Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 43: Take upon You My Whole Armour

Some of you may be wondering why there is no picture of armour here when our lesson is about taking upon you the whole armour of God. In fact this man looks somewhat unprotected compared to those around him firing arrows at him.

I decided to choose this picture for this lesson today as it highlights that God's armour is a spiritual armour - unseen by others. For me this picture of Samuel the Lamanite being protected against the arrows of his enemies, better illustrates the concept of the spiritual armour of God and its power in our lives.

Aside from the story we know of Samuel the Lamanite - what can you see in this picture?

A man is standing on a wall, apparently unprotected, open and exposed. We see soldiers shooting arrows at him from all angles and others climbing closer in an apparent attempt to capture or kill him. They are not a few.

How does this picture represent us today? See Doctrine and Covenants 76:29, Ephesians 6:12, Doctrine and Covenants 27:15-18.
What are we "encompassed round about" with by Satan, in his war? The scriptures call them fiery darts.
What does the phrase "fiery darts" tell us about what kind of challenge they will present to us? Darts are quick and fast. They will hurt us if we are not on our guard. If they pierce us, not only do we feel them but we feel their fire also. You do not want to get hit by one of those arrows. It can mean spiritual death.
What do they represent? Temptations and tribulations such as materialism, immorality, dishonesty, minimization of God, etc.
Three such temptations that the lesson asks us to focus are immorality, dishonesty and the minimization of God.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught: “One of the most pervasive deceptions in recent years is the notion that immorality is normal and acceptable and has no negative consequences. In truth, immorality is the underlying cause of much suffering and many other problems that are prevalent today, including rampant disease, abortion, broken families, families without fathers, and mothers who themselves are children”
Satan really can hurt us and those around us with this fiery dart.
How does the armour of God help defend against Satan's fiery darts of immorality?

President James E. Faust taught: “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving”   
Polonius in Hamlet is famous for saying "to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
How does the armour of God help us be honest? 
Sword of truth is truth telling and truth speaking, breastplate of righteousness covers the heart and is truth loving, and together with the loins girt with truth you are covered in truth. Including helmet of salvation. Helmet protects the mind, the thoughts but also the mouth.

Minimizing God

We minimize God when we take his name in vain and use profanity, but what other ways do we minimize God? Through lack of prayer, and a lack of gratitude. The world minimizes Him by refusing to accept His hand in all things. They demonstrate this by freely taking His name in vain without a thought. Notice the helmet of salvation not only protects the mind but the ears, the eyes and the mouth, suggesting that we must endeavour to keep our minds clean and defend against allowing anything into our sight or hearing that would offend the Spirit of God, and we must defend against letting anything out of our mouths that would offend God.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “Profanity and vulgarity … are sins that separate us from God and cripple our spiritual defenses by causing the Holy Ghost to withdraw from us”
We have a shield of faith and a sword of truth also. The amazing thing about this armour is that it has no protection on the back parts. Why do you think that is?
Maybe the Lord requires us to press forward and therefore we require only armour to protect the front of us. It may also be that in pressing forward and fighting for Him he also fights for us and therefore He is our protection, He has our back! It could also be that with the kind of battles that we have to fight, once we have turned our back on the enemy and their temptations, they have no more power to hurt us, therefore there is no need to protect our backs. What we do know though is that we must wear it all.

Remember the great mythological warrior Achilles? Here was a demi-god supposed to be remembered as a great hero, a marvellous warrior. But what was he remembered for? Not having every part of him protected. The famous Achilles heel. Achilles name actually means "grief of the people". Now compare this to Samuel the Lamanite.
Helaman 16:2
"...but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows."
Samuel the Lamanite had no physical armour and we do not fight against flesh and blood in this fight, but it is clear that he and we must be fully dressed in the spiritual armour of God.
There was no Achilles heel with Samuel. Being somewhat protected is not good enough. You must take upon you the whole armour of God and then like Samuel the Lamanite you will find that Satan will be unable to hit you with his stones or his arrows or his fiery darts!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-Day Prophets

Do you still thirst, despite the famine being over?
Water is fascinating. Our bodies are composed of about 60-65% water.

We feel "thirst" after losing around 2-3% of our water. BUT mental performance and physical coordination start to be impaired before thirst kicks in, at around 1% dehydration.

Dehydration can cause fainting, headaches, gallstones and numerous other ailments including death eventually! The daily recommended intake is around 8-12 cups of water a day.

The scriptures often use water to symbolize revelation and the word of God (Deut 32:1-2, John 4:14).

