In my last post, I established that we are children of our Heavenly Father.  We lived with Him before we came to Earth.  If this were the case, why did I leave?  How did I get here?  Growing up, teachers of various denominations told me that we did not exist before we were born; however, if we had existed, we only got stuck here because of Adam and Eve.  If they hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit, introduced sin into the world, and started having kids, I’d still be up there lolling about in Heavenly Father’s presence (except that I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t exist).  I struggled with this concept.  Firstly because it seems to contradict itself; but secondly~Why were Adam and Eve here?  Was it just some cruel joke?

I submit that it was not.  I submit that there is a purpose to life here and Adam and Eve were integral in getting the process going.  While we were with Heavenly Father in the pre-earth life, He was more advanced than we.  He had a perfect Celestial body (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).  He had knowledge and experience that gave Him all power (Mosiah 4:9).  Why were we so different?  A human does not give birth to a chimpanzee anymore than a duck gives birth to a horse.  Why should the children of God be any less than He is?  Perhaps a better comparison would be a tadpole to a frog, a caterpillar to a butterfly, or a baby to an adult.  Heavenly Father never intended for us to remain in this lesser state.  He said, “This is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  He had a plan that would help us to become like Him~to get an immortal body (immortality) and to live the kind of life that He lives (eternal life).  There was a grand council in the heavens in which He presented His plan: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:24-25).  Thus, we were given the opportunity to come to earth to gain a body and experience to become like Heavenly Father.

To gain this experience, we would need to choose between good and evil.  There would be sin in the world and all of us would fall short of the perfection necessary to return to His presence (“no unclean thing can dwell with God” 1 Nephi 10:21).   We would also have to die to end this state of existence and enter the next one.  We needed a Savior to live a perfect life, overcome death, and atone for our sins.  Satan thought that we didn’t need the experience and he wanted the kudos for getting us all through the process, so he said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).  Jesus understood God’s plan.  He said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).  Jesus was chosen to be the Savior.  Satan rebelled and was cast out of heaven, along with the spirits who chose to follow him.  This is the war in heaven that is referenced in Revelation chapter 12.  Satan and his followers, too, came to earth.  Only they will never receive bodies.  They are angry and bitter.  They are constantly trying to keep us from succeeding with Heavenly Father’s plan.

Our goal is to return to Heavenly Father.  We continue to fight the war that was begun in heaven.  John wrote that “They [the spirits who followed Heavenly Father] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb [the atonement], and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation12:11).  That is why we are here.  So we can become like Heavenly Father.

I have oft heard it explained that who we are–our personalities, our ‘individualness’–is a result of a particular combination of chemicals and electrical pulses in our brains.  If this were the case, I would be able to understand people who have chemical abuse problems.  They were unhappy with who they were and are making an attempt to fundamentally change what makes them themselves.

This is not the case.  Human beings are made of two parts: a physical body and a spiritual body (together forming a soul–see Doctrine & Covenants 88:15).  The chemicals and electrical pulses in our brains are how our soul interacts with our physical body and gives it direction.  When a person interferes with this process through substance abuse, he or she is preventing their soul from communicating with and directing their body.

We did not receive our physical bodies until we came to earth, but we existed a long time before we were born.  Jesus Christ was chosen to be our savior before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:4).  The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” (Jeremiah 1:5).  Abraham testified, “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:22-23).

So, if I existed before I was born where did I come from?  Consider the following verses:

  • “Ye are the children of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1)
  • “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6)
  • “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:24)
  • “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9)
  • “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalms 82:6)
  • Ye are the sons of the living God.” (Hosea 1:10)
  • “we are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29)

And lastly, the one which invites you to find out for yourself if this doctrine is not true:

  • “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)

God is the Father of our spirits.  That is where you came from–from Him.

Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure, generally resulting from the perception of having been wronged.  Anger is very harmful to us.  When we feel anger it effects our minds by becoming hyper-focused on the catalyst making it more difficult to reason and make good decision.  Our bodies are effected by stress, tension, and adrenaline, making it more difficult to have mastery over them.  Anger also drives away the Holy Ghost, leaving us more vulnerable to the temptations of the devil.

