Archive for the ‘Scriptures’ Category


Missionary Work…In the Afterlife

   Posted by: John

In Sunday School today, Ryan had someone read the following story:

Frederick William Hurst was working as a gold miner in Australia when he first heard Latter-day Saint missionaries preach the restored gospel. He and his brother Charles were baptized in January 1854. He tried to help his other family members become converted, but they rejected him and the truths he taught.

Fred settled in Salt Lake City four years after joining the Church, and he served faithfully as a missionary in several different countries. He also worked as a painter in the Salt Lake Temple. In one of his final journal entries, he wrote:

“Along about the 1st of March, 1893, I found myself alone in the dining room, all had gone to bed. I was sitting at the table when to my great surprize my elder brother Alfred walked in and sat down opposite me at the table and smiled. I said to him (he looked so natural): ‘When did you arrive in Utah?’

“He said: ‘I have just come from the Spirit World, this is not my body that you see, it is lying in the tomb. I want to tell you that when you were on your mission you told me many things about the Gospel, and the hereafter, and about the Spirit World being as real and tangible as the earth. I could not believe you, but when I died and went there and saw for myself I realized that you had told the truth. I attended the Mormon meetings.’ He raised his hand and said with much warmth: ‘I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I believe in faith, and repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, but that is as far as I can go. I look to you to do the work for me in the temple. … You are watched closely. … We are all looking to you as our head in this great work. I want to tell you that there are a great many spirits who weep and mourn because they have relatives in the Church here who are careless and are doing nothing for them” (Diary of Frederick William Hurst, comp. Samuel H. and Ida Hurst [1961], 204).[1]

It is interesting to note that this departed person, having heard but not fully accepting the word of the Lord while living, “attended the Mormon meetings” in the spirit world.  The implication is that missionary work is occurring in the spirit world, just as it is on Earth.  When Christ preached to the spirits in prison (D&C 138:18-19), he prepared spirits to be missionaries to the wicked and disobedient people (D&C 138:29-37) of whom he did not go himself (D&C 138:20-21).

Now consider this story written by Wilford Woodruff:

Perhaps I may be permitted to relate a circumstance with which I am acquainted in relation to Bishop Roskelley, of Smithfield, Cache Valley.  On one occasion he was suddenly taken very sick — near to death’s door.  While he lay in this condition, President Peter Maughan, who was dead, came to him and said: “Brother Roskelley, we held a council on the other side of the [veil].  I have had a great deal to do, and I have the privilege of coming here to appoint one man to come and help.  i have had three names given to me in council, and you are one of them.  I want to inquire into your circumstances.”  The bishop told him what he had to do, and they conversed together as one man would converse with another.  President Maughan then said to him: “I think I will not call you.  I think you are wanted here more than perhaps one of the others.”  Bishop Roskelley got well from that hour.  Very soon after, the second man was taken sick, but…Brother Roskelley did not go to him.  By and by this man recovered, and on meeting Brother Roskelley he said: “Brother Maughan came to me the other night and told me he was sent to call one man from the ward,” and he named two men as had been done to Brother Roskelley.  A few days afterwards the third man was taken sick and died.  Now, I name this to show a principle. They have work to do on the other side of the [veil]; and they want men, and they call them.[2]

Again, the implication is that work is being performed in the spirit world, and it is missionary work.  We don’t know to be sure exactly what form it consists of.  After all, these are spirits which are not subject to the physical limitations or weaknesses that a mortal body straps us with.  But considering the number of people who have lived on this Earth, and comparing how relatively few have been true and obedient to the commandments of God, the workload must be enormous. 

We have all heard and likely used the phrase “called home” when referring to a person who has departed this life.  You never know, it could be that simple.  Perhaps that person was needed there more than here and so left this mortal existence to preach the gospel on a far grander scale. 

[1] Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 39.

[2] Best Loved Stories of the LDS People, Volume 3, page 21.


The Promised Land

   Posted by: John

It has been quite a while since I have written any essays of this type.  I think it is time that I start doing so again.  Writing is, after all, a skill that needs to be exercised and practiced.  It follows that old saying, use it or lose it.  I would rather not lose it.

I have been watching and listening to the current political situation and keep thinking of some parallels with some of the previous occupants of this land.  We know that around 2200 BC a group of people departed from the remains of the great Tower of Babel and were led to a land of promise.  It was a land choice above all other lands, a place where the people would be free so long as they served and worshipped God.  This group, known as the Jaredites, inhabited the land for many years.  They cycled through good and bad times, righteousness and wickedness, good kings and evil kings.  They prospered, warred and suffered over and over and over.  Eventually, they fought to the end in a great battle, and became extinct.  There is a record of their existence, highlights of which we can read in the Book of Mormon, specifically the Book of Ether. 

There was another group who were known as the Mulekites who were led to this promised land, except they had nothing to preserve their faith and language.  They did not prosper well.

Then we have the most well-known group, the people of Lehi.  They were led to the promised land, again with the assurance that so long as they served and worshipped God they would be free.  If you read the Book of Mormon, you can see that when they did worship God they were free, and when they fell into iniquity, they came under bondage.  Then they would repent and become free again.  The cycles take some years, but it is an easy pattern to see.

There were possibly other groups that we don’t know about.  North and South America cover a lot of territory.  The records we have comprise a 2500 year history packed into just over 500 pages. 

More recently, we have different groups of people coming to this land.  The pilgrims came over looking to separate themselves from the state church and persecution.  Like the Jaredites and Nephites, they left everything behind, believing they were heading for a better place.  More followed, many for the same reasons, others to escape poverty, tyranny, or oppression.  This land offered freedom, reward for hard work, incentive to excel. 

Many of these people worshipped God.  They laid the groundwork for a great nation with freedoms guaranteed by law.  When independence was declared and won by blood, the way was clear for the Constitution.  This great governmental framework is a remarkable achievement, still quite unique in this world.  However, it is under attack, and there are serious (and some successful) efforts to undermine and eliminate the Constitution.  It is the same cycle we read about in the scriptures, except we are living it day by day instead of reading about it over a few pages.  The phrase “history repeats itself” is absolutely true.

