Monday, December 6, 2010

Standing in Holy Places

I was reading in the new Church Handbook of Instructions recently, where I came across a discussion of the role of the Church as a refuge for the Saints. In this passage was referenced a verse from section 101 of the Doctrine & Covenants--verse 22, in which we are commanded to "stand in holy places." In thinking about this idea and reading other references to it, I have come up with some thoughts that I find powerful.

But first, I would like to run through some of the verses in this section. The context of the section is important here, as the persecutions of the Missouri period were intensifying, and the sufferings of the members of the Church were taking their toll on the Saints. So the opening verses, with their discussion of affliction and chastening, are firmly rooted in the specific moment when the revelation was given.

This is followed by the promise given in verses 13-15--the scattered are gathered in, the sorrowful are comforted, the dead are raised up and exalted. These three promises are both poignant and profound, and point to all the ways in which the Atonement saves us, from our sins and wandering from God, from our sufferings, and from death itself.

The key then to receiving these blessings is to do two things: first, to "be still and know...God," and second, to "gather together, and stand in holy places." The first commandment focuses on an internal attitude whereby we create moments of peace and reflection to listen to the voice of the Spirit and acknowledge God's place in our lives.

As we do this, we then act on those blessings, and standing in holy places is a powerful way to think about this. We don't sit in holy places; we stand. We act. We claim our place among the Saints. And in so doing, we not only go to holy places like our meetinghouses and the temple, but we also create holy places in our homes and lives.

It is this trio of holy places--home, church, temple--that seems to be at the core of the new handbook. Emphasizing the central role of families, we as a Church have a responsibility to help individuals create patterns of righteousness in each home.

Church then becomes not the purpose of the gospel, but an auxiliary to the home. Classes, lessons, meetings, and activities all serve to strengthen the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children.

Worshiping together and teaching by the Spirit leads us to the temple, where our families are sealed and the blessings of eternity become real.

In some respects, I would go farther, saying that the purpose of attending ward meetings is to be worthy to attend the temple, and worshiping in the temple allows us to develop the kinds of family bonds needed to make our homes holy places.

I like that this is the direction we are going as a people, away from the structures of being a church and closer to the ultimate goal of being families that are sealed through the covenants and that strive to keep those covenants.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

1 Nephi 3

First Nephi chapter 3 is famous for Nephi's declaration of faith (verse 7) and his courage in calling his older brothers to repentance and action (verses 15-20), but I find a few other verses of note in this chapter. In particular, Laban's response to the requests of first Laman and then the entire band of Lehi's sons.

In verse 13 Laban accuses Laman of seeking to rob him and take the plates, but in verse 25 it is Laban whose greed leads him to attempt to kill Nephi and his brothers. This may be the most pointed example of hypocrisy in the scriptures.

And it points to how we often project our own sins on those around us. When we are greedy, we see everyone as a potential theif. When we lie, we can't trust others. When we are easy to anger, we expect similar behavior from others and become defensive and closed off.

The key then, it would appear, is to be humble and aware of our personal weaknesses, to not assume ourselves above any kind of sin and therefore vigilant about staying on the path, but forgiving of others' weaknesses.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Not That Book of Revelation...

For the past few weeks I have had the nagging feeling that I need to do a better job with my scripture study, which has become too casual and too unfocused. So recently I decided to begin reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning, doing a power read to finish by the end of the year. By way of confession, I have to admit that it has been too long since I have read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover, so it's clearly time to repent and get going.

And, knowing that I do my bet work when I feel the impulse to make it public, I have decided to blog some thoughts on my reading—not necessarily every day, but pretty frequently. So, here goes.

Clearly, the Book of Mormon is a book of and about revelation. A large part of the purpose of the book, as stated on the title page, is to remind God's people that ancient covenants are in effect, that things revealed in the past are alive today, and that God will continue to speak to people in our day.

But even more than the coming forth of the ancient record, the first moments of the record itself rely on revelation. By the second page of his record—a scant six verses into things—Nephi tells us about a vision his father had. And it's here that all the trouble begins; everything the follows is a result of Lehi's prayer and God's answer to it.

From here, we continue with the vision f the tree of life, King Benjamin's inspired address to his people, Abinadi's preaching and the conversion of Alma, the subsequent visionary experience and conversion of Alma the younger, the conversion of Lamoni and his people, the Holy Ghost descending on the Lamanites after Nephi and Lehi preached to them in prison, Nephi's discovery of the murder of the chief judge, and the great events of the Savior's visit to the Nephites. Each of these powerful events relies on the opening of the heavens and man receiving revealed truth from God.

And so too does the impact of the Book of Mormon function, as outlined in Moroni's promise. The confirmation of what we read through the Holy Ghost makes personal for us what was personal for each of the prophets whose testimonies fill these pages. And, as with the restoration of the gospel in modern times, it all starts with a prayer and a vision.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 5

I've fallen behind on my General Conference reactions, so it's time to finish this project and move on to something else. I'm working on some thoughts relative to our recent stake priesthood meeting, as well as some ideas I have been mulling over regarding the idea of ministering. So let's hop to this discussion.

The Sunday afternoon session of conference was the hardest to get in to. We were all kind of tired, either physically or emotionally; the kids had sat through six hours of conference addresses over two days, and two more hours was a bit much. We were listening to the online streaming, and the connection cut out a few times during the session. And the work week was looming large, and reality was going to set in soon. All of this together made paying attention a bit difficult.

But I knew were in for some good stuff. President Monson was due to give his closing remarks, and we still hadn't heard from a few members of the Quorum of the Twelve, including one of my favorite conference speakers, Elder Bednar.

I've been a big fan of Elder Bednar since we has called to the Twelve. He's smart and a bit nerdy, and I like how he was called to this position without having been a General Authority previously. And one of his first conference talks focused on what I have called the thesis statement of the Book of Mormon, and I like to think he got the idea from me somehow.

His address at this recent conference was textbook Bednar--doctrinally-solid, a bit dry in delivery, but immensely thought-provoking. And with a decent body of his talks to compare this to, it's possible to see some interesting and important themes that seem to define his teachings.

