Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1 Nephi 16:10

1 Nephi 16: 10 states:

"And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness."

I wonder what the other spindle pointed to...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


What, you ask, does Pinocchio have to do with the gospel? Lots.

If you've never read the book by Carlo Collodi, the first thing you must know is that it is different than the Disney movie. For one, Jiminy Cricket shows up in chapter four, and two pages later is smashed by a hammer (thrown by Pinocchio). The cricket does show up a few other times throughout the book (as a ghost), and is one of the voices of warning.

The Blue Fairy is different in the book too. We first meet her as a child with blue hair. Later she is a woman with blue hair, and occasionally she is a goat or other creature with blue hair. She acts as "momma" to Pinocchio, and shows up much more frequently than the cricket (who has no name).

Geppetto is Pinocchio's father and loves him dearly. He is also dirt poor, and sells the coat off his back in order to buy a spelling book for Pinocchio.

One night, towards the beginning of the book, Pinocchio was getting himself into a scrape (it was not the first time either, because he was not a very well-behaved puppet), but just at the moment when all hope would be lost, he calls out for his father.

"Humph!" I thought. "That is so presumptuous of him, to go against all his father's counsel and then call out to his father in his hour of need."

Then I said, "Oh." I do that too.

The book is a wonderful allegory for the plan of salvation, and our time on earth. Pinocchio's goal is to become a "real boy," a human like his father. He messes up a lot, sometimes because he's innocent, sometimes not, and he struggles and repents and makes up for it, and ultimately he is rewarded by becoming a real boy.

I'd go into more detail, but I think you get the idea. You should read the book. I loved it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Preach My Gospel: 1

I recently read this section in the first chapter of Preach My Gospel, and wanted to share it. I've edited it to apply to members who are not serving full-time missions:

A Successful Missionary

Your success as a missionary [or member, or person, or anything] is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Avoid comparing yourself to other [people] and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept [you or who you are or the things that you do and represent]. Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice. Some may not accept your message [or agree with you] even when they have received a spiritual witness that it is true. You will be saddened because you love them and desire their salvation. You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement will weaken your faith. If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease, your desire will weaken, and you will have greater difficulty following the Spirit.

You can know you have been a successful [person] when you:

Feel the Spirit testify to people through you.

Love people and desire their salvation.

Obey with exactness.

Live so that you can receive and know how to follow the Spirit, who will show you where to go, what to do, and what to say.

Develop Christlike attributes.

Work effectively every day, do your very best to bring souls to Christ, and seek earnestly to learn and improve.

Help build up the Church (the ward) wherever you are assigned to work.

• Warn people of the consequences of sin. Invite them to make and keep commitments. [This is harder when you're not a missionary or a prophet, but can include speaking out to family members, and extending commitments to others you are involved with, such as those you visit/home teach.]

Teach and serve other missionaries.

Go about doing good and serving people at every opportunity, whether or not they accept your message [or service].

When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.

Isn't that a great message? I love it. Don't get discouraged. Success is measure by commitment. That applies to so many aspects of my life, not just the gospel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

James 1:3: Patience

James 1:3 is a short verse (in order to form the complete sentence, I've included verse 2 as well):

2. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

I find it interesting that James mentions it is the trying of our faith that "worketh patience," and not the trying of our strength, or talents, or intelligence.

As my faith is tried, ultimately I receive the reward for remaining faithful. This helps to increase my faith, so that next time my faith is tried, I know that by patiently remaining faithful, I will see the promised blessings.

A trial of any sort requires patience, but perhaps the best way to gain patience is by exercising faith.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Supreme Being

I sometimes think about whether or not there is a God or whether or not there is life after death, and that sort of thing. This is not because I am doubting, but because I like to try to see things from many points of view, to test out the various theories to discover truth.

I do not understand why anyone would choose to not believe in God.

If I did not believe in God, all I would have to believe in would be myself, and heaven knows that's not very encouraging news at all. I'm not the fastest or the strongest or the smartest or the most brilliant or the most beautiful of anything. I'm weak, if you want to know the truth. If I don't believe in God, I will never be enough. One person is so pitifully small. What can I do? I can never accomplish everything that I want to accomplish in this life. I will always be overwhelmed and overcome.

But if I do believe in God, I have something more than my own strength upon which to rely. If I am weak it does not matter, because Heavenly Father will make me strong enough to meet my challenges. If I am sad there is always hope in Jesus Christ and the Resurrection and eternal life and the love of God. If I am wronged I know there will eventually be a right. Everything balances out. Faith blossoms in the soul. Life is laced with hope.

