Discussing foundational principles of… everything.

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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Picking the lock of salvation

For those of you who weren’t aware, last week was the national HOPE conference in New York.  No, this isn’t a self-help conference teaching us how to increase our capacity to hope (I wish it were).  Rather, it’s a gathering of some of the most talented and well-known hackers around the planet.  HOPE stands for “Hackers on Planet Earth”.

At every HOPE conference there’s a popular area called “Lockpicking Village” where they discuss all the latest lock picking techniques. 

Reflecting on the whole thing, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to those who somehow think they can “slide” into heaven, somehow opening the “doors” of heaven without actually going through the mandatory prerequisite steps. 

A lock is made of tumblers in a tube, each of which must be in the correct place before the lock will turn.  Inserting just the right key will put those tumblers in their required positions, but inserting any other key, or a partial key, will only place a few of the tumblers, if any, in the necessary position, and no matter how hard you twist, or how long you wait, the lock simply won’t turn and the door simply won’t open.

So many religions teach the doctrine that man needs to do little, if anything, for salvation.  In fact, often they teach that it’s as simple as accepting Christ, or being baptized.  But first, baptism must be done by one holding the proper authority, but even then, that is only one of the tumblers in the lock.  There is more we must do.  Baptism and faith alone are insufficient for our exaltation; they’re only part of the lock.  Religions that teach such doctrine, therefore cannot adequately equip you to enter into the kingdom of God. 

The proof is in scripture itself, for we will, as Revelation 20:12-15 states, be “judged… according to their works”.

While the sacrifice of our Savior put the gate on the barrier, making entrance possible, it does not make entrance sure.  The surety of our salvation can only be gained by approaching that day armed with the right key, the one that satisfies the demands of all the tumblers in the gate, baptism by authority being one of them.

While this doctrine is far from traditional, it is prevalently backed by scripture.  And while critics are quick to protest, it is not the burden of Mormonism to back this claim, but the burden of anyone believing contrary to come up with a suitable explanation for each of the scriptures which clearly state otherwise (and which I list in detail here – a post that has gone almost entirely unchallenged).

But the miracle of Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that through Joseph Smith, the great latter-day prophet, the gospel of Christ was restored to the earth in its fullness along with all the keys, authority, ordinances and covenants necessary for us to do all we must do to enter the kingdom of our Father.

I invite you to learn more about this prophet Joseph Smith (here), partake for yourself in the miracle of Mormonism, and experience the rich blessings that come from understanding and living the fullness of the gospel.

Rusty

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Two lessons from Michael Phelps

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/two-lessons-from-michael-phelps/

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

Having a hard time feeling the spirit?

As I mentioned here (How often do you feel the spirit?), the frequency with which we feel the spirit can be an accurate measure of our spiritual “status” and regular measurement can help give us an idea of our spiritual progression over time.

But sometimes recognizing the spirit can be difficult.  Many struggle to obtain even a single, clear encounter.  The good news is that there are indeed specific things we can do to introduce the spirit more fully into our lives.  What’s more, these things are helpful to not only begin feeling the spirit, but are applicable by all to increase the regularity with which they feel the Holy Ghost.

The following are what I consider the building blocks of leading a spirit-rich life:

  • Sincere, heartfelt prayer
  • Earnest and thorough scripture study
  • Fasting
  • Wholehearted church attendance
  • Righteous living
  • Service

There is a healthy list that extends far beyond this, in terms of activities that effectively bring the spirit into our lives, but these seem the most fundamental.

Yes, they’re simple.  They’re straightforward.  And in that, they’re deceiving.  The bible tells of an instance where the Israelites were being afflicted by poisonous serpents, and Moses crafted a brass serpent and put it on a pole, and told them that whoever looked upon the staff would be saved.  But many perished because of the simplicity of the task, for they expected something more.

When the mighty Naaman, general and commander of the army of Aram suffered from leprosy, he went to see the prophet Elisha, who told him to wash seven times in the river Jordan.  But Naaman, expecting something far more complicated, left in anger.  Later, changing his heart, he obeyed the prophet and was healed.

Often we find that such small endeavors create the foundation upon which even the most mighty things can be accomplished.   For by small and simple means are great things brought to pass (Alma 37:6). 

But they must be done with full purpose of heart, with real intent, and not just going through the motions.  For he that does so in the wrong spirit, shall not reap the same rewards.

But I believe, that if you kept a calendar, and on that calendar you made a mark for every instance in which you did one of these simple things, with real intent, that over time, you’d find this number directly proportional to how often you felt the spirit that month.  And that over time, you’d look back an see that the months you invested the most effort, were the months you reaped the greatest reward – not just in the prevalence of the spirit in your life, but in other aspects of your life as well.

But I challenge you to put my words to the test.  Keep a calendar for yourself and see if you can’t prove me wrong.  See for yourself, the great good that is brought to your life, by true devotion to these most basic and foundational actions.  And may you find as much enrichment from them as I do.