One of those themes has to be the importance of the Holy Ghost in developing a testimony and learning the things of God. I am convinced that this is among the most important doctrines for our time, as the ever-growing church requires that each member develop a deep and lasting testimony, one that is independent of the individuals who, as missionaries, teachers, or leaders, help with the process of conversion. The simple fact is that at some point these individuals will be released, will move, or will let you down, and you will then need to go it (more or less) alone.

In a hierarchy such as the church, it's easy to overlook this need for individual testimony. Since we have priesthood leaders, we sometimes think we can rely on that inspired leadership. But we can't always. In fact, our attitude ought to be the exact opposite; we should be aiming to develop our own spiritual capacities so that we can serve as that bulwark for others.

And this is where Elder Bednar's discussion of the Holy Ghost becomes so vital to us. Understanding that each of us can and must receive the spirit into our lives, first through the ordinances and covenants for which the church and its priesthood authority are so crucial, and then through ongoing, personal spiritual development gives us a clear sense of our role in personal conversion. In order to accomplish my life's purpose, I must make and then keep sacred covenants, and keeping those covenants requires me to constantly strive to listen to the spirit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 4

The Sunday morning session, like the Saturday afternoon, was a bit hard to follow along with, but I enjoyed the talks by Elder Oaks and President Monson. Elder Oaks is an iteresting fellow. When he visited our stake a few years ago, he was exceptionally jovial and funny, but he always comes across so serious in General Conference.

Similarly, his addresses are hard to pin down. They're usually intelligent and well-organized, but rarely inspiring or life-altering. Yet they age so well. A year later an idea from one of his addresses will stick to you and stick out. It's definitely a triumph of substance over style.

That's how I feel about his thoughts at this conference. The two lines of revelation--the personal and the priesthood--make for a great concept, and understanding the importance of and subtle distinction between the two is important. And, as the church grows and it becomes ever more important for every family to teach the gospel more fully in the home, this tension between the need for standardization and the importance of individual revelation will become ever more pronounced.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 3

The Priesthood session of conference was somewhat bittersweet. The messages were wonderful, and I was especially happy to see so many priesthood holders from our ward at the chapel where we watched the session (10 or so of us went out for ice cream afterwards, which was also pleasant).

But it was also a bit sad. I had been successful in getting two tickets to see this session in the Conference Center, and we had hoped to go up Salt Lake so my younger brother and I could go to the session together. The fact that we didn't go was a disappointment, and several times during the session I felt like I had failed by not being there.

The Priesthood session also makes me think about the future. In three years my oldest son will be a 12-year-old deacon, and three years after that I will have two Aaronic Priesthood-aged sons. Nine years from now our youngest will be a deacon, and each of those years should see me and my sons at the Conference Center for that session of conference.

This Priesthood session included several messages that impressed me, but none more so than that by Patrick Kearon of the Seventy, who weaved several personal experiences that highlighted his message that “complete healing and peace can be found at the feet of the Savior,” and that to achieve that we must overcome our tendency to laziness and rebelliousness.

I found in this message something that I have seen in my own life. My youthful inclination toward these two sins—which still rear their heads in my life today—limited my ability to feel the spirit. Humility and diligence, the opposites of the laziness and rebelliousness spoken of by Elder Kearon, are the things that bless my life, the attributes I wish to instill in my sons as they prepare to hold the priesthood, serve missions, and become husbands and fathers themselves. And these attributes are the things that will ultimately make me the person I ought to become.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 2

The Saturday afternoon session was a bit more difficult to follow: I was tired, the kids antsy, and the talks harder to get in to. But, as happened last April, Elder Anderson gave a great and touching address. The mighty change of heart of which he spoke resonated with what I have been thinking regarding conversion.

The idea that we can--and must--persevere, despite the tendency to be offended and to be ashamed, to shrink from the joyfulness we have felt at various times in our lives, gives me a sense of not only how I can hang on in difficult times, but also of how we can reach out to those who have lost the way.

Our ward is made of over 1000 members, and since we average about 250 in attendance every Sunday, we have over 750 less-active, inactive, and estranged members. Our missionary work must focus primarily on finding those who are lost, and our conversion must begin with those who at some time or another felt the Holy Ghost.

I think a careful and thorough rereading of Alma chapter 5 is in order...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

General Conference Reflections, Part 1

Every six months or so I start to feel a sense of lethargy and discontent, and it's only when I remember that General Conference is a few weeks away that I realize how much I benefit from the regularity of this part of my religion, this semiannual opportunity to recharge my spirituality. So it is that as September came to a close I felt anxious and ready for something, and over the past week I have been looking forward to this conference.

My relationship with General Conference has changed a lot since I was a teenager and I would go the Priesthood session broadcast with Dad on Saturday and not much else. We didn't get any at-home broadcasts of conference, and I think we saw the first weekend each in April and October as a mini-vacation.

At BYU I came to appreciate conference, and I was able to attend few session in the Tabernacle during my freshman year. On my mission conference was a belated event (most of my time in Italy was spent far from a stake center with the broadcast, so we would watch a video tape a few weeks later). But on those occasions when I did get to go to the broadcast, it was a pilgrimage, a chance to sacrifice to hear from prophets.

My adult life has involved a range of experiences: I've gone to the Conference Center a few times, we've watched broadcasts on TV when we lived in Provo, we've gone to a stake center a few times, and we've listened to the streaming online a lot. Recently we've gravitated toward listening online, and even the kids have come to look forward to a lazy weekend together.

This is followed a few days later by the audio files, which I load onto my iPod and burn to CDs for Summer and the kids to listen to in the car and at home. I spend a lot of time for a month or so after conference listening to the messages.

This conference, however, I want to try something new. For each session of conference I intend to write some quick impressions. I'd like to expand on this over the next few weeks with some more detailed blogging on themes and topics that stand out to me.