Amos 8:11-13 speaks of a famine that would come. As you read it ask yourselves these questions:
What kind of famine? 
Who shall faint from the thirst? 
Why do they mention specifically "fair virgins" and "young men"? What is this emphasis pointing out?
What are they thirsting? "a thirst of hearing the words of the Lord;"
Using our brief understanding of water above and the spiritual symbolism of thirst what can happen to our spirits if we do not refresh it with revelation and the word of God?

When did the famine start?
The famine started soon after Christ's apostles were killed. The prophetic keys were taken from the earth, leaving the world absent of a declared and authorized spokesperson of the Lord.

When did this famine end?
Fast forward to a spring morning in 1820. A young Joseph Smith has his first vision - "I saw a pillar of light" Truly the heavens opened to a young boy.

Spencer W. Kimball said
"We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and His people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord"
What a powerful short testimony as to what this gospel message is. The following video excerpt of a 2009 Conference address by Elder Holland, expands on the meaning of modern revelation.

Elder Holland invites us all "to examine what we have received" of the Lord by way of modern continuing revelation and "to drink deeply of the well of water springing up into everlasting life" which I would suggest is the spiritual equivalent of getting our 8-12 cups of water daily.

What have we received by way of modern revelation and how has it helped us?
Elder Holland helps us a little in this video by focusing on the Book of Mormon, which though written by ancient prophets was written for us today and revealed in this modern era and is thus modern revelation. But also modern revelation comes in conference talks, announcements of missionary age reduction, the coordination and correlation of church affairs - the handbook, the restoration of priesthood blessings, a proclamation of the family, calls to "lengthen our stride" or "every member a missionary" and reminders that "no success can compensate for failure in the home".

Do we get our daily dose of modern prophetic revelation by "drinking deeply"? 
There are some people that are not as blessed as we are to have such free and constant access to the copious amounts of "water" that we do.
Are we drinking this living water or does it sit unopened, untouched while we grow spiritually faint - for even the very resilient and strongest of us all still need a constant daily dose of modern revelation.

May we drink deeply.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 41: Every Member a Missionary

This year's course of study has taken us from the very earliest days of the church as just a handful of people gathered together in a small farmhouse in New York. It was probably hard for them to imagine the future but as these scriptures illustrate the Lord knew exactly what the future held for the restored church.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:30
Doctrine and Covenants 65:1-6
Doctrine and Covenants 109:72-74

What does the analogy of the stone suggest to us about the work in the latter days?
In what ways is the Church coming out of obscurity throughout the world?

As we look at 3 Latter-Day prophets missionary efforts what do we learn about the Lord and the way He works?

President McKay gave renewed emphasis to missionary work by urging every member to make a commitment to bring at least one new member into the Church each year. He became well known for his repeated admonition: “Every member a missionary.”

In 1952, in an effort to increase the effectiveness of full-time missionaries, the first official proselyting plan was sent to missionaries throughout the world. It was titled A Systematic Program for Teaching the Gospel. It included seven missionary discussions that emphasized teaching by the Spirit and taught clearly the nature of the Godhead, the plan of salvation, the Apostasy and Restoration, and the importance of the Book of Mormon. The number of people converted to the Church throughout the world increased dramatically. In 1961 Church leaders convened the first seminar for all mission presidents, who were taught to encourage families to fellowship their friends and neighbors and then have these people taught by missionaries in their homes. A language training program for newly called missionaries was established in 1961, and later a missionary training center was constructed. 
Spencer W. Kimball’s first address as President was to the Church’s regional representatives. A participant in the meeting recalled that only moments after the talk began, “we became alert to an astonishing spiritual presence, and we realized that we were listening to something unusual, powerful, different. … It was as if he were drawing back the curtains which covered the purpose of the Almighty and inviting us to view with him the destiny of the gospel and the vision of its ministry.”
It was here that President Kimball sounded the now famous slogan, ‘We must lengthen our stride.’” He admonished his audience to increase their commitment to proclaiming the gospel to the nations of the earth. He also called for a large increase in the number of missionaries who could serve in their own countries. At the conclusion of the sermon, President Ezra Taft Benson declared, “Truly, there is a prophet in Israel.”
Under President Kimball’s dynamic leadership, many more members served full-time missions and Missionary training centers were established in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan.

Thomas S. Monson just announced last year that the age for missionaries to be able to enter the mission field would be lowered. In just one year the missionary force world-wide increased from 55,000 missionaries to 80,000 active missionaries. There are now 15 Missionary Training Centres across the world and 405 missions.

How can we as members be missionaries?
How do we lengthen our stride?
How do we become a part of this great work?
I know that various programs and plans have been initiated over the years and many Saints have been successful as they have followed them, but many Saints have felt frustrated too. That's why I like this video.