The most important thing to remember about anger is that no one can make you angry.  Lehi taught: “there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14).  Which things are we?  Things to act or to be acted upon?  Lehi answers this a few verses later when he says, “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself” (2 Nephi 2:16).  Yes, we were made to be our own masters.  When we say that someone makes us angry, we give them power over us.

Christ taught: “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, 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.  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 11:29-30).  Keeping this in mind, that contention is of the devil, ponder this next quote from Joseph Smith: “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.  The devil has no power over us only as we permit him.  The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.”  Thus anger and contention, which are tools of the devil, can have no power over us unless we give Satan that power.

Why do we get angry then?  It is a common response when we feel we have been wronged.  Some situations might be if we were the victims of a robbery or other petty crime.  We might be angry if we were threatened or physically harmed. Some people have found themselves in social situations where hurtful words and lies are often repeated and this leads to anger.  Sometimes anger stems from a simple misunderstanding.  When we feel ourselves getting angry, we must remember that the emotion of anger is justified–it is okay to be angry!  The information that our anger is based on, however, may be incorrect and so we must ensure that we haven’t misunderstood.  The problem with anger is when our reactions are not appropriate.  Using words or fists to hurt another person is never an appropriate outlet for anger.

What can we do then?  First, ask yourself three questions: Why did I get angry?  What did I do about it?  What can I do differently?  If possible, wait to react to the situation until you are more calm.  Your reasoning will be me thorough and you are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome of the situation.  Remember Proverbs 16:32–“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”  Discuss the situation calmly with other people involved, even if the others are more heated.    Think about James 1:19–“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”–to be blunt, ‘shut your mouth and listen.  Pray!  The Holy Ghost can help you to remain calm, to forgive, and to find the right words to express yourself.

Of all these things, remember that everyone, even those whose actions dissatisfy you, are children of God–your brothers and sisters.  “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

I’d like to close with a quote from Howard W. Hunter: “We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ … for that is the way God loves us” (Ensign, May 1992, 61).

When Christ was teaching in the temple as a twelve year old boy and scolded by his parents for causing them worry, he responded by saying, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).  Later, during his earthly ministry, he referred often to his divine parentage:

  • “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32)
  • “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17)
  • “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17)
  • “For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15)
  • O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done (Matthew 26:42)

Joseph was not the father of Jesus’ body.  There can be no question that God was the father of Jesus Christ.  There has only been one person on earth to whom God was the physical father.  Why then, when teaching the disciples to pray, does he teach them to pray to “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9)?  We know that God is not our physical father–most of us have proof right in front of our eyes.  He isn’t just being sentimental.  He is the only person who has ever lived to have the right to refer to God as exclusively his Father, and yet Christ includes all mankind under the umbrella of God’s progeny.  There are many other recorded instances of Jesus’ reference to our divine heritage, including:

  • “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8)
  • “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20)
  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (Matthew 10:29)
  • “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36)
  • “For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” (Luke 12:30)
  • “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17)

Boyd K Packer wrote:

“We are the children of God. That doctrine is not hidden away in an obscure verse. It is taught over and over again in scripture. These clear examples are from the Bible: ‘All of you are children of the most High’ (Psalms 82:6) and: ‘We are the offspring of God’ (Acts 17:29).  Doctrinal truths are interrelated. There is an old saying that if you pick up one end of a stick, you pick up the other end as well.  If you concede that we are His children, you must allow that God is our Father (“The Pattern of Our Parentage,” Ensign, Nov 1984, 66).

