Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Elder Oaks, U2, and D&C 4

I appreciated Elder Oaks' talk in this past conference ("Desire"), not least of all because I like old-school U2, and I had that song running through my mind from the moment--about 15 seconds into the talk--when he announced the topic of his remarks.

(As a side note, Elder Oaks is a funny man. He seems so formal in General Conference, but when he visited our stake a few years ago, he was making jokes and having a grand old time. It was kind of surreal, to be honest.)

Back to my topic. The talk was good, and the idea that our challenge in life is to align our desires with God's to train ourselves to want what is truly important and significant impressed me greatly.

Yesterday I noticed something interesting during High Priest group meeting. We were discussing missionary work, and as part of the lesson, we looked closely at D&C 4. One of the things that was emphasized was verse 3: "If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work."

It's not our ability or talent that qualify us to serve; it's our desire. And, to paraphrase Neal Maxwell, once we prove our willingness to serve, showing the depth of our desire, we are magnified to become what God wants of us. We grow to meet the demands of the thing we desire to do.

In relationship to Elder Oaks' talk then, I am beginning to see how if we want to serve God, He lets us because He knows that this will allow us to overcome our natural desires, learn to sacrifice, and, in time, desire what is best for ourselves and others.

Bonus reading--Alma 30:9

Friday, May 6, 2011

D&C 58

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the idea of obedience. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised to hear that this has never been one of my strong points. My tendency to be rebellious and independent has historically counteracted my efforts to obey with exactness. But over the past few weeks this idea has been on my mind a lot.

I've noticed it the last few times I've been to the temple; this may be the area I am in the most need to improve. And now I am finding this theme in my scripture study.

In reading D&C 58, I was struck by not just the theme of obedience, but the context. The main thrust here comes in verse 6: "For this cause I have sent you--that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come."

The context then comes in to plays in examining the verses leading up to this one. Here, then, are some thoughts from throughout these opening verses.

1) Here the Lord tells us to "learn of me what I will concerning you," to be open to being taught.

2) The first of several promises: "Blessed is he that keepeth my commandments." This promise is explained in more detailed later on. This is also where we find the first of several references to being tried and tested.

3) Building on both of these ideas, the Lord refers here to "the glory which shall follow after much tribulation." As an aside, I have also been focusing on this idea a lot recently, and the term "much tribultion" stands out to me. My life has been pretty smooth, and recent trials have opened my eyes to the reality that God will test us, often in our weakest areas. Knowing that there will be a lot of this kind of thing is pretty sobering.

4) Continuing with the theme, and getting more specific in terms of the blessings, here the Lord tells us that "after much tribulation come the blessings." One of the most powerful and profound statements in scripture.

5) "Remember this...that you may...receive that which is to follow." As it is so easy to forget what God has promised--especially when we find ourselves in the midst of the trial--we need to remember--remember to pray fervently, remember to trust in those promises, remember to be obedient to the commandments associated with the blessings we seek.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Moroni 10

After posting my thoughts on Moroni chapter 10 the other day--and in particular, reading Stew's comment about verse 32—I would like today to delve a bit deeper into the end of the chapter, starting with verse 30 and Moroni's final exhortation: "come unto Christ."

This isn't actually the entire statement, as, grammatically speaking, what we have here is a compound predicate, stretching into verse 31: "come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift...and awake, and arise from the dust...and put on thy beautiful garments...and strengthen thy stakes, and enlarge thy borders forever."

This command comes with a wonderful promise, that if we do this, "the covenants of the Eternal Father, which he hath made...may be fulfilled." I see in all of this echos of the covenants of the temple, with the emphasis on the covenants God has made with His children throughout history, the need to shun evil and cling to virtue, and the overarching theme of coming to the Lord.

This same pattern recurs in verses 32-33: "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness...and love God with all your might, mind, and strength...that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ...[and] then are ye sanctified..that ye become holy."

We often speak of Moroni 10:3-5 as the promise of the Book of Mormon, but, if you ask me, this is the real promise, that through the grace of Christ and His atonement, we can become better, ultimately becoming as our Savior is.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moroni 10 Reexamined

I've blogged before about chapter 10 of Moroni--and, I've spoken about it in sacrament meeting and put it to the test a dozen times. I feel very strongly about the closing chapter of the Book of Mormon. But this past week I decided to do something new; I decided to trace out some themes I had been thinking about. Here's part of what I have found.

First, I noticed that Moroni seems to have gotten hooked on the word "exhort," because he uses it seven times in this chapter, in verses 3, 4, 8, 18, 19, 27, and 30. And I am drawn to the verb that follows each instance of this term, the things Moroni is asking us to do. They are remember (four times), ask, deny not, and come unto Christ.

As I look more closely, I see a pattern here. The first two references to being exhorted to do something deal with the past--remembering what God has done for His children throughout history (verse 3), and asking if the account of the descendants of Lehi found in the Book of Mormon is not true( verse 4). These injunctions deal with understanding and appreciating the ways in which God has interacted with people in the past, which provides a basis for our faith.

The next two exhortations deal with understanding that this same pattern of divine intervention in our lives operates today. In verse 8 we are commanded to recognize the operation of the gifts of God in our lives, followed by a list of those gifts. Then, in verse 18, we are taught the source of these gifts.

From this point we are ready to look to the future, which is what verses 19 and 27 do, as we project this pattern of God's involvement in the lives of men and women in all ages into the future, looking forward ultimately to the moment when we will be called on to account for our acceptance or rejection of Moroni's testimony.

This future tense culminates in verse 30, where we are invited to apply this personally and individually come unto Christ. I'd like to go into more depth on this part of the chapter later, but for now I am impressed with and inspired by how Moroni is teaching us here and what he is telling us about the Lord's involvement in our lives.