Joseph Smith prophesied about the Constitution (as told by Brigham Young):

“Will the Constitution be destroyed?  No; it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, ‘the time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread.  At this critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’ It will be so.”[1]

Ezra Taft Benson clarified this further:

“In connection with the attack on the United States, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith there would be an attempt to overthrow the country by destroying the Constitution.  Joseph Smith predicted that the time would come when the Constitution would hang as it were by a thread, and at that time, ‘this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.’  It is my conviction that the Elders of Israel, widely spread over the nation, will, at that crucial time, successfully rally the righteous of our country and provide the necessary balance of strength to save the institutions of Constitutional government.  Now is the time to get ready.”[2]

It was prophesied, and it is happening. Today, we are experiencing bad government.  It has taken some years to get to this point, but we have corrupt “leaders” who are more interested in their well-being than that of the people.  They are driven by power and money.  Their current proposed legislation is designed to remove freedom and bring the people of this nation into bondage.  They think they are above the law and very often exempt themselves from the laws enacted on the citizens they claim to represent.  They are actively working on destroying the Constitution and the very freedoms it guarantees. 

How do we correct the situation?  In the scriptures, when the people humbled themselves (or in some cases were humbled by circumstances, many self-inflicted) they were able to turn bad governments back to good ones.  It was not an immediate process, but often took years and a lot of hard work to accomplish.  Ultimately, it will fall upon the Priesthood to provide the leadership to save the Constitution and restore the government to its proper place.  We should take comfort that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Ezra Taft Benson were all Prophets, and the words they spoke concerning the Constitution are prophecy.  And, as Elder LeGrand Richards would say, prophecy works every time.

This is a land of promise, a land of freedom and liberty, a land choice above all other lands.  The Lord has so declared many times.  No matter how bad things get, no matter how much freedom is lost and bondage brought upon the people, freedom eventually is restored.  Sometimes the cost is high, but so long as we follow the Lord and his prophets, we will succeed.

The Saturday Priesthood “revelatory experience” was indeed that, an opportunity to learn and receive revelation at the hands of an Apostle.  Some of the purposes of revelation are to receive divine truth, answers to prayers, or even having your thoughts directed in a certain way. 

In this vein, Elder Bednar conducted a question and answer service, but explained that some questions were better than others.  The questions that don’t have as much to offer in a revelatory manner were not ones he wished to entertain.  So, I will be having a series of posts that deal with these questions and answers, along with some insight, revelation, and in a couple of cases, understanding I received.

Before I begin, I wish to expound on this term “understanding”.  During the course of answering a question, Elder Bednar addressed this term, and had a couple of interesting things to say about it. 

First, he said that the word “understand” in the scriptures does not mean cognitive learning.  It is, rather, related to revelation and sealing of testimony in the heart and mind.  Knowing about the gospel does not mean “understanding” the gospel, or any virtually any principle within it.  There are many people in the world who know scripture inside and out, and can make a serious effort toward claiming they know, understand and live the gospel.   But true understanding is dependent on the Holy Ghost sealing testimony, and the person being converted to the gospel.  I will discuss conversion in another article.

Several passages of scripture stand out in my mind that deal with “understanding”.  The first one that I wish to address is Doctrine and Covenants 9:7.  In this passage, Oliver Cowdery has attempted to translate from the gold plates, but has not been able to.  In answer to his question as to why, the Lord says:

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”

The message is twofold.  Oliver did not understand the actual principle of how the translation worked.  This is an obvious conclusion.  But I think, in light of Elder Bednar’s remarks, that Oliver also did not understand because the testimony of the ancient record had not been sealed in his heart.  He was not converted.  Joseph, at this point having many visitations from heavenly messengers, was very likely fully committed to the will of God, even though the church had not yet been restored, nor the Melchizedek Priesthood.  It is quite possible this occurred before the Aaronic Priesthood had been restored. 

Stepping back to Section 8, the Lord describes what revelation is in verses 2 and 3:

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”

The Lord tells us exactly what revelation is and how it occurs.  I submit that this is the essence of “understanding”, the testimony being given by the Holy Ghost, and sealed in the mind and heart, just as Elder Bednar told us.

How do we get this understanding?  It is not just some thing that comes over us at random or just because it’s nice to have.  Alma 17:2-3 gives us a great example of how that happens.  In these verses, Alma was traveling from Gideon to Manti when he met the sons of Mosiah, who had been prophesying and preaching for 14 years among the Lamanites.  Starting in the middle of verse  2:

“…yea, and they (the Sons of Mosiah) had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

But this was not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with the power and authority of God.”

They had learned the word of God by “searching” the scriptures, not just reading or scanning.  They had fasted and prayed much.  They had been active in teaching the gospel, in this case, for 14 years.  The results of these actions was a “sound understanding”.  They had been converted and the testimony had been sealed in their hearts and minds, to the point of being filled with the spirits of prophecy and revelation, and teaching with the power and authority of God.  Could the sons of Mosiah have been able to do these things if they had merely been knowledgeable about the scriptures?  No.  The evidence of this was manifest by Elder Bednar himself, as he taught in the spirit of revelation and prophecy, teaching with the power and authority of God.  Elder Bednar is no different than Alma and the sons of Mosiah in this respect.  The biggest difference is Elder Bednar’s ability to travel a lot faster to a lot more places.

So, with all of this understanding, and ability to have these blessings, do men such as these have room to grow and things to learn?  Absolutely, as evidenced in Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  In this section, President Joseph F. Smith received this vision, apparently one among many, and in verse 11, says:

“As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.”

He continues in this section to describe what he saw concerning the dead, the preaching of the gospel, and the resurrection.  What I wish to focus on is his language regarding how he saw this revelation…”the eyes of my understanding were opened”.  President Smith was the prophet, one who communicates and received revelation from the Lord.  His understanding of the gospel had to be what Elder Bednar was describing.  Yet, his eyes of understanding had to be opened to see the revelation the Lord had for him.  In so doing, the Holy Ghost would have sealed those things in his heart and mind, just as has been described.

