Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sacrifices & the net cast into the sea (Matthew Chapter 13)

As I was studying Matthew Chapter 13 Verses 44-46, I pondered over the sacrifices that others that I know have made as they have joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I do not feel that I have made any sacrifices, but I know a friend who has made many sacrifices to become a member of this church.  Her parents were very mad at her when she got sealed in the temple and they were unable to come.  Her parents have not been supportive of her as she strives to live the gospel values and keep the commandments.  It breaks her heart sometimes to get treated the way she does by her family for the righteous choices that she has made, but it never shakes her faith.  She has a firm testimony that this is the gospel is true and she moves forward faithfully.  It is her hope that her example will be a positive influence for good and will help bring her parents into the church.  Another friend of mine has parents who say very mean things to her about her church membership and make being at home a very difficult time to endure.  The only time she feels peace in her heart and happiness in her life is when she is away from them and at a church college; surrounded by those like her who live and love the gospel.  I am ever in awe of these two women that I know who travail through so much sorrow and hardship, yet still remain true and faithful to their covenants! 
I am not sure if this is correct, but my guess is that the net in the parable of the net cast into the sea in Matthew Chapter 13 Verse 47 represents judgment day.  I think that being gathered into the net means being born on earth to go through the tests and trials that we must all face.  When that parable talks about casting away the bad and gathering the good, I think that represents what will happen to all of us during the day of judgment—we will either be cast away with the bad or placed in His peaceful arms of rest if we are true and faithful.  What do you think this parable is talking about? 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Sermon on the Mount is "Our Constitution for Perfection"

          As I was studying the beatitudes that are in Matthew Chapter 5 Verses 3-11, I wanted to learn more about them.  Looking at footnote “a” in verse 3, it says:  The Latin beatus is the basis of the English “beatitude,” meaning “to be fortunate,” “to be happy,” or “to be blessed.”  From that, I would surmise that the definition of “beatitude” is even greater than happiness that can come from without.  The Institute manual explains beatitudes as thus:  Blessedness is defined as being higher than happiness. ‘Happiness comes from without and is dependent on circumstances; blessedness is an inward fountain of joy in the soul itself, which no outward circumstances can seriously affect.’ (Dummelow’s Commentary)” It is evident that, in order to find true and lasting happiness, we need to strive to have all of the beatitudes become a part of ourselves.
          The manual describes the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount as “Our Constitution for Perfection” that we all should strive to work on.  It then goes into great detail about how each and every one of the beatitudes can help us live a happier, more blessed life.  Not only that, but as the Institute manual says, “How can the Sermon on the Mount help you to become as your Father in heaven? Has it occurred to you as you read this sermon, that Jesus is actually describing the qualities of an exalted person? With this in mind, the Beatitudes become steps of perfection that enable us to truly love God and our fellowmen.”  There were three beatitudes that had explanations that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share.  I want to explain how they have either helped me in the past or can help me presently and in the future increase my happiness.
1.     From the Institute manual:  “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit  “To be poor in spirit is to feel yourselves as the spiritually needy, ever dependent upon the Lord for your clothes, and your food and the air you breathe, your health, your life; realizing that no day should pass without fervent prayer of thanksgiving, for guidance and forgiveness and strength sufficient for each day’s need.””
This explanation of that beatitude really stuck out to me because I have a tendency to fall short in this area.  I have a struggle trying to find out when I need to do something and when I can rely on the Lord to help me with it.  I am a very independent and ambitious person.  Those can be good traits, except for when it causes me to think that I can do everything on my own and that I do not need to ask for the Lord’s help.  Reading this helped me remember that it is okay to pray to the Lord in gratitude and also for guidance and forgiveness.  This really helped to emphasize the importance of daily, fervent prayer to me. 
2.     From the Institute manual:  “Blessed Are the Merciful  “Our salvation rests upon the mercy we show to others. Unkind and cruel words, or wanton acts of cruelty toward man or beast, even though in seeming retaliation, disqualify the perpetrator in his claims for mercy when he has need of mercy in the day of judgment before earthly or heavenly tribunals. Is there one who has never been wounded by the slander of another whom he thought to be his friend? Do you remember the struggle you had to refrain from retribution? Blessed are all you who are merciful for you shall obtain mercy!””
I really appreciated this commentary about being merciful.  It can be so heartbreaking when slander is spoken against you, yet not retaliating is very important.  I am not sure if this applies to what the Institute manual was trying to teach me, but it did come to my mind as I read it.  I know that it is not slander, but I get really tired of all of the comments that are made to me when I am pregnant.  I get very large very fast, and sometimes hurtful things (though probably unintentional) are said to me about it.  Even though I get really grumpy when I am pregnant, I am grateful that I have refrained from retaliating when such comments were made.  Regardless of that, I still want to go hide in a cave for the whole 9 months that I am pregnant so I do not have to endure anymore unnecessary comments!
3.     From the Institute manual:  “Blessed Are the Peacemakers  “Peacemakers shall be called the children of God. The troublemaker, the striker against law and order, the leader of the mob, the law-breaker are prompted by motives of evil and unless they desist will be known as the children of Satan rather than God. Withhold yourselves from him who would cause disquieting doubts by making light of sacred things for he seeks not for peace but to spread confusion. That one who is quarrelsome or contentious, and whose arguments are for other purposes than to resolve the truth, is violating a fundamental principle laid down by the Master as an essential in the building of a full rich life. ‘Peace and goodwill to men on earth’ was the angel song that heralded the birth of the Prince of Peace.””
This explanation was a good reminder to me of how I can continuously have peace in my home.  Yesterday, everyone was tired and was having a difficult time being peaceful.  However, I believe it is because we read the scriptures every night and pray together every morning and every evening that we were able to keep contention out of our home, even during a time when it would most likely be present.  I am grateful that I live in a home where we do not yell and where we can work out our differences with love and kindness.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

