Posted in Inspirational

Walking the cold hard road

The songwriter Colin Vearncombe (also known as Black) sang: ‘It’s a cold hard road and we walk it alone.’

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The writer of Ecclesiastes said:

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4 :9-10)

We all need help and company on our journey through life. That’s why we have the Church. We need the Church to receive the saving ordinances but we also need the strength that comes from fellowship with the Saints. President Gordon B Hinckley said: “[The Church] is a great family of friends who mingle together and enjoy one another.” (Oct 2002).

However, as brothers and sisters in the gospel and fellow travellers along the straight and narrow path, I sometimes feel that we could be kinder and more understanding with each other.  It is sad that we sometimes speak sharply to each other, we are sometimes slow to forgive and we are sometimes critical of others. This is tremendously damaging.

Sister Mary Ellen Edmunds said: ‘A greeting used in Africa impresses me. One person will ask of another, “Are you well?” The response is, “I am well if you are well.”  That is the feeling we need to have towards each other.’  (Ensign September 1988)

We should all rejoice when our brothers and sisters are well.

President Harold B. Lee counseled that membership in the Church “must mean more than just being a ‘card carrying’ member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances.” (April 1971 General Conference).

That is our perennial individual challenge – to overcome the natural man with his natural tendencies to denigrate, demean and destroy. The Saviour teaches us to love our fellowman.

As Marvin J Ashton noted in April 1992 ‘If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.’

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What a great blessing it is to have a worldwide family of friends – we don’t need to walk the cold, hard road alone.

 

Posted in Finances

Debt – a self defence guide

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I played Judo for a number of years and have also dabbled in Ju-Jitsu, Aikido, boxing  and Karate. I once asked my Judo teacher ‘What is the best form of self-defence?’ His reply – ‘Don’t be there in the first place!’

It seems likely that at some point over the next year interest rates will rise. That may be good news for those with savings but could be extremely bad news for those with mortgages and other forms of debt. The best defence against debt and the costs of debt is not to ‘be there in the first place’.

President Ezra Taft Benson wrote, “The Lord desires his Saints to be free and independent in the critical days ahead. But no man is truly free who is in financial bondage”.  President Benson’s 1974 counsel is as timely now as it was then.  In the October 1998 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged Latter-day Saints to get out of debt and live within their means:

‘ So many of our people are living on the very edge of their income. In fact, some are living on borrowings. The economy is a fragile thing. . . . I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow for a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite for as long as 30 years. No one knows when emergencies will strike [and we could be] helpless before creditors. We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church. Self-reliance cannot be obtained when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others. . . . I urge you to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.’ (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 52–54).

At the end of November 2013 UK household debt stood at nearly £1.5 trillion – that means that on average each adult in the UK owed over £28,000.

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If you are in debt – consider why? Is it temporary because you have made some large purchase such as a car? There may be times when you need to go into debt – to buy a home, to finance education – but this should always be a carefully thought out decision coupled with research as to the cheapest finance option. If however, you are financing your lifestyle through loans or credit cards then alarm bells should be ringing – it is time to wake up to your problems.

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The debt cycle begins when you spend more than you earn.  People get into debt for a number of reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge:Some people don’t understand how borrowing and interest work.
  • Carelessness:Some people do understand about interest but they think, “If I spend a little more this one time, its okay—it won’t hurt this once.”
  • Compulsiveness:Some people lack the self-control to discipline their purchases.
  • Pride:Some people want to keep up with their neighbours and friends.
  • Necessity: Finally, some people go into debt in order to feed their families and provide for other basic needs.

When you are not living within your means, you must borrow to plug the gap between your income and your standard of living. At first, you borrow a little money or you put a bit on a credit card. It’s not much after all and you know that you can easily pay it back. However, because you have not addressed the gap between your lifestyle and your income you keep spending more than you earn.  You dig yourself deeper and deeper into debt each month. Soon you have so much debt on your credit cards that most of your income is going to service the minimum repayments and there is no money left for other important items, such as tithing, fast offerings, food, clothing or housing costs. This debt cycle can continue for only so long. Soon, you can’t get any more credit, and just the interest becomes more than you can pay each month.

