Inspiring words for those who need them

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/inspiring-words-for-those-who-need-them/

Putting life into perspective

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/putting-life-into-perspective

Earthquake in Los Angeles, California

My CNN Alert just notified me that there has been a magnitude 5.8 eartquake in Los Angeles, California.

I’m searching for details, and will post more about possible ways to help as soon as I can.  In the meantime, may all our prayers go out to them.

As I mention here (Looking through the lense of God), the power of united prayer is magnificent and real.

Rusty

Update:  The Red Cross has opened a “Safe and well” website for CA quake victims, and urges those affected to register.  Instructions are here.  Click here to register as safe and well.

For insurance claims, you can contact CEA (California Earthquake Authority) here.

Other Articles:

Twitter:  Reporting on massive use of Twitter to report quake, even for victims.

CNet:  Los Angeles earthquake chokes phone calls, not twitter

CNN:  Expert:  L.A.’s 5.4 quake ‘small sample’ of one to come

iReport:  Did you feel the quake?

Associated Press:  Southern California earthquake causes phone jam

Some photos of the damage are here.

Advice from Gizmodo:  In earthquake, don’t make phone calls, use Text or IM instead

USGS (US Geological Survey site) for specific detail on this quake is here and here, for general CA earthquake info go here.

CNN:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/07/29/earthquake.ca/index.html

MSNBC:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/22886841#22886841

Therefore I make a record

Note:  This post is part of a series “What IS in the Book of Mormon“.  A series dedicated to those who believe in the Book of Mormon and enjoy discussing its profound principles, and those who are simply interested in understanding what kind of teachings are found within it.  As such, comments here should be reserved for discussing the principle, and not the source, or else they will be removed.  For open discussion of the Book of Mormon itself as the Word of God, click here (link coming soon).

The Book of Mormon opens with a poignant personal declaration by an ancient prophet, Nephi, from Jerusalem, about 600 B.C.

He says, in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon, and by way of introduction…

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

Aside from the gratitude he obviously feels towards his father and mother, and what they had taught him (illustrating itself a powerful principle of parenthood), and his ability to see his afflictions within a higher perspective, he makes three statements in rapid succession, which results in a call to action.

  1. I have been taught (and blessed with good parents)
  2. I have been highly favored of the Lord
  3. I have a knowledge of the gospel (mysteries of God)

And then he uses the word “therefore”, which means in that what he’s about to do, he does because of these things.  Then he tells us what he’s going to do about it:  “… therefore I make a record…”

Often we have been encouraged to make a record of our own life, to keep a journal, so (among other reasons) that our posterity for generations to come might have the benefit of Nephi… to be taught by goodly parents.

A journal allows the lessons we learn from life to disseminate throughout the generations, cultivating an ever-expanding contribution to the society of our family and friends.

My you find the specific motivations necessary for you to reach the conclusion of Nephi, that you too, might find yourself saying “…therefore, I make a record.”

Let not the lessons you sacrifice so much to learn today, end today.

Rusty

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Whose answer is right?

On my “Ask a Mormon” page, Brad asks a very important question (summarized):

If Mormons claim that the best way to know if their church is true is by a witness from the Spirit, how do you counter the argument that others in different religions have claimed to have received their own witness?

I can’t say that I have the definitive answer.  I’m not inherently intellectual, so I don’t have much native capacity to draw on to address such a difficult issue.  On the other hand, I try very diligently to approach such matters of eternal consequence with humility, seeking only to understand Gods will and, with his grace, his assistance in presenting it cohesively.  In short, if my thoughts are of no value, that’s my fault alone, but if they shed any light on the issue, then the credit is not mine.

That said, the answer, of course, is as individual as the purported testimonies of those who claim to have received a witness.  There won’t be any single answer inherently and independently capable of adequately addressing every possible scenario.  But that doesn’t mean the question can’t be answered; it just means there are many possible answers.  I’ll address several.

Feelings

I elaborate more on this particular topic in “Is your testimony based on emotion?“.  Feelings are fallible things.  Not every “warm fuzzy” we feel has the depth of divinity or is the substance of the Spirit. 

But since the Spirit speaks to our hearts, gives us feelings and inclinations, the burden is upon us as individuals to distinguish what is of divine origin, and what is merely a biochemical reaction to something of psychological appeal. 

But the very nature of feelings and their interpretation is highly subjective.  A vulnerability quickly capitalized on by commercialized religions, who stock their services with mechanisms to manufacture such emotions… live bands, shouts and songs, and preachers adept in the art of oratory entertainment (which I address here, since our meetings are so different).

Is someone attending one of these sessions likely to “feel” something?  Well if they didn’t, then these churches wouldn’t currently be in business.  That IS their business and they’re very good at it.  So simply feeling something at one of these sermons doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve received a divine confirmation that you’ve found the true church.

But even outside of a church sermon, two separate people praying to know if their differing religions are true, are highly prone to erroneously interpreting their answer, if based solely on how they “feel”. 

