Have I done any good in the world today? If not, I have failed indeed! Then wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Flee From Temptation

In ancient Egypt there was a man named Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph was eventually sold to a man named Potiphar who was the captain of the guard for the pharaoh. The Lord was with Joseph and helped him do the work Potiphar assigned to him.

Potiphar saw the work that Joseph did and realized that God was with him. The scriptures say, "And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand." Because of this, Potiphar assigned Joseph to be the overseer of his house and everything he owned.

Joseph was well taken care of by Potiphar. The scriptures say his house was blessed because Joseph was living there. The scriptures also say that Joseph was a "goodly person and highly favored".

Potiphar wasn't the only one who favored Joseph though. Potiphar's wife also liked Joseph. The scriptures say after Joseph did all these great things, "that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me." Or in other words, "Sleep with me."

Uh-oh. She ain't up to no good.

However, Joseph knew that this home-wrecker wasn't any good for him or his eternal salvation. He said, "There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

This wasn't the last time Potiphar's wife tempted Joseph. The scriptures say, "she spake to Joseph day by day" trying to get him to break the commandments of God. Joseph was very obedient to the commands of God. I'm sure Potiphar's wife may have been gorgeous, but because Joseph loved God more than momentary pleasure, he resisted her temptings. I'm also going to take some nonscriptural liberty in saying that Joseph wasn't the only man Potiphar's wife tried to seduceIn the words of Alma to his son Corianton, "Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son."

One day Joseph went down to Potiphar's house and found that there weren't any men in the home.

Bad sign, Joseph. Get. Out. Of. There.

The bad news: Joseph was accused of adultery
and thrown into prison. The good news: In prison
he met a couple of men that helped prove him innocent.
And the scriptures say that Potiphar's wife jumped on him, grabbed his clothes and told him to sleep with her. But good guy Joseph, "left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out" or in other words, he up and booked it out of there!

I love the wording used here. "Got him out". There seems to be a sense of urgency in that phrase.

This story reminds me of another story. Remember in the New Testament when the money changers were camped on temple grounds doing their thing? Christ saw this and in righteous indignation started to flip over the tables they were working at and forced everyone to leave.

The temple is just a building. We are a living soul whose actions have eternal consequences. How much more would Christ rather flip our inner tables and cleanse our temples than a physical temple, or house of God?

I'd also like to make note here on the similarities between how Potiphar's wife tempted Joseph and how Satan tempts us. Now I'm not saying that Potiphar's wife is Lucifer, but I am inferring that she was a tempter and a snake.

Notice how the scriptures say Potiphar's wife "she spake to Joseph day by day". She didn't speak to him once, not twice, but everyday! Then when Joseph showed that he would not give into temptation or lower his standards, Potiphar's wife came to him and ripped his clothing off.

Satan works the same way. He puts temptations in our paths every single day. And when he sees that we won't let our defenses down and grab hold of evil and delight ourselves with sinful pleasures, he goes looking for us. He puts it right there in front of us. I've often heard the saying, "When I was a boy, I had to go looking for trouble. Nowadays, trouble finds me."

However, just as quickly as Joseph fled temptation and "got him out" of the situation, we must flee temptation so we do not do "great wickedness, and sin against God." Let us be be like Joseph. Let us flee from temptation quickly and "get us out" of Satan's grasp. We must do what is right!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

The Angel Moroni appears to the
prophet Joseph Smith
"It Came upon the Midnight Clear." Whenever I hear this favorite Christmas song, I always have in my mind the painting of the angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith. It came upon the midnight clear. What came? The restored gospel of Jesus Christ! I would like to take this hymn apart and give it to you from my perspective, just as I did previously with the hymn "Do What Is Right."

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:

Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heav’n’s all-gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

"It came upon the midnight clear,
glorious song of old,"

In the prophet Joseph's own words, he says, "While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor."

The "glorious song" is none other than the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. How long the earth has been waiting for the gospel to return! In every dispensation of time, the gospel of Jesus Christ had been taken off the earth after apostasy; this time, however, the "song of old" will never leave the earth again.

From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:"

The glorified and resurrected ancient Book of Mormon prophet Moroni appeared to Joseph:

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."

Peace on the earth, good will to men
Merry Christmas!
From heav’n’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing."