How is it, then, that Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, and yet we are His children?  While our bodies were not physically begotten of God, our spirits were.  We were spirits before we came to this earth–spirits who were children of God.  We saw that God was different from us and wanted to be more like Him.  Heavenly Father presented a plan that we could participate in to progress to become like Him.  Some of us rejected that plan.  Those who accepted it came down to earth to gain a body and be tested (the two things we were lacking to become like God).  Let me say this again:  If you are here, that means you have already chosen to participate in God’s plan for you.  This Father’s Day, in addition to honoring and celebrating the mortal fathers that you know, join with Isaiah in shouts of praise: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

Revelation is a conversation between God and His children.  The scriptures tell us of many different types of revelations–from dreams to visions to angelic visitations.  These experiences, however, are the exception and not the norm.  That is why the stories are told and retold–they are unusual.  The most frequently experienced type of revelation is a quiet spiritual prompting that comes through the whispers of the Holy Ghost.

On the subject of revelation, chapter 8 verse 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants reads: “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.”  Sometimes, the Holy Ghost impresses feelings on a person.  At other times, He may whisper words directly to your mind.  Some people even say that they hear a voice, out loud, even though no one was there.  I have heard of revelation being accompanied by extremes in cold or heat.

Now that I had defined revelation, I can truly answer the question that has been asked: Who can receive revelation?  The answer is anyone.  Let me qualify that statement: anyone can receive revelation within the bounds of their own stewardship (or their own responsibility).  James E. Faust wrote that a person who has “received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, [is] entitled to personal inspiration in the small events of life as well as when they are confronted with the giant Goliaths of life. If worthy, we are entitled to receive revelations for ourselves, [and] parents for their children… But the right of revelation for others does not extend beyond our own stewardship” (“Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Ensign, Mar 2002, 2–7).  Prophets are the only people whose stewardship envelopes the entire world.  I have heard it said that revelation through the prophet for the entire church is one conduit of information from Heavenly Father.  A second is personal revelation.  Both types of revelation originate from the same source.  Therefore, what comes out at the other end will never contradict each other.  In fact, they will complement each other.  It is just another example of promise reiterated in Doctrine and Covenants 6:28: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Having established that you can receive revelation, you might ask, what types of things can I receive revelation about?  We can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help us strengthen our testimony.  In a speech at Brigham Young University in 1981, Dallin H. Oaks listed eight purposes of revelation: Testimony, Prophecy, To Comfort, To Uplift, To Inform, To Restrain, To Confirm, and To Compel to Action.  I would like to take a moment to touch on each of these things.

  1. Testimony: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).   It is through personal revelation that we gain our testimonies—both initially in conversion as well as through the rest of our lives as our testimonies are strengthened.
  2. Prophecy: I will leave this one alone as it pertains mostly to the Prophet.
  3. To Comfort: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” (D&C 121:7-8).  Sometimes, in times of trial or anguish, we can receive comfort (maybe just a warm feeling).
  4. To Uplift: Oaks said, “Because it raises our spirits and helps us resist evil and seek good, I believe that the feeling of uplift that is communicated by reading the scriptures or by enjoying wholesome music, art, or literature is a distinct purpose of revelation.”
  5. To Inform: Often, you will hear people saying how they prayed where to find lost keys and were inspired where to find it.  This is one of the ways that we can receive revelation.  If we pray for guidance on dealing with a particular situation and receive an answer, this is revelation.
  6. To Restrain: On this subject, Oaks said, “The revelation that restrains is one of the most common forms of revelation. It often comes by surprise, when we have not asked for revelation or guidance on a particular subject. But if we are keeping the commandments of God and living in tune with His Spirit, a restraining force will steer us away from things we should not do.”  People have said that they were crossing the street and warned to stop.  A bus than swoops by and the person would have been run over if they did not listen.  I was looking for a job and interviewed for a position that seemed nearly perfect.  I loved everything about the place and the people I would be working with.  As soon as I got home from the interview, I had a terrible, sick feeling of foreboding.  I could not get rid of it until I determined that I would reject the job if I were offered it.  I prayed about this decision and felt it confirmed to me.  Within moments, I received a call offering me the job which, to the surprise of the interviewer, I turned down.  I did not understand why at the time, but a few weeks later, I discovered that the position had been terminated.
  7. To Confirm: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.  But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right” (Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-8).  Part of our everyday decision making process should be to take our decisions to the Lord and ask if it is right.
  8. To Compel to Action: Sometimes, we just feel like we should do something and we don’t know why.