Rusty

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What do Mormons really believe, part 3

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, 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 that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

3rd Article of Faith

Surely one of the most beautiful of beliefs and refreshing of realizations is the reality of the Atonement.  The third Article of Faith is meant to address the efficacy of the Atonement, and the profound role it plays in our lives.

We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved…  ALL mankind!  What more encouraging words could you possibly encounter?

That tells me that no matter where I am in life, no matter how far astray I may have gone, no matter what I’ve done, the atonement of Christ can save me from my sins.

How often Satan – ever our adversary – seeks to engulf us in the belief that we’ve gone too far, or done too much.  Enveloped with despair he tries to overwhelm us with our past, and blind us to the hope to which we are entitled because of the atonement.  But such is not the case.  Hope is ever ours to have.

Through the crucifixion of Christ and his unimaginable suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took upon himself the sins of the world, the sins of you and me.   All this that we might not have to pay the price for those sins – for indeed a price there must be, for mercy cannot rob justice.

But herein enters an important principle, the second part of this article of faith.  While the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for all mankind to be resurrected, a free gift with no prerequisite price to pay from us, the atonement of Christ is ours to have also, but is conditional.

For us to benefit from the Atonement, for us to “be saved”, we must first acknowledge and accept the Savior and His sacrifice.  He has cast us the lifeline, but we must exert ourselves to grab hold.  Said so simply, it sounds easy, but it requires genuine humility, which proves ever difficult for all.

And it doesn’t stop there… a portion of this principle that creates an unmistakable and compelling distinction between Mormonism and most other Christian beliefs.  The notion that after we have accepted Christ, and been baptized in His name, we must continue in the faith, abounding in good works, keeping the commandments of God, and continually repenting along the way.

But a life so led, where one struggles to stay on the path as he is frequently beset by the inevitable mistakes of mortality, is one that is acceptable in the eyes of God, and is one that leads to salvation.  We must first grab hold, and then endure to the end.

Rusty

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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

Faith Fitness – day 2 (Optimism)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

Thanks for joining me again.  I hope that your finding yourself invigorated by your newfound appreciation for your divine worth.  You are magnificent, and incomprehensibly capable of achieving anything.

Now you’re ready to move on to step two – building up just a little more momentum.  The second exercise in building your capacity to believe and exercise faith is all about optimism.

First, let’s discuss the principle upon which this exercise is based.

Faith and pessimism are antithetical.  You cannot simultaneously be pessimistic and faithful.  The perniciousness of pessimism cripples your ability to hope (a crucial component for active faith), and fills you with a spirit of negativity.

Many people believe that the optimistic can be too much so, forcing them to be unrealistic.  But we need to watch ourselves, for faith is not based on reality, but our hope for things which are not seen.

When Peter sought to walk on water, as long as his eyes focused on Christ he maintained his belief that what he was doing was possible.  But when he cast his eyes toward the waves and the depth of the ocean beneath him – what he saw was reality.  What we perceive as reality blinds us to what CAN be.  And because reality told him that standing on water was not possible, pessimism and doubt shattered his foothold of faith, and he started sinking.

But optimism forces us to look beyond “reality”, and not in an ignorant, self-disillusioned manner.  While our physical eyes are trained to see “reality”, or what things ARE, optimism is the lens that lets us see what CAN be.

With optimism we see the bright side of things; we see the good in all that surrounds.  I testify that as you begin to perfect the practice of optimistic living, your world will become brighter.  You’ll be lifted up to the view of a vista that is abounding in opportunity, flush with goodness, dripping with wonder, and that perspective will change your life forever.

Optimism is empowering, for it lets you see the world as it could be.  And as the clarity of that vision begins to replace the dull reality that surrounds you, you’ll find yourself capable of believing that you can make a difference.  You’ll start to see the role you can play to connect the realm of reality to the wonder of what could be.

Now, armed with the testimony of who you truly are, and looking through the lens of opportunity, you’ll be prepared to move to the next step… HOPE.  The brilliant and empowering, propelling principle of hope.

So today’s exercise, is to be optimistic.  Focus your mind on forcing out the negative cloud of pessimism, look at the world not at what it is, but what it could be.  See the silver lining.  Enjoy the wonder and glory of a much brighter world.

Rusty

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The underestimated power of faith

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/the-underestimated-power-of-faith

The clensing gift of repentance (ctrl-z, UNDO!)

As an addendum toWhat do Mormons really believe, Part 4

Spending as much time on the computer as we do, there’s a command that we often take for granted.  The wonderful, marvelous, brilliant “ctrl-z” key combo!

I don’t know who originally thought this up, but bless them.

There you are, working away, and suddenly you realize that you’ve made a mistake.  All you have to do is hold down the control key, and hit “z” at the same time, and beautifully, your error disappears as though it never existed, and you can pick up where you last left off, or start from scratch.

