Monday, December 20, 2010

Psalms? Really?!?

I've never been a big fan of psalms. The lyrics I've read there have never really spoken to me, so as a general rule I study our hymns--which I love--instead of the book of Psalms. However, this month, I found a psalm that touched me. And it did it in a major way. So while this is a little personal, I post it here because even now two weeks after I first wrote this, I feel immersed in peace when I read back over these words.

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" (Ps. 55:22).

Cast. Defintions (from New Oxford American Dictionary):
  1. "throw (something) forcefully in a specified direction." I like the term "forcefully." It's not enough to simply set my burden down. Nor is it something that should be placed gently on a shelf, easily within reach should I want it again.
  2. "discard." I like this definition because it implies that which is being cast is worthless, or at least that its value less than the effort of hauling it with me constantly. Thus, when I discard it, I will be happier.
  3. "shed (skin or horns) in the process of growth : the antlers are cast each year." While all of these definitions are accurate, this last one is the most revelatory. I am in a "process of growth." I repent to become, not to restore. Thus, by shedding my burden I am becoming a new man in Christ.
thy burden. I find it interesting that this is singular. To me, this is significant for either of two reasons. First, I can only focus on one issue at a time. While I am a complex, 4D character, my attention can only handle one item at a time. Hence, when I am tempted, I have to consciously redirect my focus to my Savior. Focusing on the temptation/burden, or even focusing on avoiding the temptation, is just that, a focus on the temptation. Rather, by focusing on my Savior, he occupies the whole of my thoughts. To be sure, Satan tries to distract me, even in midst of my scripture study, but if I refuse to be distracted, there is little that he can do. This also highlights why writing is an effective and necessary part of my scripture study: it automatically forces me to focus, to process my thoughts in a linear format.

Second, the Lord doesn't want to accept little bits of me, one at a time. He wants all of me. And He is willing to and capable of taking all of my negative qualities at once; that is, he can accept me and love me now, as seriously flawed as I am. Then, together, we can address and remove all of my rough edges.

upon the Lord. Not to the Lord. This burden is big. It makes me stoop to carry it. It deforms my walk and will cripple my body. My burden made "even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (D&C 19:18). But because He already suffered it, He can take it from me. He can heal me, and I don't have to worry about the hurt it will cause Him.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).

thy burden vs. ye that labour and are heavy laden. Burdened and heavy laden are roughly equivalent, but the Matthew scripture has the additional qualification of "ye that labour." And I don't think this verse just refers the work of carrying my burden. The Lord wants me to be accomplishing something. And it's in the process of achieving a separate goal that I become aware of my own limitations. The injunction to labor, then, is a catalyst to self-awareness.

he shall sustain thee vs. I will give you rest. These appear to be two separate promises. Does someone at rest need to be sustained? In the following Matthew verses, the Lord continues by saying "Take my yoke upon you...and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The rest He promises me isn't a removal of all burdens, which is how I would define a rest, but a trading of my burden for His. He is concerned for the salvation of all people around me. I am concerned with a much smaller circle - mostly me, but also my family and to a lesser degree extended family and friends. And yet, in connection with taking His yoke, the Lord renews the promise of rest. But this rest is for my soul. My soul. My soul. When I become concerned for others, I won't worry about myself so much and I will be at peace.

So He's offering me a deal. I can take the time and energy and worry I devote to my burden and instead devote that same time and energy and worry to Him. And in this process, He promises me that the guilt I feel now will be replaced with peace.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


MK taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson this past Sunday. To impress upon the class just how impressive Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was, she called four volunteers up to the front of the room.

Volunteer 1 had to tell us his dream from last night.
Volunteer 2 had to interpret the dream.
Volunteer 3 also had a dream, but wasn't allowed to tell us what happened.
Volunteer 4 had to tell us both 3's dream and the interpretation.

