Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Down at the [Y]MIA ...

For the last twenty-thirty years the Church has explored alternatives to scouting.  One of the problems is that those who have been tasked with approaching the concept end up just creating boy scout clones, with the bottom line that they give up and suggest just sticking with the boy scouts.

My thought is that they are working with too narrow of a frame.

They need to think of a program for both the boys and the girls and provides a modern replacement for the theme park that paramilitary training (the original boy scouts) has evolved into.

I'd suggest the following:

  1. Practical skills: Suzette Haden Elgin's Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense.
  2. Practical skills:  tool use (everyone should have a basic Ikea set of tools and the knowledge of how to use them).
  3. Employment skills:  resumes, job interviews, presentation.
  4. Employment skills:  college tracks, professions and employment trees.  The same for boys and girls, since the statistics are that 80% or more of the girls are going to end up having to support themselves and a family.
  5. Life skills:  cooking, recipe planning, group dinners, and how to plan so that the left overs from one meal flow over into the next.
  6. Life skills:  basic housekeeping skills.  Boys who go on missions need to know these.
  7. Spiritual skills:  how anger is used to manipulate people, how spiritual strength is built by time and repetition, just like physical strength.
  8. Spiritual skills:  the value of personal prayer, study and a connection to Christ.
  9. Physical skills:  basic exercise principles and lifetime exercise skills.
  10. Social skills: proper social mores and approaches.  For example, how to turn down coffee without insulting someone.
  11. Societal skills:  the ways people dress in different countries and different social strata.
  12. Societal skills:  the roles various cultures give people.
Additionally, one or two week long adventure projects.  Could be real camping (with camp skills taught) or travel, but a project that takes them out of the mundane (and at least 100 miles from home).

Boys and girls get the same budgets.

Each set would run for two months, two weeks a month.  The sets would overlap.  With twelve steps, each taking 1/2 a month x2 you have twelve months worth of material.  If you put it together with two different sets of modules, you would go two years without duplication of material.

I would suggest that learning things at 12 and then learning them again at 14 is an entirely different proposition.

You just need a similar set to take kids from 16 to 18.

But if I were replacing scouting, that is what I would look for.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rough Draft of Nick Literski Interview

Nick Literski was a blogger at Mormon Matters, ran a site on LDS Temples and was married with five girls.  He came out of the closet, was divorced, and has gone through many other transitions, though he often comments at Wheat & Tares.  This is his story. 

I understand you used to be involved in the study of LDS Church History, what can you tell us about that time in your life and what insights you gained from studying history?

Initially, my study of Mormon history was really motivated by a strong desire to know as much as possible of the teachings and practices of early Mormon leaders.  That desire was insatiable.  I was determined to know as much as possible about the doctrines of the restoration.  I also grew to love the history itself, more and more.   

Oddly, that became a time of great contradictions.  My studies raised as many questions as they did answers.  My faith in early Mormonism increased, but I also increasingly saw distinctions between early Mormonism and the modern LDS church.  I became somewhat of a fundamentalist----not in the “go join the FLDS and marry more wives” kind of way that we talk about Mormon Fundamentalists, but rather in a broad sense of dissatisfaction with many changes.  I increasingly saw how early doctrines and practices had been abandoned or transformed.  

 This became the beginning of my disaffection, though for many years I remained firmly committed to the LDS church.

Eventually, I took on an intense study of the influence of Freemasonry on early Mormonism.  That project honestly began as a testimony-builder.  I initially saw Freemasonry as something of a “prophecy” of Joseph Smith’s ministry, and wanted to really examine that fully.  Over the next four years of research, I came to a different conclusion, which ultimately led to my resignation from the LDS church.  

You were also a blogger at Mormon Matters What was that like?

In all honesty, I volunteered to blog at Mormon Matters entirely too early after my resignation from the LDS church.  I wasn’t ready to engage topics in a way that was fair and open.  Like many who find themselves needing to resign from the LDS church (whether due to doctrine, being LGBT, historical concerns, social justice concerns, etc.), I had a level of anger.   

