Our Own Reality- Alma 30:17, Helaman 4:13

And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands.

COMMENTARY

But every man fared prospered according to his genius, conquered according to his strength
And because of their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength
To the ancient Nephites a false prophet came, denying the existence of Christ, and teaching the people that reliance upon God was foolhardy. Korihor taught that each person had only him- or herself to depend on. If you were to succeed or fail was entirely up to you, and you alone.
As the people came to embrace this philosophy, it actually became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having rejected God, they became Godless. Having insisted upon relying on their own strength only, they were left to their own strength only. Thus, in a sense they were absolutely right in their beliefs. By denying the existence of God, they ensured that in essence He would not exist (for them).
Of course we cannot change eternal truths by our opinions, we do not have that power. But we do have power over the individual experience of our lives. We have the ability to invite or reject divine intervention. We have the ability to put up or break down walls. We can make our portion of the world a place that is hopeful and blessed, or we can make it into a place that is cynical and isolated. Given that we have this power, we ought to take great care in which reality we are electing for ourselves.

The Virtue of Remembering- Reflection #1

I want to pause for a moment to reflect on the lessons that we have already learned about remembering in the gospel. We have discussed how God invites us to remember the things he did for ancient saints, to encourage faith in us that He can do the same in our lives.

Thus, when we are called to stand up for what is right against great odds, we can be inspired by the story of Moses when he did the same. But, of course, when Moses went to seek freedom for his people from mighty Pharaoh, he did not have the example of Moses to rely on.

I think this is important. It means that each act of faith, even if inspired by those that went before, is still its own creation. Because after all, Moses didn’t give us an example exactly fitted to our experience, now did he? He may have stood up to Pharaoh, but he didn’t stand up to our boss, on this matter, on this day. So the past may inspire us to do today’s good, yet each new act of faith is a novel invention. It gives another reason to remain faithful tomorrow, though still leaves enough openness to tomorrow to for it to also have another novel invention of its own. There is a beautiful symmetry to this idea of looking back to the blessings of before, and being encouraged by them to reach for the blessings of today.

One Year In

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Reflections)

It was one year ago today that I decided to start this blog. At the time I had already been writing a story blog for a year, but felt that it just wasn’t covering the full spectrum of all I wanted to say. I wanted a better platform to directly explore my spiritual thoughts and feelings.

Also, I wanted a way to keep myself honest with my spiritual studies. I have always reviewed the scriptures on a frequent basis, but not on a regular one. I needed something that was more systematic, a dependable daily ritual. I also wanted to try a study approach that was different from my usual “read Genesis Chapter 1, now read Genesis Chapter 2, etc.”

This blog has met all of those needs perfectly. I have been far more reliable in my studies, I have found great value in choosing a topic and following wherever it may lead, and I feel far more aware of where my spirit is healthy, and where it has need to improve.

I have called this out before, but by far the lesson that has stood out most is my need to be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only. This study has helped make me a better hearer, but in the hearing comes the pricking of the conscience to now go and do.

To be sure, I am living a more Christian life now than I was a year ago, and I attribute much of that growth to how this blog has stirred (and at times agitated!) my soul. But I also see that I can do more, and I am very excited to see how I grow this next year when I take my studies deeper.

Statistics)

Before we get to those changes, though, I’d like to reflect on the numbers that make up the previous year. I have made 290 entries for this blog, resulting in 33 essays and 1 poem.
My blog has been read in 43 different countries, and I have been pleasantly surprised at the diversity in where it has been picked up. For example, there have been readers from Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. This blog’s posts have had “likes” from readers that profess all manner of different religious beliefs, even of atheism.
The process of writing this blog has made me feel a powerful kinship to all others, even those with vastly different beliefs. It seems that much of the internet is focused on sowing discord, but this blog has opened me up to the realization that there are still streams of unity out there.

Moving Forward)

I am very grateful for all that this blog has provided to me, but particularly for the two lessons I have just detailed: that I need to act on the religious principles I study, and that I need to form bonds with all other sincere seekers of truth. I will be taking actions to try and incorporate those lessons into my blog moving forward.
In the first place, at the start of each month I am going to share which way my heart is pushing me to live my discipleship more. I will lay out my commitments for how I will answer my conscience, and then give an account for how things progressed with my next entry one month later.
In the second place, I am going to extend an invitation to all of my readers. I would like you to let me support or help you in any way that I can. In order for this request to not be lost in a wall of text, I will extend this offer in detail through its own post, which I will also publish tomorrow.

Thank You)

I find it very surreal that I live in a world where I can explore my own spirituality, and people all around the globe can participate in the journey. To be honest, my motivations in writing this blog have been largely self-centered. I wanted to understand the scriptures better for my own betterment, I want to answer the questions of my soul, I want to uncover what messages God was saying to me.
But intermingled with those intentions has been the hope that others might derive some benefit from being a witness to my journey. If any of these posts have meant anything to you, thank you.

The Need for Refreshing- 2 Timothy 1:16, 2 Corinthians 7:13

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

COMMENTARY

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me
Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all
There are three people that live in my home, and I have learned how the mood of one can quickly affect the mood of all! Fortunately, it does not have to be that if one person is having a bad day that everyone else is dragged down. Instead it can be that if one person is having a good day that they lift everyone else up. It takes a little conscious effort to push the flow in a positive way, but each of us knows that this is our duty to do.
In other words we know that we must use our peaceful tranquility to refresh one another. When my wife was struggling through her first trimester my son and I tried to give her rest and peace. When I was struggling with a project at work my wife and son tried to make home a joyful respite. When our son was overwhelmed with fears of death my wife and I tried to soothe him with pledges of eternal love.
Even outside of the home I have a friend that has been through many of the same trials that I have. When I was feeling weighed down and hopeless he listened to my every fear and encouraged me. Later when it was his turn to feel broken I did the same for him.
As disciples, when we are in a good place we must bolster up those that are not. Then, we need to let them do the same for us later. We refresh each other, we save each other, we come to God together.