In the Book of Mormon, when the people forgot God and boasted of their own strength, they were left to their own strength (Helaman 4:13). But the people who remembered God, who believed in God and made him an active part of their lives, those people were strengthened beyond their own capacity.

For me, I must believe in God. Nothing else makes sense. How else could justice prevail and all wrongs be righted? I cannot believe that everything in this earth is just random, that strength and wealth and popularity really are the best ends to strive for, that although I feel and think and love and exist it is all worth nothing because eventually I'll die. No. There must be a point. There is a point. There must be someone in charge, and there is.

Of course there's a God. It only makes sense.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alma 1 and 2: The Amlicites

I flipped to Alma 1 the other day (v. 19-33), and found it rather interesting:

The Nephites were persecuted for their humility, but some of them were proud and fought back (v. 22). Because of the growing contention, many members were excommunicated or fell away (v. 24). This was a trying time for the steadfast members of the church, but the good news is that the people who bore their trials with patience, and who exercised Christ-like love to their neighbors, were sustained and prospered.

Things got more interesting in chapter 2:

Amlicites versus Nephites: Amlici wants to be king (I wonder how many of the apostate Nephites were Amlicites...), but according to Nephite law, such a step would have to be voted upon.

A vote was taken.

Guess who won? Not Amlici.

The Amlicites were upset. They didn't like the way the vote had turned out. So instead of accepting the vote of the people, they decided to call Amlici their king anyway, and kill anyone who disagreed with them.

There was a battle. A few battles, actually. I'll spoil the ending for you and tell you who won: the Nephites. Even when the Amlicites joined up with the Lamanite armies, the Nephites won.

Why? Because the Nephites were righteous, so "the Lord did strengthen the hand of the Nephites" (v. 18). They were obedient. They didn't fight except to defend their lives and their families. Thousands of Nephites died in the battle, but they did ultimately win, and the Amlicites eventually gave up and ran away.

What can I learn from this? Keep the commandments, be faithful and obedient, love my neighbor. The Lord will take care of the rest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Faith To Be Healed

When we receive a blessing to be healed from a physical ailment, we are told that it is by our faith that we are healed, in addition to the power of the priesthood and God's will. I wonder if that faith part means not only faith in the fact that we will be healed, but faith in Christ in general. As we are healed, we have to continue exercising faith in Christ to heal all aspects of our lives, not just the one illness we have overcome.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Acts 9

Saul was without sight for three days after he beheld the Lord in a vision (see Acts 9). During this time he did not eat or drink. After Ananias came and restored his sight to him, Saul "received meat" and was strengthened.

Maybe the mention of people eating after such spiritual experiences is just to remind us that we need to look after the physical needs as well as the spiritual. We cannot always be feeding one and starving the other. We have to balance them both.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Favorite Thing About A Mission

Whenever anyone asked me (either during my mission or since) what my favorite part about being a missionary was, I always said it was having a companion. This generally surprised people, but it's true.

I loved having someone there to talk to all the time. I loved having someone there to always try to help me and serve me, and I loved having someone there to always try to help and serve. I loved that we both struggled and rejoiced together. I loved having someone to hug every night before bed and to say goodnight to, like I used to do when I shared a room with my sister.

I had really great companions. I never got sick of having a companion. I never felt like I didn't get enough alone time. I never felt like I wanted to "get away" because I needed space*.

Now I'm off a mission and companionless and back to my old cantankerous self, but that was my favorite part of being a missionary (or at least, one of my favorite parts).

*With one notable exception one day, but I was switching medications and it was in the MTC, and things get a little touchy in the MTC because you're still trying to figure out what you're supposed to be doing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Note: There are exceptions to everything I say, and I believe that every person and situation is different.

I once had a remarkable friend who, during a talk, mentioned a certain line in her Patriarchal blessing, which indicated that many of the trials in her life would actually be blessings in disguise.

The more I think about blessings, the more I realize they are much like challenges, in that they are specific and individual to each person. We all hear about how everyone has their own set of problems in this life, but we rarely think the same way of blessings, and this is dangerous. There is no magic formula to explain why certain people receive certain blessings in this life, just as there is no magic formula to determine why certain people receive certain trials.

