Friday, May 31, 2013

History of the Church Vol. 2

I really enjoyed the second volume of History of the Church by Joseph Smith. I love how candid he is, quick to confess his own faults, but also quick to defend the truth. I want to highlight some of my favorite parts of this volume.

At one point, the prophet was traveling with a group of the church's leaders and they came across a man on the road who claimed to be sick and asked for a ride. Joseph says they were "checked by the Spirit" and so refused. Soon they learned this man was part of a mob and others were waiting to ambush them when they stopped to help him.

A lot happened during Zion's Camp. At one point Joseph said he was feeling depressed in spirit and said there had been a lot of bloodshed in the place they were. He said a righteous man will always feel this way where there has been a lot of bloodshed. Forty rods later they came across a large mound containing human bones, confirming what Joseph had said. Also, throughout that journey, Joseph gave some excellent teachings. Some included the sanctity of animal life. Joseph refused any animal to be killed for no reason. If it was killed, it was to be eaten.

Later, after the Twelve Apostles were called, Joseph charged them to write all their revelations and proceedings of their meetings, teaching that much valuable information had already been lost because many in the Church were negligent to take notes at meetings.

One of the greatest treats was reading a blessing the prophet bestowed on Newel K. Whitney. I loved reading this because I have married into his family and now my daughter Symphony takes part in the blessings where Joseph promised his seed "all good things of the earth" and that "Angels will guard the lives of his posterity."

This volume contained the dedication of the Kirtland temple, and it was powerful to see how anxious Joseph was to prepare the people to receive their endowment. He placed the highest priority on getting them ready and helping them understand the importance of it.

Joseph also gives a lot of insight into his personal life. He frequently talks about the fine weather for sleighing, and also how much he enjoyed spending time with his family. He talks about attending to his "domestic concerns." I enjoyed that.

Finally, I was really surprised when I read about the Church's stance on abolition. I guess I always just assumed that the Church was in favor of abolition. But apparently at this time period, abolitionists were seen as extremists and disturbers of the peace. While against slavery, the Church did not declare itself to be aligned with the abolitionists. Joseph actually wrote a letter to express his views on the matter. What he did not support was the rebellion of slaves, leading them to kill their masters. Joseph recommended that it was those in the South who needed to recognize the evil of slavery, because they would be able to best offer the remedy. This really intrigued me. I already knew that slavery was such a tender issue at this time, but Joseph's letter really shows that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Of All Things

(Not the cover on my book)
To my surprise, I really enjoyed reading Of All Things: A Nibley Quote Book, compiled by Gary P. Gillum. I wasn't too sure about this book at first. My first exposure to Hugh Nibley a few years ago was a derogatory remark he made about Disneyland. I wasn't necessarily anti-Nibley, I just wasn't in a rush to read him. I'm glad I started with this book, because it gave me great insight into the incredible man that was Hugh Nibley.

One of my favorite things about him is his understanding of truth. I can't stand it when people say, "That might be true for you, but it's not true for me." Truth is truth. Nothing that we say, think, believe, or do can change what truth is. All we can do is blind ourselves and others to it. Nibley has basically said this same thing on multiple occasions. One of my favorite quotes was the first one in the book: "What on earth have a man's name, degree, academic position, and, of all things, opinions, to do with whether a thing is true or not?"

I loved his commentary on the Book of Mormon. I love how he defends its truthfulness as well as its importance. Says he, "Angels do not come on trivial errands, to deliver books for occasional light reading." That really puts things into perspective, and I felt the need to be more serious about my scripture study.

His teachings on the Book of Abraham are the best I have read, and the most satisfying to my inquisitive soul. I loved his remarks on our society, and the comparison between Zion and Babylon. He helped me recognize my own cottage in Babylon and how to abandon it once and for all. Most of all, I appreciated his humility and his quenchless thirst for knowledge.

I am now excited to read more by Hugh Nibley. This was a great book to start with, and is one of the best quote books I have ever read.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

To be honest, I can't remember why I bought Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Wendy Watson Nelson. I purchased it when it was first released a few years ago. I read the first chapter, then put it on the bookshelf, never to be picked up again until this past week. I'm very glad I chose to read it again, because it gave me great insight and inspiration.

