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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

EQ Lesson 4/27: Let's not take the wrong way

This week our Elder’s Quorum lesson covers Elder Claudio D. Zivic’s talk, “Let’s not take the wrong way.” I’ve split this talk into 5 sections, and will talk about each section individually.

Be Anxiously Engaged
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)

Elder Zivic opens up with a story about a child playing piano. It’s almost too bad he never comes back to this story, but he gives us something for which to think about before moving on to the next section.

Elder Zivic talks about a young boy who was taking piano lessons at this parent’s request. For some time, he ran from his lessons, and didn’t want to play piano. Then one day, he started participating. He started giving it his all. He had begun to love playing piano, and then he ran with it, practicing far more than was required of him. There are so many ways to apply this, and I am sure that we all have examples of this very same thing happening in our own lives. Since this is Elder’s Quorum I would like to focus on church/spiritual things.

Throughout our lives we all have to gain, and reaffirm our own testimonies. When we gain our own testimony a change comes over us. Our duties become more enriching, and we want to learn more about it. We want to “be anxiously engaged.” This is great! We need to be anxiously engaged, and learning about the Gospel every chance we get. However, this comes with a warning!

Tread carefully
“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.”(1 Ne 12:17)"

When we are anxiously engaged in the Gospel we have to be careful about what we study, learn, and the conclusions we come to. Yes, we can, and should have autonomy in our studies, but as in Elder Zivic’s story we need to be aware of the signs on the path. The signs aren’t always what we expect, we have to know what to look for. The trail to Delicate Arch from Elder Zivic’s story are a series of Cairns that hikers have placed to tell others they are taking the correct path. These cairns are small piles of rocks. They are obvious markers, but if somebody, like Elder Zivic doesn’t know to look for them, they will just wonder why somebody would make such a curious little rock tower. It is up to individual hikers to educate themselves about the cairns, and then to follow them.

Just as hikers on their way to Delicate Arch have cairns, we have signs to lead us. As with the cairns it is up to us to educate ourselves about the signs, and subsequently follow them. So, what are the spiritual cairns we should be following? Let’s start with Paul’s words: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)Joseph Smith also described the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as “pure intelligence.” (JS Quotes) Oliver Cowdery learned that the Spirit may “burn” in your bosom (but only after we’ve done our part in learning, and asked for confirmation in faith.) (D&C 9:8) Another spiritual cairn we should use is whether we are following in the footsteps of the prophets, and apostles. Are we following these spiritual markers as we learn, or are we wandering off into strange paths? If so, we had better find the path back as soon as possible.

When we are following the cairns set aside for us we find that we have spiritual nourishment along the way. We are fed, we are hydrated, and we are never lost. When we follow strange paths there is no guarantee. We may feel nourished at first, but the longer we go the hungrier we get, the less fulfilling our meals, and the more parched our spirits become. As Elder Zivic points out, Christ is the vine through which we get our nourishment, so it only makes sense that the closer we stay to him, the more nourished we are. This isn’t to say that we can’t study subjects not covered in the scriptures, or even controversial subjects, we just need to be careful that we don’t let those studies lead us from the truth, and nourishment Christ provides us.

Find your way back
If you aren’t on the right path, find your way back. Seek the help of your bishop, other members, and start praying for the Spirit’s guidance. When you’re on your way back you’ll start seeing those spiritual markers again. The Lord is merciful, and will lead you home; you just have to do the work.

Our time is now
We don’t know how much time we have on this Earth. You could keel over in the middle of this paragraph (please don’t), or you could live another 50 years. You don’t know when your time is up, so now is the time for you to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, follow the path of righteousness, find your way back, and be nourished by the good word of God. If you haven’t made that decision yet, then I encourage you to make that decision now. If you don’t know the “right way,” then ask you Father in Heaven, and he will show it to you.

Read/Listen to Elder Zivic’s talk “Let’s not take the wrong way.”
Evaluate the path you are on. What spiritual cairns can you look to for guidance?
Lift your head up and enjoy your weekend

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

EQ Lesson: Joseph Fielding Smith Manual Chapter 7

Since we just talked had a lesson about Joseph Smith, and the importance of having a testimony of Joseph Smith in December I wanted to take this lesson in a different direction. First, I would like to thank ClassicMormon Mom for her post on this same lesson, which provided me some direction.

Witnesses of Christ

Joseph Fielding Smith states, “Two themes stand out uppermost in my mind. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet called and appointed to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times.”