Does it feel more “comfortable” following what your family, friends, and associates might be doing?  Does it feel better continuing on a path with which you are already familiar?  Of course, so if you’re relying simply on your feelings, then they’re bound to be polluted with these kinds of sociological and psychological pressures that naturally affect the way we “feel” about anything, but that are entirely external to the issue at hand. 

For example, if someone, raised in another religion, were to ask God if Mormonism was correct or if they should continue going to their current church, then the first, and natural tendency is to feel like they should continue on the path that they were on, because that feels comfortable.  After all, the host of difficult, life-changing ramifications of converting to another religion does not generally constitute a welcome proposition.

If all you’re relying upon is a feeling for an answer, with no more investment but to ask, then you’re feelings are bound be be born of influences other than a witness from God.  This brings me to my next point.

But first, in summary – we simply MUST figure out if the feelings we receive are divine, or the natural result of preconceived notions, or the tendency to cling to what we know, or what is easiest, or are they simply superficial fluff manufactured by those who know how to do so.

Why might we find contradictory “witnesses”?  Because feelings are fallible things, and not all of them are of divine origin.

Sincerity

Due to the difficulty surrounding some answers, our natural tendency is to try less hard, to invest less effort, or to be less sincere about pursuing a course that would be uncomfortable.

If I were to pray “Is Mormonism true, or is my current church true”, the simple nature of the question pollutes my ability to isolate an answer.  It introduces far too much external emotional baggage (as explained above), and illustrates a general lack of sincerity in seeking the answer.  A question such as this seems to simply pay lip service to the search, when the extent of your effort was but to ask.

The level of sincerity with which one seeks an answer will be directly proportional to their mental investment into researching the answer.

For unless you first study it out in your own mind, truly researching (not to refute, but to understand), and then coming to your own conclusion, will you be appropriately armed to transcend the emotional baggage of the answer of either option.

At that point, you’re comparing principle to principle, and not the implications of the options.

But without first studying it out in your mind, your feelings are far too susceptible to exterior emotional baggage, leaving you ill-suited to accurately determine the divinity of your answer.  You simply haven’t invested the time, or the emotional and mental effort, and by not doing so, have shown that you’re not truly sincere in your search.  An insincere search is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

A good measure of your sincerity is your actual willingness to appropriately act upon the answer you receive, regardless of the consequences.

Why might we find contradictory “witnesses” – insincerity.

Multiple Sources

We’re talking about salvation, and in this battle, there is more than one power working to influence the souls of men.  Satan has had much time, and has proven highly adept at mimicking and impersonating anything of worth, anything of the Spirit, and anything of God.

And so, should we be surprised that when it comes to praying to know if a church is true, when it actually isn’t, that he is there with an affirmative answer that would mislead? 

Surely we can’t think that he would choose to sit back and let the cards fall where they may, no, not when we’re talking about the souls of men.  We should expect him to take an active role, introducing as much noise and confusion as possible.

Why might we find contradictory witnesses – because God is not the only one fighting for the souls of men.

Line upon line

The premise upon which this answer is based is a principle upon which we might not agree, but is (in my mind) no less real than any of the others.

Throughout the bible we find the inspired principle of progression by degrees.  He gives us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.  Why would he do this?  Why not give us the whole from the beginning? 

I propose that he chooses not to overwhelm us like this, because he loves us.  His desire is for our salvation.  Because of this, he will never give us more than we are able to bear.  Because we are accountable for that which we receive, he is not anxious to give us more than we can live up to, but instead to allows us to progress in stages. 

So he gives us a little truth, and that becomes our stewardship.  But only after we have proven our ability to live in accordance to the laws and truth we have received, do we demonstrate to him that we are ready for more.  Truth is treasure, and we will not be given more until we become profitable stewards over that which we have already received.  There are many parables about this in the Bible.

For sake of illustration, let’s say church B is some general Christian denomination, teaching much truth, and doing much good, while church A is the actual true church of Christ.

Under this scenario, and based off the principle above, let me ask the following questions…

 If I was an atheist, or of no particular religion, but attended Church B, would I be likely to feel a confirmation from the spirit that this was good?  Under this principle, I’d say that’s very likely.  It’s a step in the right direction, it’s line upon line.

What about if I’m an active participant in Church B, but find out about Church A, but in my heart of hearts (which only God knows), would be unwilling to follow the stricter laws and greater truth in Church A, or simply unwilling to accept the answer that Church A was Christ’s true church because of the difficulty of the path, when I pray, what would my answer be?

These are difficult questions, and I won’t pretend to know the answers.  But I submit, that there are far more variables to one receiving a true and actual witness from the spirit, than we can possibly imagine.

Is there any question on how so many can receive so many different answers?

