Prayer, Joy & Happiness

Recently I have felt that it is important for me to work on offering more heartfelt and sincere prayers, and to focus more on the joy and happiness that I have now and ahead of me. Here are a few quotes from the past general conference that I found to be meaningful. Hearing and reading these words and the rest of these (and other) talks from the recent LDS general conference was an answer to my prayers. I offer my testimony that these are men and women who have been called by the Lord to serve, teach and share these inspired messages. I share my own personal witness that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, a man who has dedicated his life to serving, encouraging, and loving others and teaching people to follow Christ.

“As you pray to Heavenly Father in faith, “he will console you in your afflictions, … [and ye may] feast upon his love.” President Henry B. Eyring shared that his father’s prayers during a losing battle with cancer taught him the deeply personal relationship between God and His children:

“When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: ‘God needs brave sons.’

“And so he soldiered on to the end, trusting that God loved him, listened to him, and would lift him up. He was blessed to have known early and to never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer.”

– Carol F. McConkie (and quoting Pres. Eyring)

“Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!

And what was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home—clean and worthy—to live with our Heavenly Parents and families.

If we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?”

– President Nelson

“Essential to the plan is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, all would be lost. It is not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances. Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness.

We are blessed to have the truth. We have a mandate to share the truth. Let us live the truth, that we might merit all that the Father has for us. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. He has told us, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”1

From the depths of my soul and in all humility, I testify of the great gift which is our Father’s plan for us. It is the one perfect path to peace and happiness both here and in the world to come.”

– President Monson

A Favorite Bible Verse, from James

In honor of International Bible Day, here’s a verse from the Bible that is meaningful to me, from James chapter 3:

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:16-18)

As Jesus taught us, and his brother James confirms, “blessed are the peacemakers”.

Gospel Doctrine, New Testament Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See”

My wife and I drove recently to Seattle to see my brother in law and his wife get sealed in the Seattle temple, we drove through central Oregon and Portland (saw the Columbia river, green fields, rolling hills, snowy mountains, the Pacific Ocean, rainy beautiful green forests and saw an amazing waterfall) my wife commented to me, “how can people see all of this and not believe in God?” We all have the risk of being blind to spiritual truths that are right in front of our eyes if we choose not to see them and not to believe them.

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John chapter 9 tells the story of the healing of the blind man, and gives examples of the terrible state of those who allow themselves to be spiritually blind and refuse to see the truth.

(John 9: 1-7)

“…who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)

A pre-mortal existence is implied in this question, how else could the man sin prior to his birth? This belief in the pre-mortal existence of the spirit was apparently a belief held by the Jews of this time.

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)

This man’s blindness appeared to carry with it for him a special mission that the “the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Q. Why did Jesus anoint the man’s eyes with clay?

Believe it or not there was a specific prohibition by the Jewish rulers against the application of saliva to the eyes on the Sabbath. This strange restriction came into being because of a common belief that saliva was a remedy for diseases of the eye.

**** It would seem that Jesus was deliberately violating the Pharisees rules of the Jewish Sabbath.

“…Jesus is putting the people in the position of choosing between him as one sent of God to do the work of the Father, as one who can open blind eyes, and the traditions of the elders about Sabbath observance. They must make their choice at the peril of their salvation…”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie (Mortal Messiah, 3:201)

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John 9:18-23

So his neighbors see or hear about his miraculous healing and are amazed and not sure what to think, are we sure this is the man who was born blind? They ask him and he gives his testimony and tells what had happened and how he was healed by Jesus. This was the first time he shares his testimony

Their reaction is essentially to take him to the Pharisees to be judged. Wouldn’t you be happy for someone who was just miraculously healed?

He then bears his testimony to the Pharisees that he was healed and that Jesus is a prophet, he doesn’t appear to know more about Jesus than that but he defends what he knows is true.

His parent’s are brought before the Pharisees and questioned, they give a simple testimony – we know that this is our son and he was born blind, his parents were afraid to say any more. Why? The threat was excommunication for anyone who confessed Jesus was the Messiah. Does their testimony give enough witness/evidence to the Pharisees that the man is telling the truth about being healed of his physical blindness?

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Q. Why do you think this man might have been chosen to have this special mission of being healed and having the works of God made manifest in him?

Did his life as a blind man (already somewhat of an outcast in his society) prepare him for what would likely follow of a hard road of being cast out of Jewish society and testifying to those who might reject him?


Q. What can we learn from (his example and) the way this man handled all the things that happened to him AFTER he was healed?

