Favorite Quotes from Brigham Young

Finished the second volume in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series: Brigham Young.

Here are my favorite quotes from volume 1: Joseph Smith.

These are the passages I marked from Brigham Young:

“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods (DBY, 3).

Chapter 2: The Gospel Defined

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The Relationship Between Discipleship and Love

I’m not a people person by nature.  I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out.  Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.

Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year.  Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me.  Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.

I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them.  I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.

But then I read these verses:

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Our Journey Back Home

I’ve been wanting to write a Pilgrim’s Progress-style allegory for young children.  Here it is.  Happy Easter, everybody.

*****

 

Once upon a time there was a wonderful king.  He had very many children and they all lived in a beautiful castle high on a mountain.

One day the king told his children that he was sending them on an important journey.  They had to go on a long walk through the whole world.  The king said that they had to do this in order to grow up.

“Will it be hard?” the princes and princesses asked.

“Yes,” said the king.  “But it will also be an exciting adventure.  And it will help you become ready to be kings and queens yourselves someday.”

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Notes on President Monson’s Teachings, April 2014 General Conference

My notes on president Monson’s addresses at the April General Conference, 2014.  Obviously subjective, and subject to ongoing revision and improvement, but this helps me to pragmatically know how to “follow the prophet.”

 

IMPERATIVES

Priesthood Session: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage

  1. “…put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable.”
  2. (Quoting) “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”
  3. “…do… the right thing even though we may be afraid, defend… our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintain… those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
  4. (Quoting) “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”

Sunday Morning: “Love—the Essence of the Gospel

  1. “…love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”
  2. “…love God, the Father of us all.”
  3. “…keep this truth [We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters] in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
  4. “…recognize someone’s need and then…respond.”
  5. (Quoting Pres. Kimball) “…remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve.”
  6. “…we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
  7. “…strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

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Favorite Quotes from Joseph Smith

I recently finished reading the book, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.  These are the passages I marked:

 

“[The latter-day scriptures are published] so that the honest in heart may be cheered and comforted and go on their way rejoicing, as their souls become exposed and their understanding enlightened by a knowledge of God’s work through the fathers in former days, as well as what He is about to do in latter days to fulfill the words of the fathers.”

Chapter 4: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of Our Religion

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When Jesus Needed To Be Alone

Below are all ten times the Bible says that Jesus went alone into wilderness areas, like deserts and mountains, to commune with God.  Even when the text says He took disciples with Him, there’s an implication that He often went alone.

I’ve arranged them in chronological order, and included three brief references at the end from the Book of Mormon:

 

Matt. 4:1-2, JST
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Mark 1:35
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Luke 6:12
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

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Serve From Gratitude

Near the end of a truly rousing, inspirational sermon, the Biblical prophet Samuel tells his congregation:

Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  1 Samuel 12:24

This has now become one of my favorite scriptures.  Why?  because it explicitly links our faithful obedience to God and our work in His service, to gratitude for all of the infinite blessings that have first been poured out on us.

I actually think that the “thankfulness-leads-to-devotion” relationship is pretty rarely articulated in the scriptures.  The next best one that I can think of comes from the New Testament:

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

It’s good to be reminded of this.  God has shown us great love, and always will.  Obedient discipleship is the least we can do in return; indeed, is precisely the one thing that He does ask of us:

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Mike’s Movie Ministry

As I work with the teenage boys in my congregation at church, I often think about Mike.

When I was a teen myself, I was deeply attached to the media, and its messages led me to largely reject the faith I’d so recently embraced.  I didn’t go to church much, and wasn’t always kind towards efforts to reach out to me.

The biggest exception was Mike.  Mike was an older, divorced man in my ward at church.  One day, he called and asked if he could take me to a movie.  I thought it was odd, but hey…free movie.

We talked about the ideas in the film afterwards, and he took seriously my shallow, morose interpretation of things, without knocking them down as he easily could have.

Over the next several months, we got together a few more times.   Continue reading

Jacob’s Temple Sermon

Last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine, we discussed Jacob chapters 1-3 in the Book of Mormon.  I noticed that Jacob says that his sermon in chapters 2-3 was given “in the temple” (1:17).  I looked through the sermon to see if perhaps that setting influenced the content of his message.  Jackpot.

Consider just the broadest outline of the address.  Jacob begins his sermon by telling the people that he was fulfilling his duty as a servant of the Lord (the “all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth,” he takes pains to note from the start, in 2:4) by bringing them an authorized message (2:2-11, especially verse 11).

The first major doctrinal topic that Jacob broaches, in 2:12-22, is the necessity of giving up our worldly gain and selfish desires for the good of others and the work of the Church.  Look at some of the Topical Guide subjects listed in those verses: almsgiving, generosity, welfare, worldliness, good works.  Jacob ties these themes of sacrifice in to a general command to obey the commandments (2:21), and, being the Book of Mormon, warns against pride.

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Spiritual Lessons From Difficult People

Like most people in my church, I have opportunities that help me get involved in the lives of others, as I try to assist, guide, and comfort them, just as others have opportunities to do the same for me and my family.  In this reciprocal series of ministrations, much of the work is pleasant socializing, but often this work seems fruitless.

It’s easy–and tempting–to get frustrated with people when they don’t seem to be making enough progress.  After months and even years of patient teaching and testifying, many people still won’t come to church, or try to give up a bad habit, or do things to improve their health or work, or do much of anything at all.  It can seem like a waste of time, then–a pointless exercise in futility.

But at such times we might feel closer to God than at any other, because if our relatively little efforts can provoke us to such discouragement, imagine how God’s perfect love, which is met with almost universal rejection, endlessly endures.

