Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Our Hearts Be Drawn Out in Prayer Continually

In our Pathway class this week, we discussed chapters 30-35 in the Book of Alma, in The Book of Mormon.  In Chapter 31, we learn about the Zoramites, an apostate group of people in a land called Antionum.  They were dissenters from the Nephites, having been taught the word of God, but failing to keep His commandments.

They had taken up the habit of public prayer - had built a tower upon which only one person could be admitted.  While upon the tower, whoever desired to worship must stretch his hands toward heaven, and recite a given prayer...

 15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast aspirit,  and that thou art spirit, and that thou wilt be spirit forever.
 16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hastaelected us to be thy bholy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that cthere shall be dno Christ.
 17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever;and thou hast aelected us that we shall be saved, whilst allaround us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell;for the which holiness, God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bbind them down to belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
 18 And again we thank thee, God, that we are chosen and holy people. Amen.
The Zoramites were certainly a self-righteous people, full of pride, for after each man would offer this selfsame prayer, they would go to their homes and never speak of God again, until they assembled again.  (Alma 31:23)
After hearing the Zoramites pray, and observing their habits, Alma and those who were with him were astonished. Alma saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride. (Alma 31:25)  He then proceeded to pour his heart out to God that he and his brethren might have success in bringing the wicked Zoramites unto Christ, because they believed there was NO Christ. His heartfelt pleading asked for blessings upon himself and his brethren, as well upon those whom they would teach. 
Following this event in the Book of Mormon, Alma goes on to teach the poor whose afflictions had humbled them. I imagine that Alma and his brethren had their hearts continually drawn out in prayer for the people they taught and hoped to teach. In Chapter 33, Alma reminds us that Zenos, a prophet of old, taught that men should pray and worship in all times and places. 
A modern day apostle, Henry B. Eyring, has said  When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like ‘pray unceasingly’ and ‘pray always’ and ‘mighty prayer.’
“Those commands do not require using many words. In fact, the Savior has told us that we need not multiply words when we pray. The diligence in prayer which God requires does not take flowery speech nor long hours of solitude. …
“Our hearts can be drawn out to God only when they are filled with love for Him and trust in His goodness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, )
 This is some thing that I need to work on - which I think requires a little more humility on my part. Most of the time, I remember to pray morning and night, and if a special occasion where I need a little extra help arises, but I often just go through my day doing my own thing, and don't always remember my Heavenly Father. I need to remember more often, that for all I have, and all that I am, I am indebted to my Him.  As I remember to thank Him for all that is good, and ask for help in all that I do, I will become more reliant on Him to guide and direct me in my life.
If we can ALL try to be a little more prayerful in our live, and personally speak with our Father in Heaven, what a better and kinder place this world would be. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

God doesn't want to wrestle with us!

For I don't know how long, I had thought that the scripture in Enos (in the Book of Mormon) said that he wrestled WITH God.... It was brought to my attention this week that it was not the case.

Enos Chapter 1, verse 2, says "And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

I suppose that at some point in my life it had been discussed before, in Seminary or Institute class, but for some reason this really just hit me this week.

Looking back, I was trying to think of when I had my own wrestle before God.  When I graduated from High School, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the University of Wyoming - tuition paid for four years.  My original plan had been to work to save money to attend Ricks College later, so I was grateful for the opportunity to go to UW.  I didn't totally have a plan of what I wanted to do with my life, but went off to college. My major was undeclared for awhile, and then I finally decided to study Home Economics, because that related to things that I liked to do - my mother had taught me how to cook and to sew, and I had hoped that I would meet someone at college and get married and start a family.

I met a young man in choir that first year, he was not a member of the church, but we sort of dated for awhile.  I brought him home with me on one of the school breaks, or for a weekend, and he sang in church with me.  That weekend my father said to me that he thought I would serve a mission.  I, of course, said , No Way!  That is not something I was interested in, and I was a little irritated that he would mention it when my friend was there.  That summer, I went to visit my friend for a week in his home town, and we had some good discussions (we were just friends at that point.)  At some point during that week, I mentioned something about my belief that families could be together forever.  I did not remember that being a significant moment, but later he told me that it was.   My friend joined the church about 9 months later, with some other friends playing a role in his conversion also.

School continued, I studied, still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Dietetics & Nutrition was a possible major, but there was too much science for my liking.  I approached my 4 year of college, just a little behind schedule for graduation. I also had not met anyone to marry, so I was perhaps a little bewildered as to where my life was going.  That comment that my dad had made a couple years earlier still was being tossed around my mind.  I wanted to use the scholarship money that I had been blessed with, so I decided to bargain with the Lord.   Big mistake on my part.  I told Him that IF I did not meet anyone to marry during that fourth year... THEN I would go on a mission.  So there.. I had told Him.  Silly me.

