Cease from Anger (Part 3)

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/jesus-christ-good-samaritan-1402940?lang=eng

When the Savior came to the Americas near the end of 34 AD, these were among the first words he spoke:

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. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:29–30.)

Compare this with a verse of scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, one that I lean on constantly:

And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23.)

Let’s think about these verses for a moment. If we are contentious, we are following the father of contention, the devil, and if we are saying something that is not edifying (or building up), it is not of God.

I’m sorry to say that at times I’m contentious and sometimes what I say is not very edifying (like, um, today). For me, both these weaknesses grow out of frustration, which grows out of impatience, which grows out of a lack of faith.

I am working on these natural-man habits. In fact, it’s a daily battle. Progress is ever so slight, but I give myself credit for every victory, small or great.

These quotes about the Twelve inspire me. First one is from Elder Neil L. Anderson:

“I’ll just speak of the Twelve, but in the . . . years I’ve been there, I’ve never seen anyone raise their voice. Never seen them angry. Never seen them sarcastic. Never seen them in an attitude of putting somebody down or even putting an idea down.”

Next from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. . . . I know of no other governing body of any kind of which this might be said.

That’s a pretty high standard to live up to, and I am so grateful that these men do live up to it. I look up to them. I am grateful for their examples. I want to follow them just as they follow Christ.

I can do better. We can do better. We can all “cease from anger.”

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

P.S. Here are the other posts in the series: Cease from Anger (Part 1) and Cease from Anger (Part 2).

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.

Proverbs on Prosperity: There Is That Scattereth and Yet Increaseth

There’s a concept in holy scripture about giving and receiving that may seem contradictory to some. Simply, the more you give, the more you receive, and the more you hold back, less and less comes your way.

Here’s a powerful verse in Proverbs chapter 11 that demonstrates this:

There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty (v. 24).

For illustration, he’s another translation of the same verse from the New International Version:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Compare this verse in Ecclesiastes, also in chapter 11:

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days (v. 1).

Now compare these words of Jesus:

Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you. . . . For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. (Mark 4:24–25.)

Giving generously to others—of our time, attention, or wealth—requires strong faith followed by action, or, in some cases, faith follows action. As the Savior said:

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).

In other words, you don’t truly know until you do. You have to change behavior. You have to walk the walk. You have to get your skin in the game. You have to be committed and follow through if you want to know if a divine principle is true.

I love what Marion G. Romney said about this subject (quoted by L. Tom Perry):

I remember a long time ago, over 50 years, when Brother [Melvin J.] Ballard laid his hands on my head and set me apart to go on a mission. He said in that prayer of blessing that a person could not give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return. That’s been my experience. If the members of the Church would double their fast-offering contributions, the spirituality in the Church would double. We need to keep that in mind and be liberal in our contributions. (Welfare Agricultural Meeting, 3 Apr. 1971, p. 1.)

Doubling your fast offering? That is faith.

Finally, many of us are familiar with these words from Malachi:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (ch. 3 v. 10).

To receive, we must give, and the more we give, the more we will receive. When we are honestly generous, the bread we cast upon the waters will return to us—a crust for a loaf. It’s an immutable law. If you have not experienced it yourself, stretch your faith and try it. The reward of faith and generosity may not return to you in the way you imagine or at the time you think it will, but surely it will return multiplied. Of this I am certain.

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.

What President Monson Said about Kindness, Charity, and Love

Courtesy LDS Media LibarayWhen President Monson spoke at the beginning of priesthood meeting instead of the end this past April, I felt on edge. It is hard to fight the feeling that his time is short. (Of course I don’t know that for sure: I feel it. And many times, feel turns into know for me.)

I listened intently to those brief remarks.  I have since thought, “Could he have spoken on a more vital topic than the pure of Christ?” My answer, to myself? “No.”

Here are a few thoughts from the talk that got my attention.

  • “We do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others.”
  • “Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all . . .” (Moroni 7:46.)
  • “‘Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others'” (from Joseph B. Wirthlin).
  • “Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.”

What President Monson Said about the Book of Mormon

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President Monson’s words were precious and few at our last general conference (April 2017). In two talks, he covered a lot of ground in a matter of 6 or 7 minutes.

