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Gratitude, the key to righteous desire

Throughout my study of the scriptures, I often find recurring themes.  One of those is the use of gratitude to instill righteous desire.

One clear instance of this within the Book of Mormon is in the opening verses of 2 Nephi.  It’s around 575 BC, and Lehi and his family had just arrived in the Promised Land.

In the preceding chapters, Nephi, who had found his two older and very rebellions brothers – Laman and Lemuel – uncharacteristically open minded, had therefore been teaching them from the Book of Moses, and expounding upon the doctrine of Isaiah. 

Once he had finished, his father Lehi then wanted to speak to them.  I find it interesting to see the approach of this prophet as he endeavored to instill upon his sons some righteous desire.

If you read the first several verses (here), you’ll find that he simply lists out all the multitude of blessings they’d received.   He mentions how they were spared in spite of their rebellion on their trip over the sea, their obtaining a Promised Land, their being saved from the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.  And then he goes on to prophesy great things about America.

Additionally, within the scriptures, we often see this principle in action with those who have recently had poignant experiences with the spirit, personal manifestations, visions, etc. and who are subsequently filled with gratitude which leads to profound desire to do the works of righteousness.

When you recognize the hand of the Lord in your life, and you realize how much you’ve been given, the natural response is loyalty and the desire to do better, to “pay back”.  Corporations use this all the time to build employee loyalty.  Good leaders in any organization know how to leverage this principle in macro and micro scales.

So what is the practical application of this principle?

First, it speaks of the importance of recommitting ourselves to acknowledging the Lord in our lives.  If you want to ensure that you start each day with a healthy dose of righteous desire, try making a habit of counting your blessings.  Just try it, it really works.  Tomorrow on your drive to work, turn off the radio and just try thinking of all that you’ve been given.  Let your mind sweep through all aspects of your life, large and small.  You’ll find yourself amazed at what it does to you.

Secondly, this principle can be put to use by any leader, whether you lead a team, a corporation, or a family.  There are those within your sphere of influence that you can have a legitimate impact on simply by helping them appreciate the hand of the Lord in their lives.  Help them count their blessings.

Be the one to help them feel gratitude to the Lord, and you’ll be an instrument for righteousness in His hands, and you’ll find that all of you were enormously enriched by the endeavor.

Rusty

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What do Mormons believe, part 6

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

6th Article of Faith

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is organized according to revelation, with leaders that are called of God and not of man and who hold the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and is based on the same structure that Christ established himself on the earth. 

Hebrews 5:4 (and numerous references in the Book of Mormon) help us understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   Throughout life we’re constantly bombarded with the challenge of discerning truth and right.  Those of you who are reading this post who are not Mormon face a similar challenge, to determine for yourself if the teachings of Mormonism are true (which you can know through personal revelation – James 1:5, Moroni 10:4). 

But how refreshing it is when we find instances, such as this, where the establishment of His church today is the same as it was in times past.  Seeing the same template of organization is one of the easiest ways to recognize His church.  For “by their fruits, ye shall know them”.  How is that so?  Because the things that they know, do, and believe, shall be recognizable as what He taught and did on the earth.

And aside from the refreshing sameness of church structure, how invigorating it is to know that at the head of His church today, just as in times of old, we are guided by a holy prophet, called of God, who holds all the necessary keys and authority of the priesthood to officiate in the church of God and all the necessary ordinances required for us to reach our exaltation.

The belief in a true and living prophet is very unique to Mormonism.  For we believe that God truly is the same today as he was yesterday, that today, just as yesterday, he works through prophets.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).  These prophets play a crucial role today, as they did in times past, in teaching and testifying of the Savior and his gospel, and in warning us of those timely issues that we face, that we might, at all times, be prepared.

How wonderful it is that this prophet, the apostles, and other church leaders were called of God, and did not aspire, nor ever seek for their positions, but rather agreed to give up their lives to serve the Lord, when they were asked.  I find great inspiration in the organization of the church, and enjoy the distinctive flavor of divinity in its structure and workings.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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Mormons Are Christians

As I posted to the question “Are Mormons Christian“, the answer, of course, is a resounding and emphatic yes, and I explain why that answer is so clear.