I actually had a hard time getting into it at first. This is definitely a self-help book. Hmm... actually, that might not be an accurate description. We'll just call it a help book. This means it requires you to ponder, write down thoughts and feelings, and do other things that prevent you from just casually reading the book. However, by doing these things, you have a remarkable experience.

I wasn't sucked into the book until chapter 5, where the author goes into detail with seven different questions that can have life-changing results. Great questions are found throughout the book, but I found these seven particularly meaningful. They are:

  1. What is on my premortal list of things to do while on Earth? This one I liked because I am definitely a list kind of person. I can totally imagine myself making a to-do list before being born. 
  2. What is the one questions I most need to have answered from the scriptures today? The author testifies that as we read the scriptures for a specific answer, we will find it. But we must read with dedication and the Spirit.
  3. What are three words to follow for a great life? The author suggests, as a possible answer, the words: Not Even Once. These can be used to resist temptation, but also to make sure to never miss an opportunity to do good.
  4. Whose agenda is this supporting? If we asked ourselves this question before every activity, would it change how we spent our time? What movies or TV shows we watch? What websites we go to?
  5. If I were to pray for and picture the Holy Ghost being right beside me, how would I manage this difficult situation? Pretty self-explanatory.
  6. How can I be more of my true self at the end of this experience? What a great question! This helps us let go of resentment during difficult challenges and helps us draw closer to God.
  7. What do I know to be true? Find your testimony, record it, feed it, and guard it.
I am glad I read this book. The questions it asks the reader to ponder and apply are quite remarkable. I hope to change my life by asking and applying these questions.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strange Roads and Forbidden Paths

I found Strange Roads and Forbidden Paths by Richard G. Moore very interesting! The book talks about apostasy, beginning with Adam's day all the way down to the present. Some of the stories are mind-boggling. It is almost inconceivable how some people in the Church have fallen away. But the author's message is clear: nobody is immune from apostasy. Each person needs to nourish their testimony as we read in Alma 32, or else it will die. There are too many elements attacking us. We cannot be fooled into thinking that we can do nothing and our testimonies will survive.

To fortify ourselves against apostasy, the author gives several situations that can lead down that forbidden path. These could be anything from a lust for wealth and power to genuine deception by the adversary. However, the root of all these problems is pride. Pride led Cain to murder Abel.  It led Judas to betraying Jesus. And it continues to lead many people out of the Church today. Even many people in the Church are apostates at heart, though they cling tight to their memberships. Influences of apostasy are all around us, and we must be on guard.

This book has caused me to reflect quite a bit. I have been personally attacked by anti-mormon junk. I'll be perfectly honest. I do not have a satisfying answer to every question. There are some things that I just plain don't understand. When I dwell on these things, I confess that doubt begins to cloud my mind. That is why I don't dwell on them. The Spirit does not cloud minds, it enlightens them. When I think of the Book of Mormon, I am filled with a deep conviction that it is true. I have received an undeniable witness from the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I have seen the power of the priesthood in action. I have witnessed miracles. I have never seen an angel, nor have I seen the Savior. I would love such an experience, but it would do nothing to make me any more certain of these things I already know.

I am reminded of the apostle Peter in John 6. After the Savior taught the Bread of Life sermon, many of His disciples abandoned Him. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they would also go away. Peter replied, "Lord, where else shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." This is how I feel about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don't understand some things. Some parts of church history confuse me and are not very clear. But where else can I go? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has indeed the words of eternal life, with Jesus as its Head. This is a fact I know deep in my heart and I cannot deny. I continue in faith, with confidence in the Lord that He will one day reveal all things to my understanding.

While reading this book, I have enjoyed some correspondence with the author. His humor and insight are very enjoyable, and can both be found in this book. He and I agree that the message contained in this book is a very important and timely message. As the latter days wind to a close, we will need to be stronger than ever. The teachings found in this book will help us do all we can to keep us safe from those strange roads and forbidden paths of apostasy.