So, to start, here's what stood out from Saturday morning's session. I was impressed with Elder Christofferson's talk on consecration, an idea that I have to admit has been on my mind recently. Ever since Summer and I have increased our temple attendance, I've felt that life has been smoother. It's not easy, but we seem more capable of facing those challenges with grace and calm.

But I realize the addictive nature of spirituality—the more you get it, the more you need it. My slip-ups now seem like pretty minor stuff compared with the mistakes I made 10 years ago, but they seem to affect me more. I find myself working harder than ever to do more than ever. But—and here's the blessing part of it all—I feel more capable of doing what I need to do.

I don't think I'm that far on the path toward consecration, but I do feel good about the direction my family and I are going, and I see some very real and very powerful blessings in our home and in our lives of late. And that fact gives me great hope as Summer and I strive to live even better, that these small acts will bring blessings to us and our children, and to those we love and serve.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Conversion

I have been thinking a lot recently about change; there's a lot afoot at work, my children are growing at an ever-quickening rate, and in our ward we see great promise and great challenge. It's simultaneously exhilarating and frightening, and I find that much of my day is spent examining, pondering, and selling change, to myself and others.

In this context I read the account of what follows King Benjamin's world-changing sermon to his people. After bearing his testimony of the Savior, Benjamin looks out at the people he loves and sees what he could have only hoped for.

Mormon describes the scene thusly: "They had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

Clearly, humility is a key component of our response to gospel truths. (This reminds me of a great exchange I had with my father some years ago. Me: "Dad, you're one of the humblest people I know." Dad (without missing a beat): "And proud of it.") In order to accept change in our lives, we have to accept that something is less than ideal in how we live our lives.

The people then call out, giving voice to the humility they have manifested: "And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ."

Seen in the context of my earlier discussion of the thesis statement of the Book of Mormon, the fact that the people call first and foremost for mercy through the grace of Christ is important.

The effects of this expression of humility and reliance on the grace of God comes next: "after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ."

And as the people are touched by the Spirit and forgiven for their sins, they are converted. They change their very nature, both in this moment and in the days and months and years to come. This is the kind of change that is meaningful, the kind of change that makes a difference in our lives. And as we grapple with change, we find the greatest hope for real change--change that we need in our individual lives, our relationships and families, our wards and neighborhoods and nations--as we accept our weaknesses and rely on something greater than ourselves to be truly, fully converted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Spiritual Strength

On Sunday we had two high councilors visit our ward to speak, and both of their talks we inspiring and helped me better understand the theme for this month, which is "taking the spirit as our guide." I've been thinking of this theme in the context of Nephi's experience going back for the brass plates, but one of our speakers took us in a very different and enlightening direction that I would like to pursue further here.

Working off the parable of the ten virgins, our speaker explored the symbol of the oil as spiritual strength, which he then connected to President Packer's 2010 General Conference address about priesthood power. In this context, spiritual strength becomes analogous with not just the authority, but also the power of the priesthood as exercised in faith.

But for me the most meaningful part of this message was the reference to D&C 45:57, where this parable is explored in greater depth. Here we read that "they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day." Here the wise five "have received the truth and taken the Spirit as their guide," which would mean they have cultivated personal spiritual strength through the exercise of faith in their daily lives.

I think then about this in the context of our ward and this simple fact: we have 1000 members and over 50 active, temple recommend-worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders, three times the numbers required for a ward. Obviously, as our stake president has told us repeatedly, we need to be working to split this ward. Priesthood advancements and reactivation are part of this. But so too is the act of training each husband and father to step up and develop this sort of spiritual strength.

This message then ought to inspire each of us to be ready to serve and lead in ways that we may not be comfortable with. And the day will come (soon, I believe) when we are not just talking about two wards where now there is one, but a stake centered in this part of town, and men who are now leading quorums and teaching classes will be in bishoprics and a stake presidency.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The First in an On-Going Discussion of Faith

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the idea of faith, and particularly the idea of taking a leap of faith, demonstrating faith regarding an unknown, uncertain, intimidating choice by acting. This line of thought has been influenced by some reading I've done and some events in the ward and my own life, and today some things came together.

The theme for the month in our stake is taking the spirit for our guide, and the idea of being led by the spirit was explained well by this week's speakers. And while they were talking, I began thinking about some scriptures.

The first--kind of an obvious one in this context--is 1 Nephi 4:6-7, as Nephi returns to the city to get the records of his family. Nephi, being young and impetuous (and a bit over-confident), didn't really have a plan. But still he acts, as he explains: "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth."

Doing some further reading, I found myself in D&C section 38, which holds several pithy bits of LDS belief. But an especially profound idea caught my eye in verse 33, where we read that the Lord's disciples "shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand."

I'm impressed here with several things. First is the idea of the Lord leading us, which echoes what Nephi says and does nicely. The next ting I notice is the idea of being empowered, and, in fact, several other verses in this section refer directly to the command to build a temple and be endowed with power from on high. With that endowment, we are given the great promise that the work we are involved in cannot be thwarted.

Finally, the work that the Lord lays out in this verse is powerful: "Israel shall be saved." There are obviously a number of important interpretations of this idea, from the literal gathering of Israel to the restoration of the keys given to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland temple.

But for me, this promise is all about what we have been asked to focus on as a ward and a stake, to rescue those who have gone astray. I use these two verbs--"save" and "rescue"--interchangeably, and given that we are, as members of the church, a covenant people and part of the House of Israel, then those who have lost sight of the gospel, who are not enduring to the end and keeping those covenants, truly need to be saved.

Seen this way, the promise of this verse is precisely what we need. As we receive power from God in the temple--and by extension through keeping those temple covenants, particularly to sacrifice our time and efforts--we are guided by the spirit. This leads us then to save God's children, both members of the church who have lost faith and hope, and those who have not yet made the saving covenants of the gospel.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paradigms of Conversion

Here's a link to a pipedreams presentation on the organs of Utah. This is one of my favorite public radio shows (especially for Sunday) and an interesting topic. Check it out.

