Mormon Pioneers: “A Shoe Came Flying at Me”

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/wagon-wheel-760412?lang=eng

I found this little pioneer story in an article by Stanley B. Kimball in the Nauvoo Journal (now Mormon Historical Studies).

In 1866, near the Platte River, a pioneer named Robert L. Overseen lost one of his shoes. He was not allowed to ride in a wagon at the time, so he was in a pretty tough spot.

“The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith. With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does—they stepped forward into the unknown.”—Elder Dallin H. Oaks

He offered a prayer from the heart, the only kind of prayer a pioneer in need could offer. This is what happened: “As soon as I had uttered the prayer, a shoe came flying at me. Someone had thrown it out of a passing wagon.”

He said the shoe was a little on the small side but he could still use it. What a blessing. Imagine how grateful he must have been. The greater the need, often the greater and more genuine your faith.

P.S. Drat. I couldn’t find Robert on the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel site.

What Grows out of Neglect?

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/gardening-217882?lang=eng

I was out for a walk early this morning and noticed a neglected patch of lawn surrounding a home tucked into a cul de sac. It was crew-cut short, dry and brown. Many weeds were thriving in this suburban wasteland.

Weeds are opportunistic. They are non-edible. Some are deceptively attractive. Others will sting you if you get too close. Such plants are the fruits of neglect.

And what of the neglected child? An ignored friend? A spouse held in silent contempt? An idle testimony? Where there’s neglect, good things do not grow, and what good that remains begins to wither.

But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. (Alma 32:38.)

My mother had multiple sclerosis. She was a saintly woman and a loving mother, but physically unavailable. I don’t, for example, remember her ever cooking a meal for us.

In many ways I raised myself. I didn’t do a very good job. There were some emotions such as confidence and belonging that didn’t take full root until I got into a more stable family situation as an adult.

Weeds of doubt grow where no better plants are planted, watered, and nurtured. Friends wander when undernourished. Spouses have dibs on the best of your attention, and if they don’t get it, contention will grow. Children wither without the sunlight of their parents’ love and care.

If you have weeds in your garden, don’t neglect them. Find them, pull them up by the roots, and heave them onto the compost pile. Then let better things grow in their place.

But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. (Alma 32:41.)

Convert Baptisms Since 1970

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/mormon-missionaries-riding-bikes-1178927?lang=eng

The following data, taken from the General Conference site, lists in table form the number of convert baptisms in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1970—over 11,000,000.

Year Convert Baptisms
1970 79,126
1971 83,514
1972 91,237
1973 79,603
1974 69,018
1975 95,412
1976 133,959
1977 167,939
1978 152,000
1979 193,000
1980 221,000
1981 224,000
1982 207,000
1983 189,419
1984 192,983
1985 197,640
1986 216,210
1987 227,284
1988 256,515
1989 318,940
1990 330,877
1991 297,770
1992 274,477
1993 304,808
1994 300,730
1995 304,330
1996 321,385
1997 317,798
1998 299,134
1999 306,171
2000 273,973
2001 292,612
2002 283,138
2003 242,923
2004 241,239
2005 243,108
2006 272,845
2007 279,218
2008 265,593
2009 280,106
2010 272,814
2011 281,312
2012 272,330
2013 282,945
2014 296,803
2015 257,402
2016 240,131
 Total 11,031,771

 

Cease from Anger (Part 2)

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/woman-taken-in-adultery-948964?lang=eng

Angry men attempting to stone a woman taken in adultery (John 8:1–11.)

Not long ago, some odd tidings came my way at work. I was so upset, I jumped out of my chair and took a brisk walk in no particular direction. Fortunately, a coworker’s sense of humor snapped me out of it and helped me set my feelings aside. Then a few days later, I learned from another coworker that my assumption—an assumption that led to consumption by anger—was completely off. What I thought happened, didn’t really happen.

I find that when I get angry, it’s often tied to missing or incomplete information. (This is a continuation of a recent post on anger, by the way.)

So what happened to me that day at work? In a gap of misunderstanding, I allowed the universal sin—pride—to knock me off balance and that led to anger—a pretty wasteful emotion when it’s based on an entirely incorrect idea.

Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10.)

I can’t dodge anger. I can’t get rid of it. It’s going to tag along with me for the rest of mortality. Asking for total relief from anger is like asking for complete release from temptation. Not going to happen in this life. It’s part of a package deal.

Understanding this deal, consider the source of the spirit of contention. It doesn’t come from God.

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. (3 Nephi 11:29; emphasis added.)

We didn’t invite Satan and his recruits to join our party, but God did. Yes, Lucifer is here by permission. He is the unwitting servant of God. By design, it’s up to us to uninvite the devil from our party. It’s are choice. And it takes a bit of work.

We don’t have to lie down and roll over. We can resist Satan and the spirits that follow him. In fact, we have a promise in this regard.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7; emphasis added.)

The problem is, we don’t resist. A taste of anger is a temptation, and I believe God wants us to resist it and to control it. But too often, we enjoy the anger and enjoy expressing it. We would deny it, but that hot shot of adrenaline can be quite enjoyable. We like to be right or a suffering victim, which is kindling for the fire. But we have this command from holy scripture, which I repeat here.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil (Psalms 37:8; emphasis added).

Let me wrap this up. It takes years of practice, but it’s worth the fight. Anger is one of those emotions that can get out of control pretty quickly. We can’t avoid it. It’s part of us that needs to be confronted and controlled. It’s fueled by pride and deception, often in the form of misinformation. We can resist it, like any other temptation. In fact, we are charged by holy writ to do just that.

 

All Your Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/meme-uchtdorf-disciple-1240511?lang=eng

I’ve been pondering the meaning of serving God with all your heart, might, mind and strength, as commanded in scriptures.

