Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Angels

Doctrine & Covenants 129

As I was preparing for a Relief Society lesson last week, I was reminded of a talk on angels given by Elder Holland. He had this to say:

"From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. . . .

"As Mormon said to his son Moroni, who would one day be an angel: “Has the day of miracles ceased? “Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? “Behold I say unto you, Nay; for … it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men. … “For behold, they are subject unto [Christ], to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.” (Moroni 7)

"Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.
. . . We are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. . . . Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.

(Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, general conference October 2008)

I decided that a lesson on angels would be perfect for the Christmas season. Here's another quote I found:

"Miracles during [the] Christmas season require our faith and works. As we sing the hymns of Christmas and speak of angels sent to earth to witness the Savior’s birth in the meridian of time, may we rise to the occasion and minister to those in need in our day. . . .

"I bear witness that Christmas is a season for angels. As they ministered to the Savior and others in the “meridian of time,” may we, as angels of mercy, minister to other families and to those in need in the “fulness of times” so that the Lord’s work may move forward.

(Elder Merrill J. Bateman, Ensign, December 2007)
So, I thought it was quite appropriate to re-read section 129 this week later this week and be reminded of the role of angels in our lives.

A Voice of Gladness

Doctrine & Covenants 127-128

Sister Menlove, when she was serving as General Primary President, used the ending verses of these sections as a reminder to share the "voice of gladness" with others, particularly our children. The gospel really is the good news, and we should be excited about it. And one of the things that we should be excited about is that the sealing power has been restored and we have the opportunity to do temple work for our deceased ancestors, forming that eternal chain to bind us all to each other. It will take deligence and perseverance and patience, but it's exciting work.

Take Especial Care of Your Family

Doctrine & Covenants 125-126

I love these two short sections, one with a reminder to just be obedient and follow the Lord by following his prophet, and the other explaining a blessing Brigham Young received because he did just that. Am I laboring diligently enough that my offering is acceptable to the Lord?

A Delightful Habitation

Doctrine & Covenants 124

Isn't this a beautiful description of an ideal home? - "Let it be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting-place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion" (D&C 124:60). Actually it's a description of an inn the saints were to build in Nauvoo, but I think "a delightful habitation for the weary" is what I want my home to be.

This is a long section, with a lot of information, particularly about the priesthood, and other people of done a great job of explaining it. Go here to see what the institute manual has to say.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Adversity

Doctrine & Covenants 121-123

These first two sections are fairly well known, and they've been quoted a lot in the recent general conferences. But I think Section 123 isn't as well-known. It contains, however, what I think might be my favorite phrase in the scriptures - "whole concatenation of diabolical rascality and nefarious and murderous impositions." Don't you love all those big words!!

It also contains the reminder that little things make great differences (a small helm moves a large ship) and that we should attend to things "with great earnestness" and "cheerfully do all things that lie in our power."

Whenever I'm struggling with that precept, I try to remember President Eyring's counsel from the October 2005 general conference:

"So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage."

And he said basically the same thing the year before: "But the test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tithing

Doctrine & Covenants 119-120
Tithing

These are the sections you turn to when it's time to teach a lesson on tithing. And we've all had dozens, if not hundreds, of those lessons, haven't we? So, even though I'm not a great story teller, I thought I'd share a couple of personal experiences/memories about the importance of paying tithing.

As I recall, I started getting allowance when I was 3 years old. I got a whopping 30 cents! And I had three little jars - one for tithing, one for savings, and one for spending. Tithing and savings were 10% each and I got to spend the rest. So, first of all, I'm thankful that my parents taught me well right from the start and paying tithing became a habit.

Habits are good, but everyone needs to have a testimony of gospel principles as well. I can't remember a specific time when I gained that testimony, but I do remember recognizing an obvious blessing, which certainly strengthened my testimony. We had been married about a year when we had an unexpected car repair of $50. As we were trying to figure out how to pay for it, one of the options was to postpone our tithing, yet we knew that was not the correct choice, and we decided to cut corners elsewhere. Right after we paid our tithing, we received a belated wedding check for $50. What a miracle!

Several years later we became friends with an older, single sister who had just joined the church. I was amazed at her faithfulness to keep this commandment. She was living paycheck to paycheck and didn't have a lot, yet she was determined to pay her tithing. She even made arrangements with her landlord to pay her rent weekly instead of monthly so that her cash flow would work better. I could see the sacrifices she made, but they were all worth it to her. Her goal was to be temple worthy, and she accomplished it.