It's a source of great pride and humor that as a Church we entrust a good part of our growth to inexperienced young men and women. The perhaps apocryphal quote from J. Golden Kimble is one of my all time favorites as it speaks to a real truth. We send boys and girls into a world about which they know very little and for which they are barely prepared to stand as representatives of the Church. Yet the system works by and large. It does so because of the Holy Ghost and the capacity the Lord grants all his servants to work beyond their natural abilities. We could go into the many miracles that we've all seen but I think I'll leave that to those who are better at writing inspirational posts than I.

I did want to point out something that occurred to me the other night while reading the missionary accounts of the sons of Mosiah. When they first arrived amongst the Lamanites all the brothers but Ammon followed what I think is the common inclination of missionaries. They went to preach to those with whom they thought they should share a common language, that is the Nephite apostates dwelling amongst the Lamanites. Now we all know the story, only one convert from the entire group.

Ammon on the other hand went to a people that were completely devoid of understanding of Nephite religion. From a philosophy of science perspective you would consider this the difference of paradigms. While they could speak of God they would do so using different languages. Despite these differences Ammon converted masses amongst the Lamanites.

This paradigmatic difference is seen even more sharply when you consider King Lamoni's father. The words he uses when he's praying following Aaron's teaching are these "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me." These are not the words of someone who comes from a common tradition but of someone who's religion is totally alien to the one being taught. In modern terms it is analogous to teaching non-Christians or those not religious.

The advantage that I see for the sons of Mosiah, is that by teaching a group completely devoid of understanding of "Nephite faith" they were able to: 1. start from the beginning and lay the whole panorama of salvation out, and 2. avoid the misapprehensions that so often cloud conversion by those coming a different branch of the same paradigm-tree. Pedagogically I don't think this means that we should change our teaching methods but I certainly think it means that we shouldn't prejudge those who would be receptive to gospel truths.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Temple Covenants

In a recent entry I referred to D&C 88:121, in which we are commanded to "cease from all [our] light speeches, from all laughter, from all [our] lustful desires, from all [our] pride and light-mindedness, and from all [our] wicked doings." Today I would like to revisit and expand on this idea.

I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about this commandment, especially in conjunction with temple covenants. I was fortunate over my recent break to be able to go to the temple several times, an experience that allowed me to really focus on temple worship and its role in my life.

Chief among my thoughts has been the series of covenants made during the endowment. And I see in them--both their content and the order of the covenants--a pattern for my life. In reviewing how well I keep each of those covenants I am better able to see both how far I have come as a member of the church, and where I need to improve.

For example, I have promised the Lord to live a certain way, to avoid a kind of boisterousness, to be reverent in my behavior toward sacred things. But I don't always do that, and I tend to be casual with regards to my spirituality. That, then, is a covenant that I need to work to keep more fully.

This is helpful to me as I ponder the other covenants I have made, especially to sacrifice. In particular, I feel that I need to make meaningful sacrifices of my time and interests for the good of my wife and children. The most important thing I can do for them, I believe, he most meaningful sacrifice I can make, is to be more virtuous in how I act, to invite the spirit into our home and lives more consistently and powerfully so that they will be aware of how the spirit can and will guide them throughout their lives.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More on Gospel Teaching

Continuing on with a discussion from earlier in the week, I want to go back to D&C 88, starting with verse 119, where we read the oft-quoted passage, "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God," which can easily be applied to our teaching in the church by replacing the word "house" (which itself can apply to our homes and the temple, among other things) with "class."

Other teachings in the next few verse also have clear applicability to formal teaching settings. Verse 122, for example: "Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege." Sounds like a good piece of class management theory.

Similarly, verse 120 has good advice about focusing the teaching by keeping an objective in mind: "That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord." By opening and closing with prayer we frame the learning experience with the proper context and purpose.

But less obvious lessons are also found in these verses. For example, in verse 121 we are told to "cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings." I will have more on this later, but the importance of establishing a learning environment that is conducive to being taught by the spirit is an important part of good teaching. This can be as simple as how the room is arranged or more profound, like the demeanor you have as a teacher and your relationship with the members of your class.

But I believe the most important thing we can know about gospel teaching comes from verse 123, where we read, "See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires." Caring for those you teach and knowing them individually is, in my opinion, the most crucial thing a teacher can do. Knowing the personalities and needs of our class members allows us to not just teach a lesson, but to teach a person.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Mormon Guilt

Here's another talk. I swear someday I'll write something original.

My wife has some of the best experiences around. In comparison my life and stories are dull and uninteresting. As such I’m appropriating one of her stories for this talk.

Carolyn was at work a couple years ago when two of her co-workers came into her office and as seems to happen often to her, they started discussing something completely non-work related. The two women started discussing their upbringings. One of them was raised Catholic and the other Jewish. As if this was a bad joke the conversation became a debate. Now this was not a doctrinal debate but a debate about which was worse, Catholic or Jewish guilt. As the pair left Carolyn’s office she overheard one of them ask the other “do you think there’s such a thing as Mormon guilt?”

I bring this up because in my conversations with friends who have left the Church this is a recurring theme. They bring up the idea that our meetings are depressing and that they feel like we as a people lay the guilt on a pretty thick. I personally don’t understand this. The expectation is only that we be perfect in dress, job, family, calling, home teaching, meeting attendance, missionary work, the commandments, and genealogy. Also there’s the whole class of “fun things” we can’t do because “we’re Mormon”. That’s not too much to ask right? I certainly have never fallen short of this, ask my home teaching families….well maybe not this month.

In his first talk after being called into the 1st quorum of the 70, Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave in my mind the quintessential talk on “Mormon Guilt”. He addressed his remarks to “those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short[1].”

Who are these falsely insecure? Basically all of us who ever experience that moment of disquiet coming from the buffetings of Satan. Any of us who feel that we not only don’t, but can never match up to the perfection of the ideal Mormon, whoever that is. As Elder Maxwell said: [there are many of us who], “would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties [but] have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves, a judge who stubbornly refuses to admit much happy evidence and who cares nothing for due process[2].” In another place he said that “many times our perpetual self-condemnation is like setting up a mental video that never stops. Over again, it replays the painful past as we sink lower into despair.”

