Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Strength Doesn't Come From Winning

I came across a good quote this afternoon:
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strength. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
This is an important quote, and it helps explain why life is the way it is, especially for the righteous. We all struggle, some more than others, and that's true because God wants us to grow, and growth doesn't come when life is easy.

Sometimes, I wish life was easier. I'm sure we all do. It would certainly be nice if spiritual victories weren't so difficult to secure, but that may not actually be good for us. God doesn't need weak winners; He needs strong soldiers. It is our struggles, not our victories, that help us become strong soldiers. So we need to struggle.

Life has to be hard for everyone, because if it isn't, we don't grow. The trials and hardships and difficulties of life are essential to our spiritual development. God knows what He's doing. By making life hard for us, especially for those of us who are trying to follow Him, He is helping us develop the spiritual strength we need to win.

We can win. We have to win. But for our spiritual well-being, we cannot afford for those victories to come easily.
 
Strength d We oes not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/arnoldschw116694.html
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/arnoldschw116694.html

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Water

We've started a little bit of a heat wave where I live, and as I went to get my umpteenth glass of water today, it struck me that a few of Christ's titles (thinking particularly of the Living Water and the Bread of Life) make symbols of things we can't live without. We can't go long without eating, and we can survive even less long without drinking. The symbolic meaning is fairly obvious: Just as our physical lives depend on food and water, our spiritual lives depend on Jesus Christ.

Also notable is that we need to eat and drink regularly in order to stay healthy. One cannot parch themselves for several weeks and then drink a month's worth of water to make up for it, and even if one could drink a month's worth of water without exploding, that wouldn't mean that they could then go weeks before having to drink again. Drinking water should be a regular, multiple-times-daily experience, especially when we exert ourselves and/or when the weather's warm. Similarly, we should come unto Jesus Christ regularly and frequently, especially in times of trial.

Considering how frequently and how much we need to drink water, it makes sense for God to have chosen such a symbol for Jesus Christ. And the symbolic symmetry doesn't stop there. The purity of drinking water can represent the spiritual purity (sinlessness) of Jesus Christ. Water can also remind us of the many times water was used prominently in the scriptures: The waters of Noah, the parting of the Red Sea, Christ's baptism, that time when an Old Testament prophet (I forget which one) challenged the priests of some other God (baal, I think) to call down fire from heaven, the washing of the Apostles' feet, and the calling forth of water from a rock, just to name a few. Perhaps the ubiquitousness of water in the scriptures and in our daily lives is meant to be somewhat self-referential, with each story linked to each other using water as the common theme, and giving us a necessary reminder of all those stories and moments when we drink our umpteenth daily glass of water.

I don't have much reason to be thankful for this heat wave, but I am thankful for water and all it does and represents. Water is one of the most wonderful substances in the world. With its power and purity and essentiality for life, water makes an excellent symbol for Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 19, 2017

We Can Return and Receive God's Blessings

My favorite part of Elder M. Russell Ballard's talk, Return and Receive, is when he testified that we can return and receive:
Despite our mistakes, shortcomings, detours, and sins, Jesus Christ’s Atonement allows us to repent, prepared to return and receive the matchless blessings God has promised—to live forever with the Father and the Son in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
God has prepared great blessings for us, and He is eager for us to receive them, but to do that, we must become worthy to return to the Celestial Kingdom. This is challenging because we all have made sins that disqualify us from being worthy in our own rights, but mercifully, God has prepared a way for us to repent, to turn away from our sins and return to His presence so we can receive all the blessings He has in store for us.

I am thankful for God's mercy and for His gracious plan that allows us, through repentance and the power of Christ's Atonement, to become clean from our sins so we can return to our heavenly home and receive the blessings that are waiting for us there. We truly are blessed that God and His Son, Jesus Christ, have made it possible for us to return and receive.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Lot of Forgiveness

Looking ahead at next week's Primary lesson, I saw that the title of the lesson is "Joseph Smith is Tarred and Feathered," and the purpose of teaching that little history lesson to eight and nine years olds is "to help each child desire to develop a forgiving attitude."

That is a lot of forgiveness, but I know Someone who has an even more forgiving attitude, Someone who even forgave the people who were torturing Him to death while they were doing it.