Couple that with inexperience in generating blog posts that would really lead to worthwhile discussions, and my participation wasn’t very effective at the time.  By the time Wheat and Tares was created, I had gone “inactive” as a blogger at Mormon Matters. 

What do you believe religion and the gospel (with a small or a large "g") should be?

I am impressed that “gospel” literally means “good news.”  I believe that spirituality---in whatever form we practice it---should bring us joy.  I do not believe that spirituality should cause suffering, even with the promise of some future relief.  I do not touch a hot stove in order to enjoy some future time when the burn stops hurting.  In saying this, I believe we have to acknowledge that what brings one person joy may bring another person pain, and vice versa.  

As a Mormon, I once believed that I possessed objective truth, without which nobody could have joy.  In the decade since I resigned my membership in the LDS church, I have become far less concerned with discovering some absolutist “truth” (with a capital “t” and a trademark symbol), and far more concerned with discovering what works.  

 In my work with helping others discover and deepen their own spirituality, I’ve realized that I have no reason to concern myself with whether a person’s religious beliefs or practices are “true.”  Instead, my concern is how those beliefs and practices actually function in a person’s life.   

If the LDS church brings someone joy in their life, that’s a wonderful thing!  If the LDS church brings pain and suffering in a person’s life (as it often does, for example, for LGBT individuals), then find some other way to engage with the Divine!

I understand you've moved on to other endeavors and just had a Master's Thesis that was successfully defended.  Could you share what your thesis is about and what you are doing now?

My thesis was entitled, “Dance Your Own Dance:  Spiritual Guidance as a Support for Gay Men in Creating an Affirming, Sustaining Spirituality.”  I examined how gay men (really all LGBT folk, but a master’s thesis is narrowly focused, out of necessity) from non-affirming religious backgrounds typically experience conflict between their religious and sexual identities, which may result in significant emotional turmoil.  

For many years, researchers have adopted a model for resolving this conflict which centers on four strategies:  rejecting religious identity, rejecting LGBT identity, compartmentalization, and integration.  Unfortunately, this model was developed through examination of a gay-affirming Christian church, and is entirely Christianity-centric in its outlook.  Even the original scholar who proposed the model has acknowledged this fact.   

In my thesis, I showed how none of these four strategies truly “resolved” anything at all.  I then identified spiritual bricolage---a process of drawing elements from multiple traditions to create a unique personal spirituality---as a fifth strategy for resolution.  Through individual interviews, I showed how gay men had engaged in this process to create an affirming personal spirituality which addressed their unique spiritual needs.

At this time, I am beginning to build my professional spiritual guidance practice.  Spiritual guidance is really about being a companion and witness on the client’s spiritual journey, whatever that journey may be.  In my practice, I am not attached to any particular tradition, but instead meet my clients where they are, asking questions and helping them to discover and deepen their own relationship with the Divine.  It’s a wonderful experience, and ultimately a spiritual exercise for me, as I see each client as an individual face of the Divine in this world.

In October, I will begin a combined MA/PhD program in Depth Psychology, with emphasis in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute.  My master’s program in spiritual guidance provided me with a good introduction to Jung, and I am eager to delve much further into his work, along with that of the brilliant men and women who came after him.  

Do you have any other major projects or ideas?

I’m interested in expanding my research on spirituality within the LGBT community.  In particular, I look forward to gathering more personal narratives.  Interviewing men about their spiritual journeys for my thesis turned out to be one of the most sacred experiences of my life.  I am also interested in examining how our culture’s experience of LGBT people is affecting spirituality on a larger scale. 

 How is our increased understanding impacting matters of faith?  What archetypal roles do LGBT people play within our culture, and what needs do they serve?  How can LGBT people contribute more fully to our larger culture, and bring about more joy?

What rule or commandment do you think is important for everyone to consider?

While I am no longer a Christian, I believe Jesus taught the most important lesson any of us could learn.  He taught us to love.  He taught us to love the Divine, to love ourselves, and to love others. 

Aside from that, when I came out of the closet a decade ago, I replaced Mormonism’s elaborate system of commandments with three basic values:  (1)  I would never again hide who I am, (2) I would not harm others intentionally, and (3) I would try to do good in the world.  While I’m far from perfect, I’ve continued to try and live up to those values. 

