The Pressure of the Result

In a commencement address, actor and comedian Will Ferrell shared his story of struggle to find success (success which- tangential comment here- he identifies in this same address as his wife and family). 

One line stood stood out to me:

Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result.

This reminds me of something my mission president taught me: let the Lord worry about the results.

Worry almost always centers around results. But we should remember that results are on the Lord’s To Do List, not ours. Ours simply consists of the “process of [our] search,” a process that is much easier to enjoy when we are free from worrying about results.

Our Worth Does Not Fluctuate

While reading a Neal A. Maxwell’s amazing conference talk “Consecrate Thy Performance” (April 2002), I learned that we shouldn’t let our worries of the day influence how we feel about our overall worth.

Some have difficulty when particular tasks enter their sunset phase. John the Baptist is a model, however, saying of Jesus’ growing flock, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Mistakenly regarding our present assignments as the only indicator of how much God loves us only adds to our reluctance to let go. Brothers and sisters, our individual worth is already divinely established as “great”; it does not fluctuate like the stock market.

Our divine worth is great, and does not change.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/consecrate-thy-performance?lang=eng#p11

 

Want God’s Help? Just ask!

2 Nephi 32:9 tells us why we should pray before doing something difficult.

9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

Whatever we are doing, God can help that thing be of benefit for our soul. Pretty cool.

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/32?verse=9&lang=eng#p9

Gaining Faith: Openness and Action

In Helaman chapter 9 we read the story about the 5 men who were sent to confirm Nephi’s prophecy about the chief judge being murdered. From their experience we can learn a little about how faith works.

In verse 2 they speak to each other as they are running to the judgement seat, saying “we do not believe that he (Nephi) hath [prophesied]; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet…” So they started out with unbelief. Yet in verse 5, they behold the chief judge, murdered, according to Nephi’s prophecy, and “when they saw, they believed.”

We usually talk about how miracles do not produce faith, but merely confirm it. How, then, do they gain faith from seeing? There is a different principle at work here. Actually, two.

Back in verse 2 we read them talking to themselves about how they don’t believe Nephi, but then they say “nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true.” We see here that they were willing to believe Nephi. They hadn’t already decided to disbelieve him. Sometimes, when we hear something new, we choose immediately what we’re going to think about it, and we’re never open to it. These five men were.

Sometimes it takes us a little while to be open to the idea. This relates to Alma’s teaching about having even a desire to believe and letting that desire “work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27). Sometimes, we have to create room in our hearts in order to believe. We have to be open to that idea.  This opennness is the first principle.

But being open to Nephi’s teachings wasn’t all that these 5 men did.  They acted.  They ran to go and check.  Even as they were on their way they were talking about how they didn’t believe, so obviously believing is not a prerequisite to acting on that belief.  And we can act while we still have doubts.   They were willing to try it out.  John 7:17 says “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”  In other words: not sure if something is true?  Try it out!  The proof is in the pudding and the truth is in the doing.  There’s nothing wrong with trying something while being unsure whether or not it will work.  But remember that you’ve got to be willing to believe that it’s true while you check.  Don’t be closed off to the idea completely, going through the motions of trying it out without believing in the possibility of it being true.  You have to be willing to accept the signs that this is true (more about these signs, the fruits of the spirit [see Galatians 5:22] in future post).

Which brings us back to Alma’s analogy of the seed in Alma 32.  We’ve got to be willing to give place for the seed to grow.  Now, the seed isn’t faith, faith is what you’re doing when you decide to plant the seed (the word, the possible truth) while not completely sure if it is true or not.  Sure, you can have your doubts, but you act anyways.  You give place to the seed, and, more than that, you heed Alma’s warning about not casting it out due to unbelief.  Be willing to nurture that seed – it needs help to grow just as your idea of truth needs help to grow.  Read the scriptures, pray about it.  Remember, though that spiritual things are “spiritually discerned” (see 1 Corinthians 2:14), meaning that if we want to know the truth, we need to grow in spiritual truth, not just through a study of facts.  God speaks through His Spirit, giving the fruits of that Spirit to testify of Truth.  These fruits of the Spirit can then bring us great joy and peace throughout our lives as we live by the true principles that we are learning.