If 4 was wrong, the entire class was going to be executed. Thankfully, 3 confirmed that 4 was spot on. Well last night, I had my own dream that I'm sure is prophetic and since Lee and Sherrie played starring roles, I thought I'd share here:

Ryan's dream: Sherrie was pregnant (again) and due in December. However, she had a conflict, needing to leave town the day before the delivery. So she went in two days early and the doctors pulled the baby out, water sac and all and kept it at the hospital until the delivery day. On the scheduled day, Lee went to the hospital for the delivery, and I went with him, just so he wouldn't be alone. The doctors made us sit in the waiting room for a long time and I fell asleep. When I awoke, Lee was just coming back out, looking exhausted and ashen. Turns out, y'all had twins. Sherrie had found out 2 days ago, but didn't want to ruin the surprise. The babies were being kept in NICU for a while, so Lee told me, "Let's go get something to eat." We walked across the harbor (there was no parking lot) which the hospital shared with Wal*Mart to get McDonald's.

MK's interpretation: The Andersons need to move to Santa Barbara.

Please add your own explanation in the comments.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Obedience Is the Highest Expression of Freedom

In studying on the topic of agency, I came across the following excerpt in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
Obedience expands agency, and the alternative to obedience is bondage.
Thus, in the LDS concept of agency, obedience and agency are not antithetical. On the one hand, Church leaders consistently stand against all coercion of conscience ("We are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive anyone of exercising…free independence of mind" [TPJS, p. 49]) and counsel Church members to depend first of all on themselves for decisions about the application of gospel principles. On the other hand, obedience-willing and energetic submission to the will of God even at personal sacrifice-is a central gospel tenet. Far from contradicting freedom, obedience is its highest expression. (emphasis added)
According to this quote, obedience and captivity are opposites; this seems odd, since both are basically the submission of our will to another being (one Christ and the other Satan).  However, as Nephi describes it,  captivity or bondage is the opposite of obedience.  In 2 Nephi 2:27, it's rather clear that we have two choices:
  1. "Liberty and eternal life, through [Jesus Christ]" - in other words, obedience to the laws and ordinances of Christ's gospel-, or
  2. "captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil"
My wife made the connection of this concept (the dichotomy of obedience and bondage) and the numerous times in the scriptures that the followers of Christ are exhorted to remember the captivity of their fathers. For instance, I'm currently reading in Mosiah 27. There an angel stops the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger from pursuing their destruction of the Church. He tells them in v.16,
Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.
The angel even goes as far as to tell these rebels that they will do as they are commanded ("seek to destroy the church no more") even if they would of their own choice be subject to the bonds of Satan, just as long as they didn't bring the church down with them, emphasizing their freedom to choose.  

Remembering both the physical and spiritual captivity of our fathers should allow us to better comprehend our agency.  We should be aware of the incapacity (lack of freedom) that existed while our fathers were in bondage, and that only through obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ are we free to become like our Redeemer is.  There is no such thing as "free to do whatever I want to do, with no restrictions or consequences"; even though today that is what is given as the most common definition of freedom.  Obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the highest expression of our personal freedom.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Obtaining His Word

Being a fifth Sunday today, we had a combined meeting.  The topic was missionary work and in the end we were given some challenges to complete by the end of the year.  The focus of the challenges and the lesson was on our own preparation prior to sharing the gospel, or rather, to quote scripture, "to obtain [the] word" (D&C 11:21).  There was a brief discussion about pitfalls in our personal scripture study and how to overcome them.  There were two comments that I really liked and wanted to share.  Interestingly enough, the first came from the previous seminary teacher and the second came from her replacement.

The first sister talked about our desire to read and that really that's what we need to pray for instead of help finding time.  We read John 7:17 about "doing" and the teacher mentioned that our desire is increased by the actual act of reading.  This is so true for me.  A lot of the times I read only because I'm supposed to and really I don't want to because I only have a little bit of time before the kids wake up and I really need to do this or that.  But I often find that as I read, I really get into it and can get lost in my study, forgetting all the other stuff that I had wanted to do.  My desire to keep reading is increased while I'm in the act of doing it.