If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”  Some might consider me naïve, but I truly believe that each of us is good at our core.  To the degree that we are authentic to who we truly are, we will be a blessing to ourselves and to others.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for inviting me to participate! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lesson Thirteen -- The Temple as a reflection of people who love each other

        President Benson said that a temple is “a symbol of all we hold dear,” and he identified some truths that temples symbolize. What do temples represent for you?

“It is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples are really the gateways to heaven.”

“I am grateful to the Lord that my temple memories extend back—even to young boyhood,” said President Ezra Taft Benson. “I remember so well, as a little boy, coming in from the field and approaching the old farm house in Whitney, Idaho. I could hear my mother singing ‘Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?’ (Hymns, no. 58.)

“I can still see her in my mind’s eye bending over the ironing board with newspapers on the floor, ironing long strips of white cloth, with beads of perspiration on her forehead. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘These are temple robes, my son. Your father and I are going to the temple. …’

“Then she put the old flatiron on the stove, drew a chair close to mine, and told me about temple work—how important it is to be able to go to the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances performed there. She also expressed her fervent hope that some day her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy these priceless blessings.

“These sweet memories about the spirit of temple work were a blessing in our farm home. … These memories have returned as I have performed the marriage of each of our children and grandchildren, my mother’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, under the influence of the Spirit in the house of the Lord.

        How do we choose what we learn from the temple and what we teach of it to our children?

The temple is the nearest place to heaven on mortal earth.

[The] temple will be a light to all in [the] area—a symbol of all we hold dear.

The temple is an ever-present reminder that God intends the family to be eternal.

        How is a rejection of the temple a rejection of family?
        How is the use of the temple an affirmation of love and support for our family?

[The temple is] a constant, visible symbol that God has not left man to grope in darkness. It is a place of revelation. Though we live in a fallen world—a wicked world—holy places are set apart and consecrated so that worthy men and women can learn the order of heaven and obey God’s will.

        How is a temple a place to refresh your spiritual connection to God?
        How do people go astray and follow false Gods when they avoid the temple?
[The temple is] a standing witness that the power of God can stay the powers of evil in our midst. Many parents, in and out of the Church, are concerned about protection against a cascading avalanche of wickedness which threatens to engulf Christian principles. I find myself in complete accord with a statement made by President Harold B. Lee during World War II. Said he: “We talk about security in this day, and yet we fail to understand that … we have standing the holy temple wherein we may find the symbols by which power might be generated that will save this nation from destruction.”

        How does the temple provide us with the spiritual strength we need that we can endure whatever comes upon us, as individuals, families or a nation?

We need temple ordinances and covenants in order to enter into the fulness of the priesthood and prepare to regain God’s presence.

When our Heavenly Father placed Adam and Eve on this earth, He did so with the purpose in mind of teaching them how to regain His presence. Our Father promised a Savior to redeem them from their fallen condition. He gave to them the plan of salvation and told them to teach their children faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Further, Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God.

To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.

Because Adam and Eve had complied with these requirements, God said to them, “Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.” (Moses 6:67.)   

        How does the temple bring us closer to Christ, and how may a testimony of Christ falter without the temple?

Three years before Adam’s death, a great event occurred. He took his son Seth, his grandson Enos, and other high priests who were his direct-line descendants, with others of his righteous posterity, into a valley called Adam-ondi-Ahman. There Adam gave to these righteous descendants his last blessing.

The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God—just as did Adam and Eve—to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.

If a couple are true to their covenants, they are entitled to the blessing of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. These covenants today can only be entered into by going to the House of the Lord.

Adam followed this order and brought his posterity into the presence of God. …

… This order of priesthood can only be entered into when we comply with all the commandments of God and seek the blessings of the fathers as did Abraham [see Abraham 1:1–3] by going to our Father’s house. They are received in no other place on this earth!

… Go to the temple—our Father’s house—to receive the blessings of your fathers that you may be entitled to the highest blessings of the priesthood. “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:22.)

        How does the temple bring both men and women closer to God, and how does it bring them into the priesthood and its fullness?

The blessings of the house of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples are really the gateways to heaven.