I was deeply touched by what he said about the Book of Mormon. What if these were the last words we will hear from him across a pulpit? I think they may be and are therefore worth our careful attention. We’ve been hearing from him for a long time. I mean, I was five years old when he was called as an apostle.

Here are some highlights that jumped off the page at me. Simple, to the point, and very poignant, especially the promises at the end.

  • There is a “critical need [for] members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its [the Book of Mormon’s] teachings in our lives.”
  • “If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so.”
  • “If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one.”
  • “I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”

Reclaiming Our Innocence

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/jesus-with-children-craig-dimond-82779?lang=engMy wife and I recently went to dinner with our youngest grandson, along with his mom, our daughter, and his older brother. Our youngest grandson is two.

During dinner, he was smiling at me and trying to get my attention. He was excited to tell me something. I turned my attention to him. Then he told me with a huge smile on his face that he had played with Playdough with his grandma (not my wife but his other grandma). His mom chuckled because that little event had take place four weeks earlier!

What my little grandson told me touched me deeply. Imagine being so excited to tell someone about something as simple as playing Playdough—and it happened a month earlier.

Young children in their innocence. Simple needs, simple joys. Untarnished, pure, and appreciative. Full of wonder, with hearts of gold. No ego on their radar. Of such is the kingdom of God (see Mark 10:14–15). As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants:

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38.)

Again, in verse 15 of Mark 10:

Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Innocence is hard to come by when we are stranded in Egoville, the walled town where most of us adults live. In the town is a hill with a machine gun nest on top, a machine gun of defensive words that we use to position ourselves as the winner of every argument, the victim of every wrong, and the one who is always right. It is hard to be innocent when we are blaming, complaining, and ungrateful—the triumvirate of the ego-bound. It is hard to be innocent when we are stuck. And it is hard to be truly happy without some degree of innocence in our lives.

We can reclaim our innocence through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, through repentance, and accepting forgiveness, through a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Where else can we find the path back to innocence, back to our childhood?

Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. (2 Nephi 2:6–7.)

I believe our innocence stems from our original infancy, before God formed our spirits (see D&C 93:29–30,36). I believe that this essence—our purest essence—is our true inner child. I believe we must go back to our origins to move forward in the eternities, leaving our false, unoriginal selves behind,

For the natural man [or the ego] is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19.)

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Proverbs on Prosperity: I Will Fill Their Treasures

moses-reading-to-israelites-price-52118-tabletWhere does wealth our come from? From hard work or sheer luck? Is it self-made or a gift from God? Is it a result of righteousness or wickedness?

We’ve all seen or heard of a hard worker navigating financial rapids to finally find comfort and security, or a group of friends who pool together to buy a lottery ticket worth a $100M. We’ve also watched the wicked prosper through their devices while the righteous become suddenly destitute through deception.

None of these situations are permanent. Some are tests. Sometimes, rare-do-wells obey true principles that lead to a degree of financial success, but are not true to themselves or to their Maker. Notwithstanding evidence to the contrary, there appears to be some unpredictability to how the wheel of wealth turns, as the Preacher bemoans in Ecclesiastes:

There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 8:14.)

In response to the first question in this post, that is, where does our wealth come from, I love the answer given by Moses, among his final words to Israel after 40 years in the wilderness with plenty of chances to think about life:

But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18.)

The power to get wealth—I would say lasting wealth, the kind that is of more value than money—comes from our Father and Maker. Wealth, riches, and prosperity (see, for example, 2 Nephi 1:9, 20) are promised by covenant to the followers of God; however, wealth and security cannot be long held if smallness of mind, greed, selfishness, or arrogance creep in. It is given by God, but also by obedience to law. Disobey His laws and promises vaporize.

In Proverbs chapter 8 we read that those who are moved by God’s wisdom have blessings of wealth bestowed upon them:

I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures. (Proverbs 8:20–21.)

I love Psalm 112, which in 10 verses teaches these concepts beautifully. Here is a brief application (my application) of it, a great cross reference to Proverbs 8 and pattern for prosperity if there ever was one.

Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments (v. 1).

Men and women who reverence God and delight in His way of life are blessed. This reverence implies a devoted heart rather than a sly or hypocritical one. A flowering of a real person, not the weeds of a trickster.

