Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Partaking Of The Divine Nature

My readings this week took me to the book of 2 Peter, toward the end of the New Testament, and one thing that left me confused was verse 4 of chapter 1, where Peter says
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust
 I had a hard time understand what it meant to be "partakers of the divine nature", but here is what I found (and how it can apply to us).

As I pondered its meaning, one thing that came to my mind was that divine nature to me means that as a children of God, the divine is part of our nature and it is a part of who we are, even if we sometimes forget amidst our mortal trials and difficulties (and sometimes wrong choices). Going to church and reading the scriptures (along with all the other "standard" answers) will help us remember what our heritage and nature are, but still I could not understand the "partaking" could refer to.

diagramWith a little more careful reading I was able to delve a little deeper into the idea of how to partake of the divine nature. The same verse 4 give a clue, saying that when we partake of the divine nature we have escaped the corruption that is in the world. To me, this seems to imply that when I don't partake of the corruption (or bad things) that are part of our fallen world, then I am able to partake, or feel (or connect) with the part of me that is connected and a part of our Heavenly Father. This reminds me of the teaching of the Savior that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and as we put our focus on spiritual (or divine) things, then we are not able to focus on those things that are carnal, sensual, and devilish (Alma 42:10).

When we go on reading verses 5, 6, and 7, we can also learn what steps we can take so that our minds are more in tune with the spiritual instead of the temporal and carnal. Peter instructs us to give all diligence to:

  • faith, virtue, and knowledge (verse 5)
  • temperance, patience, godliness (verse 6)
  • brotherly kindness, charity (verse 7)
Verse 8 then states that when we have those qualities in us, then we will be full of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. When our minds are affixed on our Savior, He can then help us overcome any challenges or shortcomings that we have that keep us from partaking of our divine nature.

President David O. Mackay said it best when he explained that being a partaker of the divine nature means "to rise above the temporal, the sensual, and partake of the divine Spirit of God".

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life Is Not F....




Time and time again (my pre-teen comes to mind) I hear the sentence of old "life is not fair". Unfortunately for that child (and those of us who sometimes fall to the same trap), this type of thinking not only is not helpful, but is actually detrimental to our eternal progression. Heavenly Father knows, (and we learned this before we came to Earth), that earthly life would not be easy and that all of us would have to go through trials that would eventually help us to grow. So for those who struggle with feelings of hopelessness because of trials, I offer the following advice through the apostle Peter.

To preface Peter, I would like to bear witness that what he wrote is true because he practiced what he preached by suffering death for the gospel's sake, for which he won his inheritance (Revelation 3:21).

We do not have trials in life because the Lord enjoys our suffering or because the Lord is punishing us. We do have trials in life because the Lord in His infinite wisdom, knows what trials we need to help us grow the most and prepare us for the incorruptible inheritance that the Savior prepared for us (1 Peter 1:4).

Some of us, however, seem to have trials that for us seem to be impossible to bear, and while we should not compare our trials with the trials that another person has, the end, all trials are for our benefit if we turn to the Lord for help and guidance instead of victimizing ourselves. The Savior has suffered for all of us, and he knows how it feels to have pains of every kind. He also knows how it feels to have afflictions, for He suffered not only for our sins but also for our pains and afflictions. I love the way the prophet Isaiah explained it:
"...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
The prophet Alma, many years later, no doubt took inspiration from the Isaiah when he wrote:
"...And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people."
I love the thought that my Savior suffered not only for my sins (which are too many to be counted), but He also suffered the same pains I suffer when I am dissapointed, when I am sad, when I feel anything that drags me down. There is literally nothing that I feel that He didn't feel, and that is why we must turn to Him in our times of trial and difficulties. He has been there, literally and in every sense of the word.

He did it because He loves us.

Yes, at times it seems that life is not fair, but thankfully all that is wrong and unfair is made right through our Lord and Savior.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Works of Righteousness


Paul concludes the epistle to the Hebrews with much needed counsel to the saints of old that apply so perfectly to us today, the latter days, that I wanted to share.