Doing a search of the word “understand”, there are many references in the scriptures that provide great examples of this subject, spread among all of the standard works.  Indeed, the Apostles, both ancient and modern, are not covering new material, but are clarifying and expounding on a gospel principle that has existed since the beginning of man.

Now, realize that Elder Bednar did not say all of this.  In fact, he said very little about “understanding”.  However, as I have said, he taught by the spirit of revelation, and with the authority of God.  The meaning of this subject was made clear in the few moments he spent on it before moving on to other things.  When Elder Bednar promised that we would have things revealed to us, he was right.  I realize I have a long way to go to reach this level of understanding, and I never knew exactly what it meant. 

My testimony is that this principle is true.  We need to have this kind of understanding.  The next article is about ministering, and in the course of that discussion, we will see that true ministering and understanding are very related


Ministering (May 2008)

   Posted by: John

One of the questions asked of Elder Bednar was, “What does it mean to minister”?  Elder Bednar asked Elder Nielsen (I believe our area authority Seventy) to answer first, then he would continue.  However, for the purpose of this discussion, I will not distinguish much between the two.  Rather, the answers intertwine and work well together.

We were referred to the chapters in the Book of Mormon from Mosiah 23 to Alma 15 as an example of what describes the word “minister”.  These are the chapter that talks about Alma’s ministry, rich with examples of what Alma did and said while teaching the people.  Note the word “did” in that previous sentence.  It is important.

We read from Doctrine and Covenants 43:8:

“And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments which I have given.”

Here is a reason for meeting together in conference, that me may instruct and edify each other.  The entire six hours of conference this weekend was incredibly instructive.  The Lord gives the reason for this when he says “that ye may know…how to act upon the points of my law and commandments which I have given”. 

There is an action word here.  Act sounds a lot like Did, except it is the present tense, not past.  Alma, having learned the world of God, preached that word (acted) and established congregations, instructing and edifying the people (acting some more).  Those people followed the instruction (acting themselves) and in many cases, were a happy and delightsome people for a period of time.

I submit that acting upon the word of God, instructing, edifying, home teaching, filling callings, paying tithing, etc. are what it means to “minister”.  We devote our lives to helping and uplifting those around us.  It also means that when we have positions of responsibility, we fulfill those jobs as seriously and completely as we can.

Going to Doctrine and Covenants 61:3, we learn an important principle that will help us minister:

“But verily I say unto you, that it is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief.”

Joseph Smith and others were travelling down the Missouri river.  The Lord foresaw danger and warned them.  In this passage, special attention was paid to the words “moving swiftly” and “inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief”.  In other words, slow down.  We should not be in a rush while ministering.  While it is true that many things have a schedule and deadlines, I don’t think that people and souls do.  Progress is very often measured against time.  If we move along too fast, we may miss something important that can make a difference for good in someone’s life.

Now, to get back to the original question of “What does it mean to minister”, we can answer it with some better detail.

To minister means to serve.  Service can be anything that someone needs in their life, from weeding a flowerbed to changing a flat tire, to giving a Priesthood blessing.  It includes teaching the gospel, baptizing, and giving testimony; taking a dinner to an afflicted family or driving an elderly person to church qualify as ministering. 

In order to serve or minister, one must know how to do it, whatever form it may be.  For example, it is difficult for one who does not know plumbing to do a proper pipe repair job.  The same principle applies to those who would teach the gospel.  One must first learn the gospel and be practiced in it to be able to preach it.  For many professions, before one can practice their learning, they must pass a series of tests to prove their competency.  Is the gospel any different?  Yes and no.  The Bishop is not going to issue a test to prove ability to preach, but in order to be effective, one must have testimony given by the Holy Ghost, and that is only given after one studies, learns, and prays diligently.  In the example of the sons of Mosiah, we have already shown that they first searched the scriptures, learned the word of God, and prayed and fasted.  They passed the test, that of receiving testimony from God, and they were thus able to minister with the power and authority of God.  In similar fashion, if a young person joins the church and wishes to serve a mission, they must be a member for a year prior to going, giving them time to study and learn.

Now, do you have to have the full testimony before you serve?  Part of that testimony is gained by serving.  Like every other occupation, hobby or endeavor, practice makes perfect.  Those who learn medicine practice medicine in increasing levels of responsibility and difficulty while they are learning.  The gospel is no different.  As one learns principles of the gospel, one puts them into practice and perfects them while learning new principles, and the cycle continues.  In order to minister, one learns while they minister, but you always have to start somewhere and spend some time gaining your knowledge and testimony before you start.  As you begin to minister and continue learning, your testimony grows and you draw close to your Father in Heaven.

Ministering means acting on your knowledge.  If you don’t act, your knowledge does you no good.  In the account in Alma 17, the sons of Mosiah had been laboring for 14 years among the Lamanites, and were returning to Zarahemla, where they would serve some more.  That is action.  The results of those actions, as already mentioned, are the spirits of revelation and prophecy, the result of hard spiritual work and ministering.

In the scriptures, it becomes obvious that serving is one of many ways that we earn forgiveness from the Savior.  As we minister to those whom we have responsibility for, and even those whom we don’t, our faith and testimony increase.  The more this occurs, the closer we get to being converted, a subject that was also talked about and will be discussed in another article.

To summarize, to minister is to act and serve.  As Elder Bednar pointed out, talking about action in a meeting does not constitute ministering.  Meetings are necessary and sometimes required for organization, preparation, instruction and training, but the real ministering takes place outside of meetings.


Prayer (May 2008)

   Posted by: John

There was a question about prayer, and I did not manage to write the question down fully. However, there are some interesting things that came about as a result of that question.

Elder Bednar referred to a conference talk he gave that centered around asking (praying) in faith.  He then talked about some principles of prayer that I am sure everyone knows, but don’t get talked about or even thought about often.

First, answers to prayer may not come immediately.  Everyone knows that, but it is still frustrating when you pray and don’t perceive that you have received an answer.  A great example of this is Nephi, when he goes to get the brass plates from Laban.  It took three tries to get those plates.  Laman and Lemuel were ready to give up after the first failure.  (I suppose it could be said they were ready to give up before trying the first time!)  Nephi was ready to try again.  And then again, before he was successful.