How can we reconcile this with what the scriptures teach us? Look at 2 Nephi 2:25. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

This, next to Benjamin’s famous quote on service, is perhaps the most quoted verse in the Book of Mormon. Yet this verse does not guarantee us joy. I think that Lehi was trying to tell us the exact opposite. The language here is conditional. The first clause “Adam fell that men might be” teaches clearly that the existence of Mankind was contingent upon Adam’s fall. We know this very well. The second clause is equally important though. Men are that they might have joy. Might have joy? Why not just guarantee joy or command us to be joyful? Perhaps “Adam fell that men might be; and men are to have a good laugh and always be happy”. The problem is that our joy is contingent upon another condition. What is that? Well I’m not going to tell you yet because I still have more time to fill.

There are circumstances in life where right choices can lead to sadness and heartbreak. Making good choices might, cost us friends, jobs, and for many converting to the gospel even family. There are a plethora of scriptural examples of men and women who though they lived right, still struggled with this part of the human condition. I could list many of them but I want to look at two cases that we don’t usually include in the lens of guilt and sorrow.

In 1 Nephi 8, Lehi famously sees a vision of the tree of life. Now there’s a lot of reason for this being important, not least that the tree of life did play a part in the earliest forms of temple worship. To Lehi, a man now exiled from his home, in a culture that said the true temple was the one in Jerusalem, I imagine this vision would have been a cause of great joy.

In any event we know the story. Lehi is in a waste, calling upon God he beholds a tree who’s “fruit was desirable to make one happy.[3] He goes up, picks the fruit, eats it, and finding joy in the fruit he calls his family to join him and rejoice in the fruit of the tree. For Lehi the burden of guilt and sorrow lies in his inability to bring his eldest sons to experience the salutatory grace, for that’s really what it is, of the fruit of the tree.

Nephi’s vision is similar but differs in a substantive way. Desiring to know what his father beheld Nephi prayed to “behold the things which [his] father saw[4].” The Spirit came to him in the form of a man and showed him the tree and placed before Nephi in v.10 a choice, “What desirest thou?”

Here is I think a cross-roads in Nephi’s life and a great lesson for all of us (See Grant Hardy’s “Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide” for a more thorough analysis of this). Nephi could have asked to experience the vision of the tree. To, like his father, partake of the fruit and feel the joy his father felt. Instead Nephi asks, “To know the interpretation thereof.[5]

At this point in the story, the Spirit leaves Nephi and an angel comes. I’m guessing there’s a great meaning in this, which I don’t fully understand. Nephi sees the tree and learns that it was a “representation of the love of God.[6] Indeed Nephi sees the meaning of all the parts of his father’s vision. Yet, I believe in some ways this was a burden.

Lehi tasted the fruit of the tree and partook and rejoiced in the redemptive love of his God. Nephi saw in vision that the fruit of the love of God was the atonement of the Son of God. While this is great knowledge and important for us all, He saw the children of Israel, the people that his father had tried to save through preaching, crucify the Son of God.

But the vision didn’t end there, he saw in vision his own descendents destroyed by the descendents of his brothers. He saw all his progeny reject the gospel that he held so dear. While the sadness that must have accompanied this was tempered by the vision of the restoration of the gospel and the building up of the kingdom in the last day, I cannot imagine that the burden was any less great. Indeed he tells us as much in the last chapter of 2 Nephi, where he says that he “prays continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them”.

Both Nephi and Lehi carried a burden, one that many of us carry, the burden of having lost family and friends who at one time rejoiced in the fruit of the gospel. Nephi carried the burden of knowing that despite all his preaching there were countless descendents of his who would never respond to the sweet fruit that his father knew so well, just as we have so many friends who will not respond to the message of the gospel. This is the burden of Mormon Guilt, where despite doing everything we’re supposed to we’ve still somehow failed.

In the end both Lehi and Nephi bore burdens that those of us suffering under the weight of Mormon Guilt would understand. They tried their best and yet fell short of the standard that is human nature to set for oneself. The standard where we expect absolute perfection in everything we do and absolute perfection. We, like Lehi and Nephi, take upon ourselves guilt for things over which we truly cannot control.

Yet despite the sadness that Nephi experienced, he did not entirely despair. Look at the exultant language of 2 Nephi 25:26.

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

Nephi found joy in Christ. This was one of the last lessons his father taught him. Let’s go back to that famous couplet in chapter 2 of 2 Nephi.

25Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. (2 Nephi 2:25-6)

The Messiah coming is the condition of joy. Only in and through the redemptive power of the atonement can men truly find the joy the Lord intends for us in this creation. Ezra Taft Benson said: “Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family.” In the end only atonement brings the relief from our shortcomings those self-perceived failures we all have, and will lift away the burden of “Mormon Guilt”.

[1] Neal A. Maxwell, Friday Morning October 1976, LDS General Conference.

[2] Ibid.

[3] 1 Nephi 8:10

[4] 1 Nephi 11:3

[5] 1 Nephi 11:10-11

[6] 1 Nephi 11:25

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Special Musical Post

In sacrament meeting Sunday we sang as our opening hymn #85, "How Firm a Foundation," which is one of my favorite hymns. But every time we sing this hymn in a meeting I am disappointed that we only sing the first three verses, when, in reality, the best stuff is found in the four additional verses listed on the second page. Today I want to explore these verses a bit.

First, however, I want to look at Isaiah 43:1-2. Here the Lord speaks to his people, saying "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." These words of comfort and hope are echoed then in the words of the hymn.

Let's start with verse 4: "When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow, for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress." The imagery of the water, reminiscent of Lehi's dream and the river of filthiness, is powerful. We often feel in this life like we are drowning, over our heads in the things we face.