He not only had faith to be healed, he had faith to bear testimony of what had happened to him after he was healed in spite of heavy opposition and threats. This says a lot about why he was chosen to be a witness of this miracle of the Savior, he stayed true to what happened to him and stood up for that truth. He had integrity.

“Jesus saw the need of an individual…[He] performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.

[He] didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle.”

– Chieko N. Okazaki, “Spit and Mud and Kigatsuku

The Savior comes to visit him again after he is cast out of the synagogue (excommunicated), notably not until after the trial of his faith and testimony.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:35-41)

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Q. What does the Savior mean when he says those who see not will see, and those who see will be made blind?

“[Jesus] came into the world to sit in judgement on all men, to divide them into two camps by their acceptance or rejection of his word. Those who are spiritually blind have their eyes opened through obedience to His gospel and shall see the things of the Spirit. Those who think they can see in the spiritual realm, but who do not accept Him and His gospel will remain in darkness and be made blind to the true spiritual realities.”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie

President Hinckely’s Self Talk

“Things work out, it isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out, don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in him, if we will pray to him, if we will live worthy of his blessings, he will hear our prayers.”

Gordon B. Hinckley

Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence

 

 A great message for anyone who struggles with sore trials, and especially for those who struggle with sore trials that those around them don’t always understand even though they may care for the one who is struggling and try to understand. It’s evident to me that Elder Holland has struggled through much of the worst of such trials and I feel that he speaks here with authenticity, as one who does understand to great extent what it’s like.

[Some favorite excerpts]

Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through …self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt—seemingly free, seemingly on our way—only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.” In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.”

…Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.”

What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny.

…Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you:

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”

Gospel Doctrine Lesson Outlines, New Testament

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This will be a work in progress as I put together lesson plans for this year’s gospel doctrine class, studying in the New Testament. I’ll post them as I complete them, wanted to have them all in one place rather than in multiple posts. I won’t have all of the lessons covered here but hopefully will get several posted in the coming months. Enjoy and if you have any questions or suggestions about these or anything related please comment!

Download My Lesson Outlines (.doc files)

Lesson 5: “Born Again”

Lesson 8: The Sermon on the Mount: “A More Excellent Way”

Lesson 10: “Take My Yoke upon You, and Learn of Me”

Lesson 12: “I am the Bread of Life”

Lesson 14: “Who Is My Neighbor?”

Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See”

Lesson 22: “Inherit the Kingdom Prepared For You”

Lesson 24: “This is Life Eternal”

Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”

Lesson 28: “We Are Witnesses”

Lesson 30: “God is No Respecter of Persons”

Lesson 32: “Live in the Spirit”

Lesson 34: “Keep the Ordinances As I Delivered Them”

Gospel Doctrine, New Testatment Lesson 5, “Born Again”

Download lesson 5 complete notes .doc file

John 4, Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman

Q. Who were the Samaritans?

. . . When the Ten Tribes were transported to Assyria more than seven centuries before the Christian Era, Samaria was repeopled by heathen colonists from other Assyrian provinces. These pagan peoples, intermixing somewhat with scattered remnants of Israel, founded the race of despised and hated Samaritans of Jesus’ day. As a nation, they claimed Jacob as their father and maintained they were inheritors of the blessings of the chosen seed. Their religion, partially pagan in nature, accepted the Pentateuch, but rejected the prophets and the psalms. In the day of Jesus they were friendly to Herod and Rome, but bitter toward the Jews, a feeling fully reciprocated by their Jewish kindred.
–Bruce R. McConkie

– Jesus must have recognized that at least this woman was of the house of Israel, otherwise he would not likely have come to teach her. Although the gospel was eventually to be preached to all the world, his personal ministry was only to be to the literal house of Israel

(Read John 4:1-6)

JST says whatever their intentions were before, the Pharisees now sought to put him to death because people were following him and being converted. They were threatened by his power and influence, possibly sheds more light on Nicodemus

Bible map #11 of Samaria/ Judea / Galilee – “left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria.”

– Samaria is right between the two, would be going out of his way to avoid Samaria (as most Jews did) but Jesus deliberately went through Samaria, deliberately talked with a woman who was a Samaritan, going against the social

The savior knew her background and despite her situation, living with someone she wasn’t married to and he still went out of his way to teach the gospel to her, didn’t judge, this led to many other Samaritans having the gospel.

