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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Elders Quorum Pre-Lesson: Faith and Repentance 3/9/14

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith
Chapter 5: Faith and Repentance

This week's Elder's Quorum lesson is on faith and repentance. I appreciate this lesson because faith and repentance are two things we can all benefit from understanding better.

I want to preface my comments by saying that repentance is more complicated than it looks. Sure, it's easy to say, "stop that!" But it's not always easy to "stop that." Anyone who's ever truly repented of serious sin knows it's not easy. Repentance involves tough emotions, faith, hope, willingness, vulnerability, humility, and a number of other "things", for lack of a more creative word. So, as you read, examine your own emotions, faith, hope, and willingness.


I love that we are studying faith and repentance together for this lesson. Why? Because faith gives us reason to repent. Paul of Tarsus truly stated, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1Corinthians 15:19) Look at all the commandments we have in the church: Don't drink, don't smoke, don't drink coffee, keep the Law of Chastity. If we didn't have faith, then what reason would we have to do any of these things. Heck, we'd be missing out on the party!

But the truth is, we have reason to keep God's commandments. We have faith that if we keep God's commandments we will be blessed in this life, as well as the next.

Faith 2.0

Faith isn't only about being blessed for our efforts. Faith is also about having trust in the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Christ's power isn't only the power to forgive, it is the power to teach, and heal us. We learn from Alma 7 11:13:

1. He suffered pains, afflictions, and temptations so that he could understand us in our trials, and afflictions.
2, He takes our punishment upon himself that we don't have to do it ourselves. (See also D&C 19:16-17)
3. He took upon himself death so that he could loose the bands of death
4. He took upon him our infirmities so that he could have mercy, and know how to succor us according to the flesh
5. He took upon him our sins so that he could blot them out, and deliver us.

So, if we turn to Christ and rely on him, trust on him, and put our faith in him then he will help us in our efforts to repent. And if we have faith in Christ then we must also be thankful, and this piece is requisite to faith. Being thankful means that we appreciate his hand in our repentance, appreciate his willingness to forgive us our sins, and recognize his power to change our hearts. (Read D&C 59:21)


The Dictionary.com entry for repentance reads:

1. deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like.
2. regret for any past action.

Sometimes repentance, thanks to those complicated emotions mentioned earlier, can have a bad connotation. If you have need of repentance then you've sinned, if you've sinned then maybe you're not as good a person as you pretend to be, and have to fix yourself. So the call to repentance becomes an insult of sorts, because the sinner is a bad, and broken person. That is not a welcome feeling. If you doubt me, then look into your heart and think how you felt last you were called to repentance.

When I was younger I used to feel this way. I also had some serious iniquities to repent of, and didn't know how to repent of them. I would ask how to repent. The simple definitions just weren't enough. So, I prayed, and studied.

At first I asked, "What would Jesus do?", and God responded, "He wouldn't get himself into this situation!" That didn't help much at the time, but over the years I've thought on that answer as I've studied, pondered, and prayed. I've since created for myself a different definition of repentance that is simpler, less intimidating, more powerful, and wider in scope.

1. The act of becoming more like Christ
2. The lifelong pursuit of becoming a Christ like person

Ponder that for a moment...

I prefer this definition because it means that repentance isn't just a stop gap measure for when we screw up. Repentance is a way of life, a way of improving our selves all the time, every day. It means that we never stop repenting, we are never done, and we never give up. If we are always repenting, then we are always becoming men of Christ.

Repentance makes bad men good, good men better, and better men great. If we have an eye toward Christ, and the spirit of repentance always in our hearts then we will one day find that we are that man of Christ we've been striving to become. We will be as Captain Moroni, and shake the powers of hell forever (Alma 48:17)

Homework: (Ponder and pray)

Read: Teachings of Presidents of the Church Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 5.
Read: Ether 12:27 and ponder how you can apply this to repentance in your own life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pondering, a Lifetime Affair

In the October 1971 General Conference Bruce R. McConkie stated, “To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of the Kingdom, and to make them part of our lives. It is to pray with all the energy of our souls, to preach by the power of the spirit, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.” I love how he tells us to ponder in our hearts, and make them a part of our lives. This alludes to us not just to pondering for a little while, but to pondering for a life time. Pondering lasts our whole lives. When we ponder something, we are really interested in it, and we ponder that subject multiple times throughout our lives as the Spirit touches us, and as we learn, that knowledge enhances, and is enhanced by other knowledge.