What, then, is the fruit of faith?  Well, for one, repentance, for as we believe truth we will change our lives accordingly.  But the 5 men who were open to and acted to check Nephi’s prophecy were blessed with another thing before they repented.  In Helaman 9 verse 18, we read that these 5 men defended Nephi against all of the judges who condemned him.  In fact, “they did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them.”  Now, these judges must have been some pretty learned men, but these 5 were able to confound them because they were blessed with understanding from the Spirit.  They understood clearly the principles at hand only after they were open and acted to gain faith.  This principle is also found in the story of the children of the people of King Benjamin.  Those too young to understand his speech, or who were born after it was given began to fall away from the faith and “because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened” (Mosiah 26:3); Faith precedes understanding.  Fortunately, when we are taught the word, we can remember the example of these 5 runners who were open to believe it, and who acted to try it out.

 

In summary, as we have a Desire to believe, we will be Open to the word, we will Act on that, and then we will Believe and come to Understand.

Desire –> Openness –> Action –> Belief –> Understanding

Every Wind of Doctrine

There has been a lot of discussion lately on Kate Kelly’s Ordain Women movement and her recent excommunication from the LDS church.  Over the past months she has demanded changes from the church, and refused to accept the answers she has received.  I personally don’t understand how she can sustain her church leaders while not accepting the very direct and clear answers that they give her.  Ephesians tells us why we have these leaders, and maybe she missed that in her scripture study:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men,and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

-Ephesians 4:11,14

These verses state that one of the reasons why we have prophets and apostles today is so that we aren’t “carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  If we distance ourselves and our opinions from the direction we receive from the prophet and apostles, then we are becoming very much at risk of falling “away into forbidden paths” and becoming “lost” (1 Nephi 8:28).

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be allowed to question.  As has repeatedly been remarked in recent church statements, the church always encourages people to seek their own answers and to question, but that doesn’t mean that we need abandon our faith.  As we question and learn, we must remember the advice of Elder Uchtdorf who stated so succinctly: “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”  There is room for us in Christ’s church, despite our questions, for “we must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Come, Join with Us, Oct, 2013)

Why, then, did Kate Kelly get excommunicated for questioning?  Because she was doing more than questioning.  Elder George Q. Cannon spoke about the difference between honestly questioning and seeking (during which we should doubt our doubts and remember to tether ourselves to Christ through his living mouthpiece) and apostasy, which does merit excommunication.  George Q. Cannon said that although he doesn’t consider having a difference of opinion with church leaders as apostasy, he cannot “conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy” (see the original Deseret News article from 1869).  Painting the authorities in the church in a wrong light sounds to me like what Kate Kelly has been doing.  It seems to me that she is blinded to what she has been doing, and seeks to put the blame on church authorities for not getting what she wants and what she is so sure is right.

Back in 2010, Elder Christoffersen warned about the slipping standards of today’s world.  Not only is immorality more prevalent, but our very idea of the purpose of life is getting skewed.  Speaking of those who are blinded and confused, Christofferson said that they “have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior” (The Blessing of Scripture, April 2010).  No longer does Jesus want us to humble ourselves and consider our sins to repent of them, now he wants us to fight for whatever idea of social justice seems prevalent and popular.  If we fight for the “rights” others, we can ignore our sins, right?  (See this article to learn more about this alternative idea of Jesus – social defender instead of redeemer from sins).

Discipleship has always been about humbling ourselves and following the master.  Yes, we need to stand up for those in need, and yes we should be kind to everyone no matter their life choices, but let’s not put our social agendas above our spiritual development.  Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.  Study your scriptures with real intent.  Search, ponder and pray.  Faith grows when we decide to act despite our doubts.  We choose to believe while waiting on all the evidence, for we will “receive no witness until after the trail of [our] faith.”