Don't get me wrong; Joseph Smith is an excellent example of forgiveness. But Jesus is a better one. Which is fortunate for us, since if Jesus wasn't so forgiving, pretty much all of us would be doomed. We all rely on the Savior's mercy and forgiveness. Thank goodness He's the most forgiving person who ever lived.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Study AND Prayer

Did you know that Joseph Smith studied Egyptian? Apparently, some friends of his bought four mummies and their scrolls from a man named Michael Chandler in the Summer of 1835. So, according to the Primary lesson manual, "Joseph Smith studied the letters and grammar of the Egyptian language and then, with the help of the Holy Ghost, he translated the writings on the papyrus rolls." The funny thing is that, before taking the mummies to Kirtland, Ohio, he had tried to get the scrolls translated by educated men in Pennsylvania, "but even the most educated of these men were only able to understand a little of the writings." Clearly, education alone was not enough to translate those scrolls. One also needed inspiration. Even so, I think a little bit of education may have been necessary.

This story reminds me of Sydney Rigdon, who, if I recall correctly, attempted to do almost the exact opposite of what the educated men Chandler had spoken to had done. Rigdon had once attempted to translate part of a sacred record by revelation alone, perhaps thinking that the right words would just flow through him, if he had enough faith. As the story goes, he failed because he "took no thought save is was to ask" (D&C 9:6).

Thus we see that one needs to both study and pray to receive some revelations. God rarely speaks to educated atheists, and He rarely gives answers to those who don't look for them. Thus, if we want answers, we have to look for them and have faith that God can help us find them. Doing only either is rarely enough. Joseph Smith was able to translate the scrolls because he had studied some Egyptian and done some praying, and that is what we also need to do. If we want guidance or answers or inspiration from God, we have to seek it through study AND prayer, or we probably aren't going to get it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Best Apology

I just saw an inspirational picture quote on Facebook which says "The best apology is changed behavior," and, now that I think about it, that is also the best (if not the only) way to repent. Repentance means change, and, ideally, it means changing for the better. And that's all God really wants from us. God didn't give us the commandments so He could boss us around or punish us for breaking them. He gave them to us so they could help us become better people. If we break them, God doesn't want us to suffer, and I'm not sure how much He cares whether or not we even apologize; mostly, He just wants us to change. So, when we sin, we should pray and apologize and ask for forgiveness, but more importantly, we should vow and strive to change our behavior.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Bible is Important

In a few days, I'll be teaching a Primary lesson on Joseph Smith "translating" parts of the Bible. I put "translating" in quotation marks because it wasn't a traditional translation, changing a message from one language to another. Instead, what he did was read the parts of the Bible that had been mistranslated and, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, record what the translation actually should have been.

(Oh, and he also received a vision that he wrote down, which became the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, and he actually translated some Egyptian scrolls which became the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, but I'm mostly here to talk about the Bible.)

As I'll explain to my students on Sunday, Joseph Smith's "translation" of the Bible was necessary mostly because is and was so important to any and every Christian religion. The importance of the prophecies and stories in the Bible were important enough for them all to be preserved and complied into a single book in the first place, and then to be translated from their original languages into more common languages so they could be read and appreciated. This is just my ballpark estimate, but I'd say that, at the very least, hundreds of millions of manhours were put into preserving, compiling, and translating the Bible. This would not have happened if the Bible had been just some old book. This book is important enough to preserve and translate and mass-produce so everyone can read it.

But anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Having passed through so many hundreds of hands and so many translations, some of which were not necessarily inspired by God or free from the influence of the opinions of men, many of the Bible's important messages got lost in translation. Yet, since these messages were so important, God saw fit for many passages of the Bible to be "translated" again, one last time.

Joseph Smith was a busy man. Between running the church and running from persecution, he didn't have a whole lot of time for reading, let alone retranslation. Yet, God knew that the lost truths "which are plain and most precious" (1 Nephi 13:26) were "precious" enough to be worth taking up some of the prophet's limited time. As a result, we now have corrected versions of Bible passages that reveal important eternal truths that had previously been lost to time.

Given that the Bible was and is important enough to compile and translate and distribute and correct, you'd think we'd read it more often. Perhaps I should only speak for myself, but I sometimes see the Bible as being somewhat outdated. Yes, there are many truths in it that are eternal, but most of those truths also show up in more recent scriptoral works, such as the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets. But God knew that we would have the Book of Mormon and the words of living prophets, and He still saw fit to correct the mistranslations in the Bible. It would seem that, in His opinion, we would need those corrected passages, even though we already have so many other sources of spiritual truths. Those passages were not only important enough create, collect, and translate, they were important enough to retranslate despite the other sources of light and knowledge we already had.

All in all, the truths found in the Bible must be pretty darn important. Maybe I should read them one of these days.