What lesson do we learn from this video about missionary work?
Let me relate a personal experience that echoes the story in the video.
As the manager of a workforce, I had certain guidelines handed down by the Human Resources department that included not proactively promoting religion at work. I wondered how I could share the gospel with people in that kind of setting under those constraints when most of my life was spent at work and the rest was spent at church or with church friends and family.

I knew I must but I did not know how.
So I would take my Book of Mormon to work and try to read it during lunch times. This was not some great master plan I had developed. It was more Plan B while I tried to think of a better way to open my mouth. Invariably, I never found time to take lunch and read and so the Book of Mormon sat on my desk.
Also not part of any master plan but more out of curiosity I would make a point of asking employees on the Monday what they had done over the weekend. Without hesitation, after they had recounted their exploits, they would return the question. I noticed it was a great opportunity to share my church attendance experiences.
Many weeks and months passed without any noticeable effect of what I felt were my rather lacklustre missionary efforts. Then one Monday, I asked an employee, Sharon what she had done that weekend. Sure enough, she then returned the favour and asked me the same question. For one reason or another, I mentioned very specifically that I had attended my High Priest Group. I had not intended to say that but out it popped. I thought nothing more of it. But unbeknownst to me she was intrigued that her boss held a title that she associated with days long long ago in the Bible. It seemed to eat away at her, this niggling thought that she should ask more. Other events in her life also challenged her to seek the same happiness that she saw in my family life. One day Sharon approached me in my office. As she broached the subject of religion her eyes welled up and I knew that she was whom I had been sent to share the gospel with. I bore her my testimony of the happiness the gospel brings to those that live it. I gave her the copy of the Book of Mormon still sat there on my desk.

Not long after, Sharon embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ and was baptized. She was like a sponge, she just wanted to learn more and more, she attended weekly institute and private scripture study sessions with my family and today is serving in a leadership position in the church, helping others to live the gospel.
The Lord prepared the way. I knew all I had to do was find a way to open my mouth and the Lord would do the rest. Doctrine and Covenants 33:7-9.
Sometimes we can be frustrated and busy and maybe even feel thwarted in our missionary efforts but if we keep at it great blessings await not only those you share the gospel with but us too!
Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16

What do we learn from stories like this?

At a seminar for new Mission Presidents held in June 2013 Elder L. Tom Perry added the concluding comments: “This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom.”

As President Henry B. Eyring has said, “Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help Him in His harvest of souls.”

The church is coming out of obscurity across the world. What part are you playing in the church coming out of obscurity in your neighbourhood, in your city, in your workplace?

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 40: Finding Joy in Temple and Family History Work

By the Spring of 1940, Hitler's army had marched through Europe very quickly taking over unprepared and undefended countries while the rest tried to desperately make peace pacts and deals with the Nazi machine. By the time the British realized that pursuing peace was pointless, the German forces had surrounded them in a classic pincer movement in the North of France and Belgium. Winston Churchill, who had just been instated as Prime Minister, immediately recognized the impending disaster and called on all able bodied seamen and seaworthy vessels to sail across the English Channel to rescue as many of the trapped soldiers as possible from the Dunkirk beaches. So gloomy were the predictions that most felt saving 40,000 soldiers would be a miracle. Between May 26th and June 4th 1940 over 700 civilian vessels participated in this impromptu evacuation. Many repeated the journey between Dover and Dunkirk multiple times, navigating through choppy waters filled with mines and constantly trying to avoid the bombs and shelling of the German forces.
In the end over 330,000 soldiers were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk (almost 10 x more than even the most optimistic predictions). This incredibly successful rescue triggered Winston Churchill's defiant speech "we shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them in the air and on the land and on sea...but we shall never surrender".

What has Temple and Family History work got to do with Dunkirk?
When Elijah restored the keys of sealing it set in motion the beginning of the greatest rescue operation known to mankind save the Atonement itself. We have been asked to be a part of that – us in our small vessels.
Do you think people feel overwhelmed sometimes when they think about all the Lord requires - including temple and family history work-  all the while navigating the choppy waters and trying to avoid the mines and bombs of life? What is it that is can feel so daunting about it? 
Remember the Lord does not expect us to run faster than we have strength. For some going to the temple may still be only a dream. For others, having a young family might present its own challenges. The Lord understands this and requires only that which we are able and that which we are willing to offer - no matter how small our offering or vessel.