So, how do you fight back?

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1. Be honest with yourself and recognise the position you are in. (Realise that you are in a place where you shouldn’t be!)

2. Act quickly. (The equivalent of kicking an aggressor in the shins!)

3. Don’t go it alone. (Shout for help). Church members can counsel with priesthood leaders. There are also organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau who can provide expert advice and practical help. They will help you to prioritise the most important debts (Take out the biggest bully first!) to enable you to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. Avoid any debt help or loan consolidation companies that advertise on the TV or in some newspapers. They are not there to help you – they are there to make money from you. They may help to reduce your payments in the short term but will be very expensive in the long term. You will be running from danger straight into another set of bullies.

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4. Stop spending! Don’t make the hole bigger!  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught: “All too often a family’s spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress”

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If you really want something, sleep on it for a night. You may find it doesn’t seem as attractive the next day! If you’re tempted by an impulse buy, work out how long it would take you to earn that money in hours worked.

5. Make and keep to a budget. If you have debt problems then doing a budget is central, you have to get a handle on what you spend to future proof your finances. Work out a weekly or monthly budget to see what you need to live on. It’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself. Your budget will show how much money you can afford to commit to paying off your debts. Your budget may also show where you can save money.

 

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Mr Micawber:  “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

6. Keep in contact with the people you owe money to. If your creditors don’t know you’re having financial difficulties they’ll assume you don’t want to pay and start taking action against you

  • Explain why you’re in debt
  • Ask them to freeze the interest
  • Don’t ignore letters or phone calls
  • Work out how much you can afford to pay your creditors

Once you know what you can afford you can talk to your creditors about your situation and what you’re going to do about it. Offer to pay each debt off in a way that you can afford – it’s important not to offer to pay more than you can afford and not to assume that you’ll be able to pay more in the future.

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The best form of self defence is not to be there in the first place. If you are in the wrong place – get out. Once you’re out – don’t go back! Once you have successfully  overcome your debt problems, make sure that you don’t go back there again.

Posted in Family

Napa

Here is the latest update from the Californian branch of the MormonBloke family.

Burdons on the Bay

Way back in August, I was invited to a girls retreat in Napa for a 30th birthday. I was pretty chuffed to be invited seen as it was only my second week or so in the ward. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know the girls a little bit more. I was right! It was such a fun trip and I am so glad I was invited.

We have lucked out with our ward here, I love it. People have been so welcoming to us and there is a lot of other young families, like us. When we got our home here, we were without all of our furniture for about two months. Without really knowing who we were, we were given tables, chairs, bean bags, pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, bedding,  a travel crib, toys and even treats to use until our container arrived…

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Posted in LDS Doctrine

Our advocate with the Father

images (1) I served as a magistrate for about 10 years and watched with interest the various solicitors who represented their clients in court. There was one that I will call Mr Toad because he resembled a large fat toad watching unblinkingly as the prosecutor presented the case against the defendant. If I ever get into trouble with the law I want Mr Toad to defend me. Many a time I would listen to the prosecution case and wonder how on earth Mr Toad could combat the seemingly irrefutable evidence. But then he would slowly rise and with a wide smile on his amphibian-like face he would set about his work. Twisting a fact here, planting an insinuation there, continually pressing and harrying witnesses he would eventually generate enough cracks in the edifice constructed by the prosecution and create enough doubt in the minds of the magistrates that a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict ensued.

In contrast, the last solicitor I would ask to represent me shall be known as Mr Bumble. Always wearing a shapeless grey suit two sizes too big for him that looked as if it hadn’t been pressed since Rumpole was a lad, he would come into court and look around him in bewildered fashion as if he had never been in the place before. With dishevelled hair and tie askew, he would rummage through the large heap of files in front of him and eventually flourish one in triumph only to be told that was not the case we were hearing today.