Revelation can come to you, if you seek it and live in a way that allows the Holy Ghost to be near you.

Most people would consider scripture to be the sacred writings acknowledge by their chosen religion.  How did those works become acknowledged?  How did they become scripture in the first place?  Scripture is text that is given by God.  It is the record of prophets inspired by God.  Most of the Christian world believes in a closed canon (a body a sacred texts which cannot be added to) of scriptures called The Bible (meaning ‘Library’).  The Bible generally includes the books of the New and Old Testaments.  Some Churches also include in their canon The Apocrypha. The purpose of these scriptures is to testify of Christ and help bring His children unto God (John 5:39).

The earliest text among these refers to the creation of the world, as recorded by Moses (circa 1750 BC).  The book of Genesis reports that God spoke to man in every generation to that point.  It is generally accepted that the books in the New Testament were written some time before 150 AD.  If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it stands to reason that He would not suddenly cease to speak with His children after over 4,000 years of recorded interaction.  In seemingly endless cycles of apostasy and repentance, He had never once failed to speak.  Why then, with no warning did revelation seem to cease?

I do not believe that it has.  I believe in an open canon of scripture.  I believe that God speaks to man today.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake” (An Address,” The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1929), 45).  I have not posted on this blog in over a year.  This is partly because other things in my life began to take precedence.  It is also partly because of a question that I received.  It was not the title of this post.  Noting my numerous references to the Book of Mormon, one reader asked:

“You mention the LDS church. Do you have an opinion regarding the validity of Joesph Smith’s “Book of Mormon” ?”

I never intended to hide my religious associations on this blog, but I did hope to avoid some of the antagonism that I felt would come which might take away the Spirit.  I wanted this to be a place of open discussion of doctrine.  In this case I must openly share that, in addition to the Bible, I believe that the Book of Mormon is a sacred text given by God.  I believe that God also spoke to prophets in the 19th and 20th centuries, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants.  I believe that their are living prophets on the earth today whose revelations are also scripture.  I recently heard a speaker who so eloquently expressed my testimony:

Jeffry R Holland, “Safety for the Soul”

I entreat you to watch this short video.  It encompassed everything upon which my testimony, and therefore the articles posted on ‘One of the Flock’, is based on.

What do you think of when you hear the words “Saint Patrick’s Day?”  Ireland?  Clovers?  Green and orange?  Parades and drinking?  Dying the river in downtown Chicago green?  It is amazing to me that such a great man a his message could degenerate into chaos rivaling that of Mardi Gras.  The most common associations with Saint Patrick are the clover and driving the snakes out of Ireland.  Did you know that the snake legend never happened?  If you look at Saint Patrick, you will see that the greatest miracle in his life never made it into the history books–forgiveness.

Saint Patrick was born in Scotland to a Roman family of high rank in the year 387.  Already, his heritage seems at odds with his Irish associations, but we will get to that.  In his sixteenth year, he was kidnapped and made to be a slave for an Irish chieftain named Milchu who was a druidical high priest and a very cruel master.  After six years, he escaped to Britain where he had friends.  He attributed his escape to an angel of God and devoted his life to God and the church.  Saint Patrick studied and worked hard and recieved callings higher and higher in the church as the years went on but always he wanted to return to Ireland.

Eventually, he was allowed to go and preach to the Irish.  Because of his time as a slave, he had a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue and a thorough understanding of Druidism.  While he met with much resistance from the Druidic priests, these tools helped him to convert many to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He performed many miracles in Ireland (none of them having anything to do with snakes).  There is one fantastic account of a contest between Saint Patrick and the Druids that is remeniscent of Elijah and the priests of Baal in First Kings (1 Kings 18:17-39).  This contest, however, delt with getting a large, dark storm cloud to disappear.  The story of the three-leaf clover is also true, however, I will deal with that more thoroughly in another post.  He lived in Ireland with the people he loved until his death in 493.

