Thursday, November 7, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 79-81

(November 7, 2013)
I have always felt like the Lord had a perfect plan for us.  So many things happen from countless small interactions along the way, and I see them being guided by a master plan (or the Master’s plan, if you will).  That is why the comment from the Lord here that the missionary could not go amiss regardless of which way he chose seemed so odd to me.  If he went north instead of south, that would lead to countless changes that would dramatically shift the makeup of the world (this person is converted while that person is not, leading to different people marrying, different children, and all of their different interactions).

Does this mean that it really didn’t matter?  I don’t know.  I guess I think that it means he could not go amiss because his end choice was known to the Lord.

Helaman 4

(November 7, 2013)
It is amazing how often what I read perfectly illustrates my life.  I feel like the people of Nephi in this chapter.  They have seen the destruction that their wickedness has caused, and they see just how much they have lost.  Now they are put in the position of trying to recover from their own wickedness and relearning to turn to the Lord and trust in Him.  They need to unlearn the disobedience which they learned and relearned obedience to the Lord’s commandments.

The good news through that is that the Lord has not cut off the Nephites at this point.  If they return to Him, He stands ready to bless them.  This gives me hope as I stand ready to turn to Him in my time of need.

Doctrine and Covenants 78

(November 6, 2013)
There is so much truth to the idea that we must receive what we receive with thankfulness.  In past months I have been unhappy, and I can trace that unhappiness back to a failure to recognize the wonderful blessings that I had and to be thankful for them.  Now, with challenges ahead of me, my ideal would be to return to a life that I failed to properly appreciate when I had it.  I recognize the tender mercies of the Lord in walking me towards a life that I had, and yet when I had it I didn’t recognize the mercies of the Lord at that time.  I must cultivate that spirit of thankfulness with everything I have in my life, or risk losing everything that matters.

Helaman 2-3

(November 6, 2013)
So much of our success or failure in life is based upon matters outside of our control.  Kishkumen successfully killed one king, and Helaman was only saved due to circumstances completely outside of his knowledge.  In a similar fashion, the difference between life and death for us may be something so beyond our capacity to change as a gene.

But it isn’t just life or death that these matters pertain to.  In the past few days I been praying desperately for help from the Lord in important matters within my life.  Some parts of this are under my control, and I do everything I can within my area of ability to help things be better.  But some things are outside my control, and this terrifies me.  The wrong conversation from the wrong person, or the wrong advice, or something similar could cost me so dearly.  And there is nothing that I can do about it.

At first I was angry about the situation where these conversations could be so damaging to me, but I realized that the problem was never the conversations – it was the fact that I put myself in a position where such things could be so damaging.  If I had not made the mistakes that I had made, these words would be powerless.

I have learned the importance of building and strengthening to protect from outside dangers that you cannot control.  Praying to the Lord for protection from dangers is no substitute for taking the action necessary to prevent the dangers in the first place.

Doctrine and Covenants 77

(November 5, 2013)
I am almost frightened to go through the process of finding out the necessary historical information to know just what percentage of Church members received Exaltation during the time of John.  It would be easy enough to do.  Look at the seven churches, and find out the number of men who had died up until the point when John received his Revelation.  Then divide 24 by that number.  So if 100 men had died at that point, 24% of the male membership of the Church were faith and received into the paradise of God.

My fear is that the number of Church members who had died at that point is actually very large.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the number of martyrs for the seven churches approached 24 by the time John wrote.  If that is the case – if nearly all of the people who received their Exaltation were martyrs – we have far more to do to be worthy of our Eternal Destiny and we must take our repentance and our covenants more seriously.

Helaman 1

(November 5, 2013)
I have often wondered how many of the Lamanites that had been taken prisoner, and then allowed to leave in peace, ended up fighting in other wars or causing the deaths of other Nephites.  I can only assume that Mormon – a general in his own right – included this information in his abridgement as an evidence of support of this particular principle.  It seems counterintuitive, from a warmaking perspective, but it makes sense from a Gospel perspective – it gives those released the opportunity to repent and change and become something better than they were before.

Doctrine and Covenants 76

(November 4, 2013)
When I read this Section, my mind is filled with an understanding of the love and kindness which the Lord demonstrates to all of His children.  To those who live far afield of right and wrong, they are granted a Telestial existence.  They enjoy a level of happiness far beyond that which they could receive in mortality.  For the honest in heart deceived, they receive a Terrestrial existence.  This Terrestrial existence almost perfectly matches what the modern Christian world thinks of when they conceive of Heaven.  Angels, and the ministering of Christ.

