A Surety of Truth- Numbers 23:19, Mark 10:18

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

COMMENTARY

God is not a man, that he should lie; hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Previously we spoke of building ourselves on solid foundations, and yesterday we considered the folly of relying on our own self for that. We have to find external sources that we can trust, ones that we can ever be sure of for support and demonstration.
And as today’s verses illustrate, that reliable source is not found in any human. No person is a perfect foundation to build on. It is good to have friends and it is good to glean from the example of noble souls, but they cannot be the core of our faith. I have come to realize that the greatest value of mentors is simply for them to point the way to God, as He alone can provide that sure foundation.
And that applies to me, too. I am a father, and I want to always be a help and support to my children. But because I am mortal, I know that they will have needs that I cannot provide for, there will be times that I let them down, there will be examples of mine that would lead them astray, and there will be moments where my absolute best just isn’t good enough. If I want to be a good father, I must encourage them to detach their reliance on me, and put it instead on the Lord.

The Virtue of Remembering- Question

During my last study I had the same, single idea resurface a few times, which is always a clear indication to me of what my next topic of research should be. That last study was focused on counting one’s blessings, and how doing so is a form of remembering the good that God has done for is. As I thought about, though, I realized that there was a lot more to remembering in the gospel than just counting blessings, and I want to explore the concept further.

God has gone to great lengths to help us remember the things that matter most. To ancient prophets like Moses He not only gave His word, but also instructed that these things be written down and preserved, so that later generations would be able to remember the wisdom from before. The survival of these records clear to the present day is miraculous, and suggests the hand of God continuing its preservation.

In my own life, too, the question I bring to God today often is met with the remembrance of the answer He already gave before. In this study I want to consider what the full benefits of remembering are, the different ways that we can remember, and what sort of things we ought to be remembering.

In the meantime I would like to hear about what ways you have used to remember the things that matter most. Do you keep a journal of lessons you have received? Do you memorize scriptures and reflect on them frequently? Do you meet with others to recount the miracles that you witnessed together? I really would love to hear what methods you use to keep the good alive.

Count Your Blessings- Summary

This proved to be an excellent couple of weeks for me to study the notion of counting one’s blessings. This period has been full of many little rises and falls to my mood, as small things have continually come along both to aggravate and delight me. What I have learned from all this is just how fickle my sense of gratitude can be. When times turn even slightly up I praise God, when times turn even slightly down I have no interest in Him.
Feeling both sides of the coin, I have been able to consider why it is difficult to count my blessings at times. For me it is due to a sense of wounded pride, an indignation at sweeping away the hurt and saying all is well. But I have further discovered that that is not what counting one’s blessings is about at all. It is about dispelling a momentary fiction with the reality of truth.
Indeed, though at times it is difficult to lean into grateful retrospection, during these past two weeks I have felt markedly improved each time that I managed to do so. So let’s take a look at what it really means to count one’s blessings, and why it matters.

We Live in a State of Ever-Changing Fiction

When it rains it pours. Though our lives are usually mixed with elements that are both good and bad, we usually grab onto just one of those elements and shade all the rest by it. If we are struck most by something in our lives that is good, then we perceive every wrong thing as slight and forgettable. If we are struck most by something that is bad, then we perceive every good thing as hollow. We tally up only one side or the other at a time. Either I have seven things that make me feel so blessed right now, or else I have nine things that are leaving me down in the dumps.
One practice of meditation is to separate the different parts of one’s self and see each as being in its own unique state. Thus I might be feeling physically exhausted and emotionally depressed, but spiritually cared for. Absent this more granular awareness I might simply say that overall I feel “bad-ish,” which is not the greater truth.
It is understandable for us to live with a fickle mood, it is the common nature of us all. But if we are ever to live as dependable, steady beings, then we need to accept the fact that how we feel in the moment is probably not the truest expression of things as they really are.
James 1:8- A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
3 Nephi 13:24- No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.