The dictionary, used to determine socially accepted definitions terms, defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”, and “one who follows Jesus Christ”, and of course, Mormons do.

Still, there are some who seek to strain at the definition of Christianity, to have it be somehow exclusive, and who somehow claim authority over that name as if it were a kind of brand that they could copyright and control, thereby denying all others their right to associate themselves to the term.

These, who would claim the corner on Christianity, endeavor to cast doubt upon the “Christianity” of others (such as Mormons) simply because their beliefs aren’t identical to their own.  But in doing so, they illustrate their own improper understanding of what being Christian really means.

Still, these people work diligently to perpetuate certain common arguments intended to confuse and mislead those who sincerely want to know.  For this purpose, I have decided to entertain open discussion of these arguments here.  I do this for those who have been confused by some of these things, that they might hear the full truth, and then consult with the Lord for themselves, rather than accepting in full the personal opinions of others.

Below, you’ll find a set of posts based on the most common of these arguments.  Click on each post to read the argument, the answer, and for discussion specific to that topic.  If there are additional arguments not listed here, please let me know in the comments here, and if necessary, I’ll create a post dedicated to it for further discussion.

(note:  I’m writing these sections now, one by one, and will post them as they’re done.  If you have comments pertaining to one of these, please save it for the dedicated post, so that the conversations can be more focused.  If not listed, then feel free to post here, and I’ll add to this list appropriately.)

Rusty

The covenants we keep…

… are kept and broken by degrees.  Let me explain.

DISCLAIMER:  This is just a thought, not doctrine, just my humble opinion.

First, let’s establish the concept that covenants are sacred contracts.  It’s where we say we’ll do certain things, and in return Heavenly Father promises to do certain things.  These kinds of solemn agreements should not be taken lightly (as all too often they are), because they are eternally binding, with eternal consequences (one important reason why adequately preparing for the temple is so important).

Within those covenants that we make, there are specific boundaries that are set.  These are hard and fast, totally inflexible, kept or not kept.  But I don’t think it stops there. 

I see these boundaries more like “minimum requirements”.  Whereas we could be content to sit just on the safe side of those boundaries, perhaps as close to the edge as we can get (like this), we could also choose to extend far beyond those minimum requirements.

I propose that there are a vast array of degrees beyond the expressly defined boundaries, wherein lie the greatest blessings, and as we choose to live a continuously higher law, stretching ourselves above and beyond the bare minimum, we begin to experience a sweetness of life that we had not known existed.

I look at it sort of like a garden hose attached to a water faucet.  Turn the faucet on, only slightly and sure, it’s on – the water’s flowing.  But then you start to open it further, and further, and further, and now you’ve got real water pressure.

Similarly, I think covenants can be kept (and broken) by degrees.  And by holding ourselves to a continuously higher law, we open up the conduit to heaven to its full extent, and experience a true outpouring of blessings.

It doesn’t happen all at once, but by degrees – line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.  We just have to aim a little higher, and then aim again, and not settle for the bare minimum.

Rusty

Swimming in the devil’s pool

The Devil’s Pool is a natural rock pool at the top of Victoria Falls in southern Africa near Zimbabwe.   During most months, the water surges down the river, shoots over the edge and slams into the ground 300 feet below, sending mist all the way back up.

But from September to December the water levels decrease, making it possible to swim in the Devil’s Pool, without being washed over the edge.  You can swim up to two inches from the very edge of the pool and peer over into the chasm below.

It’s such an exhilarating experience, that many tourists go there every year, during this time, to try it.

Here are some photos to show you exactly how close you can get to the edge…

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVN9KnWy-H8]

 

 

I can only imagine what a stunning and frightening experience this must be. I think the people that do this have got to be far braver (or crazier) than I.

Still, I can’t help but consider the spiritual analogy so strikingly illustrated in these photos.  How it is that we try to get as close to the edge as we can.  Blinded by the exhilaration of the moment and overwhelmed by the emotions of the now, we convince ourselves that we’re only looking, as we ease closer and closer to the brink, and peer into the chasm below.

