Key Verse: “Eyewitnesses of His Majesty” (2 Peter 1:16)

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It was was the last talk on conference Sunday, October 2, 1977. President Spencer W. Kimball quoted a verse of scripture that stuck with me ever since. I had read it before, but this was different.

I had been on my mission for nearly a year. Oh, how we hungered and thirsted for the word of God in those days! For the first time, all of conference was piped into the chapels by telephone (what they called a WATS line in those days). To here these words live while serving in the mission field was a treasure and a blessing.

Here are the words, a prophet quoting a prophet:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16.)

Of Peter’s testimony, President Kimball also said:

Perhaps one of the last of Peter’s testimonies was borne to all the people, both those who had been converted to the gospel and those who would in the future be influenced by his statement, throughout all time a memorial to be remembered. As this great prophet faced his death and knew that it would not be long until he would discard this body tabernacle and pass into the other world, he determined to write his testimony message so that coming generations might all have his witness. It has been read and heard by countless millions.

While serving as a missionary, the prophet’s words were seared on my soul. Clean, pure words, words of testimony. It was as if he said, “I am not making this up, nor have I been deceived. I am an eyewitness of His majesty.”

I remember that day feeling that these words were true, that President Kimball was letting us know what he knew for himself, though he quoted on of his predecessors. I haven’t forgotten the power of those words. I hope I never do.

Made Perfect

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Those familiar with the New Testament know this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

That’s a loaded verse. Is Jesus commanding us to be flawless in character and behavior, today? Is He asking us to be perfect like God the Father right now? If so, I think the human race is sunk. Who among mortals could live up to such a charge? Not I.

What does perfect mean in this context? From the Greek translation of this verse, the word τέλειοι (telios) has seven definitions:

  1. brought to its end, finished
  2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness
  3. perfect
  4. that which is perfect, 4a) consummate human integrity and virtue, 4b) of men, 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature

Hmm. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations” (see Genesis 6:9). The NIV translates this “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” while The Message translates it “a good man, a man of integrity in his community.”

So perfect can mean a number of things, but I like the definitions mature, complete, finished. These are qualities that seem far more reachable than flawlessness, which is a common and burdensome misconception of the word.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “just men made perfect.” That makes sense to me, that we are made perfect rather than getting there all by our determined selves.

Then there are these words near the very end of the Book of Mormon, written by Mormon’s son Moroni:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32–33; emphasis added .)

According to these beautiful words from Moroni, our perfection will come through the grace of God, if we love God with all our might, mind, and strength, denying ourselves all ungodliness, by the grace of God we will be made perfect. A perfect plan made by a perfect creator.

That doesn’t mean we are not accountable for our actions and for constant improvement. On the contrary. We are accountable, whether we believe it or not.

Overcome by Faith

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/category/final-events-bible-images?lang=engJesus told His disciples on the night He was betrayed:

Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33.)

These were among His last words to His apostles. What did they mean? I have a simple working definition I’d like to share, one that I will abandon upon new light.

Nothing got between Him and God. Not sin. No sinner or sinners. No crushing disappointment. Not addiction. Not another person or thing. Not betrayal. Not unbearable, excruciating pain. No threats of death. Not personal desolation. Nothing got between Them. The world, try as it may, could not hold Him.

He acted and was not acted upon, except as the Father willed (see 2 Nephi 2:13, 14, 26). “I and my Father are one,” He said (see John 10:30).

This afternoon, I read in the scriptures that those who inherit the celestial kingdom of God “overcome by faith” and will “overcome all things” (see D&C 76:53, 60). In other words, we can overcome all things through faith in Jesus Christ, who overcame the world. We can act and not be acted upon. We can be truly free.

Overcoming the world through faith in Christ is, to me, the ultimate freedom.

Cease from Anger (Part 1)

jesus-cleanses-temple-948976-printFor most of us, anger is a normal, often daily emotion. We’ve all experienced it, from our childhood, our youth, and through adulthood. Psychology Today, however, calls it a “corrosive emotion,” one that does not dissipate merely because you express it.

Then is anger okay or not okay? What does the word of God say about it?

Can we agree with the documentary evidence that Jesus, during his mortal ministry, got angry? For example, one Sabbath day, Jesus visited a synagogue where a man in the congregation had a withered hand. There were some there just waiting for Jesus to take action and heal the man. He perceived their motives and is not thrilled. Mark records that “he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (see Mark 3:5). He healed the man in spite of accusers and doubters.