John Chapter 2 - The Savior's first miracle and the money changers in the temple.

            My scripture reading in John Chapter 2 this week left me with several things to ponder over.  First of all, the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine was very impressive for several reasons.  I found it very tender that the Savior’s first miracle that He ever performed was for His mother.  I also was impressed by his willingness to do anything that His mother asked Him to do.  It is clear that He loved His mother very much and that He wanted to show that love by serving her. 
            When Jesus referred to his mother as “woman,” that was not disrespectful back then, even though it is today.  On the contrary, it is Jesus showing His mother the utmost respect by acknowledging that she is the one who gave birth to Him.  It was a good example to me of how I need to show love and respect to my own mother the way that the Savior did to His.
            In John Chapter 2 Verses 13-16, Jesus casts out the money changers from the temple.  In The Journal of Discourses Volume 7 on November 13th, 1859, John Taylor explained: “Jesus amazed them by teaching them good principles, by telling them of their evils, exposing their iniquities, and telling them that they were whited walls and painted sepulchers. But it was the truth. They did not wish to hear it: they loved darkness rather than light. That was the kind of feeling and state of things then, and it is the same now. Truth has precisely the same effect now that it had then, and I presume it always will have. And if they will have done these things in the green tree, what will they do in the dry?”
            John Taylor’s remarks really made me think about the state of the world today.  Gospel truths, such as marriage between a man and a woman, are things that people do not want to hear about.  They love darkness rather than light and truth.  I have a profound respect for our church leaders for standing up for what is right and true, no matter what is the popular thinking of the time.  I believe that we can all do our part to help shine the light of truth to the world as well by living our lives in a manner which is pleasing to the Savior. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weaknesses are Strengths

I was studying Elder Scott's talk from Oct titled-Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He talks about the fathers of the 2000 stripling warriors and how they had not turned to the temptation of fighting even when there was great need for help in fighting against the Lamanites. They had a past of fighting and brutality. It had been a weakness, but Elder Scott states, "Mercifully they were taught the gospel, repented, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ became spiritually stronger than Satan's enticements....Their humble, lifelong commitment to forsaking their sins did more to protect their families than anything they could have done on the battlefield. Their submission did not deprive them of blessings. It strengthened them and blessed them and future generations."