So I ask you, are you swimming in the devil’s pool? 

Are there aspects of your life where you may be getting too close to the edge?  Are there others in the pool with you?  Are your children too close to the edge?  Are you standing by watching someone swim in the devil’s pool, without exerting any effort to help them out?

If you’ve felt any of these questions striking too close to home, then I exhort you to step back, look hard at your surroundings, and take stock of the precarious nature of your position.  For the floodwaters can come unexpectedly, and when they do, you don’t want to be found in the devil’s pool.

Please, get out now.

Rusty

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Sacramental cleansing

At my nephew’s baptism this last weekend, my brother in law spoke and used a wonderfully vivid analogy I’d like to expound upon.

He lives in Hawaii, and as you might expect, regularly visits the beach with his family.  He explained that each day, hundreds of people would come to the beach.  They’d spend hours playing on the sand, building castles and sculptures, and digging holes.  At the end of the day, the beach would be left scarred, nearly completely covered with signs of such daily use.

But no matter how scarred the beach became, early the next day, there it was, clear and clean, as though no one had ever stepped foot on it before.

He explained that late at night, high tide would come in, and the waves from the ocean would crash against the sand, washing away the marks of the past, and leaving in its wake a clear and pristine surface, ready again for another day.

He observed how much this is like baptism, and after baptism, the sacrament.  During the week, our lives naturally begin to show signs of wear, the signs of life, proof of our imperfections… the scars of mortality. 

Still, each week, we have the opportunity to present ourselves at the feet of our Savior, to cast our burdens upon him, to take His name upon us, and to wash away the marks of the past.

Spiritual entropy is unavoidable, but in His divine mercy and love, He has provided a mechanism whereby we might regularly cleanse ourselves, and become pure again.

Our gratitude to Him for such a reachable and attainable instrument should cause our hearts to swell and our minds to expand, but all too often the commonness of the sacrament causes it to lose value in our eyes. 

It’s the law of scarcity.  Those things that we perceive of being most scarce, we place the highest value upon.  Yet here is something directly within our grasp that is powerful beyond comprehension, and available to us on a weekly basis.

How grateful I am for the magnificence of the sacrament, for the love it symbolizes.  May I try harder each week, to present myself in the environment of the sacrament with a bit more humility, a bit more gratitude, a bit more self reflection, and a bit more reverence, that each week my life might be freed of the scars of the past.

Rusty

I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday

We just recently had a Stake Conference.  For Mormon’s, stake conference is when the whole area gets together for one large-scale meeting where we often hear from a general authority and the stake presidency.  During this conference one of the counselors in our stake presidency (President Green), made a comment that really resonated with me.

He stood up and said “I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday”, quoting the words to one of the popular Mormon Primary songs.

But, he added, why is it always “someday”?  Why isn’t it “I love to see the temple, I’m going there today”… or tomorrow, or next month, or something specific?

The problem is that we too often procrastinate things in our life that are important.  Going to the temple is only one example, but it could just as easily be seeing the bishop, repenting, forsaking that favorite sin, apologizing to someone, forgiving someone, serving someone, etc.

There are all kinds of things in our lives that press for our attention, and we tend to focus the most on those things that are most urgent, not necessarily most important.  Because of this, we end up convincing ourselves that we’ll do it “someday”.

How about today?  If not today, then set a date.  Make it real.  Get it done.  You’ll be happier once you do.

Life is often about momentum, and momentum is nothing more than the accumulated effect of lots of little steps.  So take a little step, set a date, and do it.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “The builders” presents this case well.  He also readdresses it in his poem “A Psalm of Life” when he says”

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Rusty

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Bernanke sees recession – I know how to fix it

 [NOTE:  I did this post in a hurry, but it’s gotten so much traffic I decided to refine it a bit – you’re welcome to read it, but you may prefer the updated one you’ll find here.]

 How do you fix it?  Repent.

We have all kinds of “economic indicators” today:  Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unemployment, consumer sentiment, S&P 500 stock index, housing starts, etc., the list goes on and on.

But I propose a new indicator, and one far surer to accurately predict the state of our economy.  I call it the National Spirituality Index (NSI for short).

