’ll even be judged by the growth of the Church during my presidency. I don’t think it’ll be a quantitative experience. I think he’ll want to know: What about your faith? What about virtue? What about your knowledge? Were you temperate? Were you kind to people? Did you have charity, humility?”
To be continued...
When the Samaritans did not receive Jesus, James and John asked Jesus, “wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Luke 9:54)
Not long before, James and John had seen Elias (Elijah) face to face at the mountain where Jesus had been Transfigured and glorified.
Jesus responded, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56)
During General Conference, I was impressed by the mercy of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Being preached repentance can be hard, but think of the alternative: What if we could not change? What if a poor choice, like the Samaritans made in not receiving Jesus, led to our destruction?
Repentance is the way we accept the enabling power of Jesus Christ, sometimes called grace, in our lives. This power enables us to put off the natural man and become Saints (see Mosiah 3:19). Through grace, we can develop the same humility and "teachability" of little children.
President Oaks taught that repentance is “a joy, not a burden” ("Cleansed by Repentance," April 2019 General Conference). President Nelson taught, “To repent of sin is not easy. But the prize is worth the price” ("Repentance and Conversion," April 2007 General Conference).
President Oaks, who served as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, said, “The contrast that I’ve experience between the laws of man and the laws of God has increased my appreciation for the reality and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ" (April 2019 General Conference).
What manner of Spirit are we? We are sons and daughters of God. We are created in His image. He loves us and wants nothing more than for us to return to live with Him, in a state of never-ending happiness. His work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
I bear testimony that through Jesus Christ, we can change. Our weaknesses can become strengths. If we have a sincere heart and a contrite spirit, God can teach us and transform us into the men and women that He knows we can become.
During his vision of the tree of life, Nephi beheld that Jesus “went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them" (1 Nephi 11:28).
Sadly, the multitude’s reaction to beholding Christ's power and glory was to cast him out. Despite his power, Christ allowed Himself to be cast out so the people could be judged by their works. While Jesus is the only true judge, Jesus was later "taken by the people; yea, the son of the everlasting God was judged of the world."
Contrast Jesus being cast out with the story of Jesus and the rich young man. The rich young man explained to Jesus that he had kept the commandments since his youth. "And Jesus beholding him loved him." (Mark 10:21) In contrast, the multitudes saw Jesus doing good since his youth, and rejected him.
Christ judged the people; the people judged Christ, and cast him out. The rich young man kept the commandments since his youth; Jesus kept the commandments since his youth, and was rejected.
In all cases, love makes the difference—love of God and love of God's children.
Nephi records that as Jesus was cast out, "I also beheld twelve others following Him" (1 Nephi 11:29). After Jesus was slain, Nephi saw “the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the lamb” (1 Nephi 11:39). The multitude gathered into a great and spacious building, which represented the pride of the world.
Because of pride, the multitude cast Jesus out and later crucified him. Because of love, Jesus ministered and gave his life.
When we behold the power and glory of Jesus Christ in our lives, we have the same choice—pride or love. We can allow pride to loosen our grip of the iron rod and start wandering toward the great and spacious building. Or, with love in our hearts, we can continually hold to the iron rod and press forward toward the tree of life, “yea, ... the love of God, ... the most desirable above all things, ... and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:22-23).
"I declare unto you the gospel... by which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you..."
Paul taught that we are saved on the condition that we keep in memory, or remember, the gospel that has been preached to us.
From a historical perspective, it makes sense that Paul wanted the Christian converts in Corinth to remember and focus on simple gospel truths. Corinth was a large and diverse Greek city. In 400 BC, Corinth has a population of 90,000 (https://books.google.com/books?id=PD14aQTG05UC). The city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, and rebuilt in 44 BC. Paul visited Corinth in AD 49 or 50 and Corinth later became the capital of Greece.
Greek myths played an influential role in the beliefs of many Corinthians. For example, Corinthian myth taught that Corinthios, a descendant of the god Zeus, had founded the city (Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.1.1)
Needless to say, the Corinthians were a diverse people with varied and conflicting beliefs. Hence, Paul's teaching that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace," is all the more relevant. Following Pauls admonition to keep in memory the preaching about the gospel, Paul neatly defines the crux of the gospel:
"...that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
The gospel is Jesus Christ—his life and death; his mission, ministry, and resurrection. Only in and through Christ can we be saved.
To follow in Christ's path, we must remember Him and his teachings. As part of the baptismal covenant that we renew weekly through the ordinance of the sacrament, we promise to "always remember Him."
Why is remembering so important? What have Church leaders taught about remembering Jesus Christ?
King Benjamin taught that we must watch our thoughts, words, and deeds, and that we must faithfully observe the commandments. He humbly yet boldly concludes by saying, "And now, O man, remember, and perish not" (Mosiah 4:30).
In instructing his sons Nephi and Lehi, Helaman taught, "O remember, remember, my sons, that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ... And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation" (Helaman 5:9, 12).
In a 2002 BYU Devotional, Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Seventy suggested five things that we can remember and do (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dennis-b-neuenschwander/remember-remember/):
Jesus Christ and his Gospel should be the focus of our remembering. I remember by paying tithing and fast offerings. I remember by attending Church and partaking of the sacrament. I remember by reaching out to others who need a friend. I remember by studying the scriptures and words of the living prophets, and by writing down my thoughts. I remember by repenting when I forget. I remember by building a Christ-centered home.
How do you remember?
Looking over my mission journal, I found a poem that I wrote in my last area. Here is original poem, followed by an English translation.
15 de octubre 2013
El tiempo siga volando
Mi testimonio siempre creciendo
Tras pruebas y dificultades de formas distintas
Nuevas cosas se están aprendiendo
Nuevas personas estoy conociendo
¿Tengo la capacidad para amar a todos?