I found myself thinking about the concept of blessing my children and their lives by overcoming my weaknesses. The fitness challenge taught me a lot about my own personal need for rewards to help me through the day, my weakness was for approval. If I didn't feel "enough" gratitude or praise from my children or others, I found it through personal "sweet" rewards. I found that this type of weakness only left me seeking more. I have found this week that when I start feeling that need for a reward for overcoming a difficult situation  or finishing a ominous task, that I have asked myself how I can benefit my children with a reward. I have found opportunity to stop and notice the challenges and accomplishments my children have made and offer them a sweet reward. I am surprised, though I shouldn't be, at how mush more they are willing to take on without complaining after they are given a word of thanks and approval.
I am glad the Lord gives us opportunities to learn from our weaknesses. I would be a lot smarter if I took the time to learn from the ones I have, instead of trying to fight them.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My thoughts about how the Savior’s childhood can teach us how to improve our personal growth and development

As I was doing my scripture study tonight, the following things stood out to me: 

1.     I need to remember that Jesus increased in wisdom; it was something that took time.  Learning is a process and does not happen immediately.  That also means that I need to constantly be striving to gain more wisdom instead of just letting time pass me by without learning anything new.  (Luke Chapter 2 Verse 52)

2.     Just as learning is a process, so is obedience (as well as many other things). 
a.      “The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you’re having the most difficulty keeping today. If it’s one of dishonesty, if it’s one of unchastity, if it’s one of falsifying, not telling the truth, today is the day for you to work on that until you’ve been able to conquer that weakness. Then you start on the next one that’s most difficult for you to keep.” – President Harold B. Lee  (Church News, 5 May 1973, p. 3.)
b.     “Thus, a man must take his temptations in their turn and conquer them. This is what Jesus did, step by step, degree to greater degree, grace by grace, and this is what Jesus would have you do.” – From the Institute manual. 

Yes, the Lord expects me to be perfect.  However, I need to remember that perfection does not, and cannot come all at once.  I need to work on one area at a time until I am able to conquer it, and then move on to the next.  Trying to become perfect in all areas of my life all at once is quite overwhelming and seems impossible. However, remembering that even the Savior Himself went through a process of learning and growing gives me the comfort I need to not beat myself up for striving to do the same in my own life.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I find that I cave to my addictions shortly after meeting a personal goal. Today has been hard for me. The end of the year brought the fulfillment of 2 goals -Fitness Challenge and remodeling/redecorating our bedroom. We have been talking about painting our room since we moved in almost 14 years ago and finally finished it yesterday. It is a beautiful sunshiny yellow with bright white trim. I've always wanted something to wake up to that looked warm and happy. We even celebrated by eating the pint of Culvers Chocolate covered Strawberry Frozen custard that has miraculously been patiently waiting in the freezer for over a week just for this momentous occasion. The moment was fantastic- We felt victorious in our hard work- yet today I find myself feeling lost and defeated. I was trying to decide if I felt bad because of the extra sugar or if I have a hard time moving on past the excitement and thrill of the finish. There are alot of things that I have planned to start with the new year and began some specific study topics with the kids, but I am having a difficult time feeling excited about starting up new goals and projects and feeling that I would rather bury myself in a hole and not think about anything for a few months. I know that this is where I usually end up depressed and discouraged and tend to make some really poor decisions about my everyday responsibilities and relationships. I am glad that the Spiritual Challenge starts next week, because I find I am a very grumpy waiter, when I don't have something to focus on.