Whether you believe in either the Bible or the Book of Mormon (or most any other holy writ), then you’ve got ample evidence to show that when economies (and societies) start to crumble, wickedness is to blame. 

Wickedness begets tribulations; tribulations increase humility and ultimately an acknowledged reliance on the Lord.  When this happens, people repent and forsake their sins, turn to God, and pray for help.  And when enough people do just that, then things start to change.

So we’ve all got to repent – everybody.  It’s easy for us to always think “I’m not the problem”, but we’ve all got our favorite sins, those weaknesses we cling to and hate to give up on.  Some are obviously more serious than others, but they all equate to an overall depression in the sum-total of our National Spirituality Index.

What’s more, as individuals begin to increase their own spirituality (call it your Personal Spirituality Index – PSI for short), then they have a positive impact on those around them (the spiritual equivalent of gravity, which I discuss here).  Soon you get these islands of expanding righteousness, and pockets of perpetuating virtue.

But it doesn’t start with the whole; it starts with the individual – with you and me.

When we start to hear about record numbers of foreclosures, staggering oil prices, plummeting consumer confidence, severely depressed housing starts, continuously rising unemployment, surging inflation, drastically reduced home sales, large banks like Bear Stearns hitting rock bottom, or any other news of a depressed economy, you’re simply seeing the effects of the ACTUAL leading indicator – our National Spirituality Metric.  And instead of casting blame, and hoping the FED will help, we should be looking at ourselves, and praying to God for help.

Nothing against the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke but I’ll put my trust in the Lord.  I hope you do too.

Rusty

Staying in tune

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/staying-in-tune

Christianity in China – PBS Special

As I explained in my post here, PBS Frontline World had a special on about Christianity in China last night. 

Apparently Christianity isn’t exactly illegal in China.  The government hasn’t taken the hard line they’ve taken in the past with Muslim separatists or the Falun Gong.  Instead, they’re being far more they’re being far more forgiving when it comes to Christianity, simply trying to control the religious teachings.

They’ve established their own version of a Christian church… essentially a government approved church, with doctrine that has been approved by the government and teachers who have been trained and certified by the government.  But while the approved party church hosts about 4,000 members across 6 services on Sunday, Chinese Christians in general far prefer what they call “house churches” (seeking purity and freedom, and not diluted doctrine).

These house churches are underground Christian churches that grew up in the aftermath of Chairman Mao’s revolution, and they’ve really been pushing the limits, becoming increasingly more open.  One church has even sued the local government to stay open.  Pastor Jang, interviewed on the program, said “I believe only Jesus, and not the communist party, can save the Chinese people”.

But the government has tried, unsuccessfully, to incent these house church leaders to discontinue their works by persecuting them.  One particular leader was unavailable for an interview because he had just been arrested, for the fourth time.  The first time he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, the next for 11 months, and the third time was forced to serve in a labor camp. 

They showed one particular underground church that was, literally, underground.  There were these recesses built into the hills in the forest where they’d convene and teach the gospel… until the government found out about it.  Now the place is entirely deserted.

Sometimes the government will demolish the very buildings they meet in.  But attempts have largely failed to diminish the faith of the people, and there are now thought to be as many Christians as there are party members.  All over, the Chinese Christians believe this is their time to come out of the shadows. 

It’s marvelous to watch Christianity surge into China, and I find the faith of these Chinese Christians inspiring.  They sacrifice so much, and persevere through threat and trial to pursue and preach their beliefs.

May I do likewise.

Rusty

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Satan is a good marketer, a lot like fast food

The other day I Stumbled Upon a site (here), which does a side by side comparison of popular fast food advertisements with a picture of the actual food item.  I’ve included a few of my favorites.

The whole thing caused me to reflect on the similarities between this, and Satan’s advertising tactics.  He’s quite adept at making sin look exquisite, delicious, and wonderful.  In appearance, it’s “all that you’d want”.  But then you find out that it’s not nearly what you’d expected, and it certainly wasn’t worth it.  His “advertising” creates an illusion of value and appeal, but is of no substance or worth.