That year I met a couple of returned sister missionaries at the Institute of Religion, where members of the church attending college gather. I became friends with them, and learned about their missions and the growth they had had as they served.  So, those thoughts of a mission were often in my mind.  But I didn't really want to serve.. I didn't think I would have the courage to open my mouth and share the Gospel!  I thought I had done my part in bringing that one soul (my friend) into the Gospel (D & C 18:15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days... and bring but one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy.) I figured I had done my part.. but I still kept thinking about it.

I suppose that my Heavenly Father finally got tired of watching me wrestle with myself.  One Sunday in the fall, October probably, I was sitting next to the Bishop's wife in church. I usually sat with my friends, but this particular Sunday I was not... so not checking out the cute guys or talking.  It apparently was the perfect time to receive personal revelation.  The impression came to me that I needed to serve a mission.  I felt as if I had been bonked on the head... I KNEW that I had to go. It was an answer that I needed.. I don't remember how much I had prayed about it, but Heavenly Father probably knew I couldn't make that decision on my own.  When I saw my friends after the meeting, they could see that I had been crying and asked what was the matter. I said I had to go on a mission.  I wasn't sad about it, but relieved that I was done worrying or wrestling with the decision.  Within a few weeks, I had everything ready, my papers submitted, and had my mission call by the end of November.  I packed up my things at the end of the semester and went home to Arizona, then entered the MTC on February 1, 1989 , to serve in the England Leeds mission.

I hadn't really thought about my wrestle before the Lord until this time reading in Enos. I am sure that my wrestle was not as great as was Enos's, but it surely was a significant time in my life. I am grateful that I was open and receptive to that revelation that I received to serve a mission. I have talked about it in the past as being bonked on the head...  but now I truly see what it was, personal revelation and an answer to my prayers.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Staying in the Straight and Narrow Way.

This week in my Pathway class we studied the final 6 chapters of 2 Nephi.  In chapter 31 we learn why Jesus Christ was baptized - to be an example, and to fulfill all righteousness, and that we also must be baptized ourselves.  

(As an aside this week, I have been thinking about the Catholic's practice of baptizing children, and if in the Bible it talks about being baptized by immersion, why do they not do it that way, as adults.  I have thought about asking my Catholic coworkers, but not sure I want to get into that discussion with them. So, that is something I am curious about. )

In verse 9 of chapter 31, it says "And again it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.  

We are then encouraged to repent, and be baptized, and do the things which Christ has done, keep the commandments and endure to the end.  Then in verse 18, "And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, yea have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost."

So I started thinking about why is the way narrow and strait... 

I searched the question and found something from, where it said that "narrow is the way" means "Literally, pressed, or hemmed in between walls or rocks, like the pathway in a mountain gorge."  I thought that was interesting - because that might suggest that it is easy to stay on that path, because the borders on each side would keep the traveller contained therein.  
In the same commentary, the difference between "straight" and "strait" is addressed. Straight is meaning "not crooked" and strait means "pent up, narrow, difficult to be entered."  So the choice of using "strait and narrow path" makes sense.  

Here is a quote from the Biblehub site "This is the word used here, and it means that the way to heaven is "pent up, narrow, close," and not obviously entered. The way to death is open, broad, and thronged. The Saviour here referred probably to ancient cities. They were surrounded with walls and entered through gates. Some of those, connected with the great avenues to the city, were broad and admitted a throng; others, for more private purposes, were narrow, and few would be seen entering them. So, says Christ, is the path to heaven. It is narrow. It is not "the great highway" that people tread. Few go there. Here and there one may be seen - traveling in solitude and singularity. The way to death, on the other hand, is broad. Multitudes are in it. It is the great highway in which people go. They fall into it easily and without effort, and go without thought. If they wish to leave that and go by a narrow gate to the city, it would require effort and thought. So, says Christ, "diligence" is needed to enter life. "

I hadn't previously thought much about that symbolism.  From another commentary on the page, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,.... And so, difficult to enter in at; and when entered, the way is unpleasant to the flesh to walk in, being hedged up on each side with afflictions and tribulations".    At first I was thinking about the walls being there helping to guide us, in regards to the first definition of "narrow", but this gives a different insight, that suggests it is difficult an unpleasant to walk that strait and narrow way.    