(read John 4:6-15)

Q. Why did he ask her for water?

V6 says it was the 6th hour. The Jewish day starts at 6am so the 6th hour would be sometime between 12 and 1pm, so its the middle of the day, he has been walking all day and it tired and probably really thirsty

What is the most valuable substance or commodity in the world? We might initially think that gold, oil, or diamonds have the greatest worth. But of all the minerals, metals, gems, and solvents found on and in the earth, the most valuable is water. Life springs from water. Life is sustained by water. Water is the medium required to perform the various functions associated with all known forms of life. …a person can survive for many days or even weeks without food, an individual will usually die in only three or four days without water. Most of the world’s great centers of population are situated near sources of fresh water. Simply stated, life could not exist without the availability of and access to adequate supplies of clean water. …Given the vital role of water in sustaining all forms of life, the Savior’s use of the term “living water” is supernally significant.”
–Elder Bednar

Q. Why didn’t the woman understand the Savior at first?

“…The whole episode compares secular things to spiritual. The woman was engrossed in the worldly things-the flesh, the natural water, the rope, the bucket. She could hardly grasp the idea of the ‘living water,’ and even when she began to believe, her response was that she would like some of that special kind of water so that she would never have to come again to the well to draw. She was still thinking in physical terms. It took some time before she could appreciate that the ‘living water’ Jesus could give would be like a flowing well ‘springing up unto everlasting life’.”
–Robert J. Matthews

Q. What is the living water that the Savior offers?

(Guidance, covenants, comfort, inspiration from scriptures, words of prophets – living = moving, active, eventually it will be eternal life if we stay on that path )

– I want to add emphasis that we don’t have to wait until the next life to receive that living water. In fact we should be seeking that every day.

John 7:37-39 (living water = The gift of the Holy Ghost)

1 Nephi 11:25 (fountain of living waters/tree of life, represents the love of God)

– A major point of this lesson, there’s a lot of them, but as I was studying I thought of this scripture in the D&C, in the middle of the prayer given at the Kirtland temple dedication, Joseph Smith starts to pray for the kings and rulers, the poor and needy and all people of the world and prays:

That their hearts may be softened when thy servants shall go out from thy house, O Jehovah, to bear testimony of thy name; that their prejudices may give way before the truth, and thy people may obtain favor in the sight of all…”
–D&C 109: 56

We must let go of prejudices, false ideas and whatever limiting beliefs we hold that prevent us from fully embracing the gospel and keeping God’s commandments. It is then that we can receive the promises such as these:

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
–D&C 50:24

67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
–D&C 88:6

I know that as we allow the Spirit to soften our hearts and accept the gospel more fully, with willingness to act on what we know is true, we will be blessed with the living water of the Spirit and we will feel God’s love more deeply and receive his help and guidance daily.

What will our place be in history?

As we greet a new year, it seems fitting to reflect on where we stand in history. What has come before us and what is ahead of us. Where do we fit in the story of humanity and in God’s overall plan? The world is progressing at rates never seen before. The view in some areas is very bleak, and in others has never been brighter. We get to live in a time when truth fills the Earth, yet we are also surrounded by the darkness of greed, oppression and selfishness. The work of the Lord moves forward in spite of opposition.

What will our place be, what will our contribution be to history? Will we be an influence for good? Will we make a positive impact in our own spheres of influence? That is up to each one of us. We have been empowered with the ability to determine our destiny, by our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

In 1999, Pres. Hinckley had similar thoughts and expanded on this same question as he reflected on the passing of a century:

“Daniel had foreseen a stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands and which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44).

Isaiah and Micah had spoken long before when with prophetic vision they saw our time:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

…do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? This is the focal point of all that has gone before. This is the season of restitution. These are the days of restoration. This is the time when men from over the earth come to the mountain of the Lord’s house to seek and learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. This is the summation of all of the centuries of time since the birth of Christ to this present and wonderful day.

The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day, …
Majestic rises on the world.

The centuries have passed. The latter-day work of the Almighty, that of which the ancients spoke, that of which the prophets and apostles prophesied, is come. It is here. For some reason unknown to us, but in the wisdom of God, we have been privileged to come to earth in this glorious age.

…We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed.

…Let the old year go. Let the new year come.

…And so we shall go forward on a continuing path of growth and progress and enlargement, touching for good the lives of people everywhere for as long as the earth shall last.

At some stage in all of this onward rolling, Jesus Christ will appear to reign in splendor upon the earth. No one knows when that will be. Not even the angels in heaven will know of the time of His return. But it will be a welcome day.

Come, O thou King of Kings!
We’ve waited long for thee,
With healing in thy wings,
To set thy people free.
Come, thou desire of nations, come;
Let Israel now be gathered home.

May God bless us with a sense of our place in history and, having been given that sense, with our need to stand tall and walk with resolution in a manner becoming the Saints of the Most High, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

(At the Summit of the Ages, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Oct. 1999)