The Solution is Charity

President Uchtdorf’s talk on saving marriages and families is one of my absolute favorites from conference. I especially love his focus on the need to work and build our marriages up through daily acts of kindness and charity.

“Because no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.

   If it appears to take forever, remember: happy marriages are meant to last forever! So ‘be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great [marriage]. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.'”

I also love that President Uchtdorf links this back to his masterful sermon on pride by emphasizing that pride is the downfall of relationships. On the other hand, charity is the remedy. The pure love of Christ is what heals all that ails us. When we learn to put our spouses needs before our own, something magical happens.

“Whatever problems your family is facing, whatever you must do to solve them, the beginning and the end of the solution is charity, the pure love of Christ. Without this love, even seemingly perfect families struggle. With it, even families with great challenges succeed.

   “Charity never faileth.”

 It is true for saving marriages! It is true for saving families!”

I am so imperfect at these principles. President Uchtdorf’s talk is really a call to repentance and to do better. His counsel is needed in our culture where marriage is not so valued. And even among members of the Church, these principles are so needed. I am grateful for his apostolic witness and his example.

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Journey through the Book of Mormon: Alma 37 (Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings)

36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

Alma provides his sons with such practical advice about how we can draw close to God and retain a remission of sins. I especially love his description of the need to direct all our thoughts and doing to God. 

This is hard to do. The natural man wants to do what it wants. It does not want to think about what God wants. It wants to glorify the flesh rather than the spirit. It does not want to be humble.

Alma understood that we need to daily turn to God and learn from him. We need to be filled of gratitude and praise each and every day. If we do this, we can be confident that we will have his spirit to be with us and we will ultimately be lifted up in the last day and have eternal life.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Alma 37 (Enlarged the Memory of this People)

8 And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.
I love how reverentially Alma speaks about scripture and its power to influence individuals. Because we have such easy access to scriptures, I don’t think we revere the scriptures quite as much as those who had to struggle to preserve them. 

Alma realized that the scriptural record played an essential role in expanding the memory of the people. It helped them to see God’s hand towards their fathers. And it helped them know how to avoid error and to see the need for repentance.

Blogging through the Book of Mormon this year has helped me more fully gain an appreciation for the scriptures. I am so grateful for for the efforts of all of the record keepers in the Book of Mormon. Without them we would not have this incredible treasure trove of spiritual wisdom and instruction.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Alma 36 (Harrowed up no more)

19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
I love Alma’s description of the joy he felt when he turns to Christ. The joy one feels surpasses all of the pain and anguish. Belief in Christ brings a marvelous light and exceeding joy. I have personally experienced that joy and bear witness of it.
I also find these verses illustrative of principles of repentance. Alma does not say that he forgets his sins. But he no longer remember the pain and is no longer harrowed up by the sins. Memory of our sins is given to us as a voice of warning and direction. But if we repent we need not feel the associated pain and anguish.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Alma 36 (Hear my Words and Learn of Me)

3 And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.
Alma’s words are the pleading words of every parent who has hoped that his or her children could avoid the painful mistakes that they made in youth. Alma hopes that by sharing his testimony and his conversion experience he can help his children avoid anguish and regret. 

Alma in his youth rebelled despite his righteous father. So he knows that this won’t always work. Children have their agency. They can and must make their own decisions and their own mistakes.

But Alma understood something that we can learn as parents. He understood that our children need not only be taught facts and rules, but also that they must be given a sense of why those rules matter. By sharing his experience, Alma has helped his children in a vicarious fashion experience what he experienced. And he has clearly given them a warning and a promise. If they follow God, they will be blessed and if they rebel they will be cursed. 

Moral Foundations and Sacred Testimony

One of the joys of studying the words of modern day prophets at the same time as one studies and teaches from the Book of Mormon is the wonderful synchronicity that occurs as thoughts expressed in the Book of Mormon are preached powerfully over the pulpit. This experience has strengthened my testimony that God speaks through a united voice in modern and ancient scriptures alike.

Two of those moments came during this weeks reading for the General Conference Odyssey, and so I decided that I should write about both of them.

Ezra Taft Benson/ Mosiah 29

Last week, I taught a lesson on the decision by King Mosiah to end the reign of kings and institute the reign of judges. In class, we discussed Mosiah’s belief that “it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right” (Mosiah 29: 26). We considered what conditions in the Nephite society existed which gave Mosiah confidence that representative government would establish and preserve righteousness. There were a couple of factors that really stood out. The society had both just laws and wise leaders who had been taught righteous principles. Those leaders were accountable to the people and the people felt a stake in their society and were willing to hold their leaders accountable. In such conditions, society could thrive and build upon the solid foundation of liberty. On the other hand, when the moral foundation of the people decayed, Mosiah could not longer have confidence that the majority of the people would choose righteously.