One wonders how many times Nephi prayed about seeing Lehi’s vision before he actually received it.  We don’t know, but I am sure that it was more than once.  What would have happened if he had given up?  Nephi was a man of great faith.  He prayed knowing he would receive an answer, and he did.  When we pray honestly and sincerely, we need to know that our Father in Heaven knows when to answer, and it may not be right that moment.

Second, praying and not doing anything until you receive an answer was described as “faithless prayer”.  This sounds very strange, but think about it.  If you are praying to be led to someone who seeking the gospel, but you never go out to look for that person, what good is the prayer.  Waiting for someone to knock on your door and proclaim they want to hear the gospel is a colossal waste of time.  The chances of that happening are almost none.  Instead, do pray for that blessing of finding someone, then actively work at it.  When we pray AND act in faith, we stand a better change of receiving an answer, as well as the blessings associated with it.

A good illustration of this principle is with Nephi again.  He and his brothers have failed the second time to get the brass plates.  Nephi’s brothers are upset, as usual, and go through their familiar murmuring routine.  Nephi says in 1 Nephi 4:6:

“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”

We know that Nephi approached this task with pray, vocally and in his heart.  In this passage, Nephi admits that he didn’t know what he was going to do, or what was going to happen.  However, he was led by the Spirit.  We know what happened.  Laban was out partying because he had stolen Lehi’s stuff.  He was drunk, unconscious, and in Nephi’s power.  The answer didn’t stop there.  Nephi was able to pass himself off as Laban, wearing the clothes, and speaking in a voice that sounded like Laban.  The servant was fooled, and Nephi got the plates.  The answer still doesn’t stop.  Laban servant followed Nephi out the city until they met Nephi’s brothers.  The servant tried to get away, but Nephi prevented it and the servant decided to go with them.  Considering all the events of the evening, that is a remarkable answer for someone who didn’t know what would happen but submitted to following the spirit’s lead.

Third, prayer does not have to be formal or vocal.  I am not talking about prayers for meeting, the sacrament, blessings, etc.  I am speaking specifically of personal prayer, just you and the Lord. 

 We are encouraged to pray out loud to our Father in Heaven.   In most circumstances, when we go to pray, this is just fine.  There are times, however, when vocal prayer just doesn’t work.  Personal prayer with God should be just that…personal.  When necessary, pray silently.  Further, prayer does not have to be strictly formal.  We should still address God as he is, our Father in Heaven, because he is, after all, God.  But we should talk to him as a friend, and friends don’t too often follow strict formal conversation.

We have often heard the phrase “have a prayer in your heart” or the term “continuously praying”.  How can one do that?  A person has to live, work, eat, and sleep, among many things.  I believe that having a pure heart is a key to praying continuously.  As we drive, work, or shop, we can be pondering the scriptures, thinking about a conference talk, or even just mentally conversing with our Father in Heaven.  While driving to home teach, we can be mentally preparing ourselves to feel the spirit and know what that family needs.  In these kinds of ways, I think we are “continually praying” to our Father.

It cracks me up that prayer, to someone who doesn’t pray, sounds so one-sided.  Many time, I feel like my prayers are one-sided.  I’m doing all the talking.  What we need to do is listen.  If we are in the right frame of mind, the spirit will give us the things we need to pray about.  We need to open our spiritual ears.  It isn’t easy.  There are so many things to distract us.  That’s one reason why the Lord makes reference to praying in our secret places, those locations where distractions and disturbances don’t exist.  When we can concentrate, meditate and pray without disturbance, we will be surprised how much easier it will be to hear our Father in Heaven.


Conversion (May 2008)

   Posted by: John

Saturday’s Evening conference session brought out another topic in this current progression.  As I have read over my notes, I have realized that there was a flow of topics from faith to action to conversion.  I have already written much about faith and action, but conversion is the next topic to cover.

It was mentioned in one of the meetings that testimony was not the same as conversion.  I thought that a little odd when I first heard it, but it makes a lot of sense after some pondering. 

Testimony is knowledge of truth, revealed by the Holy Ghost.  In order to have an active testimony, one must have faith or confidence in God.  Exercising our faith to action, as mentioned previously, will increase our faith and strengthen our testimony.  As our testimony becomes stronger, we develop stronger faith, and act further.  It is a continuous circle that, as long as we work at it, grows.

But…our testimony can also dwindle, as well as our faith.  Testimonies are sometimes fragile, and if not strong enough, we can forget the truths we have learned and wander off into strange paths, as Nephi saw in his vision of the Tree of Life. 

So, our testimonies and faith are things that need constant nourishment.  At what point do we become truly converted and what does that mean?

We often refer to new members of the church as “converts”.  This is true in the point that they have left behind other parts of their life to start anew in the true church of Christ.  But are they really “converted”?  Are we who have been members of the church for a long time really converted?

In the scriptures, there are several examples of people who became converted, and there is an interesting side effect of it.  In once such example from Mosiah 4 and 5 we read about the effects of the conversion process on people.  King Benjamin is delivering his speech from the tower.  He has just spoken about the atonement and forgiveness, and exhorted the people to repent.  The people had fallen to the earth and prayed for forgiveness.  Then, in Mosiah 4:3

“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.”

So, the people will filled with joy and the spirit because of their faith, and were forgiven of their sins.  The rest of the chapter is filled with things that king Benjamin exhorts them to do.  Then, in the beginning of chapter 5, the kings asks the people if they believed his words.  Mosiah 5:2 describes a difference in the people:

“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

The words I want to focus on are “mighty change” and “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually”.  The mighty change referred to is more than just having a testimony.  Gaining a testimony changes us, but the mighty change is the process of conversion, fully applying the atonement of the Savior and being sanctified by the Spirit.  This is the baptism of fire, or the Holy Ghost, that Jesus spoke of in John 3:5, “Except a man be born or water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”   The result of this sanctification is the desire to do good continually, totally abandoning any desire to sin.  Conversion is the absence of sinful desire, and the fullness of doing good.