2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

Their children will be strong and blessed, not doubt the beneficiaries of good examples.

3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

Naturally (but I might add, not automatically), wealth and riches appear in their homes and within their families, that is, wealth in its purest form—not just gold and silver but good health, strong relationships, wonderful experiences, and opportunities.

4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.

Even in dark times, the women and men who follow God from the heart are led by His light, and such an one is kind and compassionate in spite of circumstance.

5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

So compassionate are these men and women that they share the good things with others in wisdom and good judgment.

6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

They are not moved or removed by fear or deception, and are loved and respected by those around them.

7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

They don’t worry. They don’t rub sweaty palms together over the future. Their hearts are fixed on the mark of divine love, and they trust the Highest from their hearts.

8 His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.

Their lives are established on a true testimony of the living God and of His revelations and His unfailing support to those who seek it. They are protected from their enemies.

9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

They are generous. They share their wealth freely and assist the poor—essentially, the poor are anyone in need. The horn in this context is a metaphor for “strength . . . honor . . . power, dominion, glory, and fierceness.”

10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

The ego-drenched cannot countenance the success of others. It squeezes their competition gland until it oozes gall. Their selfish and often harmful desires are met with aggravation, even when they appear to be satisfied from a worldly point of view. They live outside their true nature and stomp their feet in frustration. They engage (and enrage) the lower self.

Lasting wealth comes from God and is His gift, as promised in holy scripture. We are privileged to hold it if we can hold out faithful in obedience and integrity. Money can be obtained through wickedness, but lasting riches come from being at one with our Creator and at one with ourselves.

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19.)

So You Think You Had a Bad Day?

By Frenkieb from Netherlands - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2324541

I went to a meeting last night where a man told of how his day went. Let’s call him Bob.

Mind, I raised my hand part way through the narrative and asked Bob, “So this really all happened to you today?” He assured everyone in the room that it did.

If you think you had a bad day, listen up: this might make you feel like it wasn’t so bad.

Bob was in his car and had just bought himself a diet soda in a big plastic cup. It was on a console (or something) next to the driver seat when it began to tip. Bob tried to grab it, but he accidentally squished the plastic cup, popped the lid off, and poured the entire drink on the floor, soaking his feet in the process.

Bob felt a little upset, so he slammed his fist against the steering wheel, and as he did, the window on the passenger side fell off its tracks and into the door.

It was little cold. Bob tried to crank up the heat, but the heat would not come on. He flipped the knob back and forth several times—hard enough that the knob broke off. 

He drove off, enjoyed a few miles of natural air conditioning, and a short while later got a flat tire on a busy thoroughfare.

All this happened within a half hour.

If you think you had a bad day, consider Bob’s yesterday. Now does yours seem so bad? I didn’t think so.

My Best Teacher

Courtesy LDS Media Libary

I overheard a proverb in testimony meeting today that really sank in. The last person to bear testimony said this: “My best teacher is my last mistake.”

Those words settled on me like warm rain, and I’ve been soaking wet all afternoon.

I don’t like my mistakes. So why do I invent new ones every day, against my will?

Every single day.

I’m embarrassed by my mistakes, and bone weary of them. I wish I wasn’t such an expert at making them. When I suddenly remember mistakes from childhood, from my teenage years, or from last week, I turn a bright, hot red.

As I get older, though, I realize that each mistake I’ve made, each error in judgment, is a gift.  Regret, properly applied, can be a healing balm.

The great plan of happiness allows for us to make mistakes (Alma 42:8.)  Without sin, pain, sorrow, and opposition, there would be no purity, health, happiness, or strength. Without contrast, there is no perception. If we were faultless, coddled, and comfortable at every turn, we would be blobs of humanity, unable to comfort or strengthen others, unfit for celestial company.

So I welcome my mistakes. I still don’t like them or plan them out or wish for them, but I accept calmly that I will make them, no matter how hard I try not to. Personal mistakes are a path to pain, but that pain can teach us how to avoid the same trauma again, how to not repeat them. I am grateful for those lessons. Isn’t that the point?

Thank you, whoever you are, for your seven enlightening words. It would be a mistake for me to forget them.