Pondering is the key by which I understand most things, and come to many conclusions. My mind is often left unsatisfied with the typical answers to life’s most important questions, so I ponder them a lot. Questions like, “Why is it important for us to have the gospel?”, “How did God create the universe?”, and “How does one choose their favorite football team?” I am often alleviated at first with a spirit of comfort to know that God is in charge of these things, or of their level of importance in the scheme of things. Then it is usually some time later that I come back to the question, mostly because I’ve been introduced to new knowledge from the scientific community, or elsewhere. Then I study the new learning, and compare it to scripture, and pray for answers on how the two connect.

Friday, February 14, 2014

He's got your six

The oldest son of two of our cohort members was killed in combat yesterday (4/12/14) in Afghanistan. I didn't know their son but I'm being deeply affected by it because of BYU-I. The term "I've got your six" is a military term. Where 12 o'clock is straight ahead, 6 o'clock is directly behind you, so "I've got your six" is the military version of "I've got your back." We learned about this in our class 2 weeks ago when the soldier's father taught our lesson, and I asked him about his 6 pin, which he was wearing to support his son. No phrase has taken on more meaning for me than this phrase did tonight for me when our cohort stayed 20 minutes late discussing what we can do for them.

So, I wanted to incorporate this into my post. (Originally a post for school)

When God told Samuel to return to the Lamanites he knew it would be dangerous. However, God had his six. When Samuel was upon the wall "they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows." Hel 16:2

I think this is true for all of us when we do the Lord's will. I remember being in the MTC in 1999. One of our instructors was teaching us something in the Book of Mormon to teach to investigators. Just as I was going to sarcastically ask if she could just come with us to do our teaching, I heard, in my mind, "Why would you need her when you have me?" I immediately shut my mouth, and have since pondered that statement over and over. I'm starting to think that means that God has our back, in whatever way we need it. Whether to help us teach, or to protect us from harm, he's there for us. We just have to have the courage to do his will.

This doesn't mean that we will not come to harm, but if we do, we will have other blessings at his hand, and if we perish in his service, then he's got our six in the next life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Plan of Salvation

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith
Chapter 3: The Plan of Salvation

The lesson from the manual is good, and I would ask each of you to read it independently. You can find it online at LDS.Org
I won’t go over the whole lesson, but would like to provide some commentary, and give you some things to ponder.

The plan of salvation is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It gives us hope, purpose, and meaning.  Without the plan of salvation all would be for naught. There would be no more meaning to life than what we do with it now, and what we can do for our progeny.  There would be nothing for us to work for more than carnal security, and fulfillment.

As the plan of salvation is the foundation of the gospel, I would like you to take a moment to consider your own foundation? What are your motivations? What do you treasure most? What causes you the most disappointment? What are your goals? How much of a role does the gospel play in your life? Is your foundation in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, how can you realign it?

President Smith tells us. “The Gospel is the sole hope of the world.” This is a powerful statement, and I want you to all consider that we are the only church in the world with the true gospel, or in other words, we are the only ones who can provide the hope our world needs. Church membership takes up less than 0.2% of the world’s population, and active membership even less. That means that 99.8% of the world (or just about 7 billion people) does not have the gospel, does not have the truth, and does not have the hope provided by the plan of salvation. Take a moment to consider the enormity of missionary work ahead of us.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth them unto me – the fountain of all righteousness.” – Ether 12:27-28

We all have different lives. We are all different people, but each of us has at least one thing in common, each of us has weaknesses. However, the plan of salvation is such that we can overcome those weaknesses, and that is the beauty of the plan, of the atonement! It is because of the atonement that we can have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and can repent. Jesus doesn’t only provide the way to Eternal Life, he leads us along the way. He is the ultimate guide to life, and will help us when we fall, veer down the wrong path, or eat poisonous mushrooms. Remember, that Jesus loves us, each and every one of us, and has our best interests in mind. He is not here to lord over us, and subject us to his will. He is here to make us free, and wants to ease our journey. His yoke is light, so when we join our yoke to his, he will pull our load with us, easing our way.

In closing, I would ask each of you to take some time to ponder the atonement. Don’t ask the question, “How can I become perfect?” or “How can God make me perfect?” but ask, “How can I work WITH my Savior toward perfection?”