Now this begs the question, if you are truly converted, do you still sin?  The answer is, yes.  Unfortunately.  But, think about this in real terms.  If you don’t desire to sin, you will see sin as an abomination.  Chances are you are going to be real good at identifying things that would be called sin and avoiding them.  Never sinning implies perfection.  We aren’t going to be perfect in this life.  But, as we work and progress, we are constantly changing, improving, working on areas we need to “clean up” in our lives.  The better we become, the less we will sin.  Remember, that the definition of sin is knowingly breaking a commandment.  If we are truly converted, our sins will be more ones of omission, rather than commission, and, while serious, they offer ways for us to improve.  The covenants me make at baptism, in the temple, when we obtain the priesthood, those cover the very serious offenses against God and man.  Keep those covenants, and the serious sins of commission are in check. 

Along the way, something else happens to us.  When we become converted, we become submissive to the Lord.  Keeping the commandments is an act of submission, not a great and boastful thing, but something sacred between us and God.  Remember we are here not only to gain a body but to see if we will do whatever the Lord commands us to do.  Following the commandments fully and exactly is an act of humility.  It brings into focus the phrase “a broken heart and a contrite spirit”.  A broken heart is one that is broken to following the will of the Lord.  A contrite spirit is one that submits to the Lord.

One can almost picture people who are converted, with broken hearts and contrite spirits as people who are incredibly meek and mousy.  After all, the world would have us believe that these godly qualities are weak.  Consider Nephi.  He was a man “large of stature”, as he states in his first book, who knew of the goodness of God.  Nephi had visions, saw angels, followed the spirit, and did marvelous things while under the direction of the Lord.  Nephi was converted, and strived to do good continually.  Nephi stood up to his brethren who tried on numerous occasions to cause him harm.  He withstood their taunts and physical blows.  He radiated the power of God at times when his brothers knew to touch him would mean their physical deaths.  I cannot picture Nephi fitting the world’s perception of one who is meek and mousy if they possess a broken heart and a contrite spirit. 

Alma, Amulek, the sons of Mosiah, the later Nephi, Captain Moroni, Mormon; these great and powerful men were not weak.  They were not mental midgets as the world would claim.  They were strong in the Lord and they were strong in mind and body.  The scriptures are filled with their stories, along with others, who were able to teach with the power of God and do great and marvelous works.  How could they do that if they were not converted?

As I listened to Elder Bednar, it because obvious to me that he is in the same class.  He teaches with the power of God because he is converted, having no disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

I submit that this is the goal of this life, to become converted to the Lord.  Having a testimony  is not enough.  We need our testimony, for without it, we will not progress.  But we need to strive for that conversion process, to gain the desire to do good always, and forsake every wrong and bad thing.  It is not easy, but if I believe if we work on it every day, it will happen.  Our lives are but for a short time, but if we earnestly strive for it, the Lord will bless us.  May we become converted to the Lord and desire to do good the rest of our lives.

I had a rather profound thought today in Sunday School.  The lesson was about King Benjamin (first few chapters of Mosiah) and how he was teaching his 3 sons, then started teaching his kingdom.  We were talking about the narrative of events along with some gospel principles.  One of the verses we read said “…if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21).   Brother Miner asked us what that means.  One of the answers given was “An unprofitable servant would be one who uses more than he can put back”.  Brother Miner said something about no Return On Investment.  Then he asked if anyone had ever made money back on their kids.  There were some chuckles, then he asked why we do it.  Why put so much into something that doesn’t give back nearly what we invest in it.

If you look at this monetarily, it doesn’t make sense.  Kids are like cars…they are a drain on money and resources.  Any decent financial advisor will try to keep you from putting money in a long-term “losing” investment.  So what is the Return On Investment in our children?

One of the answers is given in the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein the Lord says “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God “ (D&C 18:10).  President Monson, on a couple of occasions tells a story where he was at a stake conference, and a person in the audience was asked what the worth of a soul was.  After a few moments of silence the person said “The worth of a soul is its capacity to become as God.”  That capacity to become as God does not come from money or any other worldly thing.  The scriptures have many accounts of people who tried to buy their way into the kingdom of God.  It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now.  Instead, one must work out their salvation and keep the commandments of God.

I also thought about how the Gospel is all inclusive, yet, at the same time, very personal.  There are some things that every person must do within the Gospel, such as be baptized, receive the Priesthood, make and observe their temple covenants, to name a few.  The Lord has given us these things by commandment.  They are fixed things that all people who wish to live with God must do. 

However, each person is individual, with their own thoughts, likes, dislikes, trials and triumphs.  The Gospel is designed to allow people to be individual.  We all have different things to work on in our quest for perfection.  Aside from the fixed ordinances, we have a common goal…eternal life. 

One asks why God would send us here, knowing many (if not most) would fall short of eternal glory.  As already mentioned, God views the worth of souls to be great.  Even with that divine piece of revelation, there is nobody who will be perfect enough to make it on their own.  In the end, we will not be able to provide God with a decent Return On Investment.  We are unprofitable servants, even those who are called to be prophets. 

Jesus evens the balance sheet.  Because he loves us, he will change us from unprofitable to profitable, so long as we do all we can.  We will no longer be a losing investment.  Our value to God will be realized as we progress towards becoming as He is.  It is up to us to be worthy of that blessing.

In the Book of Mormon, there is a discussion in Alma 10 and 11 about the profession of the practice of law, specifically those who are in it to make massive amounts of money.  In this account, Alma and Amulek are on trial for preaching the word of God and telling those in power that they were corrupt and breaking the commandments.  True to form, those in power took exception to being called on their actions.  They brought Alma and Amulek to court where they were questioned by those who were learned and skilled in the law.  Alma 10:13-16 says:

“Nevertheless, there were some among them (the people) who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.
Now it was those men who sought to destroy them, who were lawyers, who were hired or appointed by the people to administer the law at their times of trials, or at the trials of the crimes of the people before the judges.
Now these lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people; and this was to enable them that they might be skillful in their profession.
And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.”

