Treasures in Heaven

Last night my wife and I were discussing D&C 133:30, and how as part of the gathering of Israel, the tribes from the north “shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.” Are they bringing treasures of worldly wealth, gold and silver, or spiritual treasures? Although I don’t doubt that this scripture in D&C likely has more than one meaning for “treasures”, we both agreed that the more valuable gift they could bring is spiritual treasures, like those mentioned in Luke 12.

Today, probably not coincidentally, I was given an offer for a job that is a great blessing to me and my family. We’ve been praying for this for a long time. I feel that it is a direct blessing from a loving, kind and generous Father in heaven. He knows our needs, knows how to sufficiently provide for them and will do so abundantly if we trust Him and follow His commandments. I know this. Even in the times when we’ve struggled over the last year or so with not being sure about which direction to go, where to establish ourselves, and even concerns about whether we would be able to provide for all our needs, He has been with us the whole time. He never leaves us. He’s been teaching us, healing us, and preparing us.

I feel extreme gratitude right now, God has been good to me. I happened to see this video online and after watching it I am convinced even more how directly I’ve been blessed today and how important it is to keep this blessing in perspective. Of course we need a job and income to provide for our families, and God desires to help us with these things. Of course the Lord wants us to be successful. Of course he can give us what we need. Sometimes we need to struggle and experience difficulties in order to learn the necessary lessons of life so that we’re able to properly receive the blessings he wants to give us, recognize them and appreciate them. But where is our real treasure? What is our heart focused on and our ultimate desire?  I feel immense gratitude toward God for blessing me with income that my family needs, in a generous way. That’s His nature. As we’ve struggled along the way this past year, I feel even more blessed that he has opened the windows of heaven in blessing us with spiritual treasures of growth, knowledge and experience we will take with us into the eternities.

10 great LDS talks

There’s certain talks from leaders of the LDS church that have influenced me in pretty significant ways. Some of these talks I listen to a lot, others just have messages that made a lasting impression and have stuck with me. Here’s 10 that have had a big influence on me, in no specific order.

  1. Mission of the Book of Mormon Elder Jefferey R. Holland, 2000
    This talked has helped put into context for me the important role of the Book of Mormon while I was a missionary. I listened to it over and over. Elder Holland’s excitement and level of spirituality is inspiring. You have to hear it, I can’t host the audio here but if you’re interested and you can’t find it online, ask me and I’ll email it to you.
  2. Elijah’s Mission Truman G. Madsen, 1977
    Amazing insights about Elijah’s mission of turning our hearts to family/ancestors– not only being grateful for the good we either inherit or learn from family but also being willing to forgive them for the challenges we inherit because of them, and how doing that can bless our family lines in both directions.
  3. See Others As They May Become President Thomas S. Monson, Oct. 2012
    I love Pres. Monson’s words about how people can change and his own experiences that he shares about how he has seen people change miraculously through the power of Christ.
  4. Forgiveness President Gorden B. Hinckley, Oct. 2005
    This talk is one of my favorites from Pres. Hinckley while he was the president of the church. It was given during his later years when it was evident that his time with us was limited so I think his insights were even more valued and had special meaning. It includes a great quote that “forgiveness may be the greatest virtue on earth”. His insights, along with the examples he gives makes this probably best sermon I can remember hearing on forgiveness.
  5. Born of God President Ezra Taft Benson, 1985
    A few words from this talk stuck with me when I heard them as a missionary, about how Christ approaches problem-solving in an entirely different way than the world approaches it. Pres. Benson, says:“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
  6. The First Great Commandment Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Oct. 2012
    I can’t even begin to fully describe all the reasons why I like this one, Elder Holland just gets better and better. The image he paints of the remaining apostles going back to their lives as fisherman after the Savior’s crucifixion and then the the Lord visiting them and calling them back to the ministry. There’s so much symbolism in the scriptures he’s referencing but also the way Elder Holland expounds on the scripture is very inspired and powerful.
  7. Prayer Elder Henry B. Eyring, Oct. 2001
    Elder, (now President) Eyring is one of my favorite speakers because of he is at the same time very bold and tender-hearted. He reminds us here to be diligent and sincere in our prayers even after the requested blessing comes. I like also that he quotes the scripture in Helaman 12:1-3.
  8. It’s True, Isn’t It? Elder Gorden B. Hinckley, 1971
    President Hinckley was always so mild-mannered and wise, he also had a good sense of humor. I often looked forward to hearing him speak. I like this particular talk because of the experience he shares of the person he met who had to make the difficult choice of giving up everything in his life to join the church.
  9. The Challenge to Become Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Oct. 2000
    Elder Oak’s provides a great insight into the Savior’s words to Peter, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”. I had missed this scripture before hearing this talk back in the day, could an Apostle of Christ not be fully converted to Christ? What does that mean for the rest of us. It’s not just about belief or knowledge, it’s about what we do with what we know.
  10. Standing Together for the Cause of Christ Elder Jefferey R. Holland, 2012
    Elder’s Holland speaking to a group of national Christian leaders, delving into such tender topics as cultivating unity among various Christian faiths in spite of differing theologies, and the need to work together to strengthen communities by building upon common ground.“Surely there is a way for people of goodwill who love God and have taken upon themselves the name of Christ to stand together for the cause of Christ and against the forces of sin. In this we have every right to be bold and believing, for “if God be for us, who can be against us?”.