Monday, May 6, 2013

12 Keys to Developing Spiritual Maturity

I was excited to purchase 12 Keys to Developing Spiritual Maturity by Richard G. Moore  because the author was my bishop when I lived at BYU. This book is great, and I would recommend it as a companion to The Divine Center, which I reviewed earlier this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the detail that the author goes into with each principle in this book, and the stories he shares really help to bring each principle to life.

Before he goes into the 12 principles, Richard Moore teaches the best way to measure our own spiritual maturity is by how often we feel the Holy Ghost. With this in mind, he begins the discussion. There are a few things I would life to highlight.

First is obedience. He talks about how obedience yields freedom. The world doesn't really understand that. The author shares a story from when he was a teenager. He felt he had no freedom and he resented his parents for it. They told him if he were more obedient, he would have more freedom. To prove them wrong, he decided to be as perfectly obedient as possible. To his surprise, his parents began to trust him more and granted him privileges he never dreamed they would give him.

Moore also talks about balance. He quotes from apostles to teach the importance of parents setting the example of balance for their children. Again, the best way to measure our balance is by how much we can feel the Holy Ghost in our lives. Interestingly, he talks about a time when Gordon B. Hinckley warned CES employees to not make the Gospel their only interest, but to develop other interests and hobbies to make them a well-rounded person.

Speaking on balance, the author quotes Neal A. Maxwell, who teaches that all members of the Church need to have balance in striving for the Celestial Kingdom. We need to not berate ourselves and put ourselves down because we are not perfect. At the same time, however, we need to understand that we are not quite qualified for heavenly glory either. The important thing is to keep progressing.

Last of all, he shares an experience that his father-in-law had that taught him a lesson about service. His father-in-law really needed help finding an answer to a problem, and he intended to spend the Sabbath fasting and praying about it. Instead, he spent the entire day fulfilling assignments and magnifying his calling, only getting home late at night. He was discouraged as he got into bed, when suddenly he received the answer crystal clear. He wondered how this was possible when he didn't have time to study it out. Suddenly the following words came into his mind: Service is blessings bought and paid for. What a neat concept!

I know I have a lot of spiritual maturing to do. This was a great book and I think everybody can benefit from the principles taught therein.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Men of Valor

I absolutely LOVED Men of Valor by Robert L. Millet. Every holder of the priesthood needs to read this book. This is certainly one I will be reading again and again. This book is a call for the men of God to rise up and fulfill their commission as priesthood holders. When we are converted, we are to strengthen our brethren. This we cannot do until conversion happens. For example, an Elders Quorum president can never inspire his quorum to fulfill their home teaching responsibilities if he himself is not converted.

One part of the book really hit home to me. As you can tell from this blog, I have done a LOT of reading this year. At one point, Millet is talking about doing away with "lesser thing" and said that occasionally, when he is immersed in a book and neglecting his family, his wife will remind him, "You know, if you aren't careful, you're going to be one smart ministering angel." This implies that, although learning through books is good, if he neglects his duty as a priesthood holder, and his duty to his family, he will not be permitted to be with them through all eternity. That really hit home and I felt reprimanded.

Another part that hit me hard was where he taught that it is necessary that sometimes God withholds His Spirit from us, even when we are doing nothing wrong. If we always had the Spirit to guide us immediately in every decision, there would be no trials. Without trials, there would be no growth. That was an interesting point I hadn't considered before.

The author talks a lot about the difference between power of the priesthood and power in the priesthood. Satan cannot do anything about the power of the priesthood, so he attacks our power in the priesthood by getting us to pollute our thoughts, words, and actions. But if we hold strong and withstand the adversary's temptations, our power in the priesthood is marvelous. To illustrate that all priesthood is the same, Millet tells of a time he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. President Gordon B. Hinckley sent two apostles (Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin) to see him. When they inquired whether or not he had received a blessing, he replied that his sons had given him one. Elder Oaks replied that they (the apostles) did not have any more priesthood than his sons did, and so it was not necessary to give another blessing. That really opened my eyes.

Like I said, this book is one worth reading over and over. Millet has a second book to go with this called Men of Influence. I guarantee that I will be purchasing that book.