. . . O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22;37; Mark 12:30; Doctrine and Covenants 59:5.)

Then I found these definitions from the 2015 Mutual Theme cards. (Emphasis added.) To start, here is a take on how to serve God with all your heart:

The heart sustains life. “Heart” often means the center or core of something and the place where desires and emotions reside. To serve God with all our heart is to give Him all of our desires, will, and love. He asks us to love Him by keeping His commandments and loving others.

Then, with all your might:

Serving with our might can mean simply doing what we are able to do, both spiritually and temporally, and is outward focused. Whatever our individual talents (from lifting a heavy couch to staying positive in difficult situations), we can use them to strengthen others.

With all your mind:

The power to think is a gift from God. . . . The way we think greatly affects attitudes and behavior, as well as our standing after this life” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Thoughts,” scriptures.lds.org). Our minds help us learn and change for the better—if we seek after good things.

And with all your strength:

The energy with which we serve God is part of giving Him all our strength. Strength is also spiritual power, inner commitment, resilience, and diligence in doing good. We can show our strength as we live the principles the Savior Himself lived. Then we can receive divine spiritual power.

To serve and worship God in this way is a complete offering. No question stands between you and God. The heart and mind are not divided. There is no holding back or turning back. Repentance is genuine and far reaching. Your heart is broken, your spirit, contrite. Your commitment is sure. There is no question as to your devotion or where your affections lie. This is what God asks of us—to purchase our hearts and minds without a discount. No hidden fees. No refunds. No revolving credit.

 

Alma’s Interview Questions

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/angel-alma-the-younger-82773?lang=eng

The Conversion of Alma [the Younger] by Gary L. Kapp

Many readers of the Book of Mormon are familiar with these three striking questions from Alma the Younger, recorded in Alma chapter 5, verse 14:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, [1] have ye spiritually been born of God? [2] Have ye received his image in your countenances? [3] Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

Did you know that, in this same chapter, one of the longest in the book, Alma poses 45 “interview” questions. I say interview because they address what’s in the human heart at the deepest levels.

If you’d like to conduct a rigorous self-interview, ask yourself all these questions and give yourself a score of 1–5 for each answer (1, meaning “I’m not doing so well” to 5, meaning, “I’m doing great”), then add the score (225 is perfect).

  1. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? (v. 6)
  2. Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? (v. 6)
  3. And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell? (v. 6)
  4. And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they [fathers in captivity] destroyed? (v. 8)
  5. And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? (v. 9)
  6. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? (v. 10)
  7. Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? (v. 10)
  8. What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell? (v. 10)
  9. Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? (v. 11)
  10. And was he not a holy prophet? (v. 11)
  11. Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them? (v. 11)
  12. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? (v. 14)
  13. Have ye received his image in your countenances? (v. 14)
  14. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (v. 14)
  15. Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? (v. 15)
  16. Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body? (v. 15)
  17. I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? (v. 16)
  18. Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you? (v. 17)
  19. Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? (v. 18)
  20. I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? (v. 19)
  21. I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? (v. 19)
  22. I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil? (v. 20)
  23. And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? (v. 22)
  24. Behold, what will these things testify against you? (v. 22)
  25. Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness? (v. 23)
  26. Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white? (v. 24)
  27. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (v. 26)
  28. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? (v. 27)
  29. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? (v. 27)
  30. That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? (v. 27)
  31. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? (v. 28)
  32. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? (v. 29)
  33. And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? (v. 30)
  34. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? (v. 39)
  35. Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? (v. 39)
  36. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? (v. 45)
  37. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? (v. 45)
  38. And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; [?] (v. 53)
  39. yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; [?] (v. 53)
  40. yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; [?] (v. 53)
  41. yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
  42. 5Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them? (v. 55)
  43. And now, my brethren, what have ye to say against this? (v. 58)
  44. For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? (v. 59)
  45. And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he [the shepherd] not drive him out? (v. 59)

“A Pivotal Point in My Life”

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/what-have-you-done-with-my-name?lang=eng

I listened to a conference talk from Mervyn B. Arnold this morning, from October 2010. I remember listening to it when it was first given. I love this story from his wife Devona when she was 15 years old.

Shortly after my sweetheart, Devonna, and I were married, she shared with me a story about how she learned in her youth this important doctrine that we are free to choose but that we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. With the help of my daughter Shelly, I would like to relate Sister Arnold’s experience:

“When I was 15 years old, I often felt that there were too many rules and commandments. I wasn’t sure that a normal, fun-loving teenager could enjoy life with so many restrictions. Furthermore, the many hours spent working on my father’s ranch were seriously dipping into my time with my friends.

“This particular summer, one of my jobs was to ensure that the cows grazing on the mountain pasture did not break through the fence and get into the wheat field. A cow grazing on the growing wheat can bloat, causing suffocation and death. One cow in particular was always trying to stick her head through the fence. One morning, as I was riding my horse along the fence line checking on the cattle, I found that the cow had broken through the fence and gotten into the wheat field. To my dismay, I realized that she had been eating wheat for quite some time because she was already bloated and looked much like a balloon. I thought, ‘You stupid cow! That fence was there to protect you, yet you broke through it and you have eaten so much wheat that your life is in danger.’

“I raced back to the farmhouse to get my dad. However, when we returned, I found her lying dead on the ground. I was saddened by the loss of that cow. We had provided her with a beautiful mountain pasture to graze in and a fence to keep her away from the dangerous wheat, yet she foolishly broke through the fence and caused her own death.

As I thought about the role of the fence, I realized that it was a protection, just as the commandments and my parents’ rules were a protection. The commandments and rules were for my own good. I realized that obedience to the commandments could save me from physical and spiritual death. That enlightenment was a pivotal point in my life.” (Emphasis added.)