We Might Be Fickle, but There Are Permanent Things

It is true that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but in my experience He tends to do one of those more than the other. So many of the truly important blessings in life are the ones that are with us forever. Our very existence, for example, is a gift from God, and one that we are assured will continue forever. It may change its state through the grave and the resurrection, but still we remain an ongoing identity. This is a permanent thing, one that is left unaffected by whether I am having a “good day” today or a “bad one.”
Love is another eternal gift. Both the love that God ever holds to us, and the love that He means to help us cultivate in ourselves. Existence is already a wonderful blessing, but all the more so when it can be paired with eternal love. Even if the woes of the moment temporarily darken us from being able to perceive the love of God, yet it is sill there even so. It is only a matter of breaking through the mold before we can perceive that eternal stream once more.
And when we are learn how to never be darkened and always perceive that eternal love, then we also discover the gift of eternal happiness. For living in the love of God is always an experience of joy. It takes time, even a long time, even so long that we may not find it until the next life; but eventually we can find out this great secret of how to forever live, love, and be happy.
Jeremiah 31:3- The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
John 3:16-For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

A Brighter View of Life is Truer

In the end, there must be one permanent reality. On the one hand it could be that there forever remains a mixture of happiness and sorrow, the same as we perceive now, one side never fully overthrowing the other. On the other hand, it could be that one of these sides will eventually prevail over the other, either plunging the world into constant misery, or else reclaiming it to a state of constant joy. We have had it proclaimed to us that this mixed reality is only a transitory state, and that after it does come a totality: a sweeping victory for goodness and joy.
Those that believe this to be true are inherently optimistic, and hold to those undercurrents of eternal good: life, love, and joy. To hold this sort of optimism is not to blindly ignore the pain of today. It does not require us to turn a deaf ear to the hurts happening around us. It does not preclude us from mourning our temporary losses. It is only to recognize that after this time of very real sadness, there still comes an eternity of even realer joy.
I think where most of us go astray with counting our blessings is when we start listing out the transitory, worldly goods that we enjoy: a new car, a roof over heads, and not having lost one’s job. These are good things, we should be grateful for them, but the deeper, abiding peace will only come when we start counting the infinite goods as well.
Isaiah 54:10- For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Matthew 24:35- Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Psalm 102:26-27- They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Count Your Blessings- Alma 62:50, Psalm 77:11, 2 Peter 1:15

Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.

I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

COMMENTARY

They did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them
I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old
I will endeavour that ye may be able to have these things always in remembrance

There are many accounts of the virtue that is just remembering. Even aside from these three quotes there was also the time that Hilkiah discovered the book of the law in the temple, long since forgotten, which introduced a brief period of faithfulness among the Israelites. There was the time King Ahasuerus recalled that he still needed to give honor to faithful Mordecai. The entire turning point of the parable of the Prodigal Son is when the boy “comes to himself” and recalls how good things are in his father’s house. God had the Israelites bind the words of the scriptures to their arms and foreheads to keep those words ever in their periphery. When Jesus instituted the sacrament he instructed them that they “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
There is a great power in remembering, because remembering is often the action that immediately precedes doing. If we do not remember our blessings, then we live as if they never occurred. When we forget what God has done for us, we lose one of our most powerful motivators to remain faithful. But even if His goodness is forgotten, it did still occur, and we are simply being remiss.
To forget, whether through the passage of time or by the crowding of present problems, is a natural effect of human life. But though it is a natural effect, it can be resisted and it must be. For those that forget become lost.

Worthy Vessels- John 5:19, 1 John 4:19

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

We love him, because he first loved us.

COMMENTARY

The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do
Each one of us has seen others doing good, and even been the recipients of that good. And having experienced this, naturally we desire to do good things to others, and we try to follow the pattern of those that showed us the example.
But those that did the good things to us were themselves only following the example of others who previously did good to them, and so on and so on. Each of these paths of goodness ultimately leads to the same singular source. As Jesus taught, even he only followed the example of his father. His proclamation is total: the son can do nothing of himself. He does not say that the Father taught one virtue and that then he, Jesus, riffed his own new ones off of it, he claims that any good act done on earth first had its template written in heaven.

We love him, because he first loved us
I have seen the truth of that in my own life. For many years I was fully capable of fearing God, but I couldn’t sincerely love Him until I felt His own love bursting into my soul. I had wanted to love Him, but I had to have Him teach me how. As Graham Cooke so eloquently put it: God loves us first, and then He allows us to love Him back with that love.