What hit me the most was the next comment.  He told us that with his new calling to teach the youth, he feels an obligation to study and prepare and somehow manages to find 3 or 4 hours a day to read the scriptures.  He expressed his sadness that it used to be difficult to find 15 or 20 minutes because he didn't feel that same obligation to the Lord.  It is so true.  The times I really get in a good study are when I have some sort of obligation such as to teach a lesson or give a talk.  I think the original intent of this blog was to help us have more motivation to get in a good study and have an obligation to regularly share our insights.  Clearly this objective has not been met.  I hope to have a renewed obligation to the Lord to "obtain [His] word." That doesn't mean I'll write daily on this blog, but hopefully it will lead to an increased desire to share the things I have learned, whether by way of this blog or in some other form.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The "Principles" (not steps) of Repentance

Today's lesson at church was on repentance.  Fortunately I remembered to read the lesson a few days in advance, and was very glad I did.  I'm not sure what all has changed in the new Gospel Principles manual we use, but I'm getting a lot more out of it now than I remember getting when I've been through the older version.

The section that caught my attention was the one entitled, Principles of Repentance.  It listed the normal five steps we are familiar with

  1. Recognize Sin
  2. Feel Remorse (not regret)
  3. Forsake Sin
  4. Confess Sin
  5. Restitution
Two more principles were added that aren't always discussed in lessons on repentance: forgive others and keep the commandments.  The manual states, "We are not fully repentant if we do not pay tithes or keep the Sabbath Day holy or obey the Word of Wisdom.  We are not repentant if we do not sustain [church authorities, love God and fellowman, pray, or are unkind].  When we repent, our life changes."  I had never thought of repentance in this light.  I knew that it's something we always need to do, since we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, but never realized that paying tithes or obeying the Word of Wisdom actually helps me repent of completely "unrelated" sins.

The kicker came with the question that ended that section, "How do the teachings in this section differ from the false idea that repentance is the performance of a list of simple steps or routine actions?" (emphasis added).  So the "list" of steps to repent is an erroneous teaching.  We should think of these actions as principles by which we should live every day of our life, rather than a to-do list every time we realize we do something wrong.  The lesson mentions that it is possible to sin in ignorance, but by striving to keep all of God's commandments we can show the Lord that we are truly repentant.

Any other thoughts regarding this notion of a "false idea that repentance is the performance of a list of simple steps or routine actions?"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lucifer's Plan of Salvation

I realize that there are some things we are not meant to understand, and perhaps just such a topic is Satan’s plan. Maybe we don’t have more details because we still have much to learn about God’s plan. The only reason I can give for seeking a deeper understanding of Satan’s plan is simply to give greater insight into the only plan that really matters. Hopefully the following thoughts can help accomplish this goal.

It is often taught and assumed in the church that Lucifer’s proposed plan in the pre-existence to take away our agency meant that he would force us to do what’s right so we could all make it back to heaven. Before we examine the scriptures, think for a moment of Lucifer’s character as we know it today. Is it within his character to want all men to do and be good? I think not. Why then would that be what he proposed in the pre-earth life? Frankly, it doesn’t make sense. Our purpose here is to show that perhaps there is another way in which Satan could have taken away our agency without forcing us to do good.

Moses 4:1-2
"Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me— Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever."
President John Taylor
"From these remarks made by the well beloved Son, we should naturally infer that in the discussion of this subject the Father had made known His will and developed His plan and design pertaining to these matters, and all that His well beloved Son wanted to do was to carry out the will of His Father, as it would appear had been before expressed."

So the Plan was known before Lucifer and Christ presented themselves; and it would appear that perhaps the greatest danger in Satan’s plan was that it was not the way God wanted it.  It was contrary to His will. The obvious difference was that Satan wanted to be the one to do it in place of Christ who had already been chosen.  What is not so clearly stated is an implied distinction between the two plans: that Satan’s would save everyone and God’s would not.  Since this is not clearly explained, we can assume that this is not the emphasis in the passage, but rather on the person who would carry out the actual atonement and the one who would receive the glory and honor.

As a result of his plan, Satan was cast out for the following three reasons, somehow inherent in his plan, but not explained in detail:

Moses 4:3-4
"Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice."

Of these three reasons, we only see two explained in the previous verses. Satan rebelled against God by proposing a plan contrary to God’s will and he sought God’s power and honor. We are left to question how exactly Satan's plan would "destroy the agency of man." This is where we make many assumptions based on perhaps a faulty or too simplistic idea of agency.  2 Nephi 2 discusses agency in great detail explaining that in order to have a choice, there must be something to choose between--opposites such as right and wrong.  For true agency, a law must exist in order to determine which choice is right and which is wrong.   If the law is to have any meaning, there must be consequences--good and bad or else there is no purpose to the law or the choice.   For Satan to destroy our agency, all he would need to do is take away any one of these components: choice, opposites, law, or consequences. Why do we automatically assume that he sought to take away our choice?