When He cleansed the temple (twice, actually), do you think He was a little eaten up by anger (see for example John 2:13–17)? I mean, he made a “scourge of small cords” and drove the Passover profiteers from His Father’s house. The Psalmist prophesied of this event, saying that “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (see Psalms 69:9; compare John 2:17). Was Jesus angry at this abuse? Yes, I’m sure He was.

Likewise, there are many examples of Jehovah’s anger in the Old Testament as well (see Numbers 12:9; 2 Samuel 24:1; Isaiah 5:25).

And if it’s okay for Jehovah also known as Jesus to get angry, shouldn’t it be okay for everyone else to get angry? Yes and no.

As with any passion, there must be boundaries and limits. Without limits, anger can lead to destructive results—of self-confidence, of trust, of relationships, and even human life.

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

More on this topic soon.

A Few Thoughts on the Sacrament

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/sacrament-meetings-389976?lang=engIn the last few years, the sacrament has become more meaningful to me. I cherish it, long for it. I try to not show up at the weekly meeting and just plop in a pew. I try to prepare for these moments of communion hours, even days in advance.

Last summer, we visited a small branch of the Church on the Oregon Coast. During priesthood meeting, a man talked about struggling with his kids during sacrament meeting. He reminded us of the words of the Savior in the garden of Gethsemane, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

Yes, I’ve thought since, I can watch with You one hour. It’s the least I can do. I’ll try. I’ll practice. I’ll be with you.

Neil L. Anderson has said, “We must protect the sacred against the invading routine.” How do we do that? We have to be awake in the present, alive to the its meaning, its virtue.  We can choose to see our sacred moments in the full light of our wide-open hearts.

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Christmas Quotes to Put You in the Christmas Spirit

Here are some of my favorite “Daily Messages” from this month, guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit or your money back!

“What all of us long for in our hearts, at Christmastime and always, is to feel bound together in love with the sweet assurance that it can last forever. This is the promise of eternal life, which God has called His greatest gift to His children (see D&C 14:7).—Henry B. Eyring, “Home for Christmas“, Liahona and Ensign

“Like the shepherds of old, we need to say in our hearts, ‘Let us see this thing which is come to pass.’ We need to desire it in our hearts. Let us see the Holy One of Israel in the manger, in the temple, on the mount, and on the cross. Like the shepherds, let us glorify and praise God for these tidings of great joy!” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Can We See the Christ?“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“There was a song in a film years ago with the line ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas.’ Well, you can give a great and wonderful Christmas if you remember the gifts God has given you and, as best you can, offer them to others as He would. That is the spirit of Christmas and of true happiness every day.” —Henry B. Eyring, “The Gifts of Christmas“, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2011

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.” —Thomas S. Monson, “Christmas Is Love“, 2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2012

“The more commercialized and busy the Christmas season becomes, the easier it is for the sublime message of the Savior’s life to get lost along the way. If we notice that planning for parties and scrambling for presents begin to detract from the peaceable message of Jesus Christ and distance us from the gospel He preached, let us take a step back, slow down a little, and reconsider what matters most.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Seeing Christmas through New Eyes“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“This joyful season brings to all of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree to which we have turned our minds, feelings, and actions to the Savior, whose birth we celebrate.” —Thomas S. Monson, “A Bright Shining Star“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“While it’s true that we can find materialism and anxiety in Christmas, it is also true that if we have eyes to see, we can experience the powerful message of the birth of the Son of God and feel the hope and peace He brings to the world.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Seeing Christmas through New Eyes“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“The celebration of Christmas helps us keep our promise to always remember Him and His gifts to us. And that remembrance creates a desire in us to give gifts to Him. He has told us what we could give Him to bring Him joy. First, we can, out of faith in Him, give a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We can repent and make sacred covenants with Him. . . . Second, you can give Him the gift of doing for others what He would do for them. —Henry B. Eyring, “The Gift of a Savior“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Seeing Christmas through New Eyes“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010

“Christmas is what we make of it. Despite all the distractions, we can see to it that Christ is at the center of our celebration. If we have not already done so, we can establish Christmas traditions for ourselves and for our families which will help us capture and keep the spirit of Christmas.” —Thomas S. Monson, “Because He Came“, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2011

“The Christmases I remember best, the Christmases which touched my heart the most, are Christmases filled with love and giving and the Spirit of the Savior. . . . Bringing the Christmas spirit into our hearts and homes takes conscious effort and planning but can surely be accomplished.” —Thomas S. Monson, “A Bright and Shining Star“, 2010 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2012

“We are entering another wonderful Christmas season filled with music and lights, parties and presents. But of all people, we as members of the church that bears the Savior’s name need to look beyond the façade of the season and see the sublime truth and beauty of this time of year.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Can We See the Christ?“, Liahona and Ensign, November 2012