1. Remember those who are in bonds, as if we were in bonds ourselves.

2. Marriage is good for everybody 
I like what president Gordon B. Hinckley said: “First, it is imperative that you not neglect your families. Nothing you have is more precious. Your wives and your children are deserving of the attention of their husbands and fathers. When all is said and done, it is this family relationship which we will take with us into the life beyond. To paraphrase the words of scripture, ‘What shall it profit a man though he serve the Church faithfully and lose his own family?’ (see Mark 8:36)” (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 21, 2003, 22). In the end, the Lord wants us to have families, and we will be blessed more than we can imagine when we do what He has asked us to do.

3. In the Savior we have everything we could ever need

4. The world may change, but our Savior does not change

5. Through His blood, Jesus sanctifies us
To be sanctified, means that the Savior (if we let Him) changes us. Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Quorum of the Seventy beautifully compares our sanctification to land being reclaimed, in the same way that the Savior reclaims us from our carnal and fallen state to beauty and cleanliness. I don't always have a way with words, so I'll link a Mormon Message that puts it better than I ever could. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7V2ET7p5FA).

6. Praying for our leaders
Today in the world some people may say "marriage is not for me", but I say to that person, pity! Marriage is a good thing, even if it takes longer than we would like to get married. I say this from experience since I didn't get married until I was 29, which for some may be a long time, but for me it happened at exactly the right time. The Lord knows us and He knows what is best for us, and if we listen to him, we will be guided to the path that He knows is best for us, even when we become discouraged.

Prayer is a powerful tool that we have, and that unfortunately, I sometimes forget to use it as much as I should, but I know that the Lord hears and answers our prayers, and He wants us to pray for our leaders who guide us in these last days.

Paul teaches us that instead of wasting our energies on covetousness, we should be grateful for what we do have, which is the Savior himself. What better gift could we ask for? Not only do we have the Savior to be our comforter and our mediator, but He also promised to send us the Holy Ghost to also comfort us in our times of need. He said:

I like the EFY song about the Northern Light because speaks beautifully of how steady and sure the Savior's guidance is in our lives, like the north star. President Hinckley spoke of his summer childhood when he would sit under the stars with his brother, and would think about how constant it is, and could always depend on. The Savior is the same way and can always be depended on for guidance and support, and He never changes, like the north star.

The Savior paid the ultimate price in order to ensure that we have the chance to return to the presence of the Father, and this He did with his blood. He died for us and for our sins.

Paul concluded his epistle asking the saints to pray for him, presumably so that the Lord would bless him to be able to accomplish his duty to preach the gospel. In our day we should do the same and pray for our leaders, who have the great responsibility to guide this great church. I read on the Ensign about an experience an Apostle had many years ago, and it reflects the need to pray for our leaders. The story goes that this apostle was sitting in a room, and a little boy sat next to him and they had this exchange: “Mister, I think I know who you are.” The Apostle said, “Who am I?” The boy said, “I think you are one of the Apostles of the Church. I think you are the one who travels all over the ocean on big boats and little boats and all kinds of airplanes—and you are the one who never gets sick or hurt in any wrecks.” The Apostle acknowledged that he was the one who was having those great experiences. The boy then said to him, “Do you know why it is you don’t ever get killed or get hurt?” The Apostle said, “No, why is that?” The little Primary boy said, “That’s because I pray for you.”

To me, this means that we have compassion upon those who are in prison, as the Savior taught in Matthew 25:34-40. This also reminds me of the council that King Benjamin gave to his people when he taught them to have compassion on he beggar. He taught the people that it is not our place to judge the beggar, but to have compassion and help. I feel that the same thing applies to those in prison, and that we should leave the judgement to the Lord, who is more righteous than us (Mosiah 4).