In the above verse we see that Lucifer became "the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men." Wouldn’t it make sense if his plan tried to deceive us in some way?  It makes sense that his plan could have been that there would be no law and thus no way to sin. This would mean no punishment; very enticing if agency is not understood. Those who were deceived did not understand that there must be opposites, as Lehi explains in 2 Nephi, and that righteousness would not exist either and therefore eternal glory could not be attained by Satan's plan (so his claim that not one soul would be lost was actually incomplete since not one soul would be saved either). This makes his motives completely selfish because no one would be happy, but he would be in power. This sounds like the Satan we know about today. Not one that wanted to compel everyone to do good.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"When the Eternal Father announced his plan of salvation...there was a war in heaven. Lucifer sought to dethrone God,...and to save all men without reference to their works He sought to deny men their agency so they could not sin. He offered a mortal life of carnality and sensuality, of evil and crime and murder following which all men would be saved. His offer was a philosophical impossibility. There must needs be an opposition in all things. Unless there are opposites, there is nothing.

"Lucifer and his lieutenants preached...a gospel of fear and hate and lasciviousness and compulsion. They sought salvation without keeping the commandments, without overcoming the world, without choosing between opposites." - Millenial Messiah, p. 666

So it basically sounds like Lucifer's plan could have been to make it so that there was no law from which to be punished, not necessarily that we would be forced to do right. Christ is the author of righteousness because he championed righteousness in the premortal existence; Satan is the author of sin, not because he was the first to sin, but because he championed sin in the pre-existence (from a quote by Robert J. Matthews). Satan promoted sin even in the pre-existence. This rings true with his character today. Just as we will be the same type of person when we cross to the other side of the veil, I don't think that Satan once wanted us to do good and then, when cast out, wanted to do evil. He was evil in the pre-existence (along with 1/3 of everyone up there) and led the rebellion that got himself and that third cast out.

It would appear from the scripture in Moses clear at the top of this post, that Satan’s overall goal was to take over God’s place. In essence, he wanted God to cease to be God.

2 Nephi 2:13
"And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God..."

Very clever of him, I must say. I wonder what would have happened had he been able to convince more of us?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Natural Consequences or Punishments?

Simultaneously to Sherrie's musing on blessings, I've been pondering punishments: is God heaping extra penalties on us when we sin, beyond the natural consequences? My answer is no. Unequivocally. God blesses to the max; punishes to the min.

Also, I'm posting in the format I'm using to Learn from the new Duty to God program. I like to personalize the scripture I'm studying by putting it in the first person. Then I pick out phrases that help me feel the Spirit and write about them. This has transformed my scripture study over the last week.
Helaman 3:29-30
We see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.
Personalized. I may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil that I’m caught in, and lead me in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf me if I'm wicked—and land my soul, yea, my immortal soul, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven…
quick. The word of God is living, meaning He will apply it to my personal life through the Holy Ghost. I do not have to rely on the words of dead men, or even other living men. I have my own reception.
the word of God…shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil. The purpose of God’s word is to pierce Satan’s lies and expose them for the falsehood they are. Part of His word is the commandments.
lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery. Indeed, God’s is the voice of experience, one who has safely navigated across the “everlasting gulf of misery.” As an analogy, I think of Taran using Adaon's brooch to lead his companions across the Marshes of Morva while the Huntsmen fell into the swamps and were drowned.
that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked. God did not create the gulf. It is not everlasting because it is His creation. It is everlasting because it is always ready to engulf men of any age who behave in a certain way (i.e., wickedly).
whosoever will their the right hand of God. My eternal destination is up to me. This is a paradox: it's up to me, but Christ accomplishes it. Without Christ, my eternal destination would be fixed; I could never return to my Heavenly Father. But because of Christ, I have a choice.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Natural Consequences or Blessings?