As he that serveth

In gospel principles class today at church today we had a really good lesson about service. There were several people in the class who aren’t LDS, there was also a few who had recently joined the church. Yet everyone in the class contributed comments or questions or helped read from the manual or scriptures. I love how we’re all from different backgrounds yet there was a unity in how we felt about the need to serve people around us to make theirs and our lives better and happier.

One of the questions our teacher asked was what are some examples from Jesus’s life where he served other people? One person mentioned the washing of the Apostle’s feet and how this demonstrated his humility doing even seemingly undesirable types of service, another girl brought up the feeding of the five thousand, someone else mentioned how the Savior had went away to be alone after the death of John the Baptist and then people still managed to find him– even though he was in mourning and probably had preferred to be alone he still helped the people that came to him.

I thought of when the Savior was on the cross, in his moment of greatest agony he was still thinking of other people. He told the man on the cross next to him (I’m paraphrasing) “today you’ll be with me in paradise”. This was no doubt a huge comfort to a man who had acknowledged he was guilty and deserved to be punished but that Jesus was innocent, yet the Savior wanted him to know there was forgiveness available to him. Also while on the cross the Savior thought of his mother and he told John who was standing near her, “behold thy mother”, in effect giving John the responsibility to care for her since he no longer could. In everything he did, Christ was our perfect example of an unselfish servant of God and of the people around him. He was not concerned with being inconvenienced or with his own suffering or pain, everything he did was to reduce and eliminate the suffering of others and bring light into their lives. He said in Luke:

“…I am among you as he that serveth.” (Luke 22:27)

Courage & Testimony

President Monson speaks with such a kind spirit, confidence and optimism that I think it’s nearly impossible to dislike him. Everything he says is full of inspiration and encouragement. More than that, I know that he is a prophet of God, that has been called to preside over the Lord’s church today and to be a witness of Christ. I’m inspired by his words from a recent general conference address:

“Courage is the word we need to hear and hold near our hearts—courage to turn our backs on temptation, courage to lift up our voices in testimony to all whom we meet, remembering that everyone must have an opportunity to hear the message. It is not an easy thing for most to do this. But we can come to believe in the words of Paul to Timothy:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”

…I pray that we will have the courage to extend the hand of fellowship, the tenacity to try, and try, and try again, and the humility needed to seek guidance from our Father as we fulfill our mandate to share the gospel. The responsibility is on us…”

(See Others As They May Become, Oct 2012 General Conference)

Relying on the Promises of God

The scriptures consistently give me an increased sense of hope and well-being that is found few other places. I’ve learned that there’s an important reason to not only read the scriptures, but rather “search” them and rely on them in order to obtain hope:

Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. (D&C 1:37)