One last story (there really are a lot more) is really our son's story. The summer after high school he worked hard, and just before he left for college, he put together a budget. After going over it, he noticed that if he didn't pay his tithing, there would be exactly enough money to last for two semesters. If he did, he'd have to get creative and probably find a part-time job during the school year. He chose to pay his tithing. Then, just a couple of days later, he received notification of a scholarship - for the exact amount of his tithing check.

As President Hinckley was fond of saying, it doesn't take money to pay tithing, it takes faith. I know that's true. And I also know that "faith precedes the miracle" and that the Lord's blessings are predicated upon obedience to his commandments.

A Favorite Story

Doctrine & Covenants 118
The Apostles and Far West

So, it's taken me nine months to "catch up" with Michelle, but I'm making progress, and this week I read D&C 118. And it contains one of my favorite church history stories. I've already written about it here, so that saves me some time this month!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"I Know Thy Heart"

Doctrine & Covenants 112-117

Isn't it great to know that, just like the early members of the church, Jesus Christ knows us individually? Here are some phrases that give me hope in the midst of my challenges:

"I have heard thy prayers." (D&C 112:1, and more)
"All thy sins are forgiven thee." (D&C 112:3)
"Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." (D&C 112:10)
"An effectual [which means energetic and efficient] door shall be opened unto you." (D&C 112:19)
"Trouble not yourselves." (D&C 112:27)
"Be faithful until I come." (D&C 112:34)
"To put on her [Zion's] strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood." (D&C 113:8)
"Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations." (D&C 115:5)

There's a really neat "end of the story" to section 117 and Oliver Granger, where he is promised that "his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever." President Packer gave a talk on this in October 2004 and reminded us that we will fail, but that as long as we remain true and faithful, that's okay. He said, "Let no one underestimate the power of faith in the ordinary Latter-day Saints." That promise also gives me great hope.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Treasures

Doctrine & Covenants 111

Be sure you read the introduction before reading this section, because the background history is important, but I like the thought that the Lord is "not displeased" with us even when we try something that backfires. I do that a lot. And we don't always recognize where true treasure lies.
This morning I read an old Christmas message where President Monson mentions that each December he reads three "books" - Luke (in the Bible), "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and "The Mansion" by Henry van Dyke. I hadn't heard of the last one, so I went searching and found it online here. It's a nice reminder of where our treasure should be.

Elijah

Doctrine & Covenants 110

This is the section that records the marvelous vision Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery witnessed after the Kirtland Temple Dedication. I always find it fascinating that the Lord timed it so that Elijah came to bestow the sealing power of the priesthood on the exact day that Jews set a place for him at their Passover Seder, anxiously awaiting his arrival to herald the coming of the Messiah. Elijah did come in 1836 to fulfill that prophecy from Malachi, but he came to the Kirtland Temple.

Another thing that helps me understand this section a little bit better is to correlate it to the three-fold mission of the church. The "gathering of Israel" is "proclaim the gospel," the "gospel of Abraham" relates to his patriarchal responsibility to strengthen families and is "perfect the Saints," and Elijah's "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children" is "redeem the dead."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Kirtland Temple

Doctrine & Covenants 109
This section contains the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple. I love the promised blessings, and the reminder to make our homes as temples - houses of prayer, fasting, faith, learning, glory, order, and God. Did you know that you can find the dedicatory prayers of ALL the temples online? Go to the LDS Temples website and click on the individual temple and you'll find the link on the left. Here's a sample:

Orlando Florida Temple - Dedicatory Prayer
Dedicated 9–11 October 1994 by Howard W. Hunter

O God, Our Eternal Father, thou Great Elohim, we bow our heads before thee in reverence and love. We are met to dedicate this thy holy house.

We thank thee for this beautiful structure, and for the purposes for which it has been built. We thank thee for the eternal priesthood restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, which will be exercised herein. We thank thee, above all, for the atonement of thy Beloved Son through whose sacrifice salvation and eternal life are made possible. We thank thee for the ordinances of this house which will be administered in behalf of the dead as well as the living. We thank thee for the great vicarious work which will be carried on within these premises.

Father in Heaven, we note the beauty of this thy temple, and thank thee for the consecrations of thy faithful people throughout the world which have made possible this sacred house of peace and divine love.