If I feel hurt because the invitations given to others by my work with them have been rejected, how much more could God be grieved because I’ve turned away from infinitely more such invitations?  “But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh.”  Jacob 5:47

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2011: My Year In Self-Improvement

I set out to check four things off of my bucket list this year.  One proved too arduous for now, and petered out in March.  I finished the other three.

One was seeing every film on AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” list, except the R-rated ones.  Finally finished in July.  More on this next week.

Another was ministering to each of my home teaching families at church every month this year.  I didn’t always have a visit–I can’t control if people open the door or pick up the phone–but in past years I’ve gone months at a time without trying to contact people.  This year, everyone at least got a chance, and a lot of good work did come from it.

But the third thing was by far the coolest.  In fact, I consider it one of the best things I’ve ever done in life.  I surprised my wife with a romantic gesture every week for a year.

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Bless This Day

Specific prayers bring specific blessings, I’ve heard, and this seems to be most especially true of asking for small spiritual blessings today.

Many of us probably pray for peace and insight, patience and charity, but I’ve been astounded by the power of pleading with God to favor me with a noticeable measure of these things in the same day I’m praying.  I don’t mean this in the sense of, “Give me this thing I want right now,” but in a more appropriately humble attitude of, “I really feel like I need this blessing, and I want to use it to serve, and I trust you enough to know it can happen today.”

I also try to be immediately grateful in more prayer for any evidence of progress from such prayers.  Again, what I try to ask for are gifts of noticing beauty in the world, or the ability to be more Christlike in specific situations I expect that day, or simply to be grateful for and accepting of whatever will happen soon.  I’ve found such an attitude to be immensely faith developing.

I think our Father in Heaven wants to give us blessings when we ask for them, and not always at some unknown point in the future, either.  When I ponder praying for things to be realized, at least to a degree, in the same day I want to plead for it, I usually feel a spiritual assurance that such requests are welcomed.

It reminds me of the injunction in the Lord’s Prayer to ask for things this way: “Give us this day our daily bread.”  I think the core of this prayer method is that it teaches us to be continually reliant on God.  We can’t pray, “Please give me whatever bread I’ll need every day from now on.”  That would go against the requirement for frequent, even constant, prayer itself.  One of the purposes of prayer, or daily scripture study, is to keep us in remembrance of our need to depend on God at all times.  One time prayers, or permanent blessings, just couldn’t do that.

And when we’re tempted to think of prayer and scripture study–or any other gospel routine–as chores, I think this understanding is liberating.  Yes, we will need to pour out our hearts today, and we will need to do it as much as we can; and no matter how much we exert ourselves now, we will need to do it again tomorrow, anyway.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be, and it opens the way for great blessings.  Thank God for it.

A Homily on Helaman: Choosing Faithfulness in a Changing Church Culture

In a 1990 address to Regional Representatives, Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman.

Both Alma and Helaman told of the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the Church today.

Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur “in the space of not many years.” In one instance it took only six years. (See Helaman 6:32, 7:6, 11:26)

It’s especially interesting that he mentions the book of Helaman as being a prophetic parallel for our day, in addition to Alma.  The superscription to Helaman–the introductory summary between the title and chapter one of the text–is part of the scriptural record, not an editorial study aid by modern church printers, like the individual chapter headings are.  One of the items in that ancient superscription is this:

An account of the righteousness of the Lamanites, and the wickedness and abominations of the Nephites.

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Getting and Staying on the Church Train

From a wonderful October 1992 General Conference talk by Elder Glenn L. Pace, an illustration of the point I’m trying to make in today’s posts above:

It is as if we are passengers on the train of the Church, which has been moving forward gradually and methodically. Sometimes we have looked out the window and thought, “That looks kind of fun out there. This train is so restrictive.” So we have jumped off and gone and played in the woods for a while. Sooner or later we find it isn’t as much fun as Lucifer makes it appear or we get critically injured, so we work our way back to the tracks and see the train ahead. With a determined sprint we catch up to it, breathlessly wipe the perspiration from our forehead, and thank the Lord for repentance.

While on the train we can see the world and some of our own members outside laughing and having a great time. They taunt us and coax us to get off. Some throw logs and rocks on the tracks to try and derail it. Other members run alongside the tracks, and while they may never go play in the woods, they just can’t seem to get on the train. Others try to run ahead and too often take the wrong turn.

I would propose that the luxury of getting on and off the train as we please is fading. The speed of the train is increasing. The woods are getting much too dangerous, and the fog and darkness are moving in.

Although our detractors might as well “stretch forth [their] puny arm[s] to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream” (D&C 121:33) as try to derail this train, they are occasionally successful in coaxing individuals off. With all the prophecies we have seen fulfilled, what great event are we awaiting prior to saying, “Count me in”? What more do we need to see or experience before we get on the train and stay on it until we reach our destination? It is time for a spiritual revival. It is time to dig down deep within ourselves and rekindle our own light.

Live and Die To Make Men Free

There are multiple versions of the Civil War marching song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  The original words to the song include this line:

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free. 

It’s easy to see why this would be inspiring to the Union soldiers singing it to build morale.  They were imitating the example of their Lord, who gave His life to free humanity from the bonds of sin and death.  This same Lord said, memorably, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  The North must have been encouraged by seeing themselves in the role of temporal saviors, risking and often giving their lives to free black Southerners from the bonds of slavery.  (The famous “grapes of wrath” from the first verse refers to God’s righteous indignation at the evil of the slaveholders, which was in immediate need of retribution, through the instrument of the Northern army.) 

Such an analogy was uplifting and appropriate for the soldiers of the time (and, indeed, for soldiers of any time).  However, as much as I like the injunction in the hymn to “die to make men free,” I also like the way those words are modified in the hymn book of my church, the LDS Church.  In our hymnal, that line reads:

As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.

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