But, as we question and grow in faith, isn’t it nice to know that we have the prophets and apostles to rely on so that we aren’t tossed to and fro, carried by every wind of (socially popular justice seeking) doctrine?

Coming unto Christ

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is His grace sufficient in you, that by His grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

Moroni 10:32

When we come unto Christ there will be four things that happen to us:

1. We will know that salvation and happiness will only come through Jesus Christ.

2. We will exercise faith to keep commitments and make covenants.

3. We will strive to become more like Christ.

4. and we will have our hearts changed.

Here is a great article about it:

http://jesuschrist.lds.org/faith-in-jesus-christ/articles/come-unto-christ?lang=eng

Simple Statements of Principle

In the October 1993 General Conference, Richard G. Scott gave a monumental talk called “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge.”  I highly recommend studying this talk as it is full of simple statements of principle that can guide us in our endeavors for spiritual growth.  This quote pretty much sums up my favorite part of the article (but there is so much greatness in those few pages!).

As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles.  Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them  Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.  A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances.  It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle.” (italics are mine)

As per discovering this gem of a principle, I’m going to redouble my efforts to post principles to this blog.  The posts will probably be a little shorter, and hopefully a little more frequent as well.

– Benjamin

Watch Out for Wordliness

At a recent fireside, the former president of the Provo Mormon Temple told a story* about a meeting of his with the quorum of the 12 apostles. When he asked what was the greatest problem facing the church and young people today, the answer was simple: worldliness.

When I first heard that, it sounded to me like a cop-out answer. What does worldliness mean, anyways? Sure, the devil is out to get us, but that seems like a rather directionless way to point and call “watch out!” But in discussions with friends and through reading some articles on the internet (social media connects us to some very interesting things sometimes), I have begun to develop more of a view of what this worldliness is.  This definition, found by googling “define worldliness,” sums it up to my liking.

Worldliness: “sophistication: the quality or character of being intellectually sophisticated and worldly through cultivation or experience or disillusionment.”

I think that today we are so caught up in our own learning and analysis (what is politically correct, what is intelligent, what do our conclusions point to, what makes sense in light of new studies or learning) that we neglect the source of Truth.  Our wisdom and learning, no matter how we’ve built upon eons of human experience, no matter if it is mingled with scripture does not amount to a hill of beans next to the wisdom of God.

Thinking about things the world’s way is making us lose sight of what truly matters.  We are letting the way that we understand the world around us be defined by what’s by current media.  It’s not a single television show or song that is doing the damage, but the accepted, unquestioned attitudes about the world, morality, and keeping the commandments, that all of today’s media is based upon.  The more we consume media after this train of thought, the more we unconsciously begin to accept it, and use it to negotiate meaning in our world.  In effect, we are being pushed about by “every wind of doctrine,” that the world seems to put upon us.

My words may be unorganized and not well wrought, but in essence they are these: let us, each of us, remember to come unto Christ, being weary of how the world’s view are influencing ours, and may we combat the barrage of media based upon the wisdom of man, and spend a little more of our time with the word of God.  Let us live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

* He spoke with only one member of the 12, and I, unfortunately, don’t remember which one it was.  I changed this part for readability.

In Defense of the Petition Against Pornography

I am writing this essay in support of the recent petition to make porn an “opt-in” service for internet providers, further regulating the extent of porn found on the internet.  Here is a link to the petition.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/require-porn-be-opt-feature-internet-service-providers-rather-standard-feature/GF1RkqpJ

A few of my friends on Facebook have chosen not to sign the petition, which is totally fine, but have expressed reasons for doing so that I see as either faulty or misapplied, namely: the increased regulation on the free market and the importance of using self-control and free will.

My response is one that I hastily typed into a comment box of someone’s status, and later realized that its length was becoming too much of an explosion to post there.  And so, with some minor editing for clarity, I post it for the first time here.  I use a few examples that are known within Mormon circles (captain Moroni and Shiblon, the son of Alma) but I tried to frame them into a context that is meaningful to all readers.