Graham Cooke’s message starts at 1:15, quote comes from 4:35

Free Will vs God’s Control- 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Nephi 2:11

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

COMMENTARY

God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things
In each of our lives, God preserves our freedom by allowing us to be drawn towards good, but also to be drawn towards evil. There are bounds set so that no temptation will be able to overwhelm us without our consent, but also no force for good will overwhelm us without our consent either. Exactly how far those bounds are placed will vary for each one of us, according to our own personal strengths and weaknesses, but they will always present us with the same opportunity to freely choose.
Thus you may assume that you will always have a reason to remain faithful, and you will always have a reason to turn faithless. You will always live as a person divided, so that then you may choose which half of yourself to follow. There is no mistake in this, it is by design. Thus that the world is a place divided is evidence of a God who is in control, not evidence against it.

Respect in Our Differences- Philippians 4:8, Articles of Faith 1:11, Matthew 7:12

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

COMMENTARY

If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things
Allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may
I have spent some time advocating for holding to your sincere beliefs, while also allowing all others the same privilege. So long as a religion genuinely improves the morality and spirituality of its patrons, then it should be recognized as a worthy vessel for good.
Perhaps you see some ideologies that are flawed, but which are still accomplishing far more good than harm. Would you want to risk destroying the 90% that is good, just to expunge the 10% that is flawed?

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them
Of course not all ideologies really are 90% good. I do not claim that all beliefs are valid. I have no patience for ideologies that call for the eradication of human life, and declare war on a specific demographic.
Creeds like these are logically self-defeating. One way to tell truth from error is whether the principle destroys itself when held in the hands of another. Consider religious intolerance. To wish to destroy another religious sect is to support a principle that would destroy you if held in the hands of another. Thus the notion is crushed under its own weight.
I also reject those that use spiritual trappings for predatory or manipulative purposes. There are ministries that promise blessings and healings…but only if one calls in and provides their credit card number.

In the end, I believe there is much that is good in this world, more good than we often realize. And I believe every source of good should be supported and celebrated. But I also believe that one must be cautious, for while many things are good, certainly not all things are.

Making Time for God- Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 4:4

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

COMMENTARY

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things
Sometimes it is “good” things that are taking our time away from the sublime. A father might stay late at work to provide, but miss out on being with his family. A wife might tirelessly serve her community, but never have time to connect with God. A youth might strive for a good grade, but be distracted from hearing her higher calling.
We can do these “good” things and by worldly terms have a “good life.” On the exterior we might appear entirely accomplished and complete. But then, we so very often see just these sorts of accomplished, successful people implode. Why? Because “good” is simply not “good enough.”

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God
A life full of “good” things is incomplete, because the world’s “good” leaves the spirit starved. We are inseparably tied to an eternal soul, and that part will settle for nothing less than the sublime.
No career achievement, no worldly fame, no admiration of others is going to be able to fill that hole in us. No amount of worldly bread or social duty is enough to feed the soul. That is the truth that Jesus asserted both when rejecting Satan’s temptation and correcting Martha’s priorities.

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.

The Family of God- 3 Nephi 11: 29-32, John 17:21-23

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

COMMENTARY

That they may be made perfect in one
All good principles are in harmony with one another. Love, kindness, peace, wisdom, patience, understanding, justice, mercy…all of these are able to coexist in full measure and never undo one another. They are a complementary set.
To that unity we can add God. God is a perfect being in harmony with all that is good. Also to that unity we can Jesus Christ. Christ is a perfected being that is in perfect harmony with his Father, and so he must also be in perfect harmony with all that is good. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is united in this perfect harmony as well.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us
Having acknowledged this unity between God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all good principles; now let us ask what is the purpose of the gospel we have received of them? What is its objective? What is the end result that it attains? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the author of that gospel has already told us for what purpose it was given.
And that purpose is so that the unity between those perfect beings and forces can be ours as well. Our supreme destiny is to come in perfect harmony with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and every good principle. The gospel is the process by which this is accomplished.
Not only do we come into harmony with those perfections, but by extension we also come into harmony with every other brother and sister that strives for this same unity as well. We will have total harmony with saints, angels, the prophets, and nature after it has been perfected. By all of us converging on one perfect goal, we will converge with one another as well. And yes, we will all still be our own individuals, but we will be individuals in harmony.