Ezra Taft Benson spoke of the moral foundations of this nation is an impassioned and eloquent fashion. He noted that “The United States of America has been great because it has been free. It has been free because it has trusted in God and was founded upon the principles of freedom set forth in the word of God.” And he quoted de Tocqueville’s prophetic revelation that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

President Benson noted that modern society has “erod[ed] away character and man’s freedom to think and act for himself.” He observed that the same vices that crippled the Roman Empire can be seen in our culture. And he urged us to realize that the problems that face us are not merely economic of social, but moral. “We must recognize that these fundamental, basic principles—moral and spiritual—lay at the very foundation of our past achievements. To continue to enjoy present blessings, we must return to these basic and fundamental principles.” And he assured that “[t]here is great safety in a nation on its knees.”

So just as King Mosiah did, President Benson recognized that it is only a moral and virtuous people that can sustain a representative government. Bereft of moral principles, the people are likely to drift towards accepting vice. And in such a state they are ripe for destruction. King Mosiah and President Benson both understood the need for a national spiritual revival in order to preserve the liberties and freedoms that are sacred and foundational.

Bruce R. McConkie/ Alma 4

Today I taught a lesson about Alma the Younger’s sermon to the people of Zarahemla in Alma Chapter 5. We began the lesson by describing the creeping apostasy that had spread in the Church. We then discussed Alma’s decision to “go forth among his people” and “preach the word of God.” He left the position of Chief Judge because he “s[aw] no way that he might reclaim [the people] save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.” From this verse, we turned to discussing the power and importance of bearing testimony. One sister in the class bore a powerful witness of a recent experience she had where a friend had born testimony to her of a gospel principle and the spirit had born such powerful witness and helped her overcome long standing doubts. Other discussed the feeling they had as missionaries when they began to bear testimony and how the act of bearing witness drove away the spirit of contention. We were edified as we considered why testimony has such profound power.

Lo and behold, Bruce R. McConkie spoke about this exact same theme in this conference that was held over 43 years ago!  He emphasized that knowledge of the gospel is not enough. Instead, we must be ready and willing to bear witness through the spirit:

“Now this gives us two premises. On the one hand we are obligated and required to know the doctrines of the Church. We are to treasure up the words of eternal life. We are to reason as intelligently as we are able. We are to use every faculty and capacity with which we are endowed to proclaim the message of salvation and to make it intelligent to ourselves and to our Father’s other children. But after we have done that, and also in the process of doing it, we are obligated to bear testimony—to let the world know and our associate members of the Church know—that in our hearts, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit to our souls, we know of the truth and divinity of the work and of the doctrines that we teach.”

Elder McConkie then spoke of many scriptural examples where Prophets of old bore powerful spiritual witness. He explained that testimony “put[s] an approving, divine seal on the doctrine that we teach.” And that it allows us to “speak as one having authority” which “is the great thing that separates us from the world.” We do not need a title or a particular calling to give our testimony weight and authority. Instead, when “[w]e have received this revelation . . . we are in a position to speak as those having authority.”

I bear my witness of the truth of the things taught by Alma and Elder McConkie. The spirit is the real teacher and he always teaches of Christ. As we boldly witness of him, the spirit will bear that truth to the hearts of those who listen.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Alma 35 (They Did Not Cast Them Out)

9 And he breathed out many threatenings against them. And now the people of Ammon did not fear their words; therefore they did not cast them out, but they did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them; and they did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their wants.

This is a slightly political post, but it follows pretty closely from the text.

The Book of Mormon has repeatedly illustrated the proper way to treat those who are refugees who stand in need. The people at Zarahemla welcomed the anti-Nephi Lehi Lamanites with open arms. Now in turn, those people welcome the Zoramite refugees who were kicked out of their country because of their new found faith. 

Even when the people are threatened and urged to kick out these refugees, they continue to help them. Even though it would have been politically expedient to reject them, they didn’t. Even though this decision would ultimately spark a war, they stood strong and did what was right. 

I am grateful the church has spoken strongly in favor of helping modern day refugees. I hope we can welcome and love those who are different from us and help nourish them and administer to them.