Then there was ‘Mr Smooth’ – in a smart pinstripe suit, crisp white shirt and red braces he looked the part even though his swept back hair was a little too long to be fashionable. He strutted up and down the court room as if it were a stage and he Olivier. Unfortunately, his judicial tactics seemed to be limited and his defence usually  culminated in ‘Your Worships will appreciate that my client is not the most intellectual of men (or women)’.

I think of these characters when I read in D&C 45:3Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—‘ An advocate is one who presents a case on someone else’s behalf. It is the advocate’s role to present our case in its most favourable light, challenging the claims of the prosecution who presents our case in its worst possible light.

Who is our advocate with the Father?

D&C 45 goes on to tell us: 4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; 5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.

Why do we need an advocate? Because we are guilty!  ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). With such an open and shut case we need a great advocate to get us off.

Elder Tad Callister in his book  The Infinite Atonement  ( a must-read book) says: “The Savior pleads our case for mercy. He is our advocate. He is the champion of our cause as no other can be. We have seen advocates of law before earthly tribunals-mere mortals who have argued their cases with spellbinding suspense, whose logic was flawless, mastery of the laws disarming, and powerful petitions compelling. Before such mortals, juries have sat in awe, almost with breathless wonder, moved and swayed by every glance, every crafted word, every passionate plea. Yet such advocates, almost Herculean heroes to their patrons, are no match to Him who pleads our case on high. He is the perfect proponent ‘to appear in the presence of God for us’ (Hebrews 9:24). How fortunate we are that he is our ‘advocate with the Father’ (1 John 2:1).” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, 317-318)

But Jesus is a most unusual advocate in that he does not maintain His client’s innocence but rather acknowledges our guilt. He does not seek to get us off on a technicality or make excuses for our sin. He pleads our case on His rather than our merits. See verse 4 again: 4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

Alma says in the Book of Mormon, that He has suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind … , that he may know … how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12). Through the atonement Jesus Christ knows us all intimately, he has suffered for all our sins, infirmities and weaknesses and understands us all individually.’ Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.’ (Hebrews 7:25)

What do we have to do to engage the services of this unique advocate? The answer is in verse 5 and in Moroni: D&C 45: 5 ‘Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.’

Moroni 7:28: ‘For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.’

So next time you see a courtroom drama on TV or read the latest John Grisham best seller remember that divine advocate who says  “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:4).

Posted in Inspirational

Saints, Ain’ts and Complaints

I remember being struck by President Gordon B Hinckley’s remarks at the October 2003 General Conference. He said:  “Within your sphere of responsibility you have as serious an obligation as do I within my sphere of responsibility. Each of us should be determined to build the kingdom of God on the earth and to further the work of righteousness.”

 While at first it seemed strange to think that each of us had as serious an obligation as the President of the Church, on reflection I realized that this was true. We all need to play our part in building the kingdom.

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 My first Bishop was John Dale. He had a saying or two for every occasion and was generous in dispensing them. Two of them that are appropriate here were:

‘The Church is made up of Saints, Ain’ts and Complaints – which are you?’ and ‘There are two types of people in the Church – the pillars and the caterpillars. The pillars hold everything up while the caterpillars just crawl in and out’.

John was certainly both a Saint and a Pillar. He was a man who dedicated his life to building the kingdom and left a great legacy through those he taught and trained.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught us the nature of kingdom builders:

The Savior could have taken highly trained minds from the temple porches for the chief builders of his kingdom, but he went to the seashore to get humble fishermen. He wanted men who . . . were trusting and sincere and willing to serve. [TSWK, p. 65]

Does that describe us? Are we trusting and sincere? Are we willing to serve?  I have been privileged to know a great number of men and women who are trusting and sincere and willing to serve. One of these was my father-in-law, David Deacon who spent a lifetime serving as Branch President, Bishop, Counselor in Stake Presidency and Stake President. Even a major stroke did not prevent him from serving as a temple worker with his wife Elsie (another Saint and Pillar) and he passed away in the Preston Temple while preparing to officiate at an endowment session.

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One of his favourite songs was the stirring ‘Stout-hearted men’ from the operetta New Moon by Oscar Hammerstein:

‘You who have dreams, if you act they will come true.
To turn your dreams to a fact, it’s up to you.
If you have the soul and the spirit,
Never fear it, you’ll see it thru,
Hearts can inspire, other hearts with their fire,
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.

Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.
Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.’

There’s nothing in the world can halt or mar God’s plan for the building of the kingdom, especially when He can call upon stout-hearted people like John Dale and David  and Elsie Deacon.

I have known, and still know many other great examples of kingdom builders. To be a kingdom builder we don’t have to have exceptional gifts or abilities. He just asks that we be humble, trusting, sincere, and willing to serve. Then He can guide us to do important work in His kingdom. He is depending on us.

In all ages God has delighted to use weak things. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of five things that God uses:

I Cor 1: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

There are five things mentioned here that God uses:

  • Foolish things
  • Weak things
  • Base things
  • Things which are despised
  • Things which are not

Why does he use these things? – ‘That no flesh should glory in his presence’. In other words – so that we can never say ‘We did it on our own’.  In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says: The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh (D&C 1:19)

From its earliest days, the Lord’s Church has been built up by ordinary people who magnified their callings in humility and devotion. It does not matter to what office we are called to serve, only that we act “in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).

President Monson has often quoted the phrase: “Do your duty, that is best; leave unto the Lord the rest.”  In the words of modern revelation: “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

In the gospel of John we read that at the tomb of Lazarus Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Take ye away the stone!’ Before the act of raising Lazarus could be performed, the disciples had their part to do. Christ could have removed the stone with a word. It would have been very easy for him to have commanded it to roll away; and it would have obeyed his voice, as the dead Lazarus did when he called him back to life. But the Lord wanted the disciples to be a part of the raising of Lazarus so He asked them to do what they could do; what was within their capabilities. The disciples had not only to take away the stone; but after Christ had raised Lazarus they had to ‘loose him, and let him go.’ So Christ did His work of raising Lazarus from the dead and then the disciples did what they could by releasing Lazarus from his burial bindings.

If we are trusting, sincere and willing to serve the Lord can use us to accomplish His great purposes.

Saints, Ain’ts or Complaints – which are we?

Posted in LDS Doctrine

Preparing for the Second Coming

 

Signs

 

Signs are given in part to warn us of dangerous waters ahead. Those who ignore obvious signs are placing themselves in shark infested waters.

38 Even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh.
39 And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.
44 …and he that watches not for me shall be cut off. (D&C, 45:39-44)

Signs are given to us by the Lord to help us prepare for his second coming. Prophecies in the scriptures and teachings of the living prophets help us recognize these signs. Since we are living in the last days before the Second Coming, we need to recognize these signs and their importance; if we do recognize them and heed their message, we will be able to abide the Second Coming and avoid the judgements of God when he cleanses the earth of its wickedness .’Not only do I hope that we are familiar with these coming events; I hope also that we keep the vision of them continually before our minds. This I do because upon a knowledge of them, and an assurance of their reality and a witness that each of us may have part therein, rests the efficacy of Christ’s admonition, “be not troubled.’
(Elder Marion G. Romney, General Conference, October 1966)

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What Is the Second Coming?

The Second Coming in glory is in fact “the end of the world,” meaning the end of worldliness, the destruction of the wicked. Elder Neal A Maxwell said: “The youth and all members of the Church need to accept the reality of Christ’s return in majesty and power before that event occurs; for, as C. S . Lewis put it, it will do men little good to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up, for when the ‘Author of the play comes on stage, the play is over!’ ”

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE SECOND COMING?

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Elder Dallin Oaks:   Four matters are indisputable to Latter-day Saints:

  • The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace.
  • At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous.
  • No one knows the time of His coming, but
  • the faithful are taught to study the signs of it and to be prepared for it.

(General Conference April 2004)

Do we know when the Second Coming will be?

The scriptures speak of the Master returning as “a thief in the night” (Thessalonians 5:21, 2 Peter 3:10). It is true that no mortal man has known, does now know, or will yet know the precise day of the Lord’s second advent.

The Lord did not reveal to Joseph Smith the precise day and time of his coming (D&C 130:14-17).