Blessings come from God. Beyond that, I cannot say what causes them: while we are promised blessings for certain actions, we are not promised specific blessings for specific actions. For example, I could not say that because I never missed a day of church in my life, all my kids would always be faithful in the gospel. Or, if I've always done my visiting teaching, there is no guarantee that I will have a visiting teacher who regularly teaches me.

I can truthfully say that I've always tried to be faithful, and I've always tried to keep the commandments. I can also truthfully say that I've always had my basic needs met. Those two are somehow tied together, but it is impossible to define how.

Temporal blessings cannot be used as an indication of one's spirituality or standing before God either, just as trials cannot be used to judge one's spirituality. This is, in fact, because they are temporal. Anything temporal cannot measure or quantify one's relationship to God.

In the end, I must conclude that it is good to recognize all good things as from God. It is good to thank Him for our blessings. It is good to remember that no one is promised certain blessings if they do certain things. It is good to remember that blessings, like challenges, are given to each of us individually.

It's also good to remember that sometimes, our greatest blessings and our greatest challenges are actually the same thing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Way

When Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge began his talk on Saturday afternoon, my mind started to hurt from trying to make sense of so many short powerful statements. However, the further in he got, the easier it was for me to listen. Now, as I read his talk over again, I find that I like it immensely, and I like it better in print than I do in voice.

You can read the full text to Elder Corbridge's talk "The Way" here, but I'll include the parts that spoke to me the most:

"There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. He is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness."

"Only God can bless us. Only He can ... give us strength to bear up the burdens of life. Only He can give us power, knowledge, peace, and joy. Only He can ... heal us. Only He can change us and forge a godly soul."

"Every good thing depends on getting and keeping the power of the Holy Ghost in our lives. Everything depends on that."

"One of the most popular and attractive philosophies of men is to live life your own way, do your own thing, be yourself, don’t let others tell you what to do. But the Lord said, 'I am the way.' He said, 'Follow me.' He said, 'What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.'

"Don’t think you can’t. We might think we can’t really follow Him because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now. Don’t ever believe that. While the standard of the Lord is the highest, don’t ever think it is only reachable by a select few who are most able...

"...this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God...

"...while the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too."

"The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel."

"Life is hard, but life is simple. Get on the path and never, ever give up. You never give up. You just keep on going. You don’t quit, and you will make it."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Voice By Which Ye Shall Be Called

Sometimes I get random words or phrases stuck in my head, and the other night it happened to be, "How knoweth a man..." I couldn't remember the rest, but I knew it was a scripture. Then yesterday I remembered that it says, "How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?"

Today I looked up the scripture, which is Mosiah 5: 13:

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

I was sitting there pondering what in my life had caused this scripture to bubble into my consciousness, when I read the previous verse, verse 12:

I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

That verse reminded me of a moment I had in the MTC, which I am about to relate to you.

I was in one of the large group meetings, and was, well, falling asleep. Yes, I sometimes fell asleep in the MTC when I wasn't supposed to. I think this is normal if you're used to going to bed at 2am and then suddenly try to switch to 10:30pm. But that is beside the point. I was falling asleep, when my district leader (who was sitting a few rows behind me) took the microphone to make a comment.

When I heard Elder S.'s voice, I immediately sat up and became alert. I wondered why his voice had such an impact on me, then realized that it was because I knew his voice, and I knew him, and I wanted to know what he had to say.

This is why I need to be familiar with the Savior and His voice. For me, I can't say that I've ever heard the Savior literally speak from His own mouth, but I have heard Him speak through prophets, through the scriptures, through other people, and through the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

If I'm familiar with His voice, and know Him, and want to hear what He has to say, I'm going to be more likely to wake up and listen when He speaks. I could also try going to bed earlier, but I don't think that'd work quite as well. :o)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Imagery: Tender Squishy Heart

When someone mentions a heart, an image comes to my mind. If they are speaking physically, I imagine the red palpitating mass that is my heart. If they are speaking spiritually, I get quite a different image.

I've always envisioned my metaphorical heart to be sort of heart-shaped and squishy, like a real heart, but I also envision it to be a living entity, much akin to a garden, wherein grow various flowers, shrubs, trees, etc., related to my feelings and actions. For example, when I feel hatred, I feel that the garden in my heart has been dumped upon by hot black tar. When someone says something that hurts me, I feel a stab as if a long thorn had been jabbed into that heart. But when I feel love, I feel blossoming and vibrant.