God Keeps His Promises to Us Personally

As the years go by more and more scriptures have become meaningful to me on a personal level. I’ve been able to lean on certain scriptures and phrases from the words of God to get me through tough times. It’s evident to me that God uses the scriptures to speak to us. It’s also evident to me that when I take a specific scriptural promise to heart, and if I’m living with integrity, faithfully living God’s commandments associated with that specific promise, God will fulfill that promise in my life according to his timeline. That’s how he works, because he loves us and because he is a God of truth and wants us to trust and rely on Him. He tells us:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

And also has said clearly, “…Behold I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word.” (D&C 17:1)

So what promises in the scriptures can and should be searched for, sought after and relied on? The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon explained, “…I did liken all scriptures unto us”. (1 Nephi 19:23)

It might seem a little unusual at first that a promise that God made to the ancient Israelites could have direct application to us in our vastly different modern world of today, but truth is eternal. Every promise that God gives in the scriptures can and should be likened to us, or in other words they can be compared and applied to us personally in our individual lives with whatever challenge we may be experiencing or with whatever righteous gift or blessing that we need or want.

Using God’s Promises as Spiritual Armor

A while ago I decided to more actively pursue the promises in the scriptures that were meaningful to me or that I felt I needed to have fulfilled in my life. I wrote several of them down on 3×5 cards so that I could quickly and easily access and read throughout the day and make them part of my everyday thoughts and desires. By reading them often and memorizing many of them, they have been a source of strength even when I’m not consciously thinking about them and also as a shield against discouragement as well as negative and faithless thinking. Here’s a few examples:

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa 41:10)

“Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10)

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalms 34:17)

“…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)

These are just a few of the promises God has given us in the scriptures that I rely on daily. There are hundreds more I could add, but the promises that are the most meaningful and valuable are the ones that God will personalize to us individually through the power of Holy Ghost. In my experience these kinds of personal promises are most often found through prayer when seeking specific blessings and then searching/studying the scriptures, then allowing the Holy Ghost to teach by considering them with deep reflection.

God’s Laws Each Have Promised Blessings

It’s no coincidence that each commandment that God gives us comes with a promised blessing for following it. A good example is the law of tithing, giving back one tenth of your income to God. The heavenly law as well as the associated promises for following it is spoken of in the book of Malachi (3:10-12):

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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.”

Here’s the rest of the promise:

“..And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Aren’t these amazing promises for such a simple commandment? A blessing that is so abundant you won’t be able to contain it all? And a promise that the “devourer” will be rebuked in your life, i.e. possibly protection from major financial problems, or possibly protection from other “devouring” calamities in the last days. What a great assurance and blessing to have.

Relying On the Promises of God

While many in the world look for fulfillment and comfort in things that only lead to confusion, regret and sorrow, the Lord is rescuing, healing and lifting up those who humbly follow Him and do His will. By living according to God’s commandments and also taking his promises to heart and seeking them, you will receive them. Let your focus, your thoughts, your faith and desires be squarely placed on God’s promises. If you do this, miracles will happen in your life and family, and the mercy and grace of God will be with you. Your faith and relationship with God will grow and you come to realize for yourself that God “hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” (1 Ne 9:6)

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever.” (D&C 1:38-39)

Mormon Helping Hands and the clean up effort after Hurricane Sandy in New York

Reblogging this video about the clean up effort for the homes affected by flooding in New York, saw it on “The Long Version” blog but it is also on the Washington Post.

From Deseret News:

“According to the New York Daily News, [Mormon] Helping Hands has won “rave reviews” from the Rockaways community. Islamic and Catholic charities as well as other volunteer organizations have also joined the effort and have been able to deliver food and supplies to residents faster than government agencies.”

A man without eloquence

This video looks a little dated, or at least the opening title screen makes it seem that way but the message is a good one, detailing an experience Brigham Young had that led to his conversion.

What is it that convinces man? It is the influence of the Almighty, enlightening his mind, giving instruction to the understanding.

…Anything besides that influence, will fail to convince any person of the truth of the Gospel of salvation …Sermonizing, dividing, and subdividing subjects, and building up a fine superstructure calculated to fascinate the mind, coupled with the choicest eloquence of the world, will produce no good to them.

…The world, with all its wisdom and power, and with all the glory and gilded show of its kings or potentates, sinks into perfect insignificance, compared with the simple, unadorned testimony of the servant of God. (Brigham Young, 1852)

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