The main point here is that Saint Patrick, after having six years of his life stolen from him and being treated most cruelly by a members of a race that were generally at odds with his own anyway, wanted nothing more out of life than to bring the joy of the gospel to that very people.  He loved the Irish people.  There are numerous accounts of his prayers and all are concerning the welfare of the Irish people.  He dedicated his life to those people.  What a great example of forgiveness.  I am sure it was not easy to forgive the people who caused him such anguish early on in his life.  Perhaps he knew of the scripture in Matthew, where the Saviour taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Perhaps, like for so many of us, it was difficult for him to ‘mean it’ at first but, with the help of the Saviour, he was finally able to truly forgive.  Perhaps he remembered the Saviour’s own forgiveness, freely offered.  We cannot know.  What we do know is that because of his willingness to follow the Saviour’s admontion to forgive others, an entire county was brought into the light of Christ.

During this holiday season, I find myself pondering the two men who have become icons of December 25th: Santa Claus and Jesus Christ.   When I think of Santa Claus, I instantly picture Santa’s Village in the local mall, with lines of tired, cranky children dragged around by tired, cranky mothers.  When the child finally gets to the front of the line and is plopped on Santa’s lap, he screams.  I remember the year that Santa came early to our house.  I was in kindergarten or first grade and I remember the bells jingling and being allowed to answer the door.  I was thrilled to see Old Saint Nick on the other side.  My little sister, on the other hand, screamed and ran away.  Children have to be taught not to fear Santa.  Once they have learned this lesson, they also learn to send him endless lists of the expensive presents they want.

In her book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder remembers a lesson her mother taught her about Santa Claus: “‘The older you are, the more you know about Santa Claus,’ [Ma] said.  ‘…He is in the Big Woods, and in Indian Territory, and far away in York State, and here.  He comes down all the chimneys at the same time…’  Then Ma told them something else about Santa Claus.  He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time.  Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.  Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish.  On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy.  And in the morning you saw what that had done” (pp86-7).

Saint Nicholas lived in the late 300’s A.D.  He was a Bishop and was remembered as giving liberally to the poor.  Many legends grew up around him concerning secret gift giving, all meaning to point to him as an example of unselfishness (as Laura’s Ma put it) or Charity.  He is an example of Charity.  In this way, he is a type (or symbol) of Christ.

Jesus Christ was born in a manger.  I remember the reverence with which my little sister and I would place the Baby Jesus figure from our Nativity scene in the manger on Christmas Eve.  Little children seem to have an instinctive reverence and love for the Savior.  They don’t have to be taught not to fear Him.  The centuries have not altered His example from one of charity and unselfishness to one of fear and greed as they did to poor Saint Nicholas.

As in everything, man’s example of Charity is good, God’s is better.  To recieve is good, to give is better.  Santa is good.  Jesus is better.

The first key to understanding this oft used phrase in the New Testament is understanding that language has changed over the last few centuries.  I remember my sister trying to figure out what was meant by “faith, hope, and charity.”  “You should have faith in God,” she said, “love your fellow men…and hope that you’re right!”  In general usage, hope seems to mean want, desire, or longing.  I hope that you have a nice day.   I hope I can go on this vacation.  I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.  If you look up the definition of hope (for simplicity’s sake, I used http://www.dictionary.com), you will find that hope is not just something that you want to come to pass, to hope for something is to expect it to come to pass.  When you hope, you have confidence that what you believe in is true.

Based on this, to have a hope in Christ is not just to want the gospel to be true with a hint of uncertainty.  Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  We can confidently expect the blessings of immortality and eternal life.  This confidence is born of the atonement and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  When He gave us hope, He didn’t just show us that Resurrection was a remote possibility, He showed us what we can expect if we accept Him and do our best to follow Him.