But there is also a connection to the symbolism of baptism here, an image that comes up again in the next verse of the hymn. Here we read, "When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply, the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

Here the idea of baptism continues with the baptism of fire, which burns away the old self, leaving a renewed one. And the promise again is that of Isaiah, that the flame shall not kindle upon us. We are not drowned by the water, nor consumed by the fire, but renewed by each.

The next verse of the hymn speaks of enduring faithfully to the end: "E'en down to old age, my people shall prove my sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love; and then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn, like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne." Few other passages in prose or poetry speak such comfort and peace to me as this promise.

Finally, we come to the last verse: "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, no cannot, desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no never, no never forsake."

A note on pronouns. This hymn employs the first person frequently to serve as voice for the Savior, with the second person "you" referring to each of us. But I find a shift in this verse, as the "I" becomes faithful disciples and the third person referring to both Deity and one's fellow saints.

I am reminded here of the emphasis we hear at every priesthood meeting to rescue. In my mind, the idea of leaning on the Savior for repose applies to all who have made sacred covenants, and even when the world would crush them with sin, despair, and hopelessness, we are called on to succor, to never abandon.

The line "I will not, no cannot, desert" speaks to me, both as a priesthood leader and as a parent. No matter what those I love may do, my obligation is to serve and, if possible, help save.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Gospel Teaching

For the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about gospel teaching, particularly in the context of class settings at church. I think our ward is in a good place when it comes to our teachers: we have called some excellent teachers over the past year or so, and most organizations are fully staffed and have good teachers in key positions.

It is with this backdrop that I am thinking about the move from emergencies (getting people called and committed to their teaching) to progress (helping good teachers learn from each other). I am especially interested in focusing on how we can teach the gospel more effectively by inviting the spirit to guide us as we prepare lessons and teach in our classes.

To this end, I have been looking over some of the church materials related to improving gospel teaching, including Teaching, No Greater Call and the Teaching Guidebook. Both are solid--if unexciting--resources that highlight the important principles of effective teaching. And from them I have found some valuable ideas for helping each of us become better as teachers.

In reading through these materials, I was taken to D&C section 88, a juggernaut of a section that covers a range of topics and provides us with several key teachings on the subject of teaching the gospel. I begin with verses 77 and 78: "teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God."

I'm interested here in the adverbs. (And, as long as we're on the topic, aren't adverbs great? It may be because I just read some Bill Bryson--the master of adverbs, but I'm feeling especially fond of adverbs these days.) The first that I notice is "diligently," which is how we ought to approach the calling to teach. We need to prepare diligently so that we can be ready to respond to the needs of our class members, often by ditching what we have prepared when acted on by the spirit to improvise.

The second--and, admittedly, tougher--adverb here is "perfectly," which, in this verse, describes how we are to be instructed. Kind of a tall order, if you ask me. Even on my best days as an educator, when things come together well and I'm firing on all cylinders, I don't think I'd describe my teaching as perfect. I'm always looking to do something better, to improve on that one rough part of the lesson.

But then I think about the footnote to Matthew 5:48, where the Greek origin for "perfect" is noted as meaning "complete, finished, fully developed." So, rather than viewing my teaching according to the standard of being flawless--which it will never be--I should think about completeness. If I have helped my students accomplish a meaningful objective, to understand and commit to live a gospel principle more fully, then I can view that teaching situation as being perfect in some sense.

Another meaningful passage from this section comes a few pages (seriously--this is a long section) later, starting in verse 118: "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."

Again, we see the adverb "diligently" used here to describe how we are to seek wisdom. But more than that is the source of the wisdom--"the best books." This is the sort of verse used by English majors at BYU to justify why we are reading literature instead of earning an MBA or going to law school, and we'd get kind of smug about how we were adhering to scripture in deconstructing Heart of Darkness or Faulkner's novels.

But, in the context of gospel teaching, the best sources we have to work with are clearly the scriptures. I am a strong believer that the best lessons draw heavily from the scriptures, that reading and analyzing even a few verses is among the most valuable things we can do in our teaching. In addition to focusing on the doctrine and inviting the spirit into the lesson (all admirable goals), this also models for class members the importance of reading, studying, and reflecting on scriptures. This is an especially important element of teaching children and youth.

One final thought in closing, by way of exploring this final point in more depth. Last Monday Evan had the assignment to do the Family Home Evening lesson, so he and I looked over the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and chose a topic for his lesson. He opted for the topic of family, so we went to 1 Nephi chapter 8, verses 8-12.

As we read through this passage, we discussed how Lehi's first impulse after tasting of the fruit was to share it with his family. Using this as a point of departure, we discussed the symbolism of the tree, which has both roots stretching down and branches extending out, like a family, and how the fruits of a happy family are joy and the love of God. In just a few minutes of reading and discussing, we were able to dig deeply into an important doctrine (eternal families) and explore how the Book of Mormon gives us insight into that doctrine. I then had the chance to bear testimony to my children of the importance of the sealing power that allows our family to continue through the eternities, and how knowing that gives me a greater perspective in dealing with the trials and sorrows of life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2 Nephi Chapter 11

I'm finding that most of my personally meaningful insights into the scriptures these days come not from my personal scripture study, but from our family reading of the Book of Mormon. Part of this may be a factor of the time of day; we're reading together in the evening, and the quiet of reflection after the kids are in bed is perhaps better for me that the hecticness of reading on my own while commuting to work and then being thrust into the office and classroom.

Regardless of its cause, I'm enjoying what I see in 2 Nephi. Last Friday night the kids and I read 2 Nephi chapter 11, where Nephi repeats four times a phrase that impressed me: "my soul delighteth." Those three words seem to encapsulate much of what I think is crucial in our spiritual journey, the fact that we can find joy in the reality of the atonement and the promises it brings to each of us and to our families.

The second iteration of this phrase, found in verse 5, is to me the most significant, as the covenants of the Lord are at the core of the gospel, and understanding those covenants is the fundamental element of our conversion and spiritual growth.

In the context of this verse, this idea is especially poignant, as Nephi declares that his soul delights in God's grace, justice, power, and mercy, and "in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death."