 

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Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “I am called as one of the Apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Council of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency knows. And I would humbly suggest to you, my young brothers and sisters, that if we do not know, then nobody knows, no matter how compelling their arguments or how reasonable their calculations. . . . I believe when the Lord says ‘no man’ knows, it really means that no man knows. You should be extremely wary of anyone who claims to be an exception to divine decree.”

What Are the Best Sources for Understanding the Events Incident to the Saviour’s Coming?

President Harold B Lee in a General Priesthood Meeting in 1972 said: ‘There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance. Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.

Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. (JS—M 1.)

Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times.

Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior.

Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38.

Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question.’

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One of the signs of the times is that many people will be deceived about the second coming of the Lord. Even some Latter-day Saints are and will be deceived. Yet this deception need not be the case. If we follow the living prophet and feast upon the words of Christ as found in the holy scriptures, we can avoid being deceived (see 2 Nephi 31:20).

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Elder Dallin H Oaks said in General Conference in 2004: ‘These signs of the Second Coming are all around us and seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. For example, the list of major earthquakes in The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 shows twice as many earthquakes in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s as in the two preceding decades. It also shows further sharp increases in the first several years of this century. The list of notable floods and tidal waves and the list of hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards worldwide show similar increases in recent years. Increases by comparison with 50 years ago can be dismissed as changes in reporting criteria, but the accelerating pattern of natural disasters in the last few decades is ominous.’

Pres Joseph F Smith in 1906 wrote: ‘Calamities are only permitted by a merciful Father, in order to bring about redemption. Behind the fearful storms of judgment, which often strike the just and the unjust alike, overwhelming the wicked and the righteous, there arises bright and clear the dawn of the day of salvation… We believe that his judgments are poured out to bring mankind to a sense of his power and his purposes, that they may repent of their sins, and prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ to reign in righteousness upon the earth.’

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SHOULD WE BE FRIGHTENED?

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A common misconception about the signs of the times is that all of them are frightening calamities. Actually, many signs are some of the most positive and uplifting events ever to take place on the earth. Some of the truly glorious signs of the times include:

–  the Spirit being poured out on all flesh

– the coming forth of the Book of Mormon

-the gathering of Israel

-the building of latter-day temples

-the return of Judah to Jerusalem.

One prophetic statement about the signs of the times is found in Joel 2:28–32. This passage captures the spirit of the signs of the times and how they prepare us for “the great and the terrible day of the Lord” (v. 31), or the Lord’s second coming. Only in Zion will there be safety when the great and the terrible day of the Lord comes. If we are faithful and call upon the Lord, we will be delivered in the last days. (See v. 32.)

28 ¶And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your  old men shall  dream dreams, your young men shall see  visions:

29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

30 And I will shew  wonders in the  heavens and in the earth, blood, and  fire, and pillars of smoke.

31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible  day of the Lord come.

32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall  call on the name of  the Lord shall be  delivered: for in mount Zion and infJerusalem shall begdeliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

Elder Dallin H Oaks: As the Savior taught in His prophecy of the Second Coming, blessed is the “faithful and wise servant” who is attending to his duty when the Lord comes (see Matthew 24:45–46). As the prophet Nephi taught of that day, “The righteous need not fear” (1 Nephi 22:17; see also 1 Nephi 14:14; D&C 133:44). And modern revelation promises that “the Lord shall have power over his saints” (D&C 1:36).

We are surrounded by challenges on all sides (see 2 Corinthians 4:8–9). But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

“Wherefore,” the Savior tells us, “be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly” (D&C 33:17–18).

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1 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if
ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. 32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses,
therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. (Alma 34:31-34)

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Posted in Finances

The cost of giving

‘No one has ever become poor by giving’, so wrote Anne Frank.

