Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Power of Prayer

"Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance." (Alma 8:10)

I find this verse fascinating. Here is a man who is well versed in prayer. Yet even he -- with his familiarity with this form of communication -- in this situation must wrestle in "mighty prayer" for the people of Ammonihah. What is it about wickedness that requires so much effort in prayer to overcome it?

We read later in that same chapter not only were the Ammonihahites very hard hearted (eventually burning women and children), but at that very time they were plotting to take down the liberty of God's people.

In the Bible Dictionary, we can read the following definition of Prayer: "Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings."

One might say that Alma failed to receive what he'd asked for. After all, he was imprisoned, the righteous men were cast out of the city, and women and children were burned. But then again, did he fail?

Here is what Alma responded, speaking of the martyrs:
"The Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and...the judgments which he shall exercise upon [the wicked] in his wrath [will] be just;...the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against [the wicked], yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day." (Alma 14:11)

But I still ponder on why it is some situations require so much labor in prayer. Yet when I think of scriptures such as D&C 38:13-15, 28-29...
"And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not;

"But now I tell it unto you, and ye are blessed, not because of your iniquity, neither your hearts of unbelief; for verily some of you are guilty before me, but I will be merciful unto your weakness.

"Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours....

"And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.

"Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land."
(D&C 38:13-15, 28-29)
...I think on the importance of prayer for us today. We may not be able to direct exact outcomes, but the Lord has given us the answers we need for our safety. Very few are asked to be martyrs. Therefore, as we pray, we are also to heed this:
"That ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless--

"...I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;

"And from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand."
(D&C 38:31, 33)
I'm grateful not to be an ancient citizen of Ammonihah. I'm grateful to be living during a different time period of the earth, where we've been promised the gospel will never be taken again from the earth.

But I'm also mindful there are destructive forces present on the earth now, as told to the prophet Joseph Smith and such as Elder Oaks' urgent speech this month, warning us that our constitutional liberties are being threatened.

The Lord has shown us what to do: gather as a righteous people, without spot and blameless and go forth unto the nations, sharing the good news of His good gospel. Jesus Christ has shown the way to peace, happiness and liberty through his apostles and prophets...if we will but just listen.

P.S. Here is the link to D&C 38, an amazing and most comforting chapter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Heart's Hidden Wedge

There is a story told of a farmer's boy who found a wedge while out on the homestead. Intending later to bring it home, he placed it between supple young branches of a walnut tree. Later never came.

Decades later, the wedge was forgotten. It had been consumed by the tree's growth and rested hidden near the heart of the tree. But when a vicious ice storm blew through those woods, guess which tree fell? That's right--the now gnarled walnut tree, split open by its heavy burden of an old iron wedge.

I thought about that story today as I was reading in Mosiah 19. War is upon the Nephites, coming in a flash attack by their enemies, the Lamanites.

King Noah is fleeing, rather than protect his people. He urges the men, the Nephites own warriors, to leave behind defenseless women and children. Just picture it! He's shouting orders to men--men sworn to protect the land--to join him in saving their own lives.

It is precisely in these flash moments, the ice storms of our lives, that hidden wedges split a heart wide open. These flash moments expose the inner workings of a life far better than modern personality tests, aptitude assessments, or even professed expressions.

Some of King Noah's men fled with him. Some could not. In seeing the faces of their own wives and children, they chose to "stay and perish with them."

The story is a riveting one for me. It is one that causes me to ponder long and hard: why is it in the blink of an eye (there is a book called Blink that explores these decisions), some choose to surrender themselves in order to protect another...and others choose purely self-protective means?

Personally, I believe it comes down to tiny, mounting, daily choices, the ones that seem not to matter. You know the kind, the little things like, "Do I give the bigger piece of cake to myself or to my child?" Those kinds of moments that appear easily not to matter. Or do they? And what about the weightier matters, the ones we'd rather not deal

I don't know. But I do know that just as that farmer's boy -- so long ago -- placed a heavy wedge in the young tree's branches, I know that it is all too easy to set aside something heavy and think we'll deal with it later. Later often never comes.

And when the ice storms flash into our lives, what then?

This is why I love the scriptures. They help me see the need I have to analyze my own life, my own heavy wedges, my own personal choices. Where are those choices taking me? Am I headed in the right direction? What can I do today if I'm not? It's kind of like house-cleaning a little at a time, rather than all in two days right before company comes (yep, I've had those kind of moments).

This one thing I do know. I love the Savior and I'm grateful He helps me remove heavy wedges...even after they've been there so long the tree-growth in my life may have swallowed up the weight. He can help me remove anything that does not belong in my life. And I find Him daily in the pages of my scriptures, waiting to do just that! So grateful for that and for His patience with me.

P.S. Here's the link to the cool story about the farmer's boy and here's the link to the Book of Mormon story of the fleeing fathers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Amazing Promise - Do We Believe It?