There are abundant references to the heart in the scriptures. We are warned against hardening our hearts†, and the heart is often listed as one of the things we must give to God‡, along with our might, mind, and strength.

On Sunday I was thinking about my heart, and wondering if it really were a garden, what sort of things would grow there? And what sort of things should grow there? If I gave God my heart, and He planted something there, what would He plant?

My first thought was the tree of life that Nephi saw in his vision*. The tree represents the love of God, thus I should try to cultivate the love of God, which is Christ-like love, which is charity, in my heart.

This is not a little-known fact, but I found it interesting the string of thoughts that led me to this conclusion.

†See 1 Ne. 15:11; Helaman 12:2; Doctrine and Covenants 112:13.

Also see Psalms 95:8; Mark 8:17; Hebrews 3:8,15; 4:7; 1 Nephi 14:2,6; Jacob 6:4-6; Alma 12:10-37; 33:20-21; 34:31; Helaman 7:18; 3 Nephi 20:28; 21:6,22; Doctrine and Covenants 10: 53,65; and 45:6, to name a few.

‡See Doctrine and Covenants 4:2; 59:5; and 98:47.

*See 1 Ne. 11:25

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jairus' Daughter

In Luke 8 and Mark 5 we read the account of when Christ raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. After doing so, he commanded that she be given food:

Luke 8: 55
...he commanded to give her meat.

Mark 5: 43
...and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

I was wondering why he commanded that. Christ raised other people from the dead in the scriptures as well, but I think this is the only instance where he commanded them to feed the person who has just been raised from the dead (I didn't check all the others though, so I could be wrong on that).

Maybe he knows that though she is alive, she is not out of danger until she eats?

Maybe he just knows she's hungry?

Maybe he wants them to pay more attention to her than to him?

That's about the best I can guess. Anyone else have any ideas?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

From Regional Conference

I've changed my note-taking over the years so that I no longer write down what people are actually saying (unless I want a direct quote), but rather write down what I think about them saying, or I write questions I have about what they say, or how what they are saying affects me. This is not such a good approach in school (trust me, I tried it), but I've found it helpful in church. Thus any notes I post are not necessarily what was discussed in my church meetings, but rather are thoughts I had regarding the subject.

1. Why can't we just see the plates to know it's true? That would make life a lot easier, after all. Why did the plates have to get taken away again? Why do we have to read and ponder and ask?

My answer: Because if you see the plates and touch them, you are understanding physically that they are true. There is a difference between understanding things physically and understanding them spiritually, and you can't gain a spiritual witness through physical means, generally speaking.

2. Children seem to have faith naturally. They do not doubt. How is this possible?

My answer: Children don't realize how imperfect the world is. They don't see all of people's shortcomings, and they don't see their own shortcomings. Children still believe in honesty and fairness. I think it is easier for them to conceive of a perfect being and a perfect plan that would involve eternal happiness for every person. For older people who can see the imperfection in the world, and especially in ourselves, it is harder to believe that such perfection is possible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ether 12:27

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

I never really understood the first sentence of this verse. I'd never really thought all that hard about it either, I just kind of read it and said, "Yup, I see my weaknesses all right."

But a few days ago I got thinking about it for one reason or another, and I decided it's just a statement of facts, almost like a warning: if you come closer to me it's not going to get any easier; in fact, it will get harder.

I've noticed that when I am the closest to my Heavenly Father, that is when I notice my weaknesses the most. I think the nearer we get to perfection, the more we realize we're not perfect. Kind of like that saying, "The more you know, the more you don't know."

And doesn't it seem like that a lot too? The harder we try, sometimes, the harder things get. Being more active and more charitable and more everything is not always associated with an abatement of trials. In fact, the harder we try the harder Satan tries too, and the more we realize we simply can't do it on our own ("it" = go to work, build up our family, fulfill our callings, and generally perform the duties required of all human beings in this thing called Life).

That would be super depressing if that were the conclusion: try harder and you'll realize how inadequate you are. But the rest of the verse deals with that very issue, so we don't have to worry.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why a new blog?

I will tell you why: because I want to share some of the spiritual epiphanies I receive each day*. They may not be epiphanies for you--in fact, they probably won't be--but maybe one or two things will be interesting and spark a new thought.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, though this blog is not endorsed by the church. I am responsible for what I say on this blog.


*I am not saying, however, that I will update this blog every day. That would require more energy than I have.

P.S. Renee is French for "reborn".