Being a member of the church all my life, it has been an easy path for me.  I have not struggled in my faith, and have not ever had the temptation to go astray, there has not been anything that has caught my eye that would tempt me to leave the path.  I have felt the blessings of the gospel throughout my life and will continue to stay.  

In verse 19 of 2 Nephi 31, we are asked if that now that we are in the strait and narrow path, is that all?  "Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save."  I have felt this more in the last two years of my life.  With Mark's illness and passing, I have come to more fully understand how we must rely on our Savior Jesus Christ.  If not for the promise of the Atonement and eternal life, and the knowledge I will see my dear husband again, I don't know that I would have the desire to go on. 

Verse 20:" Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."  This is what I must do.  I will not give up hope, I will live a righteuous life so that I may see him again.   I am working on the "love of all men"... some days it is a challenge.  

I am grateful for the strait and narrow path and for parents who taught me when  I was young to follow it.  I pray daily that we have instilled the same desire in our children to stay in the narrow path, for I know that is the way we can all find everlasting joy. 

I will  finish with this story entitled No Bulls in the Ditch (as told to Sheila R & Francis M Woodard)(from the Liahona, Oct 2001) 
Every year my parents took me to visit Aunt Ruby and Uncle George, who lived on a farm. I enjoyed visiting them because there were so many things to see and do. I played in the barn, helped feed the animals, rode on the tractor, and explored their big red shed.
One time when I was nine years old, I was helping Uncle George feed the animals in the barn. “You sure are quiet this morning, Justin,” he said.
“I was thinking about what my Primary teacher said last week,” I told him.
“What did she say?” Uncle George asked as he threw some hay to one of the cows.
“She said making right choices will help me keep the promises I made to Heavenly Father when I was baptized. But it’s hard to alwaysmake the right choice.”
Uncle George nodded. “It is hard to always make correct choices. But when we live the gospel standards and follow the ‘strait and narrow path’ like the scriptures tell us to, the Lord will help us.”
I thought about the “strait and narrow path” for the rest of the morning. When we finished feeding the animals, Uncle George said, “Thanks for your help, Justin. What would you like to do now?”
“I’d like to go over to my friend Jeff’s, but Mom and Dad usually take me there.”
Tilting his hat back on his head, Uncle George said, “They’ve gone into town with Ruby. I can’t take you either, because I have to fix the tractor.”
He put his arm around my shoulders and led me to a big dry ditch. “If you get in this ditch,” he said, “you can follow it all the way to Jeff’s house. Can you do that?”
I told him I was sure I could. Before I left, he gave me two warnings. One, I was to stay in the ditch. If I got out, I could get hurt or lost. Two, I was to keep going, even if I got tired. Then he promised me that if I followed his instructions, I would have no trouble reaching my friend’s house.
At first I was nervous. The grass on both sides of the ditch was so tall I couldn’t see over it. But soon I began to see interesting things all around me, and I wasn’t afraid of being in the ditch. I found a small white snail shell and a lot of interesting plants. Then I found a pebble and put it in my pocket.
After a while, though, it wasn’t interesting anymore, and my legs were getting tired. My faith in Uncle George’s words began to waver. Maybe I had already passed Jeff’s house. Maybe I wasn’t even going in the right direction. My uncle’s warnings were still clear in my mind, but I carefully climbed to the top of the ditch so I could see over the tall grass and find out where I was.
Happily, I saw that only a fence and a large pasture stood between me and Jeff’s house. All I had to do was walk through the pasture, and I would be there. With my goal in sight, I forgot my uncle’s warnings.
I slipped through a hole in the fence and started across the pasture. All I thought about was the fun Jeff and I were going to have. I paid no attention to what was going on around me until I heard a loud snort and the snapping of breaking sticks. I turned around and saw a large bull charging toward me from the edge of the pasture.
Now I had a new goal—to reach the fence before the bull reached me. I knew the shortest distance between two points was a straight line, so I ran straight toward the hole in the fence I had climbed through earlier. I ran so fast I could hear the air whistling around my ears. All the time, I was silently praying that Heavenly Father would bless me to run faster than the bull.
The fence was getting closer, but so was the bull. I was sure I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dived through the fence to safety. He snorted loudly as he pushed his nose through the hole and realized he couldn’t reach me.
My life had been spared. Heavenly Father had answered my prayer. My heart was full of gratitude to Him.
Now all I wanted to do was return to the “strait and narrow path” and follow my uncle’s instructions. I knew there were no bulls in the ditch. It was a safe place.
I had learned that my Primary teacher and Uncle George were right. There is great safety in choosing the right and following the correct path. I realized Heavenly Father would always help me stay on the “strait and narrow path” if I would listen and obey.