        How do temples function as the gateway to heaven, so to speak?

The Lord’s desire is for every adult man and woman in the Church to receive the ordinances of the temple. This means that they are to be endowed and that all married couples are to be sealed for eternity. These ordinances provide a protection and blessing to their marriage. Their children also are blessed to be born in the covenant. Birth in the covenant entitles those children to a birthright blessing which guarantees them eternal parentage regardless of what happens to the parents, so long as the children remain worthy of the blessings.

        How do temples unite us with each other and our kindred dead?
        How do we connect with our children and our parents more deeply through the temple?

The temple ceremony was given by a wise Heavenly Father to help us become more Christlike.

We will not be able to dwell in the company of celestial beings unless we are pure and holy. The laws and ordinances which cause men and women to come out of the world and become sanctified are administered only in these holy places. They were given by revelation and are comprehended by revelation. It is for this reason that one of the Brethren has referred to the temple as the “university of the Lord.”

No member of the Church can be perfected without the ordinances of the temple. We have a mission to assist those who do not have these blessings to receive them.

        How does the temple bring us closer to Christ?  How does it lead us to help others become closer to Christ?
Children and youth need to learn about the blessings that await them in the temple.

The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.

As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.

I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his [see Abraham 1:1–4].

When your children ask why we marry in the temple, you should teach them that temples are the only places on the earth where certain ordinances may be performed. You should also share with your children your personal feelings as you knelt together before the sacred altar and took upon yourselves covenants which made it possible for them to be sealed to you forever.

        How do those who are close to God and who are in tune with the Holy Ghost nourish themselves and their children by a proper message about the temple?

“God bless us to teach our children and our grandchildren what great blessings await them by going to the temple.”

How fitting it is for mothers and fathers to point to the temple and say to their children, “That is the place where we were married for eternity.” By so doing, the ideal of temple marriage can be instilled within the minds and hearts of your children while they are very young.

        How do those who love each other show that their love is real through temple attendance and worship?

We should share with our families our love of our forebears and our gratitude to be able to help them receive the saving ordinances, as my parents did with me. As we do so, increased bonds of appreciation and affection will develop within our families.

Increased temple attendance leads to increased personal revelation.

I make it a practice, whenever I perform a marriage, to suggest to the young couple that they return to the temple as soon as they can and go through the temple again as husband and wife. It isn’t possible for them to understand fully the meaning of the holy endowment or the sealings with one trip through the temple, but as they repeat their visits to the temple, the beauty, the significance, and the importance of it all will be emphasized upon them. I have later had letters from some of these young couples expressing appreciation because that item was emphasized particularly. As they repeat their visits to the temple, their love for each other tends to increase and their marriage tends to be strengthened.

In the course of our visits to the temple, we are given insights into the meaning of the eternal journey of man. We see beautiful and impressive symbolisms of the most important events—past, present, and future—symbolizing man’s mission in relationship to God. We are reminded of our obligations as we make solemn covenants pertaining to obedience, consecration, sacrifice, and dedicated service to our Heavenly Father.

        How do those who truly love each other become strengthened by the temple?  How does the temple function to increase personal revelation and how does avoiding the temple lead to our not having the personal revelation from God that we might otherwise have?

In the peace of these lovely temples, sometimes we find solutions to the serious problems of life. Under the influence of the Spirit, sometimes pure knowledge flows to us there. Temples are places of personal revelation. When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways.

Do we return to the temple often to receive the personal blessings that come from regular temple worship? Prayers are answered, revelation occurs, and instruction by the Spirit takes place in the holy temples of the Lord.

        How has the temple blessed your life?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Reflections on my life

I'm 59 years old.  Since I was about 14 or so I've known and interacted with a constant stream of people who became disaffected with the Church and who self-destructed and then returned.  Some where not members of my church and returned to their own, others were LDS and returned there.

It hit me recently that the people I've been the closest to the entire time, and the reality of my experience, has been people returning to the gospel.  Over and over again I dealt with people who were on the healing end, the returning end.

I've never really dealt with people on the outgoing side, other than from a distance.