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you...But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father wills send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:18, 26-27)

The time we sometimes spend wishing for better things should instead be spent in being grateful for, and striving to have the Holy Ghost with us so that we can remember what marvelous gift we have been given.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Acts 21-28



Paul continues to be a great example of the best missionary we can all aspire to become one day. He literally took his conversion and calling and "ran with it", maybe quiet literally, because his served three missions that took him to so many different lands and peoples, and he never lost focus of what his mission was, and who he was serving.

The most touching of those lessons was toward the end of Paul's life, when he was prompted by the Holy Ghost to return to Jerusalem. Paul did not appear to hesitate and set to return to Jerusalem, and in fact, after the prophet Agabus prophesied Paul's imprisonment, Paul boldly declared his intentions to being ready to even go as far as giving his life to the cause (which we know he ultimately did).

Today we are not called to travel great distances and put our lives down, but the Lord still asks hard things of us that He knows we are capable to accomplishing if we put our trust in Him, as Paul did.

Upon Paul's return to Jerusalem, he went to the temple to worship and was arrested and taken to prison, and while there Paul appealed to the Roman authorities. Once again, Paul took many opportunities to not only be set free, but while doing so he also preached and shared his testimony of the experiences he had had. As the great missionary is was, Paul took every single opportunity he had to share what was valuable to him. Paul once again reminds me of a modern-day prophet Wilford Woodruff, who in 1897 was given the chance to speak into a device that could record the sound of the human voice (something almost unheard of at the time). Out of all the things he could have spoken into the machine ("hello", perhaps), he choose to bear testimony:
I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, ordained of God to lay the foundation of His Church and kingdom in the last dispensation and fullness of times. This is my testimony spoken by myself into a talking machine on this the 19th day of March 1897, in the 91st year of my age. Wilford Woodruff.
What I learn from Paul is that he had made a commitment to the Lord and he had been doing all that he could to do his part, but there were many reasons for Paul to have given up. All of us face the same choices (albeit in a less deadly way), in that we have made commitments and promises to be better and follow the teachings of the Savior, but unfortunately there are many distractions that keep us from reaching our goals. Paul never wavered from his commitment to the Savior, and we can learn to follow his example.

There are many opportunities for us to bear testimony and help strengthen others, and all we have to do is be ready and be willing to follow the whisperings of the Holy Ghost who will guide us to those who are to receive our testimony, so seeds can be planted, just as Paul planted many seeds whose influences are still felt today.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forgiveness



Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness...now that is quite the topic! The old and modern prophets (and the Lord himself) have taught us plainly that we have to forgive others. There is even what I think of as extra motivation: in order for us to be forgiven, we must forgive others. But why is it so important that we forgive others?

When I think about forgiveness, my mind immediately goes back to how I have to repent of the sin of not forgiving. Unfortunately sometimes I tend to hang on to things happened a long time ago, and I use those experiences as a crutch to remember and open old wounds. Even more unfortunate is the fact that I know as a nursing student that keeping wounds open can almost guarantee an infection that if left untreated, leads to disease and decay.
On 2 Corinthians 2:1-11, Paul teaches the saints that instead of being punished (verse 6) by being afflicted (or being rejected by the saints), that the transgressor should instead be forgiven and comforted (verse 7). Paul even cautions that failure to forgive the transgressor would mean that the saints would mean walking into Satan's trap (verse 11).

Forgiving the transgressor who happens to be a member of our ward (as the case may have been, according to scholars) is essential for the growth of the kingdom of God on the earth. President Kimball said the following:

"Forgiveness is the miraculous ingredient that assures harmony and love in the home or the ward. Without it there is contention. Without understanding and forgiveness there is dissension, followed by lack of harmony, and this breeds disloyalty in homes, in branches and in wards. On the other hand, forgiveness is harmonious with the spirit of the gospel, with the Spirit of Christ." (Miracle of Forgiveness, "Forgive to be Forgiven")

Forgiveness is essential to the growth of the church, for without harmony the Spirit will not abide in us, and others will want to learn more about our faith will not feel of the Holy Ghost there, for He will not be in our midst.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Becoming All Things To All Men

During this past week I read the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapters 4-16, and it was really impressed in my mind how I can better be a husband and a father, but equally important, I was impressed about why it is important to be a good example to others.