Su Evangelio enseño
¿Donde hay los que están preparados por la fe?
“No teméis, no dudáis”
Medito en mi corazón
“Por cosas pequeñas el Señor lleva a cabo las cosas grandes”
Soy pequeño pero con poder del Altísimo
Prometo hacer mi parte
Ésta es la obra del Señor
October 15, 2013
Time keeps flying by
My testimony always growing
Through trials and difficulties of various forms
I learn new things
I meet new people
Can I really love everyone?
I represent Jesus Christ
I teach His Gospel
Where are those prepared by their faith?
“Doubt not, fear not”
I ponder in my heart
“By small and simple things
are great things brought to pass”
I am small, but with power from the Almighty God
I promise to do my part
This is the work of the Lord
Shortly before his death, Lehi delivers a doctrine-rich message to Jacob, his "firstborn in the days of [his] affliction in the wilderness" (2 Nephi 2:1). Lehi teaches that God consecrates--or “appropriates to sacred uses”--our afflictions for our gain ("consecrate," Websters Dictionary 1828).
Jesus Christ’s grace is free; redemption comes in and through Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth. Eternal law requires that sin be punished. Jesus Christ offers himself a sacrifice for sin on the condition that we have a broken heart and contrite (worn or bruised) spirit ("contrite," Websters Dictionary 1828).
What does it mean to be broken. The word “broken” many definitions, including “subdued completely: crushed, sorrowful” ("broken," Merriam Webster). The word broken is also used to describe taming and training (breaking) a horse.
A horsemanship trainer named Mike Daniels wrote “I like to say ‘We get to play God’s role with horses so we have an idea what God is up against when he deals with us.’ Whether it be God dealing with us, or us dealing with our horses, a broken spirit essentially means we have come to the point where we are finally ready to listen. (https://houstonherald.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/horse-sense-broken-spirit/).
My goal this week is to align my will to that of my Trainer—to be ready to listen to his guidance.
For with God nothing shall be impossible
Sometimes we, like Simon, have worked as hard as we think we can, but have no fish to show for it. At those times, when our nets are up and our ship is back on shore, Jesus invites us to "launch out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch."
Simons’ response was "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net."
In the Garden of Eden, Jesus was asked to do more than he felt capable of doing. “Father, if thou be willing, take this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
It is hard; I don’t think I can. Nevertheless.
It is the act of saying nevertheless, and submitting our will to God’s, even if it seems impossible, that allows us to experience the enabling power of Christ’s mercy and experience miracles in our lives.
Mary, when told she would conceive the son of God, said “How will this be?” (Simon: How can I catch fish? Jesus: How can I drink this bitter cup?) Yet she, like Simon and Jesus (and unlike her husband, who wavered as we often do) said an unspoken nevertheless, followed by “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it according to thy will.”
I bear testimony that when we submit completely to the will of the Lord, He provides a way. Like Simon, we find a great multitude of fishes in barren waters. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we find children in barren wombs. Like Jesus, we accomplish our missions and achieve the inconceivable.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
While teaching, preaching, and healing in the cities of Galilee, Jesus is "moved with compassion" on the people he is serving.
Likewise, if you want to increase your love towards someone, serve him or her. If you want to sympathize with someone's distress, serve him or her.
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers teaches that rather than use the verb "fainted" in this verse, many authorities favor using the "the past participle of the verb translated “trouble” in Mark 5:35, Luke 7:6, and meaning literally “flayed,” and thence figuratively “tormented, worried, vexed.” They were not merely as sheep that have grown weary and faint, hungry, looking up and yet not fed, but were as those that have been harassed by the wolf."
The adversary is real. The wolf is no mere fictitious antagonist, but a real being who "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27). On the other hand, Jesus Christ is our true and living shepherd. He is our Savior.
To combat Satan, "we must humble [ourselves] before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that [we] may not be tempted above that which [we] can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit” (Alma 13:22)."
It does not matter how many times we have fallen--how many times we have succumbed to the wolf's subtle enticements. Christ knows his sheep by name, and will leave the ninety and nine to rescue the one lost sheep.
Said Jesus, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Jesus taught, preached, and healed. In other words, he imparted knowledge, gave sermons, and restored health. Think about how selfless these acts are. Jesus' life was devoted to others. If we can be a little less concerned about ourselves and a little more focused on others each day, we can come to know how the Savior's life a little better.
John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible emphasizes Christ's visit to all the cities: "He did not confine himself, and his acts of kindness and compassion, to his own city, Capernaum, but he took a circuit throughout all Galilee." There is some debate about whether Christ visited the small villages or just the principle Galilean cities and towns. Certainly, he desired to share the good news to all.
I wonder if Christ ever felt worn thin in his calling, as we sometimes do in our busy lives. Did he ache at his inability to visit everyone, or did he cherish the personal visits could make?
Perhaps his visit with Mary and Martha shed's some light. When Jesus came into Mary and Martha's home, Mary sat at Jesus' feet while "Martha was cumbered about much serving." (Luke 10:38). Martha inquired of Jesus, "Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" Jesus answered, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her."
In our efforts to serve others, we should focus on President Thomas S. Monson's charge, "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
Learning how to make choices and use agency righteously is a central purpose of this life. We receive a "reward" for making righteous choices and involving ourselves in good causes without being compelled to do so. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who rewards my efforts and my righteous desires. For me, this reward has included an increased capacity to love, enduring friendships, and a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ's restored gospel.
We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day. Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming.
For anyone interested, I have a professional blog titled The Instructional Designer's Toolkit where I share tools and inspiration for instructional designers and e-learning developers.