Just as we must become smart consumers, and look beyond the advertising hype, as decisions in life come our way, we have to force ourselves to look beyond the advertising.

Rusty

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Radiating the glory of the Son

Rusty

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President Thomas S. Monson – his personal touch

President Thomas S. Monson, Mormon ProphetLast night, in the General Priesthood Session for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Conference), President Thomas S. Monson gave the concluding address – in my memory, his best.

His talk was powerful, with a strong thread of personality elegantly woven throughout as he communicated those things that he felt mattered most for Mormon Priesthood holders to hear.

President Monson always has had an incredible knack for using stories from his life, and humor to bring life to his sermons – it’s an attribute for which he’s become so loved, and for which I think he’ll be so well known as a Prophet.

In his Priesthood address, he told a story of sitting up on the stand, some time ago, in a Sacrament meeting somewhere.  He said that as he sat there, he noticed a little boy in the audience, who was sitting exactly the way he was sitting.

He said that s he’d cross his legs, the boy would cross his legs too.  When he switched legs, the boy would imitate his very position.

He then said that he tried putting his chin in his hand (which he reenacted tonight) and true to form, the boy did the same.  Then, right before he was about to get up to address the congregation, he said he thought he’d really put the boy to the test.  So he looked the boy squarely in the eyes, so he knew he was focused only on him, and wiggled his ears! (As he said this, he paused, and with amazing dexterity, wiggled his ears).  Of course, we all laughed, and heartily.

Once we’d stopped laughing, he commented “My wife told me not to do that”.  We all laughed again.

He then continued, saying that at this point, the boy looked dumbfounded, turned and got his fathers attention, whispered something in his ear, then pointed to his own ears, and pointed back to President Monson.  He said that when the father looked up at him, he just looked back, completely solemn faced, as if nothing had happened.

Listening, and watching him reenact this in front of the largest Priesthood assembly ever in the history of the world, was simply inspiring.  The message of course was there, which he elaborated on after the story, but it was wonderfully accented by humor and personality.

Every prophet leaves behind their own legacy.  I think the legacy we’ll find from President Monson is that of his profoundly personal touch.  A wonderful trait for a prophet of God.

Rusty

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What do Mormons believe – part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

7th Article of Faith

These gifts of the spirit enriched the saints in times past and continue to do so today.  In the same way that we believe in living prophets, we believe that God works among men today just as he did in times past, that he is unchanged, the same yesterday, today, and forever, and as such these gifts which were enjoyed in biblical times can be enjoyed today as well.

These important gifts of the spirit, like other gifts from our Father, are given for a purpose, for the edification of man.

Among these, and more unique to Mormon doctrine, is the notion of continued revelation (a discussion of which you can find here and here, in discussing the two prior articles of faith). 

I can think of few other principles that are more endearing to my heart than the simple notion that there is a kind and loving, eternal Father in Heaven who will speak directly to me, as his son, at times when I am in need, as I so often am.

Mathew (7:8-11) recorded these beautiful words…  “What man is there of you whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?”  But rather “…ask and it shall be given you”.

We find the same refreshing doctrine taught in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally”.

The promise of personal revelation is vital to our lives as we struggle to discern between truth and error, between right and wrong.  How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in these decisions, that divine guidance can be mine… given directly to me.  How often I fear we take for granted the simple phrase “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you”.

I’m convinced that the more we involve God in our personal lives, the more rich our lives will be, and the more abundant shall the spirit (and its gifts) be with us.

On a grander scale, how urgent and important ongoing revelation is to the Christ’s church on earth.  He has said “Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).  Left to our own carnal devices, man is constantly in error.  Entropy of truth is unavoidable without the staying hand of ongoing revelation to those who are in authority, such as prophets, apostles, etc.

Christ taught his disciples that “upon this rock will I build my church”, speaking of revelation (Matthew 16:16-18), and such it is so, the same in times of old as it is today.

Therefore how important it is that we give strict heed to the counsel of the prophet, seeking in all things to confirm that which is right through our own personal revelation.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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There must be opposition in all things.

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/there-must-be-opposition-in-all-things