Obviously I am going to highlight this as further support for the thesis statement of the Book of Mormon (note, for example, how Nephi sews mercy and deliverance together once more), but the connection between what Nephi says here and what his younger brother taught a few chapters earlier is also important. Nephi had taught this idea, but he is also learning from Jacob's testimony and building on that.

The message of constantly learning and developing a deeper testimony is meaningful to me, as I find myself learning from my children at the same time that they learn from me and Summer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

2 Nephi chapter 9, Part II

Continuing on with our discussion of 2 Nephi chapter 9, let us now go to verses 10-13, where Jacob lays out very clearly the purpose and nature of the atonement, an explanation that forms the foundation for later Book of Mormon teachings regarding the atonement. Here Jacob explores the need for and effects of the atonement of Christ.

The first key to these verses is Jacob's distinction between physical and spiritual death, what he refers to as "the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit." This serves as a useful model for what Jacob goes on to teach about the atonement, and I think this is the earliest reference in the Book of Mormon to this important distinction.

But what I find really powerful in this passage is how Jacob's explanation of the atonement mirrors what Nephi says in what I have previously referred to as the thesis statement of the Book of Mormon. Looking back at 1 Nephi 1:20, we see the emphasis on God delivering the chosen because of their faith, the idea that we are promised freedom as we exercise faith in Christ.

This concept is repeated throughout these verses, where we find these words: escape, deliverance, deliver, and captive. Building on Nephi's discussion of his own deliverance from death and the liberation of the children of Israel from Egypt, Jacob here gives us the most important freedom of all--freedom from our own mortality and frailty.

Knowing that the resurrection will repair all the inequities and pains of mortal life gives us the perspective to focus on eternal things. And knowing that we can be forgiven for our sins through the atonement gives us hope enough to overcome the sorrows of our own mistakes.

This dual redemption is crucial to LDS theology, and this multi-layered conceptualization of salvation is, to me at least, the most plain and precious of the truths restored through the Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2 Nephi 9, Part I

For the past few days, our family scripture study has had us working our way through 2 Nephi chapter 9, one of the fundamental passages of our theology, and I have been impressed by several points as I have read. In particular, Jacob's treatment of the atonement is both impressive and profound.

But before continuing on to explore Jacob's discussion of the infinite atonement that restores us through the resurrection (and if you think I'm going to connect verses 10 and 11 to 1 Nephi 1:20, well, then you know me pretty well...), I would like to touch on someting I mentioned at the close of sacrament meeting on Sunday.

It comes from verse 5, where Jacob tells his people, "I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came." This is a common rhetorical device, akin to the phrase "in fact," which is often used to introduce an opinion rather than a fact. It consists of telling someone they know something they might not actually know, or might not realize they know. It's effective because it shows a high level of respect for your audience, a consideration of how they are on the same plane as you, while simultaneously convincing them unknowingly that your opinion is really a universal fact.

What Jacob accomplishes in this line is to bear his testimony and awaken his listeners to their own testimony. By joining the speaker and the audience, Jacob is able to emphasize the common humanity, the joint inheritance as fallen mankind, and their shared need for the atonement he will go on to explicate.

In this I find a model for what we do as we teach the gospel, whether in a missionary setting, in a church class, or in our own homes. We know the truth of the gospel, and something of that truth dwells in each person's heart. As we remind others of what they know--but may not know they know--we join with them, communing soul to soul.

In so doing, we invite the spirit to join in our testimony. We know something to be true, and by asserting that, we help others recognize (a word that itself comes from Latin roots meaning "to know again") truth and the spiritual manifestation of truth.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Spiritual Gifts---A Talk

Here's a talk I gave a couple years ago. I just stumbled on it cleaning the computer and was surprised how insightful I can sometimes be (Carolyn must have wrote it for me):

I. Introduction
Let me start with my mea culpa. I am not a reverent person. I know this takes many of you by surprise. My dulcet tones and softspokenness are legendary. But the reality is that I have the attention span of a squirrel who got into your neighbor’s coffee rinds. I don’t sit still during church or work or home, I’m constantly inattentive (ask my wife) and when I do pay attention I too often am over-analyzing the message being delivered.

My inattentiveness is coupled with a great dislike of anything that makes me uncomfortable. People crying for example, I don’t know how to react to that, I think you should only cry at funerals and if you win a sporting event. Unfortunately sometimes these two great flaws in my personality come together at church where I myself drifting off into the nether world of my imagination only to be brought back to earth by hearing someone tell of a dream, vision, or other spiritual experience.

Devoid of the context of the experience I find myself lost and a bit uncomfortable because I have forgotten the greatest advice the Lord has given us regarding our spiritual experiences. That we should
Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation. (D&C 63:64)
With the faults in my personality I find I often do not know how to react to stories of great spiritual experiences and of spiritual gifts being received. Worse and I think this is a failing for many of us, I don’t always know how to share my own experiences and so I keep my experiences, and the spiritual gifts the Lord has given me close to my chest.

Yet they are there for each of us who receives the gospel and the redeeming power of the atonement into our life. Said Orson Pratt of the matter:
Whenever the Holy Ghost takes up its residence in a person, it not only cleanses, sanctifies, and purifies him, in proportion as he yields himself to its influence, but also imparts to him some gift, intended for the benefit of himself and others. No one who has been born of the Spirit, and who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a spiritual gift. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses, 539)
If we were to parse this statement there are layers of insight we could glean, but let’s focus on these words regarding the effect of the Holy Ghost on us “in proportion as he yields himself to its influence…imparts to him some gift…for the benefit of himself and others.”

II. Testimony as Revelation
Now obviously that proportion must begin with faith. Most of us know Alma 32 and the idea of faith as a seed growing within us. I think it’s interesting that the story of King Lamoni’s father shows us that faith starts with a desire, but that’s another talk entirely.