When we give to those who are in need we shouldn’t count the cost. But when we give to organised charities do we know what the ‘cost of giving’ is? How much of what we give to charities is actually used for charitable purposes (rather than for administration, payment of salaries etc)? Figures from the Charities Commission show a wide variation in the charitable purposes/administration ratio:

CHARITY                                                              % OF DONATIONS USED FOR CHARITABLE PURPOSES

Royal Mencap Society                                                                                    96%

Action for Children                                                                                          93%

Save the Children                                                                                            89%

Barnardo’s                                                                                                        80%

RNLI                                                                                                                 78%

Oxfam                                                                                                               76%

Cancer Research                                                                                              70%

British Red Cross                                                                                              67%

Age Uk                                                                                                                 49%

British Heart Foundation                                                                               46%

That’s right – for some major charities less than half of your donation goes to the charitable purpose you want to support. For other charities the percentage is significantly higher. However, none can match the LDS Humanitarian Fund – 100% of all donations is used for humanitarian purposes. No administration costs, no rent for expensive buildings, no executive salaries. The LDS Philanthropies website (ldsphilanthropies.org) says:

‘Last year, LDS Charities responded to 111 requests in 50 countries. They included response to earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan, relief to 55,000 refugees in Libya, and emergency aid to mudslide victims in El Salvador.

One hundred percent of every dollar donated is used to help those in need without regard to race, religion, or ethnic origin.’

Last week’s Deseret News featured a report on the Humanitarian Aid Fund’s sending food and emergency supplies to Sierra Leone during the recent Ebola related state of emergency – see http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865612891/Aiding-families-in-Sierra-Leone.html?pg=all

Other examples of Humanitarian Aid funded initiatives include:

Providing nets and other fishing supplies to Japanese fishermen whose livelihoods had been destroyed by earthquake and tsunami – see http://ldscharities.org/articles/church-expands-donations-to-japan?lang=eng

Helping to eliminate preventable diseases in 34 countries – see http://ldscharities.org/articles/church-works-toward-world-goal-to-eliminate-preventable-diseases?lang=eng

Training doctors, nurses and midwives in neonatal resuscitation in Ghana – see http://ldscharities.org/articles/neonatal-resuscitation-training-accra-ghana?lang=eng

There are many ways in which we can help others through our charitable donations but in terms of ‘value for money’ and the cost of giving the Humanitarian Aid Fund is a great option.

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Health Warning

The heart breaking headlines from Africa about the Ebola virus reminded of a talk I gave a couple of years ago about another ‘disease’. While the tone in some places is light hearted it is not my intention to minimise in any way the terrible effects of Ebola or other life threatening infections. I do, however, want to talk about a spiritual sickness that affects many of us directly or indirectly.

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Elder Nelson in his days as a physician

The ‘disease’ is one that was identified by Elder Russell M Nelson, a physician by profession:

‘As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit…My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention…’ (General Conference, April 1989)

As Elder Nelson indicates, Satan seeks to spread the contention contagion everywhere – including in our families, and at Church.

This is serious because when we succumb to contention we separate ourselves from the Spirit of God. “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me,” said the Lord, “but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).

THE SYMPTOMS

Contention is often associated with a rash of symptoms:

Loss of control over the tongue

  • A stiff neck
  • A hard heart
  • A chip on the shoulder
  • An ill temper
  • A swollen ego
  • A mouthful of gossip
  • A bad case of griping
  • Getting hot under the collar
  • A bee in the bonnet.

We must constantly examine ourselves for any sign of such symptoms.

THE CAUSE

There are a number of high risk behaviours that leave us more likely to succumb to this disease:

Splitting hairs

  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Flying off the handle
  • Getting on a high horse or
  • Picking a bone.

But what are the underlying causes of this disease, contention?

Proverbs 13:10 tells us, Only by pride cometh contention.

Again from Proverbs (18:6-7), we learn that A fool’s lips enter into contention,….. and his lips are the snare of his soul.

From time to time, even Latter-day Saints are found to be infected with the contention virus.

In many ways, contention and its associated disease, unrighteous anger, have their roots in selfishness. Those who respond with anger when they are frustrated or annoyed are saying, in effect, that their feelings and opinions are more important than those of others. If circumstances or the actions of others do not coincide with what they think should be, such individuals are offended and become angry.

