Monday, September 28, 2015

Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying

                                               Christ in white, yellow, and green robes, kneeling with hands folded, looking upward, against a plain background.  


“A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”---should reassure and encourage members of the Church. Although we are referred to as “Latter-day Saints,” we sometimes flinch at this reference. The term Saints is commonly used to designate those who have achieved an elevated state of holiness or even perfection. And we know perfectly well that we are not perfect.

President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final. Even if we’ve been a conscious, deliberate sinner or have repeatedly faced failure and disappointment, the moment we decide to try again, the Atonement of Christ can help us. And we need to remember that it is not the Holy Ghost that tells us we’re so far gone that we might as well give up.

God’s desire that Latter-day Saints keep on trying also extends beyond overcoming sin. Whether we suffer because of troubled relationships, economic challenges, or illnesses or as a consequence of someone else’s sins, the Savior’s infinite Atonement can heal even---and perhaps especially---those who have innocently suffered.  He understands perfectly what it is like to suffer innocently as a consequence of another’s transgression. As prophesied, the Savior will “bind up the brokenhearted, give…beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, [and] the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  No matter what, with His help, God expects Latter-day Saints to keep trying.

My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites.  As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true latter-day Saints.  As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming more than about who we once were.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Beware of Pride

“Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. …
“Pride is characterized by ‘What do I want out of life?’ rather than by ‘What would God have me do with my life?’ It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.
“Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and to the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.”
The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39.)
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:113 Ne. 6:18.) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. (See 2 Ne. 4:15Mosiah 1:3–7Alma 5:61.)
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. (See Alma 12:10–11.) The proud are not easily taught. (See 1 Ne. 15:3, 7–11.) They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.
Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees. Now you can see why the building in Lehi’s dream that represents the pride of the world was large and spacious and great was the multitude that did enter into it. (See 1 Ne. 8:26, 3311:35–36.)
Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
We must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” put off the prideful “natural man,” become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” and become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble.” (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 13:28.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Keeping the Law of Chastity

The Church has no double standard of morality. The moral code of heaven for both men and women is complete chastity before marriage and full fidelity after marriage.

The natural desire for men and women to be together is from God. But such association is bounded by his laws. Those things properly reserved for marriage, when taken within the bonds of marriage, are right and pleasing before God and fulfil the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. But those same things when taken outside the bonds of marriage are a curse.
Go to the marriage altar pure and clean. Reserve for the marriage relationship those sweet and intimate associations which the God of Heaven intended should be a part of marriage and not be indulged in outside of the marriage covenant. I care not what the world says, but these are the standards of the kingdom of God.
Moral purity is an eternal principle. The Spirit of God “cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle” [see Helaman 4:24]. Purity is life-giving; impurity is deadly. God’s holy laws cannot be broken with impunity. Great nations have fallen when they became morally corrupt, because the sins of immorality left their people scarred and misshapen creatures who were unable to face the challenge of their times.
Overcome evil with good. You can overcome many evil inclinations through good physical exertion and healthful activities. A healthy soul, free of the body-and-spirit-dulling influences of alcohol and tobacco, is in better condition to overthrow the devil.
Fill your lives with positive sources of power. It is not enough simply to try to resist evil or empty our lives of sin. We must also fill our lives with righteousness. We must engage in activities that bring spiritual power.
Our Heavenly Father desires nothing for us but to be happy. He tells us only those things that will bring us joy. And one of the surest principles given by God to help us find that joy is the law of chastity. I pray with all my heart that you will consider most solemnly the joyful consequences of keeping this law, and the tragic consequences of violating it.
Be true to God’s holy laws. Remember, they cannot be broken with impunity. If you would be happy and successful in your earthly association, courtship, and home building, conform your lives to the eternal laws of heaven. There is no other way.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Sacrament

                                           Two young men in suits stand near a sacrament table with their heads bowed while a third offers the prayer for the sacrament bread.

How is physical birth and baptism alike?

There are several lessons the symbol of birth can teach us.
  • We are clean. The Lord clearly explains when we come out of the water of baptism it is compared to the purity of a newborn baby.
  • It is a greater sacrifice to be baptized than physical birth. Every mother will attest it is a sacrifice to give physical birth, but it is worth it. Just like sacrifices we make to be baptized are worth it.
As we take the sacrament, we know we are renewing the covenants we made at baptism.

Jeffrey R. Holland said in a Bishops note, "A sacrament is one of the ordinances that unite us with God and his limitless powers.  Those special moments of union with God are sacramental moments, such as kneeling at a marriage alter, blessing a newborn baby, or partaking of the emblems of the Lord's Supper.  The sacrament is technically only one of many such moments when we formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power.  These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God's will, our spirit with his spirit, when communion through the veil comes very real.  At such moments we are not only acknowledge his divinity, but we also quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves.

Partaking of the sacrament provides us with a sacred moment in a holy place. Sacrifice is essential to salvation. Since the time that Adam and Eve were driven form the Garden of Eden, sacrifice has been a central part of worship.  Until Jesus Christ's Atonement, that sacrifice was performed by shedding the blood of an unblemished animal. But the Atonement did not replace the command to sacrifice. Jesus himself to us, in 3 Nephi 9:20 "Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit."  Our sacrifice in this manner reminds us of His sacrifice at the alter of Gethsemane.

The Gospel Principles manual explains, "Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God.  People have always been tried and tested to see if they will put the things of God first in their lives." The sacrament table is our alter of sacrifice, where we can present ourselves, broken and contrite, to be healed and filled with the Holy Ghost".  Proper preparation for a sacrifice includes bringing something to sacrifice.  The ancients would never arrive at the temple without an appropriate animal to place on the altar. Keeping that in mind, Elder Don R. Clarke promises, "If we properly prepare for the sacrament, we can transform our lives."

Elder Melvin J. Ballard said: " I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warm the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load being lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food"