Yet once faith has grown within us, and we have followed the counsel to read the scriptures, and we have knelt in humble prayer, the Lord has promised us that he will confirm the truth unto us by the gift of the Holy Ghost. Millions have done this and the truth has been manifest to them. The way iin which the Lord speaks to them, it is important to note, differs greatly from person to person. Yet how many of us appreciate this almost ineffable experience (though we don’t use that term in the church) for what it really is.
No man can be saved unless and until he receives revelation. Revelation is the rock foundation upon which true religion and personal salvation rest…This revelation is called a testimony of the gospel. But a testimony is only the beginning of revelation. The recipient has just begun to drink at the fountain of revealed truth. He has but opened the door to an immeasurably great storehouse of spiritual knowledge. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Rock of Salvation, October 1969)
That moment of insight when we know the truthfulness of the gospel, the Book of Mormon, and the prophets of God is revelation. It is the first of the spiritual gifts given to men and women everywhere. And as Bruce R. McConkie states, it is but the opening of the door to an immeasurably great storehouse.

Indeed the scriptures are rife with examples of these spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12, Moroni 10, D & C 46, and A of F 7, all contain lists of gifts available to those who are baptized and yield themselves to the influence of the Holy Ghost. What’s included in these lists? Well you all know the biggies: tongues, prophecy, revelations, visions, dreams, healing, mighty miracles, etc. these and many more are given to the Saints as the scripture says
9… for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
Paul echoed this sentiment in his chapter on Spritual Gifts when he stated:
12 For as the body [meaning the church] is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
Each of us has gifts given to us at baptism some enumerated in our patriarchal blessings some that we come to know overtime in our lives. Personally I count my lack of fear in giving talks as one of mine with which the Lord blessed me. But holding onto our gifts without using them for the benefit of others robs us of many blessings. As one commentator put it:
The genius of this system of divine distribution of gifts is that all of us are in a position to be instructed, blessed, and edified by others. None of us can enjoy a fullness of the outpourings of the Spirit in isolation of the body of the Saints. (McConkie, Millet, The Holy Ghost, 54)
III. Accessing the Power of Heaven
Now let’s be frank, sometimes the scriptural accounts of the manifestations of spiritual gifts or even the accounts of Joseph in the early days of the Church seem incredible and outside our reach. LeGrand Richards mentioned this in a talk many years ago.
A statement reached us…a few days ago from one of our educators who…made this statement: “I don’t know whether it would be proper for us to teach our young people to read Leaves from My Journal, by Wilford Woodruff, for fear they might expect similar spiritual experiences, and be disappointed.”

I wonder if there are really very many Latter-day Saints who would be afraid to promise unto the youth of Zion the spiritual gifts and blessings that God, the Eternal Father Himself, has promised.

We cannot offer our young people the Bible as the word of God, or the standard Church works, and believe only a small portion of that which is written therein.

You brethren do not need to be afraid to promise your children or the youth of Zion that the blessings and gifts of the Holy Ghost will be theirs if they will live for them. You do not have to fulfill these promises. God, the Eternal Father, who made them, will fulfill them. (LeGrand Richards, The Promise unto the Children October 1943)
What a spectacular promise and it is all dependent upon us living for them. Like so many other things in the gospel, the gifts of the Spirit depend on the faithfulness of the one receiving. Does this mean simple and exact obedience to the commandments should qualify us for any and all spiritual gifts? I don’t think so. Listen to what Orson Pratt said on the matter.
I have thought the reason why we have not enjoyed these gifts more fully is, because we have not sought for them as diligently as we ought. I speak for one, I have not sought as diligently as I might have done…I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass; but as to seeing things as a seer, and beholding heavenly things in open vision, I have not attained to these things. And who is to blame for this? Not the Lord; not brother Joseph—they are not to blame. And so it is with the promises made to you in your confirmations and endowments, and by the patriarchs, in your patriarchal blessings; we do not live up to our privileges as saints of God and elders of Israel; for though we receive many blessings that are promised to us, we do not receive them in their fullness, because we do not seek for them as diligently and faithfully as we should. (Orson Pratt, A Church of Order, May 1878)
We should seek for these blessings, especially those to which we have already been promised in our temples and our patriarchal blessings. Further as we live the covenants we have made to consecrate ourselves and our talents and gifts to the Church and kingdom we will bring blessings of our spiritual gifts to those who might not have the same. The D&C makes quite clear how important this service and interaction is in the first two gifts it lists in section 46.
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
Without the first the second would be lost in this case.

IV. Culmination of gifts
In consort with one another in the body of the church and in the lives of all the Saints, the gifts of the spirit can and should have a perfecting effect. With them, those that heal can heal, those that can teach the word of knowledge with power can do so, those that are blessed with a listening heart can listen and help bare the burdens of their fellow saints.

Ultimately all gifts of the spirit lead to that day when the veil is burst and our salvation is assured, by revelation and that we shall as Bruce R. McConkie says “have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend us or to appear to us from time to time, and until even he will manifest the Father unto us.”

He continued with this statement:
I know man can commune with his Maker, can petition the throne of grace and receive answers to his prayers because I have done so.

I know man can receive revelations, because I have received them. God has spoken to me, not for the guidance of the Church, not for your benefit, but for mine. The same thing has or can or should happen in the life of every member of his kingdom. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Rock of Salvation, October 1969)
This revelation, beginning with testimony, which he speaks of, should happen to every member of the Church. I know it’s happened to me, and it can happen to all of us. We just need to be more direct. We need to ask not just for nebulous help but specific blessings. We need to recognize the diversity of spiritual gifts that have already been granted us, and we need to follow the example the Savior gave us in referring to the light of the gospel. Like that light, we should not put the light of the gifts which we have been given under a bushel, but use it to illuminate the lives of our fellow saints.

For me, my gifts are not of visions and dreams, but the Lord has blessed me richly with a knowledge of the gospel and has allowed me to cull insights from places that many wouldn’t think to look. But as great as that blessing is in my life, it is the testimony based on revelation that succors me. It is those moments of pure insight brought by the Holy Ghost which leads me (and led me here). And it is the promise of section 93:1 that if I am faithful in all these things, I may see His face and know that He is, which drives me to my ultimate goal of exaltation.