I find this rather interesting that these lawyers were trained and encouraged to be “cunning”.  It sounds as if they were not really interested in learning the truth.  Rather, they were interested in making themselves look good by making sure the person being questioned was tripped up.

Indeed, there were some who were incredibly good at it.  Alma 10:31 tells us of one:

“And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom.  Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.”Zeezrom was a lawyer who was “expert” at his craft, and was employed to make sure that Alma and Amulek were convicted of their so-called crimes.Now why would someone go to such lengths?  Surely, garnering respect as an honest man would have more appeal than being known as one who was tricky or cunning.  The answers to this question are given in Alma 10:32:“Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.”
And in Alma 11:20 we learn more about getting gain:
“Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to rioting, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek.”So, these lawyers became experts in their field, learned to be cunning, very likely learned how to carefully flatter and lead, then used that knowledge to gain advantage over their opponents.  This was not enough.  In order to make more money they actively promoted their craft as a means for the people to gain advantage over each other, to the point of stirring up the people to all manner of wickedness, deceit and false witness.

I find it interesting that the Nephites had this problem and it would be recorded in the Book of Mormon.  We know from the New Testament that Jesus and the Apostles had problems with those who “knew” the Law of Moses and purported to live it, but that was more based on the corruption and mis-interpretation of the Mosaic Law.  In the account in Alma (which teaches in beautifully articulate detail the principles of death, resurrection and atonement) these lawyers were out looking for and creating trouble to line their pockets with gold.  We know the Book of Mormon was written for our day, and many of the stories (as well as the prophecies) are beneficial to us.

In light of this, then, I am convinced that this account of Zeezrom was given to show us that we need to watch out for those who would use us for the purpose of gaining riches.  In this case, it happens to be lawyers, but there are plenty of other professions that employ the same “skills” and cunning to make a buck.  Those who would use young girls as prostitutes fall into this category, I believe.  They are using others, in many cases presenting themselves as great and wonderful people, to make money. 

There is nothing wrong with earning your pay.  In the history of the world, one has needed money or wealth in some form to live and survive.  Every product or service has a value and price.  One must earn in order to spend, and one must spend to live.  Earning an honorable living is not only necessary but expected.  God has ordained that “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” and thus man has worked for his existence and substance.  

The problem is there are those who are interested in power and money at the expense of others, and it is solely for their personal gain.  In the past few decades people have gotten so used to being able to litigate over the silliest things that the lawyers are actively looking for frivolous lawsuits and actively encouraging it.  Their take is an exorbitant percentage of the settlement.  They are more interested in their take than they are of a person who may or may not have a reasonable or legitimate case.  Like Zeezrom, they are in it for the money, gaining advantage over whomever they represent and work against.  They advertise and promise that they can get you the money you “deserve”, not mentioning that they will use trickery, deception, and threats to get it.  They will even say they won’t charge unless they collect, showing how confident they are that their tactics will produce results.  In many cases, the amount they collect for themselves is more than the “victim” gets.

In contrast, God has given us light and truth, and counseled us to avoid those who would practice trickery.  Sometimes we can’t avoid it.  In the case of Alma and Amulek, they were dragged into it by those who hated them.  Amulek was able to discern Zeezrom’s thoughts, and Zeezrom knew it.  In the end, after delivering their message, Alma and Amulek were thrown in prison, beaten, watched good people burned to death, and were released from prison when the walls were rent and the wicked priests and lawyers were killed in the collapse.  Alma and Amulek, having the true Priesthood of God, were able to withstand the abuse and torture of their captors and continued to preach and teach.  They endured the injustice by those who proclaimed to be for justice and came out on top.

Contrast this with Abinadi, who contended with people who were of the same mold as these corrupt lawyers, but ended up being killed by fire at the end of his sermon.  The Lord chooses the time and place that his servants shall return to Him.  Abinadi delivered his message and was killed for it, sealing his testimony by his death, not unlike Joseph Smith, whose blood is a witness of God’s work and word.  Both Abinadi and Joseph, and many others known and unknown have given their testimony with their lives.  In some cases, like with Alma and Amulek, the Lord preserved them until He judged their work finished.

It would seem that I have gone off topic, but in reality, the purpose of this little essay was to illustrate how power, influence and money cause people to try and exercise power and authority over others.  In the quest for this power, evil often tries to squash good.  Alma and Amulek suffered at the hands of those who were wicked for daring to preach truth and call people to repentance.  Seeking for unrighteous authority is a trademark of Satan, for he promises riches and power, attractive things of this temporal world.  People who seek worldly things almost never have the glory of God as their purpose.  Those who would make themselves rich at the expense of others have no place in the kingdom of God.  Instead, they are subject to Lucifer, who makes promises he knows he will not and cannot deliver.  Satan is more cunning and crafty than those whom he deceives; after all, in order to trap people into pulling the same tricks and ploys, one must be a master at them, and Satan is that master, having many thousands of years to perfect his tactics. 

Thus, as is said in the Book of Mormon many times, are the affairs of the people.  We live in a world of greed, power and money.  True power lies in the true Priesthood.  In the end, this Priesthood will triumph over every false and deceitful thing.  Those who have employed Satan’s methods will find themselves without the very things they sought after.  The righteous, however, will inherit the promises of God, which He cannot break.  That is the side I wish to be on.

I have made a mishmash of notes of things that piqued my interest.  These notes are sitting on my phone and 2 computers, mocking me right now.  About half of them I remember, and I put enough information on the note to recall most of the circumstance and substance of what I wanted to keep.  The rest, however, are probably lost forever.  Dangit.

Anyway, one of them had to do with a Sunday School lesson we had a few weeks ago, where in the New Testament (somewhere close to the end), we read some verses that had to do with Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses.  Karen asked the question of how these supposed titles were similar, or rather, how a person could fill both.  Brother Miner thought that was a good question and we spent a few minutes on it.

Kings and Queens are rulers, generally over secular duties having to do with the daily and strategic running of a kingdom or country.  Priests and Priestesses would serve over religious duties, such as running the church or congregation, attending to the spiritual needs of the people.