Beginning:

First of all, the argument about the need to use our free will to ignore pornography.  People addicted to pornography are just that–addicted.  They no longer have control over their actions when they are presented with a certain dilemma. Someone I know said this: “10 times out of 10, in those circumstances I will always choose it.”  Yes, we are supposed to develop a sense of self-control, but the Lord also wants us to put up barriers between us and Satan.  Think of the fortifications that Captain Moroni placed upon his cities, seeking to prevent deaths from the future attacks of the enemies of his people, think about how you try to avoid your own temptations to help you make correct choices.

Putting up barriers between yourself and temptation does not take away from the validity of self-control, and it is foolish to enter dangerous situations thinking to yourself: “I’m just going to be really careful and not get hurt.”  Think about our admonishment to put on the whole armor of God.  This would include taking necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary danger in the fight against Satan.  But it’s not just about people who are currently addicts.  Just like addictions to drugs, people can “use” pornography only once and become addicted, so accidental pornography views (the kind that this petition is trying to prevent) can be harmful in impactful ways.

As for the government regulation of the free market, I think that it is important to understand the role of government.  Now, I love small government as much as the next guy (let me decide how I want to use my money, thank you very much), but we do have government for a reason.  What that reason is constantly being debated, but I believe that government exists to regulate human behavior to an extent.  If there were no law say thou shalt not kill, why would any man fear to kill?  We are protecting our rights, privileges, and property.  That said, having a democratic government (well, democratic republic) means that we can choose to an extent how we want that regulation to work.  I subscribe to the idea that the free market for the free market’s sake isn’t as important as protecting individuals and families from the harm that science acknowledges that pornography does.  I believe that it is more important to have protection against the harms of pornography than to have a completely unregulated free market.

But it’s a slippery slope, you say.  First we ban pornography, then we ban revealing clothing, then we ban freedom of expression.  Nobody said it had to go that far though.  We shouldn’t be so naive to think that the government is going to take away freedom of expression in many forms because we ask them to protect us from an evil in the free market.  Where should the line be drawn?  How much control should government take?  Sure, these are questions that will need to be brought up and decided, but that’s what we’re trying to do right now.

You see, we are trying to participate actively in our government by signing a petition that says, in different words: We think that the line between what the government does and does not regulate should include pornography in the regulation category.  We see this as an issue that is important to us and we are willing to give a little bit of our freedom (easy access to porn, or easy marketing of porn) in order to be protected from this evil.  We do this willingly and ask our representatives to keep the ideals of individuals and families in mind as they make these decisions, instead of billion dollar porn companies that could afford to lose a few bucks.  Sure the porn companies are going to get the short end of the stick (frankly, we don’t’ care), and sure we are surrendering a bit of our freedom to our government so that they can regulate this issue.  But we don’t’ care.  We value greater protection against pornography above these things and are petitioning for a change.  We actively and knowingly make this decision.

If that is something that you don’t align with, that’s okay.  You don’t have to sign the petition.  But I hope that you can understand people who place protection from pornography above having a completely free market (which it isn’t, by the way, the government already regulates it, we are just petitioning a change in how and what it regulates– we have that right).  And I hope that you can understand the importance of avoiding evil and not falling into the trap of believing that we can just “use self-control” to avoid falling into temptation.  My Mormon friends out there will recognize the name Shiblon, who thought he could just “use self-control,” visited the harlot Isabel, and fell into fornication.  If he had been humble enough to admit that he needs to protect himself to temptation, that he is not impervious to it, then perhaps he could have had the sense to add the idea of placing barriers between him and temptation to his valiant attempts to use self-control.  It certainly would have saved him a lot of heart-ache.

Closing Statement:

I support increased regulation of pornography, and accept its consequences on the free-market economy, and I believe increasing barriers between my family and harmful and aggressively addictive temptation that has been proven to destroy family stability is a wise choice to take in additions to our precautions of self-control.