Only those who receive Celestial glory will know as they are known.  The others will receive the reward they sought out during this life.  What’s more, I don’t believe that the veil is fully lifted for those in the Telestial or Terrestrial world (I think that is what is being referred to as knowing as they are known), so I don’t think that those who inherit that world will even know that there is a higher world which they could have achieved.  And that, too, would be a mercy.

Alma 63

(November 4, 2013)
The Lord is so full of tender mercies, that I don’t even know how to describe them sometimes.  Today, when I am struggling with accepting responsibility for the difficulty my own weaknesses have caused (and feeling nearly overwhelmed by my inadequacies), my scriptural reading assignment (set years ago) is Alma 63.  The chapter that described the triumph of my hero from the Book of Mormon  – Corianton.

Corianton is most often remembered in this Church for his failures in the mission field.  But that wasn’t the end of his life.  He was called to go on another mission, and he served valiantly.  He overcame his weaknesses and repented.  So much so that in verse 2, he is described the same way as Shiblon (“he was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God; and he did observe to do good continually, to keep the commandments of the Lord his God”).

Now, when I am struggling so much with the consequences of my own failings and wondering whether I can ever make things right, I was nearly overwhelmed when I looked and saw what I would be reading today.  The Lord had prepared me, or prepared this chapter for me, at this time just when I needed it.  I cannot tell you the number of times that has happened – I have read just what I needed to read just when I needed to read it.

Alma 61-62

(November 3, 2013)
Pahoran is a great example here.  Moroni absolutely blasts him with his letter – accusing him of just about everything in the world.  Pahoran, though, does not get angry with Moroni.  He simply accepts that Moroni is a good man, and is making statements from his own experience.  They are wrong, but he doesn’t judge Moroni at all for them.  When things go wrong around me, I have been only too willing to look at other people and condemn them.  This is especially ironic since I am often the source of the problem in the first place.  I need to be more like Pahoran – to trust that those around me are children of God and doing their best (often far better than I am), and to change my approach to others in this fashion.  I have been a failure in this regard.

Doctrine and Covenants 75

(November 2, 2013)
I lose track, sometimes, of where I am in this mortal life.  I want to learn the lessons that I want to learn, and I want to learn them when I want to learn them.  I am being taught some hard lessons right now, and it is difficult to accept the reality of what is happening.  But the Lord teaches us here that the Comforter teaches us “all things that are expedient” for us to learn.  It may not teach us what we want, but it will teach us all that we need – regardless of how painful those lessons are to take.

Alma 59-60

(November 2, 2013)
It is difficult when there is tension between two different things that you know to be true.  On the one hand, the things that we need to accomplish are so far beyond our capacity, that we are utterly reliant upon the Lord.  So there is the feeling that we should turn to Him with all our hearts.  But that almost leads us into problems on the other end of the spectrum, where we sit on our thrones and wait for the Lord to save us.  It is difficult to balance the two – to fight for what is right and what we need done, knowing full well that our efforts are negligible despite the cost and that victory is in the Lord’s hands.  That is where our faith must come in to make up the difference and balance the two.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 74

(November 1, 2013)
In all of the times I have read this Section, it has never before hit me the way that it hit me today that the Lord is telling Joseph Smith that Paul’s comments at the start were not doctrine, nor where they the commandments of the Lord.  He gave “them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself.”  I suppose that I have a view of the commandments we receive from prophets and apostles as absolute, and nearly infallible.  These words of the Lord demonstrate that belief is incorrect.

Alma 58

(November 1, 2013)
There is probably no doctrine that I have a harder time accepting than the fact that sometimes we can struggle and strive and do our best and find that our efforts simply weren’t enough.  Many people during the war described in this chapter died.  I can only imagine how the other soldiers felt watching the Army of Helaman fight and survive over and over again.  After all, they were struggling just as hard.  Perhaps their testimonies were just as strong.  And yet they were seeing those around them die (and dying themselves).

It is a hard thing to deal with.  I look at others around me who seem to not have to fight as hard for the blessings of the Lord.  The things that are important – the things that lead to real happiness – seem to come easily to them, while I put forth absolutely all of my efforts and they just aren’t enough.  I don’t know how to deal with that – it is fine to read and believe that we must trust in the Lord to make things right in the end, but that takes me to the absolute limits of my faith.  Still, I suppose that is where and how real faith is found – walking to the edge of the light, and then taking steps into the darkness finding the way lit up for a few steps more.