Here's the promise!
I testify that when we do all we can to accomplish the work that is before us, the Lord will make available to us the sacred key needed to unlock the treasure which we so much seek.
-President Thomas S. Monson
Scripture study helps open up why and how the Lord is able to help us this way! Here is a link to online scriptures:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trust Not in the Arm of the Flesh

These scriptural references kind of say it all, don't they:

2 Chr. 32: 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord.
Ps. 20: 7 Some trust in chariots . . . but we will remember the name of the Lord.
Ps. 44: 6 I will not trust in my bow.
Ps. 146: 3 Put not your trust in princes.
Prov. 3: 5 lean not unto thine own understanding.
Prov. 11: 28 he that trusteth in his riches shall fail.
Prov. 28: 26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.
Isa. 2: 8 (2 Ne. 12: 8) they worship the work of their own hands.
Isa. 2: 22 (2 Ne. 12: 22) Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.
Isa. 30: 2 to trust in the shadow of Egypt.
Isa. 59: 4 they trust in vanity.
Jer. 17: 5 trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.
Micah 7: 5 Trust ye not in a friend.
Rom. 8: 1 walk not after the flesh.
Philip. 3: 3 have no confidence in the flesh.
2 Ne. 4: 34 I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh.
2 Ne. 28: 31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man.
Mosiah 23: 14 trust no one to be your teacher . . . except . . . a man of God.
D&C 1: 19 neither trust in the arm of flesh.
D&C 3: 7 you should not have feared man more than God.
D&C 5: 21 yield to the persuasions of men no more.

The next time I'm concerned about the opinion of others, I'm going to think on these verses!


This scripture sure makes me want to be generous with others:
"Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:10, emphasis added).
So much of harshness in today's world. I often wonder why it hurts to give just a bit of kindness or "benefit of the doubt."

I know that when I'm driving down the freeway and someone cuts me off, kindness is the last sentiment I feel. :0) But this is my new emphasis for this year - to give kindness in all settings, not just when I feel like it. (And D&C 1:10 above ensures me it will be well worth it . . . even on the freeway. :0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Observing the wind...

I read this today in Ecclesiastes 11:3-4:
"If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap."
Could we be living in a more rainy time, spiritually? Could we be passing through life's days with wind blowing any harder? I don't think so.

Our late church prophet, President Hinckley, said nearly a decade ago that Sodom and Gommorrah had nothing that we don't have today. His exact words were these: "All the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society" (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Living in the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 4).

But did President Hinckley focus so much on today's deadly storms that he was stymied in his progress, sowing not and reaping not? No.

President Hinckley lived the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes. He lived his life in such a way that he had vigor in his step and a smile on his lips. How is this obtained in the midst of the serial storms society sends our way? Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 contains the precious secret.

These verses speak of a storm. Will a person know the "wind" is blowing? Of course. But to stand frozen in fear, staring at a pending storm, means no healthy preparations take place. The verse reminds us if we solely focus on the storms, we have no time to "sow," to be anxiously engaged in good causes.

Does a person know they're walking under a cloudy sky? Of course. It can be seen and felt (for any with sight). But if we only focus on the clouds, Ecclesiastes reminds us healthy harvest will not come. We're too frozen staring at the windy sky.

Just as Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 states, and President Hinckley showed by his life's actions, we aren't to focus -- to the exclusion of all else -- on the spiritual rain and storms whirling around us. Are we aware of them? Yes. Are we preparing for them? Yes. But does all joy vanish? No. President Hinckley offered an alternative, a productive alternative, one that brings joy instead of fear.

Here is President Hinckley's advice: "Not withstanding the afflictions about us, notwithstanding the sordid things we see almost everywhere, notwithstanding the conflict that sweeps across the world, we can be better" (Ibid.).

We can be better. We can strive for more. That is what gets us sowing (which then gets us to the harvest). The way is found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. When we focus on Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and focus on, we will be able to move through and beyond the world's sordid storms. We will stay spiritually dry.

That's Christ's promise. When spiritual hail and society's vicious sleet and wind threaten to destroy, here is what Christ offers: "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 14:27).

I'm learning peace and spiritual safety are several of the priceless fruits that come from daily scripture study. Amazing. Here is an easy link to reading scriptures online. You can even bookmark your favorite verses and go back time and time again. When wicked winds howl and sordid rain crashes all around, the Lord awaits for us to arrive to give us peace and spiritual warmth. All this, in spite of society's filth found in Sodom and Gomorrah counterparts that surround us.

Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 is one cool set of verses. We need not "observe the wind" and freak out; we simply need to find the shelter the Savior provides.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Intense Family Structure

Talk about a tear-jerker. This video clip is amazing and shows the power of family love. When a family is strong, society is strong. So why are some trying so hard to destroy this? This video clip is a must see: