Archive for April, 2008

This weekend is our stake conference.  The major events are the reorganization of the Stake Presidency, and whatever other things necessary for that to happen, as well as various meetings or revelatory gatherings, according to Elder Bednar.  Yes, we have an Apostle of Jesus Christ with us.  All I can say is it is amazing to have him there, and to listen to one who is handpicked by Jesus Himself.  I will be detailing some of the things that were said, taught and felt.

President Olsen has been a Stake President for 9 or 10 years, and has served his time admirably and well.  I have been impressed with his leadership and the style of his presidency.  President Olsen is a truly good man who has magnified his calling and done his very best.  I have grown to enjoy his counselors, Presidents Dopp and Leckie as well.  President Dopp is a seminary instructor, and speaks truth and wisdom with ease, signs of a man who lives the gospel.  President Leckie is not as accomplished as a speaker, but you can feel the power of the spirit in his voice and the sincerity of a truly good man in his actions.  These men have been some whom I have grown to love and enjoy.

Naturally, there are many people who would make good Stake Presidents.  There are a few who would be great Stake Presidents.  One of the things we learned Saturday afternoon was that a new president was not chosen, he was found.  The Lord had already chosen him; the person issuing the call (in this case Elder Bednar) has to find that chosen person.  Another thing we learned was that in the process of finding, the interviews are more formality than the means of finding.  When the person chosen by the Lord enters the room for the interview, the spirit manifests it immediately when the “finder” looks at him.  There is actually scriptural basis for this that I will address in another article.

I don’t know very many people outside of my ward.  I am a little worried that Bishop Keeley will be a part of the new presidency.  I will be happy if this was the case, but I will also be sad, as he has been a fantastic Bishop.  However, his time as Bishop is likely soon over anyway, and I can’t think of a better man to be in the Stake Presidency.

Well, in less than 3 hours, we will know.  Today I am in the stake choir, and will have a seat up front.  I look forward to being so close and at the same time be able to see the audience.  I am walking today.  The sun is shining, the sky is clear, and there will be a lot of cars.  I have made a lot of notes, and there will be a ton of material to post.

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.