“There are many tasks to be performed in temple and family history work. We should encourage our members to make prayerful selection of the things they can do in their individual circumstances and in view of their current Church callings…”     Dallin H Oaks
What kind of different things could we do based on individual circumstances that still allow us to participate in temple and family history work? Answers may include prepare your 4 generations of family history using Family Search. Be worthy of and hold a current temple recommend, learn about ancestors lives, keep a personal journal, babysit for families so the parents can attend the temple etc.

“…There are family organizations to be formed, family projects to be planned, hearts to be touched, prayers to be offered, doctrines to be learned, children to be taught, living and dead relatives to be identified, recommends to be obtained, temples to be visited, covenants to be made, and ordinances to be received. ” Dallin H Oaks
Each of us should follow the Spirit's promptings as to what is required of us and how much we can do that allows us to participate in this great work while not running faster than we have strength. One of the great blessings of the modern era is how simple it is to do this work even from our own homes. Back in the 70's President Spencer W. Kimball noted that,
"I believe the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we layman have hardly had a glimpse."
When you think about that, isn't it amazing to recognize how great the tools are that He has provided for us over these last few decades? I remember in my early years going to St Catherines House, London where many of the public records of our ancestors were available and sitting there all day as my mother researched the necessary records to complete her family history. It was ultimately rewarding but a very long day. Today I can, with a click of a button on my iPad, open all of that knowledge in an instant right in front of my eyes, as if receiving a glorious vision of my ancestors. This modern technology truly is a marvel and a blessing in this great work.

Watch this video for another great way to include the entire family in this great work. For some families this may be the season for just inspiring their children to learn about their ancestors. This video suggests a couple of great ways to do that. Having "laboured" through many family home evenings and scripture studies and family prayers with 5 young children I got a kick out of the kid telling his dad to let him go at the beginning!

I thought that was an excellent idea to invite your local Family History Consultant to a Family Home Evening. I thought it was an even better idea of hers to get the kids involved by re-enacting an ancestor's story in a play. 

Boyd K Packer said:
“No work is more of a protection to this church than temple work and the genealogical research that supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power”                                   
What do you think he meant when he said "No work gives us more power."?

On May 26th 1940, the soldiers waiting to be rescued at Dunkirk waded into the waters up to their shoulders trying to avoid the bombing and the shells on the beach. Many waited hours in the water like this. 

When you think about these soldiers and how desperately they wanted to be rescued, it is not hard to see how important every single person was with their little ships and every single return trip to the beaches of Dunkirk. 

Now imagine that in the context of the billions of spirits waiting to be rescued by us. This is a long quote by President Eyring but well worth the read.

“Wilford Woodruff spoke of Joseph and Hyrum and David Patten, the first apostle to be martyred in this dispensation, and said that they had 50 times as many people to preach to as we have on the earth, and he said that in 1873. 
Think of the billions who have gone to the spirit world since then. And Lorenzo Snow, who is now preaching with them, said this in 1884: “I believe that when the gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable.
Yet, with all their faith and skill and hard labor they can only bring people to faith in the Savior and his gospel enough to give them a broken heart and a contrite spirit. They can bring them to the desire to be baptized. Then they must wait again, aching for the blessings of the gospel. Even Joseph the Prophet cannot baptize there. He cannot lay hands on their heads to confer the Holy Ghost. He cannot endow them. He cannot seal them. That can only be done by us, the living, and by those we serve in the sacred temples now spreading across the earth. 
Can you see at least in your minds the myriads waiting? Can you see those great missionaries waiting on us? Have you heard missionaries report, as I did just the other day, that the greatest joy of their lives was to baptize converts and to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost? 
But even David O. McKay and Spencer W. Kimball and Ezra Taft Benson must wait on us, with those in the spirit world they have loved and taught and converted. Imagine the joy of those who died without hearing the gospel when they looked through the veil and saw you or one of your sons or daughters knock on the door of the first of their descendants to hear of Jesus Christ, and of the restoration of His gospel and priesthood with keys.

When you help a member trying to do family history, don't see that single person. See hundreds and perhaps thousands of their ancestors who will be praying to be found and liberated. And think of the faithful missionaries who have waited with them. As you do, you will feel not only the urgency of your service but confidence that prayers, some from this side of the veil and more on the other, will be answered.”  (Elder Henry B. Eyring - An excerpt from the Training Video for Family History Leaders, May 2000)  
 We may have tiny vessels, we may feel overwhelmed, but if we can save even just a few of them is it not worth it?
It is a great work and a very rewarding work. I believe the power it gives is the power that comes when heaven and earth is directly connected. It is a divine power, the power of salvation. We are learning to be saviours in Mount Zion. The hearts of the children are turning to their fathers and as they do they will notice that the hearts of many of their fathers have been waiting anxiously for this spiritual reunion.