We can hardly speak of Joseph Smith without Speaking of Jesus Christ. When we speak of Joseph Smith we talk about his first vision, and the work he did to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the men of this generation. Joseph smith’s witness and testimony of the Risen Savior is the foundation upon which we stand. Without the first vision, Joseph Smith is just a boy from upstate New York. Maybe we would have known him for something else, but that isn’t what happened. Joseph Smith, a boy of 14 was visited by God the Father, and his son, Jesus Christ. Because of this event, this witness, and this testimony Joseph Smith restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in its fullness to the Earth.

That is the testimony this great work stands on.


Though I don’t know a lot about the relationship between Joseph and Hyrum, I know they were more than brothers. They were best friends, and brothers in Christ. They loved and supported each other, and trusted each other with their lives.  Joseph Smith had so much respect for his brother, he is quoted as saying, “I could pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of the lamb, and the integrity of a Job, and in short, the meekness and humility of Christ and I love him with that love that is stronger than death, for I never occasion to rebuke him, nor he me.” (JSF Manual, page 112)

In 1841, Hyrum was called to be Assistant President of the Church. In his ordination he was told, “That he may act in concert with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood,  and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery. That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C124:94-96) Working so closely in the Church Presidency together only strengthened their bond of brotherhood, which would continue to grow until they were both martyred in Carthage Jail.

                             Joseph and Hyrum Smith's Last Ride - Memorial in Nauvoo, Ill

Brothers in Christ

In February of 1999 Gordon B. Hinckley, in an address to the Salt Lake Tabernacle, declared that the first thing every convert needs is “a friend.” Look at your Quorums, your wards, your stakes, and the church as a whole. We have strength and a bond that goes beyond this life. The priesthood connects us. It strengthens our bond as sons of God. When we consider the Priesthood, we think of worthiness, honesty, and integrity. Though not all men who hold the Priesthood have these attributes, we know that their incidence is higher than in the rest of the world, and that most are working to overcome their shortcomings. So, through the Priesthood our trust is strengthen, and our love deepened because we know the manner of men which stand by us.

So, look to your quorums first. Who among your brethren stands in need of a friend? Is it a new convert? Is it a returning member? Is it a struggling member? Is it you? Don’t be afraid to approach start a friendship with that person in need, or if it’s you, search out a friendship. Sure, your bond may feel artificial at first, even forced, but over time your bond will deepen. If you continue in this friendship, your bond may even be as close as Joseph and Hyrum’s bond once was. Imagine the love and respect you are leaving behind by letting these opportunities pass you by. Imagine having somebody you can trust that much.

Strength in Companionship

Humans need interaction. Satan knows this, which is why he likes to get you alone. When we are alone we are at our weakest, and when we are weak, he can entice us with “goodies.” We may indulge in a goody, then another, and another. Each time we do we are being rewarded for being alone, and since we don’t get any goodies when we are not alone, we get the equivalent of a punishment until we ARE again alone. (Do you see the cycle here?) P.S. There is research to support this. All you have to do is Google any kind of addiction and the word loneliness to find it.

Sin causes man to seek darkness, and loneliness. It is in the empty darkness that they can hide their darkest deeds. That is why the Savior commands us to almost always have a companion. We have companions in parents and siblings as a child. We have companions when we go on missions. We have a companion when we Home Teach. We are commanded to marry, which adds an eternal companion. So then does is not make sense to add to your list of companions through friends, and brothers in the Gospel?  When God said of Adam, “it is not good that man should be alone,” (Gen 2:18) he wasn’t kidding. When we have a companion, one who will see that we are “nourished by the good word of God,” (Moroni 6:4) we will not be left alone to the darkness, to be dragged down by the wiles of Satan.

In closing

The lesson here is actually simple. 

1.       Seek to gain, or strengthen your testimony of the atonement, and the restoration of the gospel in these latter days.

2.       Seek out friends(s) whose testimony and resolve you can strengthen, OR seek out friend(s) who can strengthen your testimony and resolve.

3.       Strengthen that friendship(s), and support each other in Christ, not in sin.

Remember, when you make friends that the goal isn’t retention. We aren’t looking to bolster numbers. The goal is to grow in love for somebody so much that you want nothing more than for them to be saved, for the Gospel is about the pure love of Christ, not numbers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Post Conference: Follow Through

As conference comes to a close today I find myself reflecting on the things I've learned. Since I approached this Conference with questions, here are some answers:

Please accept my apology that I am horrible at quotes, so I won't be using many quotes in this post, just principles.

Why am I so much more excited for this conference than previous conferences?