I've realized that has skewed my perspective of the entire process of people losing faith or questioning God and the Church.

I don't have any answers.  All I've ever really seen or interacted with people after they had crashed and burned and had been touched and were returning and being renewed.  I don't know about those who don't return or much about the downward trajectory.  The only tools I have are patience and love and I suspect those are not enough for every situation, so I am without advice to give or share.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I decided to start a new feature at Wheat & Tares -- interviews of people I either really like or find interesting.

Well, I've got a great one line up -- for December of this year (it is May now if you are reading this sometime in the past).  Another who said "sure, just follow-up with me in a month when I'm not so busy." More of the same.  Lots of friendly, but very busy people.

The essence of the interviews is to ask the people the questions they would like to be asked and to let them give the answers they would like to give.  I know, it is a softball's softball type of interview, but it is also a type of interview that often gets surprising answers (at least that is my experience in real life talking to people).

However, that leaves me without anyone for the week I put as my deadline to get an interview up.

So, I'm interviewing myself.  I'm available this week.

What do you believe the gospel is?

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement.
  2. Repentance  and making the atonement real in our lives.
  3. Baptism.
  4. The gift of the Holy Ghost.
What commandments do you think are important?
34Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. 35And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 
(And yes, I like the NET Bible, even own print copies of it.  http://biblehub.com/net/matthew/22.htm)

What sermons (talks) or doctrines or church leaders made an impression on you?

When I was first at BYU working on my bachelor's degree (which I finished at CSULA) I heard Spencer W. Kimball speak.  He talked about how following leaders blindly would lead you straight to hell, buttressed with Brigham Young quotes. That talk had a very strong impact on me, even now, I believe that:
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel." 
The second was hearing my father talk about when Spencer W. Kimball came through Newfoundland.  He stopped and met with our branch.  

When I was just a kid (like first or second grade), Spencer W. Kimball came through Newfoundland where my dad was stationed.

We had a sister who was trying to get her husband to shape up.  She tried to enlist Elder Kimball’s help at that time as to how she could force him to do the right thing.  As an apostle he told her to focus instead on patiently loving him.  To put her family first and the love between the two of them first, even if it meant not attending meetings and not pushing him to improve.  The advice made a big impression on my dad who was in the branch presidency and who had expected something different.  
I had a similar experience on my mission.  A sister who had long been a member with a bitterly opposed husband asked my advice.  The spirit pushed me strongly to tell her that the Church existed to support her family, her family did not exist to support the Church, and that she should put her husband and family's harmony and love first.  Nothing else was important.
She followed my advice.  Amazingly (to me) he was reconciled to her and to her membership, before he died rather suddenly of a cancer that he had been unaware of.
As for the couple that Elder Kimball had advised, years later my dad encountered the couple in the temple.  They had been completely transformed.

Obviously I do not expect that sort of thing to happen for everyone, or for even most people.  But if families are forever, I think that what we should do is focus on loving and supporting each other, in patience and kindness.

The other part of the visit was a very strong outpouring of the Spirit and a small miracle.  Something that struck my father was that when he met people later, those who had treasured the moment and remembered it were all active.  Those who were not had also lost the memory.
I understand you used to ...
I used to do a lot of things.  For example, I started blogging on September 16, 1997.  One thing that I was involved in was FARMS before it was FARMS and was just a desk in John Welch's office.  Back then it was pretty much some reading lists and some photocopies of essays that were going out of print or about to be lost.  When I hear people who say "everything FARMS has said is .[redacted harsh statements]..." I think back to reading Eliade and Campbell and Nibley and others and the broader scope of thinking that introduced me to.

I was also involved with FAIR as a founding board member.  But apologetics tend to make me cranky, so I've stepped away from them.  Too often there is the following pattern:
  • [Other person] They've discovered "xyz."  It is irrefutable, new and ... etc.
  • [Me] Try to get enough details about xyz to figure out which of the several mutually exclusive xyzs they are talking about. 
  • [Other person] And it is all hard evidence.  [still without enough details for me to figure out which version they are talking about].
  • [Me] Probing (and trying to be gentle about it)
  • [Other person] you aren't listening.
  • [Me] Finally figure out which one they are talking about.  Look up the details.
    • often the details reflect huge jumps.
    • often the "facts" behind the details have huge gaps or are inconsistent. 
    • Etc.
  • [Other person] I don't care about that any more, what I really was trying to get to was "qrs."
  • Rinse and repeat.
I found it too annoying.  Though I did enjoy Was the Book of Mormon Plagiarized from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass?

