Who’s Your Constant Companion?

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We often refer to the Holy Ghost as our  “constant companion” (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:46). But you might also have an unwitting constant companion: Your smartphone.

These two companions have some interesting similarities:

  • They may be constantly with you.
  • You consult them often.
  • You look to them for guidance and direction.
  • They provide answers to pressing questions.
  • You may pay more attention to them than the people around you.

After the priesthood ordinance of confirmation is performed, through devotion, obedience, and spiritual preparation, we can have the Holy Ghost near us day and night. If we pay our monthly bill, we can keep you cell service on.

We can listen for the Spirit’s still small voice by quieting our minds and being attentive to His promptings. Or we may be watching or listening to notifications on our phones, and checking for new posts or email, perhaps constantly

We can lean on the Holy Ghost for guidance and direction during times of spiritual trial, or rather we may be using Google Maps for driving directions when we’re lost, or looking to the Pinterest app for how-to solutions.

After prayer, we may listen for answers to come by the Spirit, or we might take our questions to friends on Facebook or post queries on Quora.

A smartphone might be so distracting that we pay closer attention to it that the people around us. Or we might regard the guidance of the Holy Ghost higher than the opinions of those around us.

One might be a constant companion while the other is only a companion. One is going to win out. But at times, the chatter of our phones and social media can drown out the quiet comfort and peace we seek from a higher source.

I’m not saying we don’t need our phones. I’m saying they may be distracting us from something better.

One Pushup, One Sit-up, and One Jumping Jack

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/mormonad-reach-higher-1118460?lang=eng

I heard a story from colleague at work a few weeks ago about a 80-year-old man who was in great physical condition. Do those two go together?

When asked about his secret, he answered that when he was a young man, he set a goal to do only one pushup, sit-up, and jumping jack every day of his life.

Only one? Yes, one. Couldn’t he do more? Of course he could. But that wasn’t his goal. He was going for, shall we say, a lifetime of continuity. And a streak of success.

“. . . By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” (Alma 37:6.)

His goal was one. He knew he could achieve it under almost any circumstance. What was to keep him from exceeding his goal after he reached it? Nothing.

Let’s estimate he was 20 years old when he first set his goal. By the time he turned 80, he would have done 21,900 pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks, at a minimum. I am sure he did far more.

Wow. Here’s to small and simple things!  🎉

The Six Destructive Ds

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/faith-in-the-lord-jesus-christ?lang=eng

Over the last few days, I’ve listened to Elder Kevin Pearson’s conference talk on faith in the Lord Christ (given in April 2009) several times. I was particularly fascinated by his “Six Destructive Ds.” I share them here (emphasis mine).

First is doubt. Doubt is not a principle of the gospel.It does not come from the Light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from a lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God.

Doubt leads to discouragement. Discouragement comes from missed expectations. Chronic discouragement leads to lower expectations, decreased effort, weakened desire, and greater difficulty feeling and following the Spirit (see Preach My Gospel [2004], 10). Discouragement and despair are the very antithesis of faith.

Discouragement leads to distraction, a lack of focus. Distraction eliminates the very focus the eye of faith requires. Discouragement and distraction are two of Satan’s most effective tools, but they are also bad habits.

Distraction leads to a lack of diligence,a reduced commitment to remain true and faithful and to carry on through despite hardship and disappointment. Disappointment is an inevitable part of life, but it need not lead to doubt, discouragement, distraction, or lack of diligence.

If not reversed, this path ultimately leads to disobedience, which undermines the very basis of faith. So often the result is disbelief, the conscious or unconscious refusal to believe.

The scriptures describe disbelief as the state of having chosen to harden one’s heart. It is to be past feeling.

These Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief—all erode and destroy our faith. We can choose to avoid and overcome them.

I loved his statement, “Doubt is not a principle of the gospel.” If it is not a principle of the gospel, where does it come from? Four times in scripture we are commanded specifically to “doubt not” (Matthew 21:21; Mormon 9:27; Doctrine and Covenants 6:36; 8:8.) Because of these verses, I believe that not doubting is actually a principle of the gospel.

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/red-tulips-760411?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.)

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.

 

“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.)

I’ll Be Homeward Bound in Time

I was recently listening to “Homeward Bound” on YouTube when I noticed this:

“One year tomorrow since we laid my dearest wife to rest. I miss her sometimes so much it is near unbearable then I hear music from heaven and I feel much closer and rested. There are no words I can think of to tell how beautiful this music is.”

The comment helped me remember that music can be a healing balm when other remedies fail. I am so grateful for these reminders of our hometown—the gift of music and the talents of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Here are the lyrics:

In the quiet misty morning,
When the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing,
And the sky is clear and red,
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming,
When the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning—
I’ll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow.

If you find it’s me you’re missing,
If you’re hoping I’ll return,
To your thoughts I’ll soon be listening,
In the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing,
As my journey nears its end.
And the path I’ll be retracing,
When I’m homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture,
Chain me not to the plow,
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow.

 

Our Eternal Hometown

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/boys-raft-ocean-894534?lang=eng

Who am I, really? What makes me me and you you? Are we not, all of us, from the same hometown?

The Bible refers to God as our “Father which is in heaven” many times. Think of it. God is our Father and Creator, so it follows that heaven, where we once lived with Him, must be our hometown. That means you and I are from the same hometown. We’re homies!

In the beginning, our bodies were formed in His image. We are literally in His image, and those prophets who have been blessed to see Him have confirmed that we are alike in form (see for, example, Ether 3:6–16 and Joseph Smith–History 1:17).

So our true identity, who we really are and what we can actually become, comes from God Himself. Keeping His commandments is how we identify with Him; disobeying His laws separates and alienates us from God and our true identity. Sin, in essence, is a denial of who we really are, while faith and obedience are ways we show our acceptance, and even reverence, for our identity.

What we focus on creates our perception of reality. It is our choice to create that perception. If you focus on the words that come from God every day, what will your perception of reality become? If you focus on prayer, what visions will fill your soul? If you are looking up to heaven instead of around at the world, Who will guide your spiritual GPS? If you are preoccupied with feeding an addiction, for example, what will fill your mind and shape your perceptions then?

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:21–23.)

What I am saying is that denying God is the opposite of who we really are. Accepting the Source of Light from which we spring helps us to see more clearly who we are and what we can become.