Now, acting in the authority of the Holy Priesthood which has come from thee, and in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, we dedicate this the Orlando Florida Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We dedicate it as thy house and the house of thy Beloved Son, and pray that thou wilt accept it as the consecrated gift of thy people. We pray that it may be acceptable unto thee and unto Him, and that thy Holy Spirit may hallow it at all times. We dedicate the structure from the footings to the statue of Moroni which crowns its steeple. We dedicate all of its facilities, including the dressing rooms, the fixtures and appointments for the washing and anointing ordinances, the endowment rooms, the beautiful celestial room, and the sealing rooms with their sacred altars where under the authority of the Holy Priesthood there will be bound in the heavens that which is bound upon the earth. We dedicate the grounds on which this temple stands with the vegetation growing thereon—the trees, the flowers, the shrubs, the lawns.

We pray that thy watch-care will be over this thy sacred house. Preserve it by thy strong arm from storm and tempest, and above all from the defiling hand of man. To all who look upon it, including those who reside in this area, may it ever present a picture of peace and beauty, a structure partaking of thy divine nature.

Bless all who shall enter its portals that they may come with clean hands and pure hearts, setting aside the cares of the world as they engage in the sacred service to be performed herein. Grant unto them a greater understanding of things divine and things eternal. Bless them with joy in the service which they give. May the generations of the families of thy sons and daughters be joined in unbroken linkage that thy divine purposes may be brought to pass concerning the immortality and eternal life of thy children. We pray that all who covenant with thee in the sacred endowment service will stand ever true to their promises.

Bless the youth who will be baptized for the dead. May this sacred service instill in their minds a greater understanding of thy divine plan, and a stronger resolution to live worthy of every blessing which eventually may become available to them in this thy holy house.

May those who come to be sealed in marriage kneel at these sacred altars and resolve within their hearts to be ever true and faithful, that the sacred relationships here solemnized may continue with happiness throughout all eternity. May the spirit of the prophet Elijah rest upon thy people that the hearts of the children may turn to their fathers that the earth shall not be wasted, and that thy divine will may be brought to pass for the blessing of thy sons and daughters of all generations.

Our Beloved Father, we pray for all who have responsibility in thy kingdom, including the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the Seventy, the Bishopric, and for all who serve in any capacity throughout the world. May all be faithful and true and work with a spirit of love and dedication. Prosper thy faithful Saints in their temporal affairs. Bless them in their homes and in their hearts with peace and gladness. May they walk in thy divine favor as they walk the paths which thou hast marked for them.

We ask it all, Beloved Father, as thy thankful sons and daughters, and on this day of dedication, we dedicate ourselves anew to thy service through service to our fellow men, both the living and the dead, in the name of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lyman Sherman

Doctrine & Covenants 108

This section is given to an individual, Lyman Sherman, but as usual it contains counsel and advice that is applicable to all of us. We learn what it takes to be forgiven of our sins - obedience in coming to church to receive counsel from our leaders, and patience in keeping our covenants. We also have a responsibility to strengthen others in everything we say (including our prayers) and do. And when we do that, the Lord is able to bless us in return.

Priesthood

Doctrine & Covenants 107

When you have questions about the priesthood, this is the section to turn to. Just a couple of quick summaries:

  • The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency and administers in spiritual things.
  • The Aaronic Priesthood is an appendage and ministers in outward ordinances. These include baptism and the sacrament.
  • Priesthood leaders work in unity and need to be upheld by the confidence, faith and prayer of others.

We're taught some of the fruits or gifts of the Spirit in verse 30 - righteousness, holiness, humility, meekness, patience, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, godliness, kindness and charity.

This section also teaches a bit about the patriarchal order and that God's plan includes fathers passing blessings on to their children.

It ends with the reminder to work hard and be diligent. Priesthood means service. Service means work, but what a glorious work it is.

Children of Light

Doctrine & Covenants 105-106

It takes work ("gird up your loins") to become the "children of light" (D&C 106:5). And in section 105 we're giving some encouragement to help us do that.

10 - be prepared, have experience, know duty
11 - attend the temple
18 - hearken to God's words
23 - be faithful, prayerful and humble
24 - gather together
31 - become sanctified
37 - "inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things"

So, don't be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The blessings that follow righteousness are incredible.