 Anything else?

Too much.

If you could give one piece of advice?

I'm not smart enough to do that.  Maybe in a few more years when I have more wisdom.

Probably not the best example, but it will fill in the gap until I actually get an interview completed.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lesson 6

    On April 4, 1986, in connection with his first general conference as President of the Church, President Benson presided over a special meeting for priesthood leaders. The brethren in attendance saw his ability to “cut through detail and get to the heart of the issue.” When he addressed the congregation, he mentioned many of the challenges that Latter-day Saints faced—such as temptation, family struggles, and difficulties with keeping the commandments and fulfilling Church duties—and he shared what he saw as the solution to these challenges.

    President Benson gave only a portion of his talk in that priesthood leadership meeting, so he requested that the entire sermon be included in the conference issue of the Church magazines. This chapter contains that talk in its entirety. Although President Benson directed his remarks to priesthood leaders, he taught principles that apply to all members of the Church.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.

    •    What is the greatest difficulty you face?
    •    How have the challenges in your life changed with time?

    As we face the great challenges of our time, we need to hold fast to the word of God.

    My dear brethren, what a thrilling sight it is to look out over this body of priesthood leadership and to know how many thousands of Saints you serve and how much dedication and faithfulness you collectively represent! There is no other body anywhere in the world today that meets for the same righteous purpose as does this group, nor is there any other group—political, religious or military—that holds the power that you do here tonight.

    We live in a day of great challenge. We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, “Peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.” (D&C 1:35.) We live in that day which John the Revelator foresaw when “the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12:17.)

Consider what President Benson said was “an answer to the great challenge of our time”

    •    What did he say was the answer?
    •    In what ways can this answer help us meet the challenges we face?

    The prophet Lehi also saw our day in his great visionary dream of the tree of life. He saw that many people would wander blindly in the mists of darkness, which symbolized the temptations of the devil. (See 1 Ne. 12:17.) He saw some fall away “in forbidden paths,” others drown in rivers of filthiness, and still others wander in “strange roads.” (1 Ne. 8:28, 32.) When we read of the spreading curse of drugs, or read of the pernicious flood of pornography and immorality, do any of us doubt that these are the forbidden paths and rivers of filthiness Lehi described?

    Not all of those Lehi saw perishing were of the world. Some had come to the tree and partaken of the fruit. In other words, some members of the Church today are among those souls Lehi saw which were lost.

    The Apostle Paul also saw our day. He described it as a time when such things as blasphemy, dishonesty, cruelty, unnatural affection, pride, and pleasure seeking would abound. (See 2 Tim. 3:1–7.) He also warned that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13.)

    •    Share a favorite scripture.
    •    Why is it a favorite of yours?

    In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, “What meaneth the rod of iron?” Nephi answered, “It was the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne. 15:23–24; italics added.) Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries.

    •    What does “neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness” mean to you?
    •    What power is in the word of God?

    When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures, other aspects of Church activity automatically come.

    Now to you priesthood leaders we say, look to the prophetic counsel of Lehi and Paul and others like them. In that counsel you will find the solution to the challenges you face in keeping your flocks safe from the “ravening wolves” that surround them. (See Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29.) We know that you too have great anxiety for the members of your wards and stakes and expend great time and effort in their behalf. There is much that we ask of you who have been chosen for leadership. We place many loads upon your shoulders. You are asked to run the programs of the Church, interview and counsel with the members, see that the financial affairs of the stakes and wards are properly handled, manage welfare projects, build buildings, and engage in a host of other time-consuming activities.