Remember Elder Bednar’s words from the October 2006 General Conference:  To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

THE TREATMENT

If we detect these symptoms in ourselves then we need to do something about it. In the Relief Society book Daughters in my Kingdom (page 17) we read that the Prophet Joseph encouraged the Saints to be at peace with the Lord, with those around them and with themselves. He said:

‘…shall there be strife among you? I will not have it – you must repent and get the love of God…Not war, not jangle, not contradiction, but meekness, love, purity, these are the things that should magnify us.’

So what is the treatment?

Forgiveness

The Lord counseled, “My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” (D&C 64:8-9)

Is the Lord really saying that refusing to forgive another is a greater sin than the offense committed against us?

Yes. Truman Madsen suggests one reason for this: In refusing to forgive another, we, in effect, attempt to deny the blessings of the Atonement to that person.

As Elder Bruce R McConkie explained: “It is not the sinner, the transgressor, the offender, the liar who is commanded to take the initiative in restoring peace and unity among brethren. If perchance he should do so, well and good, but the Lord commands the innocent person, the one who is without fault, the one who has been offended, to search out his brother and seek to repair the breech.” 

 So our course of treatment needs to include regular and consistent forgiveness of others. There are other remedies that need to be administered though.

Humility

I like Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ statement that the commandment to avoid contention applies to those who are right as well as to those who are wrong (The Lord’s Way, Deseret Books, 1991).

Isn’t that great? Don’t we often think it’s OK for us to criticise, murmur or get annoyed because we are right and the other person is wrong? Elder Oaks’ statement implies that we need a good dose of humility.

Charity

In the Book of Mormon, Alma instructed the members of his new congregation “that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another”(Mosiah 18:21). Those new Saints in the wilderness of Nephi truly did unite themselves, accepting Alma’s challenge: “And thus they became the children of God. … And they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants” (Mosiah 18:22,29).

 ‘Contention is a problem whose only real, long-term solution is spiritual. According to the Nephite prophets, “There was no contention in the land, because of love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Nephi 1:15).  When we are motivated by love, rather than by selfishness, we will not let anger or contention influence our relationships with each other.’ (Ensign, September 1988)

Instead of contending with our brothers and sisters we will have a desire to impart to them according to their wants and needs like the people of Alma

Charity is the long-term answer to the problem of contention. Nurturing this gift takes effort, but Mormon said that charity is available to all who seek it. “Pray unto the Father,” he said, “with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (Moroni 7:48))

Prayer

 An important part of the treatment is to ask the Lord in both our family and personal prayers to help us see each other differently and control our negative feelings. We are more likely to avoid anger if we acknowledge our responsibility for our anger and pray for strength to overcome it than if we excuse our weakness. If we humbly acknowledge our weaknesses before the Lord and ask him to help us overcome them, He will “make weak things become strong.” (Ether 12:27).

THE PROGNOSIS

The prognosis is good if we take responsibility for our own treatment and for our actions. The popular view is that we are not responsible for our feelings; they just happen. In this view, other people and events cause us to feel certain things, and so our only choice is how we are going to show our anger. However, emotional responses like anger are actually choices that we make.

In 2 Nephi chapter 2 we read that the Lord created things to act and things to be acted upon. As children of our Heavenly Father we are not things to be acted upon  but beings with the agency to act. This agency includes control of our feelings as well as our actions.

President Wilford Woodruff assures us that we can determine not to let our emotions control us:

“I made up my mind years ago to be governed by certain principles. I resolved that I would never be controlled by my passions … nor by anger, but that I would govern myself. This resolution I have endeavored to carry out in my life.” (Matthias Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964, p. 397.)

The scriptures tell us specifically that the Lord expects us to stop being contentious, to cease being angry.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”( 3 Nephi 11:28-30)

Since the Lord expects us to stop being contentious, to cease being angry, he must know that it is possible for us to do.

May we all enjoy good health.

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Our walk and talk for the next six months

 

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In 1988 President Harold B Lee said that General Conference should ‘be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day.’”