I don't know exactly why I was more excited than previous years for this conference, but I know that it has been a spiritual conference. Maybe it's more a sign of where I am today, than anything else. I am truly grateful that I was able to watch this conference, and am grateful for all the testimonies born, and the principles taught.What I have to say covers very little of what we heard in conference.

How can I be a better husband?

There is a lot to be said on this one subject but three things stick out above all others.
1. Marriage is a FULL partnership (Elder Oaks)
2. Serve
3. Be in the present.

How can I be a better Elder's Quorum teacher?

Again, a lot of material but some good bullet points:
1. Seek not thine own glory
2. Learn of Christ. Teach of Christ.
3. Serve.
4. Be the example, not just the mouthpiece.
5. Seek personal revelation.

How can I be a better LDS example at work? (Includes improving my attitude, and not murmuring)

1. Strengthen your testimony.
2. Be the same person at work as you are at church.
3. Be courageous and stand up for the truth.
4. Serve without complaint
5. Be grateful

How can I help in the missionary work of my ward?

1. Just do it.
2. Get to know your neighbors.
3. Have compassion.
4. Serve.
5. Be courageous and teach the word.
6. Strengthen your testimony.

What work does the Lord want me engaged in right now?

1. The lord wants me to be the best Elder's Quorum teacher I can be.
2. He wants me to be a missionary.
3. He wants me to stop being scared of mortal consequences but to be courageous and stand for truth.
4. He wants me to serve my fellowman.

How do I find more purpose in prayer?

This is a big one.

1. Strengthen your testimony of the Living Christ.
2. Strengthen your testimony of the church.
3. Seek him out in prayer.
4. Don't just pray, but follow through.
5. Love and serve.

Is President Monson the Lord's prophet?

As I pointed out, I've struggled with my testimony of Thomas S. Monson as the prophet since President Hinckley died.

I gained a testimony of President Monson as Prophet of the church at the end of the Priesthood Session. President Monson spoke with such power, and such truth that I stopped taking notes so I could listen. He spoke with the power of God, and it was amazing.

How do I inspire myself to get of the couch, and get out into the world and do the work of the Lord?

I've started to think this is the curse of our generation, or one of them. How many of us waste our time on Buzzfeed, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, watching TV, and so on? So here are some bullet points for combating our laziness.

1. Have courage to go and do.
2. Be present in the now.
3. Find joy in the mundane.
4. Be grateful for the good and the bad.
5. Turn it off.
6. Educate your desires.

How do I get out of debt while paying my current obligations?

This wasn't spoken of directly, but I think there are things that can be garnered from conference that apply:

1. Be focused on getting out of debt.
2. Remember there is more to life than debt.
3. Do not seek things of the world.
4. Have hope that you can be free.
5. Work in concert with your spouse to get out of debt.

In closing

Maybe the most important thing to get out of conference is to learn to be more like Christ, and follow our leaders as examples of Christ. They should be the heroes we emulate.

I want to add my testimony to those we've heard today. Mine is small in comparison, and comes with much less backing of knowledge, and experience, but it is mine nonetheless.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior. He is that we may be also. He suffered so that he could succor us. He died so that we could live. He is the way, the truth, and the light. Joseph Smith restored the gospel as the Lord's Prophet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's true church on the Earth today. It is our purpose to bring about God's greater purposes amongst the children of men.

In Jesus's holy name, Amen.

Now, I turn it over to you: What did  you learn in Conference?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Conference Weekend!!!

As conference approaches I've started to think about the practice some members have of writing down questions and listening for the answers. I've never done this, so I thought, why not try it? And why not post my questions? I'll post any answers I get after conference.

So here it goes:
- Why am I so much more excited for this conference than previous conferences?
- How can I be a better husband?
- How can I be a better Elder's Quorum teacher?
- How can I be a better LDS example at work?
- How can I improve my attitude at work so I feel less disgruntled?
- What can I do to reduce murmuring in the workplace?
- How can I help in the missionary work of my ward?
- What work does the Lord want me engaged in right now?
- How do I find more purpose in prayer?
- Is President Monson the Lord's prophet? (I've struggled with this since President Hinckley died)
- How do I inspire myself to get of the couch, and get out into the world and do the work of the Lord?
- How do I get out of debt while paying my current obligations?

Okay, I think that's enough for now. I'll keep the more personal ones to myself. :)

What questions do you have for the Lord to answer during conference? Write them down at home, or feel free to leave them in the comments.

Oh, and don't forget to pray for the Spirit!