Being the Preparedness Specialist in my ward has helped me ponder spiritual matters from a different perspective lately.   A major focus of my calling is on food storage, an obviously temporal matter.  When I received this calling, I was blessed that it would help increase my testimony of the Savior, which thing I had recently been praying for.  Seeing as how the Lord seemingly answered my prayer, I have sought to discover just how food storage could accomplish my spiritual goal.  It is a long journey, to be sure, but in the process, I have come to look at blessings from the Lord in a new light.

Imagine that you have done your duty and responded to the counsel of the Prophets by storing food when a disaster hits.  The natural consequence of your actions is that you will have food to eat and your life will be sustained or prolonged.  Those who did not listen will unfortunately find themselves unprepared and thus will not be able to survive.  These are simply natural and logical consequences.  If you have food to eat, you will live.  If you don't have food, you will die.

This is often compared to Noah's ark.  Only his family listened and were prepared for the massive flood that took place.  Those who did not hearken to the prophet and prepare for the disaster were lost.  Once again, preparation literally led to life and being unprepared led to death.

Noah's ark is often compared to our salvation.  The Lord gives commandments to us through our prophets and if we obey, we are saved; we receive life.  If we do not, we are lost.  Sometimes this can be seen as harsh and many question how a loving God could deliver such a cruel punishment.  Corianton, the son of Alma, was concerned about this very matter (Alma 42).  Yet Alma, in the previous chapter, has just finished explaining the doctrine of restoration, which could also be called "natural consequences."  Read it; it's a good one.

Then there are the multiple references to reaping what you sow, two of which are found in Gal. 6: 7-9 and D&C 6 :3-4, 33.

What is my point with all of this?  In all these examples it is clear to see that the results of our actions are natural consequences.  Just as storing food will result in life, keeping the commandments of God will naturally result in salvation (to put it briefly).  Or in other words, we will have the tools and the character that we need in order to be in the presence of a holy and perfect Being.

This can be carried out to explain all blessings since Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 tells us that any blessing we receive is because we have obeyed a particular law.  It makes perfect sense that if we obey the word of wisdom, we will be blessed with better health than had we not obeyed it.  God is bound when we do what He says simply because of the natural consequences resulting from our actions.  

There are certainly deeper points to ponder on this issue.  Why is it that the Pioneers seemed to suffer so much heartache and so many trials when they were being so faithful?  There is no easy answer, but the discussion could go into the fact that God is not bound in timing his blessings.  I also am aware that amidst all the suffering, the early Saints recognized many blessings in their lives in spite of (or maybe because of) their trials.  It has also been said that trials can be a form of blessings.  Another route we could go off on is the fact that things happen to us, good or bad, as a result of others actions and may have had nothing to do with our own actions.  Just some things to ponder.  

What do you think?  Are blessings merely natural consequences to our obedience?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


While leafing through this month's Ensign I stopped to check out the home teaching message.  For whatever reason I kind of rolled my eyes and kept leafing through the magazine.  Friends? what kind of gospel doctrine is about friends?  I then went and administered the sacrament to one of my home teaching families and felt the spirit very strong there.  On my drive home, not having any inspirational music or talks to listen to, I called my wife to have her read me this month's home teaching message

As she was reading it, thoughts came into my mind from our Priesthood lesson in church on Sunday discussing the importance of perfecting the saints.  One of the elders commented on the importance of insuring that each member has a friend, responsibility, and is "nourished by the good word of God" (Moroni 6:4).  I then realized how important friendship is (not that I had never seriously considered it before, but for whatever reason it's importance wasn't engraved in my mind).  Friends can make or break you.  Even the Lord taught the importance of us being his friends,
"13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
Having friends and being a friend is an extremely important part of this life's experience.  Our friends should be those that will bring us closer to God and are genuinely concerned for our spiritual and temporal welfare.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak (Alma 26:11-12)

I used to think of my nothingness as simply a power ratio: God has infinite power, I have none. Now, I also see it as a goodness ratio: God has infinite goodness, I have none (cf Mosiah 4:5). That’s not too say that I have no good in me, or that I’ve never done good things. Rather, He is the source of the good that I do. I’m like a transparent ghost in a long-exposure photograph, whereas God is opaque. He is always good. I am good temporarily, fleetingly. The times I sit still long enough to appear in the picture, I am simply mimicking the model He provides.