The separation of these duties is obvious, yet many in history have done both.  For example, traditionally, the King or Queen of England is the head of the Anglican church, the Defender of the Faith.  This dates back to the time when England split from the Catholic church and formed the Church of England, or Anglican faith.  The King was responsible for the division, and took it upon himself to be the head of the new church.  Thus, the monarch of England served in both secular and religious leadership.

In the Book of Mormon, there was a time when the people decided to abandon the monarchy and went instead to a panel of judges to rule, among which was a chief judge.  This chief judge was also the High Priest of the church.  Alma served in this capacity for some time.  Thus, he was the ruler of the country, and was also the leader of the church.  He eventually felt that the two positions did not lend themselves to each other, and turned the secular role to another, devoting his time fully to God. 

These kinds of examples give us some understanding as to the differences between being a King and a Priest.

Consider Jesus, who is both a God, head of his kingdom, and High Priest, head of his church.  He fills both roles.  So does His Father.  In a fully righteous place, one can do both.  The problem with the world is that there is no place that is righteous enough to do it.  It has been close, several times, but never quite there, with the possible exception being the city of Enoch.

In the temple, we are anointed to become Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses, telling us that the marriage of these roles is not only possible, but expected.  I am sure that God does not require us to be such here on Earth.  Rather, we need to develop and learn the attributes that would make us successful in those combined duties, becoming masters of ourselves, able to handle the situations that such a leader would encounter.  What we do and learn here will be added upon in the next life.  Failure to learn here will very likely hamper our later abilities.  Therefore, we should do our best here, and be worthy and ready to fulfill our anointments and eternal potential.


Paul in Ephesus (September 2007)

   Posted by: John

A part of the Sunday School lesson today dealt with Paul as he was teaching in Ephesus.  He had gone to the synagogue, teaching and discussing the scriptures, for about 3 months.  He was rejected and so went to teach in other places, for about 2 years.

During that time, he was able to convince a good number of people about Christ.  But, as always seems to be the case, when he (and the other apostles and disciples) were successful, there were others who were not happy with them.  Usually it was the Jews.  This time, however, there is another group who is upset.

It seems that there was a goddess by the name of Diana that a portion of the people worshipped.  Along with that, there were a number of businesses who made silver images and religious items for those worshippers.  As people converted to the gospel, these makers of idolatrous items found their market decreasing.  So, they started to make an uproar about it, seeing that their livelihood was disappearing.  Read Acts 19:24-28.

I got to thinking about the early years of the restored church.  These were days when missionaries of the truth were few but they went forth in great power.  They borrowed churches and halls, preached on the streets and, at times, found many who recognized truth.  It made the ministers of many churches jealous and afraid.  After all, every person who left their church took their money with them.  When threatened with their livelihood, it is a rare person who does not fight back.  Even more, these preachers of religion were sure they were saving their people from evil by fighting truth.

It is an interesting parallel to compare the silversmiths of Ephesus with the ministers of the 1830s.  While the ministers were not making graven images with silver, they were well aware of the economic ramifications if their members left them for another church.  Add to this the fact that they could not compete with the power of the spirit that the missionaries of the true church carried.  The religious leaders (and merchants) of Ephesus were no match for the spirit of Paul.  The end results are interesting to look at.

First, in the face of strong opposition, there were many people who were convinced of the truth and joined the church.  This was true in Ephesus, as it was in many cases in the latter day church.

Second, those who taught the truth were very often subject to beatings, torture, humiliation and sometimes death.

Third, the people who seem to have the most problem with the true gospel being preached are religious leaders who stir up people to fight against the word of God.  (While the silversmiths at Ephesus were not happy with Paul and company, the Jews were also out for their hides.)

One thing we don’t hear about much from the New Testament is the presence of alcohol.  We can read accounts from journals of latter-day saints saying that often the mobs were drunk and sometimes were given the alcohol by those who wanted the riots going.  I suspect that at times, Paul and the other apostles had to deal with drunken mobs.  Funny how numbing the mind with alcohol will get people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do.  And we can purchase that substance at almost any grocery store, gas station mini-mart or convenience store.

So we can see that there are some coincidental things that seem to repeat themselves throughout history.  The word of God is preached by those who have the spirit.  It is fought by those who don’t, generally by those who are harmed financially or threatened religiously.  In spite of enormous opposition, people see the truth and join with it, and many times, the stronger the opposition, the greater the success.  Funny how that works.

I’m grateful that we have the accounts of the apostles.  These men truly served God and gave their lives to his service.  And, I am very glad that we have such a great teacher in my ward who is able to place us there in mind so we can understand and learn the lessons the apostles gave us.


Apollos…Educated and Teachable

   Posted by: John

We were talking today in Gospel Doctrine about a man by the name of Apollos, a Jew who was born in Alexandria (Egypt).  Here is what is said about him in Acts 18:24-25.

24)  And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.

25)  This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

Brother Miner brought out a few interesting points about Apollos.  First, he is a Jew, born in Egypt.  He is an educated man, being mighty in the scriptures.  Being from Egypt, he would have spoken Egyptian, but also Greek.  For many years, the Egyptian Pharoahs were Greeks, and the Greek language was also written and spoken.  But, Apollos also had to have known Hebrew, since the scriptures were written in Hebrew.  Ephesus is well into the Roman empire, and having travelled and been in that part of the world, also likely knew Latin.  This man is no dummy.  Further, verse 24 states that he was “an eloquent man”, and I would take that to mean that, along with his education and demeanor, he was able to speak well.

Apollos taught the people the scriptures based on the knowledge that he had, but his knowledge is incomplete, as verse 25 says “knowing only the baptism of John”.

Now we come to the real interesting part about Apollos.  He is a man of education and standing.  Yet, he is also humble and willing to learn.  Continuing in Acts 18: 26-28:

26)  And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

27)  And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:

28)  For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Some of the people, recognizing in Apollos an ability to speak and teach, but also seeing that he did not know it all, taught him the rest of the story, as it were, and he received it.  He then began teaching his expanded knowledge.  Apollos already knew the scriptures; he was learned and mighty in them.  He just needed to have some pieces filled in.  He was already teaching with great power,  but after receiving more knowledge, and likely receiving the Holy Ghost, he was able to convince many Jews, from the scripture that Jesus was the Christ.