A wise and loving Father in Heaven realized that as we progress through life, occasionally we’d make such mistakes.  Some might be inadvertent while others more intentional.  Therefore he gave us the marvelous mechanism of repentance – a process whereby our mistakes in life might be wiped clean from the book of life, allowing us to start over, on a clean slate.

What refreshing doctrine.

This forgiveness is made possible through the everlasting atonement of Christ, who in the Garden of Gethsemane took upon himself the sins of the world, thereby making it possible for us to repent, and invoke the efficacy of his sacrifice.  He paid the price of justice, that we might know mercy.

But how careful we must be to not take repentance flippantly, for an attitude of “sin now, repent later”, is offensive to God.  This is not a “get out of jail free” card that we can just play at will.  Repentance isn’t instantaneous, nor free.

To fully repent, we must confess and forsake of our sins.  Seek restitution from those we have wronged, and promise not to do it again.  That process can be difficult, but it is sure.  And when complete, our sins are forgiven, we are washed clean through blood of our Savior, and made whole – again worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  It’s an incomparable feeling of relief, as though a huge burden has been lifted from your shoulders.  It freshens your vision, fills you with enthusiasm, energizes your soul, and spurs you to do better, and be more.

Every one of us can be free from the shackles of the sins by which we are beset, freed from the burdens that weigh us down and hamper our enjoyment of life.

May each one of us find the strength to repent of our sins, and make that enriching process a never-ending aspect of our daily lives.

Rusty

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Faith fitness – day 1 (Testimony)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

Fantastic.  You’ve all joined me again.  That must mean you’re ready to improve the fitness of your faith and increase your capacity to believe.

From now on, let us refer to ourselves as FAITH CADETS.  Oh, okay, so that’s a bit much…

Still, I want to emphasize the importance of becoming lifelong students of faith.  Faith is a foundational principle.  Our ability to understand, accept, and live accountably for the deeper principles of exaltation is directly proportional to the soundness of our faith.

Like a muscle, your faith will either grow, or atrophy depending on how much you exercise it.  When our faith falls into disuse, it too grows weaker.  That’s the unavoidable law of entropy.  Those of the strongest faith are those who use it regularly, those who make it a part of their daily lives, and not just some vague principle taught in Sunday school.   

It is up to us to take faith from principle… to practice.

Before we begin today’s exercise, we need understand an important part of faith – that faith is founded upon testimony of truth.  Faith not founded on pure doctrine is merely self-disillusionment.

So what pure doctrine must we know to exercise faith?  I propose at LEAST the following.

1. Believe in God

In order for you to exercise faith, and believe in anything (to the point where you can actually affect change, simply through belief), you must first believe in God. 

I’m not talking about a flippant “yeah, I think God is real, and I accept it because it’s been told to me so many times”.  I’m talking about a pure and solid testimony that God lives.  You have to know that at the core of your being.  You have to have sought Him out and felt His love.  You need to accept unequivocally that HE IS REAL.

This is the first and foremost step in building your capacity to believe.  No other step can be achieved successfully without this.  Even if your personal relationship with him is still young and underdeveloped, that’s okay; it will grow as you complete these exercises.

2. Believe that you are a child of God

As a child of God, He loves you.  He is interested in your success, he is omnicaring as much as he is omniscient and omnipotent, and He is anxious to help you.

It means you are of royal birth… divinity is your heritage.  It’s your nature.  You are of infinite worth.  Once you realize that you are an actual son or daughter of God, your whole bodies shall be filled with a natural self-confidence, and you’ll have a sure acceptance that you can do or be anything.  For with God, nothing is impossible.  So too with you, in partnership with Him as your Father, is nothing impossible.

You have to believe that with His help, you are capable of works far beyond that of your native capacity.

3. Perspective on weakness

For you to exercise faith fully, you must understand your own limitations, and their perspective.  Our weaknesses are not some symbolic representation of our own ineptitude.  They’re gifts from God.  God said “I give unto men weakness that they might learn to know me”.  We’ve each been given our own set of “building blocks“, and it’s up to use to learn to use (and overcome) what we’ve been given.

But we should not fall victim to the belief that we are failures, just because we have weaknesses.  We have to abandon our self-imposed limitations, those beliefs we harbor against ourselves that obstruct our progress in life. 

This perspective is crucial feeling the full effects of the testimony of God, and our relationship to Him.

As these basic beliefs become indelibly imprinted in the foundation of your soul, they will begin to pervade your subconsciousness.  Hope will flow through you and optimism will envelope you.  Faith will naturally follow.

Today’s exercise…. Make sure you have a testimony of these three core things.  A solid testimony.  And don’t forget to stretch.  For afterall, can any of us really say that we cannot better understand our relationship with god?  We must stretch ourselves, push your capacity, and build this foundation.

That will prepare you for tomorrow.

Rusty

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