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.

The Beauty of Holiness

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/kansas-city-temple-lds-940258?lang=eng
Kansas City Missouri Temple

I happened to read Psalm 96 this morning and rediscovered verse 6:

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. (Emphasis added.)

Then I remembered Carol F. McConkie’s talk of the same title, listened to the audio, and found this wonderful quote:

I see the beauty of holiness in [those] whose hearts are centered on all that is good, who want to become more like the Savior. They offer their whole soul, heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord in the way that they live every day. Holiness is in the striving and the struggle to keep the commandments and to honor the covenants we have made with God. Holiness is making the choices that will keep the Holy Ghost as our guide. Holiness is setting aside our natural tendencies and becoming “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord [see Mosiah 3:19].” “Every moment of [our lives] must be holiness to the Lord [Brigham Young].” (Emphasis added.)

We are all children of God which means that holiness is our eternal identity. Our God is holy for Man of Holiness is His name (see Moses 6:57). It is not only becoming like God that is our goal: It is becoming who we really are.

Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16.)

Being unholy is a denial of where we came from and who we are. We can be holy, sanctified and cleansed, without being perfectly perfect. We came here to be imperfect. Striving and struggle are the path through the valley. No other way except through the valley will lead to the mountain of God.

 

I’m Going to Make You Drink This!

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 7.12.35 PMToday in sacrament meeting, I heard an awesome story from the life of Elder E. Israel Pérez, a former area authority seventy from Guatemala. (It was published in the June 2006 edition of The Liahona.) I love the boldness and strength he discovered as he defended his personal commitment with faith.

Once when I was 16 years old, I was in a restaurant with some friends from church. A man who knew one of us came in. He said, “I want to invite all of you to drink some liquor right here and now.”

I remember standing up and saying, “None of us drink liquor. And if you want to drink, go find somewhere else to do it.”

This man was in his early 20s and much larger than I was—a very strong man—and he became mad. He brought a glass of liquor to me and said, “I’m going to make you drink this!”

I said, “Don’t try it. There could be unfortunate consequences.” [Love this line!]

He tried to grab me and force me to drink the liquor. The next thing I knew, the man was lying on the floor. I really didn’t have the strength to defend myself against that man, but Heavenly Father provided what I lacked.

7 Classes of Doubt

Courtesy LDS Media LibraryDoubt is normal and common. We are not going to escape doubt any more than we are going to escape temptation or affliction in this life. But as we grow stronger spiritually, doubt loses its sticking power.

Here are 7 classes or flavors of doubt. Are there more? Probably. Are these based on a double-blind, peer-reviewed study? Nope. These are only my life observations. (If you have tweak or one to add, please drop me a comment. I’ll add it and credit you.)

1. Normal doubt

We all experience doubt at one time or another. It’s part of our human wiring for survival. It’s okay to experience doubt, but if doubt drives us away from the truth or from loved ones or common sense or peace of mind, it’s probably more than normal doubt. This kind of doubt is the most temporary.

2. Accidental doubt

You chance on a conversation or some written or visual material, without seeking it, that casts confusion and doubt upon something you have believed for many years, perhaps your whole life. It puts a knot in your tummy. But as you have time to consider it for a few days, the doubt dissipates and you integrate the new notions with your current beliefs or forget about them. It’s not hard to recover from this kind of doubt.

3. Careless doubt

You don’t keep your eyes and ears and heart within wise boundaries. As you sling your attention around Interwebical vastness, you find the unsavory, the dark, the bleak, the lurid, the accusatory. It makes you sick as much as it makes you wonder. You have a hard time filtering this version of doubt. It pummels you, and you may even seek it out for a season, but you eventually shake it off (though they haunt your thoughts from time to time). Or it may take you down a valley road.

4. Obsessive doubt

This doubt thumps you hard. It’s like a fish hook—hard to pull out without pain an injury. It is known by it’s most common name worry. It rolls around in your mind day and night. It won’t leave you alone. Normal relief does not come in a matter of days. It keeps pounding you, day in and day out. It takes you weeks, months, and perhaps years to shake this serpent off.

5. Intellectual doubt

This doubt comes as a result of intellectual inquiry while setting aside spiritual inquiry. It is a lopsided doubt that denies, then denies, and denies. In order for this kind of doubt to flourish, you have to shut 3/4 of the windows in your mind and pull the shades. It is marked by pride, argument, put downs, and a host of relationship killers. When the need to assert your intellect exceeds your need for human connection, especially with those you love and have made covenants with, the fangs have set in and you are taking on venom. You are spiritually poisoned under the guise of intellectual “purity.” This one takes time to sort out and recover from.

6. Wilful doubt

Wilful sin produces wilful doubt. Consciously and perhaps defiantly going against what you know is right produces this type of doubt. It drains the soul of memories or reconfigures them. It turns its back on good habits, common sense, virtue, friends, family, promises, covenants, and eventually, hope. This doubt takes root when sin takes charge and becomes anger driven. Stubborn addictions are often present. The natural man gorges on this kind of doubt. Survival and recovery rates are low and slow, but this is not a hopeless case. In my view, there are no hopeless cases.

7. Nefarious doubt

Finally, we have descended to nefarious doubt. This kinds of doubt drags the doubter, and all he or she can take along with them, down to hell. This doubt knowingly, willfully, and gleefully casts doubt on nearly everything. It has a mission call to the Hades South Mission. It is devil inspired and devil driven. It is the doubt of the spiritual sociopath. It leans on the doorbell of perdition. It’s bad news. Really bad. Survival and recovery rates are the lowest. Once again, as long as there is a God in heaven, there is hope.

Soon, I’ll post something on the remedies to doubt.