In a recent address entitled “The Infinate Power of Hope,” Dieter F. Uchtdorf defined hope as “the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us.”   Speaking to those who are discouraged, worried, or lonely, he said, “Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time.”  I took many classes on the subject growing up and I love taking pictures.  Some pictures were of the “point and shoot” variety which take a very small fraction of a second and rarely come out blurred.  Others, especially in nature or low light conditions, required the shutter to be open for longer and if the camera was moved even in the slightest, they would come out blurry.  If I wanted to take a picture like that, I couldn’t just trust my hands to hold still long enough, I had to put my camera on a tripod (which, as the name implies, has three feet, or legs) to stabilize it.  On smooth surfaces (like a kitchen floor) this was easy, but it took some precision to make each leg the right height and the picture leveled on uneven ground outside.  If even one leg was slightly askew, the picture would (at minimum) be off-balance or the whole contraption could fall over!

Sometimes, when we are discouraged, worried, or lonely, we start to lose hope that things will ever change.  Even if our love for our fellow men and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ remains unaltered, our loss of hope can cause the big picture of life to be distorted.  It could seem as if our world were toppling to the ground.Hope is not knowledge, but confidence—confidence that our prayers will be answered.  It brings joy, happiness, and patience.  Hold tightly to the hope that things will turn out.  Uchtdorf quoted Albert Camus, who said, “In the midst of winter, we find within ourselves an invincible summer.”  I know this is true.  He closed in saying, “And to all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.  Never surrender.  Never allow despair to overcome your spirit.  Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart.”

I was recently reading in the Gospel of Luke, when I came across an interesting passage.  Jesus is explaining to a crowd that his power to cast out evil spirits comes not from the devil, but from God.    Then he tells the following story:

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, it walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, it saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.  And when it cometh, it findeth the house swept and garnished. Then goeth the evil spirit, and taketh seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26, JST).

At first I was confused, thinking that the man from whom the unclean spirit went out cleaned his house and the evil spirit needed some help getting back in.  After some pondering, I realized that the house that is mentioned is the man.  The unclean spirit returned to his home (the man) and found it garnished, or prepared for him, so he went and got some friends to join the party.

How does this effect us in our lives?  Each of us, at some point, will encounter severe temptations and perhaps we will even fall prey to them.  We may have desires or habits that are sinful.  This is like the unclean spirit in the man.  Just like Christ and his disciples cast out devils during their mortal ministries, we can pray to our Heavenly Father for help, that He will cast those desires out of us, and He will respond.  The man in the story, after the evil spirit left his body, did not change his life in such a way to prevent that spirit from returning.  In fact, he continued in his sinful habits so that his life would be prepared for the evil spirit’s return.  When the spirit returned, the man’s situation was “worse than the first.”  When the Lord gives us the great gift of His Atonement and we use it to be cleansed of sin, our spirits are clean, all the unclean spirits are cast out; however, we must clean house, we must change our lives so that we do not return to our sins.  We must stand in holy places and, in effect, put out the “unwelcome” mat for those evil spirits that want to enter our lives.  If we do this, and keep our houses clean–make choices that keep our bodies clean and our minds pure–then will we be free of these habits and desires and free to welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives.

I’m not claiming to be a Shepard

I hold no position of authority in any church. There is only one Good Shepard anyway, and I am not Him (Mark 10:18). I am, however, one of His flock and He did say, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). I don't remember when exactly it happened but, sometime in my adolescent years, I became the "go to" person in my family in matters of religion and the scriptures. If my Grandma had a question about the bible, she would ask my Mom to ask me and I would spend a bit of time studying and pondering and return with my answer as well as some scripture references so that she could figure out how she felt about it as well. It is for this reason that I am writing this blog. I plan to post essays and thoughts of a religious and scriptural nature. If any reader has a question, he or she is free to comment. I will do my best to answer any questions, or, if I cannot on my own, direct you to a place where you can find the answers yourself.

The Flock

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