I wondered what were the key instructions that the Lord has revealed for us to work on for the next six months. I went through each of the talks given by the First Presidency at this last General Conference and picked out all of the instructions that they gave. I don’t mean to devalue the rest of the content of their talks; of course, the stories, the testimonies and the encouragement are all important and uplifting and strengthen our testimonies – but I wanted to be clearer about what it was that the First Presidency were telling us that we had to DO. The relevant extracts are below. In summary:

  • Live worthily
  • Be obedient
  • Be examples
  • Be morally clean
  • Care for each other
  • Remember the elderly and those who are housebound
  • Share the gospel
  • Acknowledge our shortcomings
  • Love God and our fellowmen

Do you think there is enough there for us to work on for the next six months? (Or a lifetime?). If it is not enough of a challenge for you them maybe you could make your own list from all of the other speakers at General Conference!

If it seems that there is nothing particularly new here, remember the words of President Spencer w Kimball:

‘Some may wonder why General Authorities speak of the same things from conference to conference. As I study the utterances of the prophets through the centuries, their pattern is very clear…Prophets say the same things because we face basically the same problems. Brothers and sisters, the solutions to these problems have not changed.’

INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE FIRST PRESIDENCY:

PRESIDENT THOMAS S MONSON

We reaffirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty, and we encourage all worthy and able young men to serve. We are very grateful for the young women who also serve.

Please, before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences.

It will not always be easy, but let our watchword be the heritage bequeathed us by Samuel: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Other instructions given to us by the Savior are at our fingertips, found in the holy scriptures. In His Sermon on the Mount, He tells us to be merciful, to be humble, to be righteous, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers. He instructs us to stand up bravely for our beliefs, even when we are ridiculed and persecuted. He asks us to let our lights shine so that others may see them and may desire to glorify our Father in Heaven. He teaches us to be morally clean in both our thoughts and our actions. He tells us it is far more important to lay up treasures in heaven than on earth.

There are those who struggle every day with challenges. Let us extend to them our concern, as well as a helping hand. As we care for each other, we will be blessed.

May we remember the elderly and those who are homebound. As we take time to visit them, they will know that they are loved and valued. May we follow the mandate to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

May we be people of honesty and integrity, trying to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances. May we be faithful followers of Christ, examples of righteousness, thus becoming “lights in the world.”

 

PRESIDENT HENRY B EYRING

 

All of us in the priesthood have an obligation to help the Lord prepare others. There are some things we can do that could matter most. Even more powerful than using words in our teaching the doctrine will be our examples of living the doctrine.

 

Paramount in our priesthood service is inviting people to come unto Christ by faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost.

 

PRESIDENT DIETER F UCHTDORF

 

In this age of self-justification and narcissism, it is easy to become quite creative at coming up with excuses for not regularly approaching God in prayer, procrastinating the study of the scriptures, avoiding Church meetings and family home evenings, or not paying an honest tithe and offerings.

My dear brethren, will you please look inside your hearts and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”

 

As you hear or read the words of the ancient and modern prophets, refrain from thinking about how the words apply to someone else and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”

 

Brethren, we must put aside our pride, see beyond our vanity, and in humility ask, “Lord, is it I?”

And if the Lord’s answer happens to be “Yes, my son, there are things you must improve, things I can help you to overcome,” I pray that we will accept this answer, humbly acknowledge our sins and shortcomings, and then change our ways by becoming better husbands, better fathers, better sons.

We need to accept that the commandments of God aren’t just a long list of good ideas. They aren’t “life hacks” from an Internet blog or motivational quotes from a Pinterest board. They are divine counsel, based on eternal truths, given to bring “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”

 

Yes, visiting teachers need to be faithful in making their monthly visits, all without missing the most important why behind this commandment: to love God and fellowmen.

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$300 scholarly study of Book of Mormon text available free online

All 6 parts of Royal Skousen’s ‘Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon’ are now available on the ‘Interpreter’ website at:

http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/books/volume-4-of-the-critical-text-of-the-book-of-mormon-analysis-of-textual-variants-of-the-book-of-mormon/

These volumes consider every significant textual change that has occurred in the English Book of Mormon over the 175 years since Joseph Smith first dictated it to his scribes. In hard copy they sell for about $50 a volume.