Friday, July 15, 2011

First Chapter Wednesday--Messages From the Scriptures

Today's first chapter is from Messages From the Scriptures, by Jeff Baker.

The test of mortality is to see if we will use

our will to keep God’s commandments.

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And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. (Abraham 3:25)

Sacrifice was a very important part of the Mosaic law (see Exodus 29, for example). Yet, even with so many directions and decrees concerning the law of sacrifice, God said, “If ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, ye shall offer it at your own will” (Leviticus 19:5). God does not force us to obey His commandments; rather, He asks us to obey out of our love for Him, and He promises us blessings for obedience (see D&C 130:20–21). When the Lord told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16–17), He didn’t stop them from partaking. Obviously, He could have set cherubim to guard that tree just as He later did with the tree of life (see Genesis 3:24). God is not interested in forced obedience. He has placed us in this life of trials and adversity, as He told the Israelites, to humble us and see if we will keep his commandments (see Deuteronomy 8:2). As President Ezra Taft Benson explained, “The great test of life is obedience to God” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Great Commandment—Love the Lord,” Ensign, May 1988, 4).


By attending the temple, we receive great blessings of peace

and assistance from the Lord.

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Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. (D&C 110:9)

The temple is a holy place where God’s people can go to worship and find spiritual renewal. When the temple of Solomon was built, the Lord promised: “Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:15–16). Of the temple, the Lord declared, “I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house” (D&C 110:7). In the temple, we can obtain spiritual blessings and fortification. Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “When we keep the temple covenants we have made and when we live righteously in order to maintain the blessings promised by those ordinances, then come what may, we have no reason to worry or to feel despondent” (Richard G. Scott, “Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need,” Ensign, May 2009, 45).


God’s commandments pertaining

to the giving and taking of life are of tremendous importance.

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God that made the world and all things therein, . . . he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. (Acts 17:25)

God is the one who has given life to all, and it is He who appoints when men should die. Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this power is the Flood, when God eliminated nearly everyone, but preserved the lives of Noah’s family (see 1 Peter 3:20). Also interesting are the first two commandments that the Lord reiterated immediately after the Flood: “For man shall not shed the blood of man. For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image have I made man. And a commandment I give unto you, Be ye fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly on the earth, and multiply therein” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 9:12–14). This dual commandment is echoed in countless instances. Truly the commandments that pertain to the giving of life and the taking of it are among the most important of all. Why? Alma taught that “this life [is] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). This life has eternal significance, and certain acts we perform have everlasting consequences. It should come as no surprise that two of the weightiest commandments deal with the creation and destruction of life (see Alma 39:4–5). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained: “Clearly among [God’s] greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76).


Attending our church meetings allows us to strengthen each other, as well as to increase our resolve to live the gospel.

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And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. (Moroni 6:5–6)

Church attendance is an important part of our worship. Speaking of the first few generations after Christ’s appearance in the Americas, Mormon explained that the people “did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord” (4 Nephi 1:12). “Meeting together oft” is an important part of following the Savior’s commandments. In our church meetings, we learn more about God and our relationship with Him—an essential element in obtaining exaltation (see D&C 18:25). We also strengthen each other in our resolve to live the gospel, which invites the Lord to help us. We read in 3 Nephi 24:16: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard.” And according to President Anthon H. Lund, “Unless the saints attend their meetings, it will be hard for them to keep alive in the gospel” (Anthon H. Lund, in Conference Report, Oct. 1907, 9).


The Lord never leaves us, but
we often leave Him through our own disobedience.

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Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you. (Malachi 3:7)

Sometimes it may feel as though a distance has been formed between us and the Lord. But this separation is never caused by Him—it is our doing. As the Lord explained through the prophet Isaiah: “Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? . . . Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves” (2 Nephi 7:1; see also Isaiah 50:1). The psalmist prayed that God would “turn us” (Psalms 85:4), not the other way around. We must be sure to stay close to the Lord and avoid self-inflicted separation. Elder Neil L. Andersen taught: “We push our spiritual roots deep, feasting daily on the words of Christ in the scriptures. We trust in the words of living prophets, placed before us to show us the way. We pray and pray and listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Ghost that leads us along and speaks peace to our soul. Whatever challenges arise, we never, never leave Him” (Neil L. Andersen, “Never Leave Him,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 41–42).



True conversion is marked by the loss of a desire to sin.

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And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2)

When the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi were converted to the gospel, the king said: “God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more . . . behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them” (Alma 24:12, 16). This burial of weapons became a physical testimony of the people’s abandonment of sin. When more Lamanites converted to the truth later, “they did also bury their weapons of war, according as their brethren had” (Alma 25:14). More than seventy years later, Samuel the Lamanite mentioned that upon their conversion, the Lamanites would still bury their swords (see Helaman 15:9). Mormon wrote that “as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away” (Alma 23:6). The righteous Lamanites were a great example of being firm in the faith and enduring to the end.


Through the Holy Ghost, God will reveal His mysteries

to those who diligently seek them.

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For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

Alma taught that “it is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless, they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him” (Alma 12:9). Apparently Mormon was in this same situation, for he “was about to write these things” (we know from the context that he was speaking of spiritually sensitive information), “but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people” (3 Nephi 26:11). The Lord promised, “Unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom” (D&C 63:23; see also Alma 12:10). There are many things God will teach us if we search diligently. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is in the Lord’s time, and that sometimes we simply have to say, as Alma did, “these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear” (Alma 37:11).


Though they are away from their families, missionaries are not alone, for God has promised to be with them.

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Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded. (D&C 49:27)

The Lord said He would “send for many fishers” and “many hunters” to seek out the inhabitants of the earth and teach the gospel (Jeremiah 16:16). Paul admitted that in order to have preaching, missionaries must first be sent (see Romans 10:15). Sometimes “being sent” means separation, not just from one’s family and friends but also from one’s home and culture. Serving as a missionary can be difficult, but missionaries should not feel alone. In the latter days, Christ promised blessings to missionaries, saying, “The power of heaven [shall] come down among them; and I also will be in their midst” (3 Nephi 21:25). The same idea appears in Zenos’ allegory of the olive trees: “The Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. . . . And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them” (Jacob 5:71–72). In moments of discouragement, missionaries should remember that the Savior has promised to be with them.


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