This little passage got me to thinking about the number of people who have a portion of knowledge and truth.  Many are learned in the scriptures, to the point that they can preach and teach with great power and wisdom.  Yet, they are missing the fullness of the gospel.  Most people that I know who are of this caliber are not humble enough to recognize that there is more knowledge available through modern prophets.  I meet a lot of people, and most of their minds are closed to anything beyond what they already have.  What a pity that many of these people are not teachable.

It is fortunate that we have these few verses of scripture to let us know that there are some people who are ready to learn God’s word, and some of them are in positions of high education and standing.  Properly taught and prepared, they can be strong and bold voices of truth.  Apollos gives us this example and understanding.


State of the Union (May 2007)

   Posted by: John

I was thinking about the current state of the United States of America, and I am very concerned that the country is approaching a critical time.  This land has historically and scripturally been a “promised” land since the time that the continents were divided.  While we do not have much of a biblical source for the promises and equal warnings given to those who would possess this part of the world, we do have several groups who have received the promise given in ancient scripture, namely the Book of Mormon.  Without this book, there would be very little information about the divine promises given to those who would inhabit the Americas.

Almost every group of people led here were given great blessings and promises of a free land with the condition that they serve God righteously.  And, almost without exception, each of those groups eventually fell into iniquity and were violently removed.

Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites, and possibly other –ites that we do not yet know about were brought here rather miraculously and started their sojourn in a land of promise.  When they were righteous they prospered.  When they became wicked, they warred among themselves and were killed in great numbers.  And, at times, when they were righteous, they warred with those who were not and most often came off victorious.

I believe the Lamanites were spared because of the pleadings of righteous men for their sake, and the Lord made promises to those men on behalf of their wicked brethren.

When people began again to immigrate to America, it was because they were seeking religious freedom, the right to worship in the way they thought correct.  Thus, this land was prepared for freedom and self government.  When the Lord’s church was restored, the promises made to the ancient inhabitants was made again – if the Lord was served, the land would remain free.

Here we are in 2007, approaching 200 years from the time those promises were made again to the Saints of God.  This country has more people than it has ever had.  Many are righteous people.  Many more think they serve God, but do not have the gospel as given by Christ.  More still are wicked, not adhering to the commandments of God, but follow their own paths, being led by the wiles of the devil.

I fear that those who lead our country are largely of that latter group.  There does not seem to be many who are willing to lead in righteousness.  They think that faith and religion are things to be shunned.  Those who try to be righteous are labeled as fanatics and kooks.  We hear a lot about the religious right, and that group is painted as fruitcakes.  I met a person today who is one of those “religious right” kooks.  He was passionate about the state of his country, his role in it, and I share his concern that we are facing and going to face some very difficult times very soon.

I firmly believe that this country can not be brought down by outside forces.  Those who have tried have always failed.  History has shown that this land is protected by divine force.  When governments and people have fallen, it has been the result of dissent, disillusionment, wickedness and violence from those within.

This is the reason that I am very afraid for this country.  At this time, we have a government that is not interested in the welfare and security of this country.  They are warring among themselves, not caring that the citizens are watching them act like spoiled children fighting over a candy bar.  The ideas and actions of these people are contrary to God’s will and commandments.  What’s worse, some of them know better, and choose to ignore what is right, going with what is politically correct.

Along with this, most people end up taking sides.  These sides are becoming farther apart as ideas become more extreme and middle ground erodes away.

Those who would stand of principle of righteousness find themselves more isolated as the larger majority are willing to put their principles aside in favor of popular opinion.  Already, we have incidents where one group of people protests against another group, sometimes leading to violence.

These are the same kinds of things that led to the ruin of previous inhabitants of this land.  I think of Captain Moroni, who had to march to the rescue of Pahoran, leader of the government at the time when those who wanted a king were becoming such a problem that they threatened to overthrow the chief judge and install their wicked leader as the king.  In Moroni’s case he was successful, but at the cost of having to eliminate those who wanted the king.

I think of the Nephite people after Christ visited and gave them His gospel.  Those who remained righteous were those who were there and saw Him.  This continued for about 3 generations.  By the 4th generation, the story became “old” and wickedness quickly took over.  Some years late, the entire Nephite nation was destroyed by the Lamanites.

In the first case, Pahoran was a righteous man, but he was threatened by those who were wicked and were more numerous than the righteous in that area.  I feel like President Bush is somewhat in that position right now.  He is a good man who faces an uphill battle right now, and while I do not think that he needs to fear for his life per se, the pack of wolves in the congress are looking for every opportunity to bring him down, regardless of the cost to this country’s security and prosperity.

In the second case, when the Nephites became wicked, the conditions that God made concerning righteous inhabitation of America applied, and they were swept away, almost universally.

There are many people here who are likely more wicked than the Nephites ever thought of being.  At the same time, there are many people who are as righteous as the Nephites ever were.  I believe this is the reason that God has not started the sweeping of this nation.  There are enough good people here to prevent that extreme measure.  In spite of this, it has become obvious to me that Satan is very craftily orchestrating the demise of our inspired form of government, and he has a host of willing accomplices to assist him.

Remember the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot pleaded with the Lord to spare the city if even 10 righteous people out of however many were there could be found.  Lot was commanded to leave, because the wickedness (except for him and his immediate family) was universal.  That is not the case today.  There are righteous and good people in all places, and for that reason, I believe the Lord has spared us the fire and brimstone and destruction.

However, the adversary keeps hammering away, putting chinks in our armor, looking for ways to creep in and destroy us from within.  In my opinion, he has a portion of our federal government.  Those who are trying to do right are outnumbered, losing ground, and in some cases, setting their principles and values aside for the sake of getting along.

I don’t know what the answer is, other than to pray for our leaders and vote for those who are trying to do the right things.  Staying righteous and encouraging others to remain or become righteous is likely the best thing we can do.  As long as there are good people living in this land, we improve our chances of keeping our country and way of life intact.