    While none of those activities can be ignored and laid aside, they are not the most important thing you can do for those you serve. In recent years, time and again we have counseled you that certain activities bring greater spiritual returns than others. As early as 1970, President Harold B. Lee told the regional representatives:

    “We are convinced that our members are hungry for the gospel, undiluted, with its abundant truths and insights. … There are those who have seemed to forget that the most powerful weapons the Lord has given us against all that is evil are His own declarations, the plain simple doctrines of salvation as found in the scriptures.”

    “We are so wound up in programs and statistics and trends, in properties, lands and mammon, and in achieving goals that will highlight the excellence of our work, that we have ‘omitted the weightier matters of the law.’ … However talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in the worldly things—they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)

    That same day, Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke to the stake presidents and regional representatives. He said: “Buildings and budgets, and reports and programs and procedures are very important. But, by themselves, they do not carry that essential spiritual nourishment and will not accomplish what the Lord has given us to do. … The right things, those with true spiritual nourishment, are centered in the scriptures.” (In Meeting with Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)

    I add my voice to these wise and inspired brethren and say to you that one of the most important things you can do as priesthood leaders is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein. There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling. There are few other ways to gain greater inspiration as you serve.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Book of Mormon, Introduction, italics added.) Isn’t that what we want for the members of our wards and stakes? Aren’t we desirous that they get nearer to God? Then encourage them in every way possible to immerse themselves in this marvelous latter-day witness of Christ.

    You must help the Saints see that studying and searching the scriptures is not a burden laid upon them by the Lord, but a marvelous blessing and opportunity. Note what the Lord Himself has said about the benefits of studying His word. To the great prophet-leader Joshua, He said:

    “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Josh. 1:8; italics added.)

    The Lord was not promising Joshua material wealth and fame, but that his life would prosper in righteousness and that he would have success in that which matters most in life, namely the quest to find true joy. (See 2 Ne. 2:25.) In a First Presidency message in 1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball said:

    “I am convinced that each of us, at least some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again. …

    “The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for ‘unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ (Luke 12:48.) Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment (see 3 Ne. 23:1–5); and we must let them govern our lives.” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, pp. 4–5.).

    The scriptures are replete with similar promises about the value of the word. Do you have members who long for direction and guidance in their lives? The Psalms tell us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105), and Nephi promises that feasting upon the words of Christ “will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.)

    •    What are the results of immersing yourself in the scriptures regularly and consistently?
    •    Why do we get those results?

    Like Alma, I say unto you, “It [is] expedient that [you] should try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5).5

    •    Can you think of a time you tried using scripture study to overcome a problem?

    “Many find that the best time to study is in the morning after a night’s rest. … Others prefer to study in the quiet hours after the work and worries of the day are over. … Perhaps what is more important than the hour of the day is that a regular time be set aside for study” (Howard W. Hunter, “Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).

    •    Are there other things you do in order to study the scriptures?
    •    How do you make studying the scriptures not a burden?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Priesthood lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 1

The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:

1.    Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ;
2.    Repentance;
3.    Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins;
4.    Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 2

    What is faith in Christ?

    “Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.
    Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Because He descended below all things (see D&C 122:8), He knows how to help us rise above our daily difficulties.
    Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does. We, therefore, must look to Him “in every thought; doubt not, fear not.””

    But what does that mean?

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 3

    Why does faith in Christ begin with repentance?
    “Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things, see that ye do them.” (Mosiah 4:9–10; italics added.)
    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 4

    There are two great commandments:

    •    Love God with all your heart mind and strength.
    •    Love your neighbor as yourself.

    God gave us Christ to save us.

    But who is Christ and why did he save us?

    How does repentance fit in with Christ saving us?

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 5

    What is a testimony of Christ?

    What does it mean to have a testimony of Christ?  What does that mean that you know?

    Ask each class member to explain what it means to them to have a testimony of Christ and what that includes for them.

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 6

    How do we show faith in Christ?

    Faith in Him is more than mere acknowledgment that He lives. It is more than professing belief.

    Have a class member share what they think that means.  Invite conversation.

Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 6 Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, Page 7

    How do we live for the Savior?  More important that being willing to die for the Lord, is being willing to live for him.  How do we do that?

    Ask each class member to explain what it means to them to be willing to live.  Does the resurrection play a part in being willing to live for the Savior?

    What else does it mean to live for the Savior?