Can man truly understand the mind and will of God?  Can man, in his limited natural capacity, question his divine intent?  Is it even our place to question the answers of others?  Is it a cop out to simply accept that we may never know why someone received the answer they did, but be willing to step forward in search of our own just the same?  Or is that humility and faith?

We’re talking about the eternal salvation or damnation of our very souls.  With this perspective, I submit that we should waste little time wondering on the answers of others, for sufficient is the task of finding our own, and living under the stewardship that it entails.

We must search diligently, figure it out in our own minds, make our own decision, and then approach the Lord in humble and sincere prayer, and what’s more, be willing to follow the answer, whatever it may be.

So I invite all to learn more about Mormonism, to learn about Joseph Smith, and to read the Book of Mormon.  My testimony is that if you do this with proper humility, sincerity, and diligence, then the answer you receive will be indisputably divine, and unquestionably distinct from any other superficial daily emotion.  You will know that it is from God, and not from man – whether it be of our selves, or feelings manufactured by another.

I invite all to take the challenge.

Rusty

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A story of a father and a son, true heroes each

This is one of the most touching videos I’ve seen.  It’s been heralded as one of the greatest love stories of all time.  It’s about a father and a son, and is worth watching every second.

Rick Hoyt was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, cutting off oxygen to his brain.  The doctors said he would be in a vegetable state his whole life, and urged his parents to put him in an institution.  But Rick’s dad refused, and brought him home to leave a full life.  Together they have run 950 races, 60 marathons (25 of them Boston), and 6 Iron Man competitions.  In the Iron man, you swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles, then run for 26.2 miles.

Dick, his father, pushes, pulls, and carries him the entire way.  Rick says (speaking through a computer):  “When we are running it feels like I’m not disabled anymore.”

When asked what he’d like to do if he could do anything, his reply wasn’t to play basketball, or football, or hockey.  His reply was that he’d have his dad sit in a wheelchair, so he could push him.

Dick’s simple reply, “I just want to be the very best father I can be”.  In so doing, he sets a powerful example of fatherhood, and presents a powerful illustration of our relationship with our Heavenly Father, who pushes, pulls, and carries us through every step.

After viewing several others, I like this one the most:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS596VsNEOE]

shortened version:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4B-r8KJhlE

Here’s a touching interview as Rick was nominated “Hero”.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyiApzjIuzw&]

 

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Marketing without a message

A while ago I posted “Every member a marketer“, wherein I describe that every member of the church, or any organization for that matter, is in a constant state of marketing their organization – especially when it comes to religion.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’re marketing.  People will judge your organization based on your words and actions, and often, that’s the only message they’ll get, and usually the strongest one at that (actions speak louder than words).

The point is to always be aware of who we are and what we stand for.  But we do have to be careful of marketing without a message.  When you market without a message, you’re basically passing along a communication without leaving a real message.

Let me provide a recent (ongoing) example.

Much of the traffic to my blog comes from search engines, and I peruse the phrases people use to find my site regularly (they’re often very interesting).  A couple months ago I began to find a lot of people searching for “why can’t Mormon’s swim”, or some similar phrase.  I did a post on it here – answering the question.

But just now as I was browsing through search phrases for the past few days I found:  “Why can’t Mormon’s swim on Sundays”, “Mormonism swimming”, “Do Mormons swim”, “Can Mormons have recreation on Sundays”, “Why can’t Mormons swim on the Sabbath”, “Why Mormons cannot swim on Sunday”, “Why Mormons don’t swim on Sundays”, “Can Mormons wear bathing suits”, “Why don’t Mormon Missionaries swim”, “Mormon Swimming”, and “Mormons and water, no swimming on Sunday”.

This is marketing without a message.  It’s very clear that we’re communicating something about swimming, and possibly about Sundays, but really the only thing that is standing out in their minds is that we don’t swim, which isn’t true.

The MESSAGE, that should follow the marketing is that we do swim, we love to swim (at least I do), but we don’t swim on Sundays, because we feel that Sunday is a holy day, a day of rest, a day for families, a day for emotional, spiritual, and physical recuperation.  That Missionaries don’t swim because they are required to work full time in teaching the gospel of Christ.  They do get one day a week to prepare for the rest of the week by cleaning, doing laundry, and even recreation, but that even then, swimming is not permitted for several reasons, not the least of which is modesty and the need to keep their minds single to their ministry.

But all too often when asked if we want to go swim, we simply reply no, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to send a message.  Certainly sometimes it’s not appropriate, or the right setting, etc. for such communication, but whenever possible, we should actively seek the opportunity to explain WHY we do or don’t do certain things.  That’s marketing with a message.

So the next time someone invites you to swim on Sunday.  Don’t just say “Sorry, I can’t”, instead say “Sorry, I believe that Sunday’s are special, and don’t swim on Sunday”, or even go the extra mile and invite that person to do something more suitable to your belief.  Then you’re sending the message that you would like to be with them, but just shouldn’t spend that time swimming.

Either way, as you go about your life marketing, think about the message.

Rusty

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