Personal Promises- Genesis 22:15-18; 26:2-4; 28:1, 3-4

And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

And the Lord appeared unto Isaac, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him,
God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

COMMENTARY

I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven
I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven
God Almighty bless thee…and multiply thee…and give thee the blessing of Abraham

When God promised Abraham that his descendants would become as numerous as the stars in heaven, it was already implied that the same promise would apply to his son Isaac. How could Abraham’s descendants increase unless Isaac’s did as well?
And again, it was implicit that Jacob would have the same blessing as well by the same logic. In short, Isaac and Jacob might have thought to themselves “well, that was the promise of my fathers…so I guess by default it is also my promise.”
But that’s not how God works. He does want us to infer His involvement in our lives, or just assume that He is blessing us. He does not want us to receive anything by default. The pattern we see from these patriarchs is that He instead comes to each one of His covenant children and makes His promises to them directly. “Never mind that I made similar promises to others, this is a new promise and I am making it with you.”

Personal Promises- Question

In a previous study I explored how God has the capacity to see each of us individually. Though there are billions of us here on Earth, He hears our pleas directly and answers us personally. It is a remarkable feat, one that is a physical impossibility to all of us who are constrained by time.

Perhaps more important than God’s being able to, however, is that He wants to. I’ve seen my young son pray about the most inconsequential of things, such as his new toys and knee-scrapes, yet I am convinced that God listens to his heart with rapt attention. I am sure from His perspective that my prayers about work and finances seem just as inconsequential, but He cares about these things because we care about them.

In spite of all this, I know a lot of people that don’t expect God to ever make direct, personal covenants with them like He did for Abraham, David, or Moses. I myself have been doubtful of it at times. I’ve had this idea that I’ll just be grandfathered-in to the promises that he made to His covenant people millennia ago.

That simply is not the way God works, and I’d like to use this study to examine that fact. In the meantime I would love to hear about what ways you have seen God show up for you personally? What sort of legendary promises has He made to you? How did that change your life moving forward?

Sacrifice and Consecration- Personal Example

I shared at the end of my last study series about a fear I once had. This fear was that if I really tried to follow God, sooner or later He was going to ask me to sacrifice my creativity. He was going to point to all those silly, little stories that I loved to write and say “Enough of that childish stuff, you need to dedicate yourself to some real work now.”

That was a hard thing to face, because I had always considered my creativity to be an essential part of me. Surrendering it would feel like denying a core of who I am. As I spoke with God about these fears, He assured me that He had no intentions to make me sacrifice my creativity. In fact He pointed out that He is an extremely creative being Himself, and that I feel these creative longings because I am His son.

And then He did a most beautiful thing. He asked if I would allow Him to help me with my creativity. He asked if I would be willing to make a joint effort on the stories I write, one where I use my passion to communicate His messages. After all, why can’t a writer ask God’s advice on where a plot should go, or what a story’s theme should be?

So God didn’t take my stories away from me…but He did change them. And I have not sacrificed my creativity…but I have consecrated it.

And ever since that moment my writing has had so much more purpose, and my stories are full of so much more heart. When I write, I feel so much more enriched and complete. I feel that I am doing what I love, and that in so doing I am giving glory to God.

Sacrifice and Consecration- 2 Nephi 9:39, 3 Nephi 27:7

But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.

COMMENTARY

Ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee
Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name
Another way to understand consecration is that it is still your performance, but it is being rendered in the name of Christ. Examples of this would be giving a sermon in church, donating to a charity, or being a friend to someone in need. We do these things, and then we give God the glory for them, attesting that they were performed for the purpose of building up His name, and not our own.
That act of ascribing these works to God is what “sets them apart” from other good works that one might do. The question naturally arises: “Does God actually deserve the credit for what I did? Am I being falsely modest by ascribing it to His name?”
It’s an understandable query, but the answer to it is “no.” Once we recognize that God is the one behind our every good act, then giving Him the credit for them is only natural. Quite simply, no one does any good without the idea and desire for it having first been put in them by God, regardless of whether they realized it at the time or not.
Or as Jesus, himself, said: “Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
So let us do good actions, and let us be pleased with ourselves for so doing! But also let us remember to give to God the credit that He is rightfully due.

General Update

Thus far I have published a new post to this blog every single day. Starting today, and moving forward, I am going to reduce that cadence to one post every weekday, with no posts arriving over the weekend. I feel this small reduction will go a long ways to making this blog more sustainable.

I’ll see you again on Monday, then, and thank you!

The Cup

He climbs, he crawls
He slips, he falls
The filth slides in his mouth
She pleads, she begs
Amidst life’s dregs
The bile to spit out

God save us, they plead
How we hurt, we bleed
The night on us descends
Take away this cup
And bind our wounds up
Or else our lives here end

And Christ fell on his face
As he felt their disgrace
And he call’d to Father above
Wilt Thou let this cup pass?
Yet I’ll do as thou asked
Then he drank to show us his love

God’s children beg, for mercy pray
While Jesus seeks another way
To give us mercy, forgiveness show,
God first must tell His own Son “no”
From each of us he takes the cup
Then asks his Son to drink it up

We shudder when we have our sip
But we’re not meant to taste all it
So come, dear one, and let us be free
For all was paid in Gethsemane