November 24, 2014

Living in a World with no Breaks.

     "I just need a break" "This weeks is exhausting" "when will it end" "Just take it away" Believe it or not, we live in a world with no breaks. When we scroll through Facebook and see the lives of others as they live a perfect life with their perfect family portrait. This perfect portrait does not display real life. We should not compare our lives with the lives of others. Others are experiencing similar pains in their own life. In the last General Conference, Elder Cook spoke about thee use of social media, " A prominent thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, has emphasized this point. He observes that when using social media, we tend to broadcast the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work. We portray an incomplete life-- Sometimes in a self-aggrandizing or fake way. We share this life, and then we consume "almost exclusively... fake lives of [our] social media 'friends.'" Brooks asserts, "How could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?""
     If we live life this way, we will feel unhappy in our circumstances. Perhaps we are unhappy with our current circumstances now. During these bleak times in our lives, which makes up the majority of our life, it is easy to feel ungrateful, because there seems to be nothing to be thankful for.If we remain in this state of mind, we will become consumed. There won't be light at the end of the tunnel, because life is always hard. Our tough experiences will never stop from happening. We will not catch a break. Life is hard, so deal with it. but don't deal with it alone.
     Involve Christ. Thomsas S Monson stated "He will not always take your afflictions from you, but he will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face".  The atonement of Jesus Christ builds our faith to match our circumstance. He gives us strength beyond our own. He lifts our hearts higher than we can fathom. This life is about trusting him. How can we learn to trust him if we don't rely on his strength during our circumstances. If our circumstances were simply  dissolved, there would be no need for the strength of Christ. We do now, and always will need the strength of Christ.
     While we can't catch a break from our personal environment and surroundings, we can catch a break from our feelings of exhaustion, our feelings of fatigue, our feelings of unhappiness. True happiness does not depend on our circumstances. True happiness depends on our patience. The Apostle Paul taught about patience in his epistle to Rome  "We glory in tribulations ... knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience, and experience hope". (Rom. 5:3-4)
     This is thanksgiving time, and we all look into our past to see what we are grateful for. We look at our lives now and see what we are grateful for. But what about those times when life is bleak. Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us the important principal of being grateful in any circumstance "It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I'm suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances -- Whatever they may be".  Thankfulness is not dependent on our circumstance. It doesn't depend on anything else. Thankfulness is a feeling that can be felt without attachment to anything. Don't wait for your circumstance to change, before you change yourself. Don't let your happiness depend on your circumstance.

November 13, 2014

To Follow the Prophet

What does it mean to follow the prophet?
I will tell you what it doesn't mean. It does not mean to follow blindly. It does not mean that if we stray by following the prophets counsel that the fault lies with the prophet. The prophet is truly called of God and God has promised us that he will not allow us to be lead astray. We can always trust the words of the Prophets. But remember, the only person who can receive the punishment because of our sins is our Savior Jesus Christ. He suffered all things, but only on the condition of personal repentance is our sin washed clean. This gives us a little personal responsibility doesn't it.
Now here is a shocker, We can be lead astray while following the words of the prophet. Lets find out how this is possible.
     In the most recent General Conference Elder Christopherson gave an excellent talk about being personal responsibility. He quoted true words from shakesphere

"Every subjects duty is the king's; but every subject's soul is his own".

Continuing in his conference address Elder Christopherson states

"God will not live our lives for us, nor control us as if we were his puppets... nor will his prophets accept the role as puppet master".

A quote given by Brigham Young clarifies this statement

"I do not wish any latter day saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, - the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish for them to know for themselves and understand for themselves."

One thing a prophet cannot do is provide personal understanding for each individual on the commandments and duties the Lord gives him to tell the world. That is up to us.
These quotes do not mean, nor were they meant to imply that a prophet of God in these latter days will lead us astray.
     Where we go astray while following a prophet, is not seeking for ourselves an understanding from God.
When we are given a commandment, we are to follow it. But if we do not understand why the commandment is important, it won't do the good in our lives that is needed.
     There is a SPIRIT OF THE LAW associated with every LETTER OF THE LAW. If we live life doing things only according to the letter of it, we will have a hard time keeping the spirit of it. In other words, if we merely follow the commandments we hear as they come from the mouth of the prophet, with no personal understanding of why, then keeping that commandment is hard, tedious, and consuming. This is why we are directed to seek to understand the words of the prophets, and to obey them.
 D&C 58:26
  For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

     This principle as taught by the savior himself shows us how important it really is to understand the purpose of Gods commandments. We could be going about doing all we are commanded, and still be a slothful and not a wise servant. We could keep every known commandment of the lord and receive no reward. This is how we can be lead astray while following the words of the prophets.
     When we truly understand why God commanded his prophet to say what he says, then we are able to apply the same principles to other similar aspects of our lives and apply it to similar principals. We would be using our own moral compass, acting as agents to ourselves with nobody to blame.
     It is up to us not only to follow the words of the prophets, but to understand why the words were spoken.
     Lehi was given many visions and commandments from the Lord. His entire family followed him out into the wilderness. This includes Lamen and Lemual. Can you believe that Lamen and Lemual were following the words of the Prophet! So was Nephi. But we know who was lead astray and who kept a hold of the Iron Rod.
    The difference between Lamen and Leman and Nephi was inquiring of the Lord. Nephi understood the importance of trusting the commandments of the Lord as they come from the mouth of the Prophet. He shared this with us when His father, the Prophet Lehi, commanded Nephi and his Brothers to return to their abandoned home town and acquire the scriptures to take with them. This was no easy task, and it was known to be accompanied with great risk because the scriptures were held with King Laban. King Laban was not a nice man.
Nephi Said
 "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

How did Nephi have so much more faith than his brothers. He inquired of the Lord. Lehi had a dream of the tree of Life which he explained and told to his entire family.

1 Nephi Chapter 8
 36 And it came to pass after my father had spoken all the words of his dream or vision, which were many, he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.
 37 And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off; yea, my father did preach unto them.
 38 And after he had preached unto them, and also prophesied unto them of many things, he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord; and he did cease speaking unto them.
Lehi told this to Laman and Lemual, and prophesied many things to all his family. Laman and Lemual stopped there. Nephi, however, inquired of the Lord.

1 Nephi 10
 17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
 18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
 19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."

Nephi understood the importance of understanding for himself. He did not doubt the words of his Father, but instead desired to know  and understand. This is something all of us should do with the words of the prophet. I think it is important to see that in the understanding the Lord gave to nephi, he explained that the Rod of Iron was the word of God. God speaks his word through his prophets. So the Rod of Iron are those who old to the words of the prophets. 
You do not read in the scriptures any account of someone hearing the words of the prophets, inquiring of the lord, only to be told contrary to the prophets. That is not the case. The reason for inquiring of the lord, is to make our keeping of the commandments more meaningful and applicable to our salvation.