The reading got me thinking about where we should be examples (which automatically adds "to whom" we should be good examples), and why we should demonstrate through our actions what our beliefs are. Well, this is what I came up with.

Paul, as I believe I have stated before (and if I haven't, there here goes...): Paul was a great example that we should follow of what an effective missionary is, and how we as members have to behave in order to help others come unto Christ. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:1, 16, 20-23 that, in essence, he adapted his teachings to the audience that he was preaching to. For example, in verse 20, he states that "unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews". This does not mean that he practiced their traditions (which he used to practice faithfully) in order to have a "way in" with the Jews he was preaching to. Elder McConkie expertly clarified the meaning of "I am made all things to all men". He said:

"Paul here says that he made himself all things to all men in an effort to get them to accept the gospel message; that is, he adapted himself to the conditions and circumstances of all classes of people, as a means of getting them to pay attention to his teachings and testimony. And then, lest any suppose this included the acceptance of their false doctrines or practices, or that it in any way involved a compromise between the gospel and false systems of worship, he hastened to add that he and all men must obey the gospel law to be saved" (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, second edition, page 290).

People are much more receptive to what you have to say if they feel that they have a connection with you, which may make them trust you more. This by no means is supposed to be interpreted as to mean that we should beguile people with charades, but if we look then we will find things that we have in common with others, and when we add that to our sincere love and desire to help others, the Spirit will touch those who are prepared to receive the gospel.

The biggest part of this method of approaching others is that we sincerely yearn to have a connection with the person, and form a bond that will help the person to feel our love for them (instead of feeling tricked or used). This means that even when the person does not accept our message right away, we are still their friends and care for them, even though we may feel rejected. The friendships we form with others can be the greatest tool we have at our disposal, because they those we with whom we have shared the gospel with will turn to us with their questions and concerns when the time is right.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Actions > Words

The old saying goes that an action is worth more than 1,000 words, and that is even more true when we think about the gospel and how we are all to be missionaries. During my reading of the New Testament this week, it was apparent that Paul was also concerned with not only being a good example, but also that the people were good examples to others.

Speaking of being a good example, Paul was the first to show the power of actions over words (1 Thessalonians 1:1-6; 2:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 3:7-9):

  1. It was not easy then and today it is still not easy to preach the gospel. Paul faced opposition from nonbelievers as well as possibly his own shortcomings and the temptations of the devil, but nevertheless, he preached the gospel "in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost". In like manner the people received the gospel in the same way.
  2. Paul never used flattering words or tried to be dishonest with the people.
  3. The gospel is a gospel of love, and Paul gave the people not only the gospel, but also his love for them, which allowed them to feel through him, the love that Heavenly Father has for all His children.
  4. Paul always prayed for the people he taught, as we should all do for those we have stewardship over.
  5. Paul always worked hard.
As I think more about this, I also believe that all of us as missionaries, should follow the example of Paul, and the five things listed above will help us be successful. Heavenly Father inspired Paul to be the man that we read about, and I know that following his example will help us to have inspiration from the Holy Ghost so that we can ultimately become successful in bringing souls the Lord. In case somebody doubts the validity of following those specific examples from Paul, try to think about what would happen to a missionary who does the opposite of the things listed above. That missionary will never be successful in preaching the gospel.

As a parent, I feel that the same principles apply in helping me and my wife be the parents that our children need us to be so they can have strong testimonies of the gospel. The word love comes to mind as I think about how I can apply Paul's example in raising my children, and I know that as I love them sincerely, those things that Paul taught through his example will come naturally and the Holy Ghost will abide in our home so that teaching becomes more effective.

As a challenge to myself, I will work harder to ensure that I am not only a good example to my children, but that I will follow Paul's example of love, sincerity, and hard work for my children.