So why does this matter? Why is a goodness ratio different than a power ratio? For me, it connects the two: God is powerful because He is good. I have the same type of power He does: the ability to act, rather than just be acted upon (cf 2 Nephi 2:14). But the magnitude of His power is so much greater than mine because He constantly uses this power for good. I try, but I falter. This helps me see that I am like Him, we come from the same mold. Moreover, I can become like Him, not just in form, but in actual content.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prayer, King Benjamin, and Children

I don't know how well my thoughts will come out in writing because they're just kind of several little ideas floating around in my brain right now!

Background:  So I have been thinking about prayers a bit lately, connected to some new insights on Alma 37:36-37.  Then I've been reading King Benjamin's speech to his people in the beginning chapters of Mosiah (which is one of my favorite passages of scripture).  In chapter 4, he reiterates what he said previously about remembering our unworthiness and God's greatness.  He emphasizes the need to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  This connected to my thoughts on prayers in the sense that praying constantly is a way to recognize that dependence.  When we don't pray before doing something, it's like we are telling God that we don't need His help; we can do it on our own. 

This then lead me to thoughts about my children.

We are probably all familiar with the scripture Mosiah 3:19 that gives attributes of a child and the way we should be.  I don't know whose children that scripture is talking about, but it's sure not mine!  Submissive?  Patient? Ya right!  It seems like I'm always trying to teach them to be independent and how to do things, yet they just want me to do it for them.  They whine and say they can't do it and that they need help.  Then, in the moments when I'm in a hurry and it will be like 100 times faster for me to just do it myself (put shoes on, buckle seat belts, etc.), that is the time they suddenly decide to be independent!  "I can do it by myself!" 

How often are we like those little kids?  When Heavenly Father lets us try things on our own, we go whining to Him for help saying we can't do it!  Yet, times when He is ready and willing, we just walk away without asking for help in prayer and essentially tell Him "I can do it by myself!"  Praying constantly is admitting our complete dependence on Him.  That doesn't mean He will do everything for us, but just that He will be with us.  And why would we not want Him with us all the time?  Even in our sleep?  As King Benjamin reminds us, we could not even breathe from day to day if not for Him.  Let's not be the children born into the natural man, but rather the kind of child the Lord refers to in the scripture mentioned above.  Let's "always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily..."  What is the reward for this?  We will "always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins..."  There are even more beautiful promises, but I just wanted to emphasize the fact that we can always remain clean of our sins and God can always be with us, if only we don't refuse His help by calling on Him in constant prayer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What does the word "Mormon" mean?

I've heard the definition attributed to Joseph Smith that the word "Mormon" literally means "more good."  That's nice, but it probably doesn't mean much to people outside the church.  On my mission I would tell people that the name came from an ancient prophet who compiled the teachings and history of an ancient American people that knew about Christ, similar to what the Bible is.  But the fact that it was just some guys name also doesn't seem to be all that great. 

I read an article by Garth Norman and Alan Miner the other day on the site of the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum about the baptism at the Waters of Mormon.  I was familiar with a lot of what was written (where Alma got his authority, why he baptized himself at the same time he did Helam, etc.) but was intrigued by his analysis of the word Mormon.

In 3 Nephi 5:12 it says,
"And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression." 
Miner and Alan further explain,
"Today, we associate the name of the Book of Mormon as did the Nephites of old, with the restoring of the covenant among the people.  The name of the book is a type for its purpose: to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the remnant of the seed of Lehi.  Therefore the name, Book of Mormon, symbolically means the Book of the Restoration of the Covenants.  [Raymond C. Treat, "Covenants: Key to the Restoration of the House of Israel," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments , Vol. 2, pp. 52-53]"

"A study of the title page of the Book of Mormon tells us its main purpose is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the house of Israel.  This adds weight to the understanding that the name Mormon was always associated with the place of the restoration of the covenant to the Nephites.  In fact, the name Mormon may have become synonymous with the concept of the restoration of the covenants.  [David Lamb, "The Meaning of the Name Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments , Vol 2., p. 45]"
So, the next time someone asks you what the word "Mormon" means (or better yet, the next time you ask someone if they know what it means), I think this definition is the best one, IMHO.