In Luke 2:10-11 it reads:

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

From the introduction of the Book of Mormon:
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Sounds like peace on earth and good will to me. Millions of people have read the Book of Mormon and their lives have been changed as a result of it. Millions have asked of God through prayer if this book is true.

In D&C 25:12 if says, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads."

Those angels' songs will be and have been answered!

2. Still thru the cloven skies they come

The Angel Moroni delivering the
gold plates to Joseph
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav’nly music floats
O’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Revelation 14:6-7
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Moroni is the angel referred to in this passage. He brought forth the Book of Mormon to the inhabitants of the earth, "the sad and lowly plains." The gospel today is preached to everyone, in their own tongue.

3. For lo! the days are hast’ning on,

"He said there was a book deposited,
written upon gold plates"
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hast’ning on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,,"

"He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;"

Moroni told Joseph of the ancient record he was to translate. This event had been long foretold by prophets, by both Bible and Book of Mormon prophets. What a wonderful time the people of the earth were living in in the early 1830's, to witness the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Second Coming of the Messiah
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing."

"Those who gain this 
divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah."

Moroni was a powerful Book of Mormon prophet with a powerful message. As part of his final few words, Moroni left his testimony of the Book of Mormon. In Moroni 10:3-5 it reads:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.

I did. Will you?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Climbing The Ladder

It's that time of year again. We're getting all kinds of calls to do service projects: "Elders, Brother and Sister Soandso needs some help doing [insert winter project here]. Can you help with that?"

Our response: "SURE WE CAN!"

Yes, I am an expert at this.
The other day we got a call to put up Christmas lights on a house. I thought we were just going to be putting up lights around the house like lawn decorations and such. When we got there it was revealed that we were going to have to climb a ladder to string lights along the top of a house.

As the person we were helping prepared the ladder I volunteered to go up it and string the lights. The top didn't look so far away-- it would be easy to climb up there. I was super brave until I got to the base of the ladder and looked up...

Internal monologue: "Yeah right! He expects me to climb that long and shaky ladder all the way to the top all by myself, then risk killing myself to string lights along his house? What if I fall down? What if the ladder breaks or messes up? Splat. There's the end of me. No more Elder Hill."

So reluctantly I started to climb up the ladder. I carefully watched each step I made on the way up, looking up only a few times to see if I was at the top. If I saw I wasn't at the top, I would look down and continue climbing until I was at the top. 

"Oh, great. Another death trap." 

I started climbing up the ladder again. This time though, I didn't look down. I wanted to get up that ladder the quickest I could. I put one hand in front of the other, not looking down once. I was at the top in no time. 

Then it hit me. Get this-- Pulling up and climbing forward wasn't as hard or scary as going down and crawling back. In fact, it was way easier to climb up the ladder than it was to go down it. 

Let's take a spiritual approach to this situation. Think of life as a ladder. We are always constantly moving either up or down. Sometimes we stop, but that is when we are trying to figure out where to go. 

Liken the looking down to looking back on past sins or transgressions, feelings of guilt or unworthiness, or other negative emotions. If we don't look up and see where we're going, it is a lot harder to climb life's ladders. However, if we look forward with an eye of faith, life's ladders won't be hard to climb up at all.

You could also apply this to a less active member coming back to the church. Sure, it may seem daunting at the beginning, but when you are back enjoying the peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, won't it be worth it?

Joseph Smith said, "When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel."

Liken the ladder to the iron rod in the prophet Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon (See 1 Nephi 8). The iron rod is the word of God. If we hold onto the rod (or in this case a ladder) we will reach our end goal successfully.

Hold to the rod! Climb life's spiritual ladders-- you can do it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Good Tidings Of Great Joy

There are many stories told at Christmastime. The one about that little mouse running around when everyone else was asleep. There's the Nutcracker and the book about the green goblin who stole Christmas.

There are TV shows and movies about Christmas: You have Charlie Brown and his pitiful Christmas tree. You have my family's favorite Christmas movie, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." There's the movie "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen. There's even the classic "A Christmas Story." And my personal favorite: "Mr. Krueger's Christmas."

The journey to Bethlehem wasn't
exactly enjoyable for Mary.
Most Christians are familiar with the story of Christ's birth in Luke 2. It was time for everyone in the land to pay taxes. Mary and Joseph traveled some 60 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay them, however the journey was going to be rough for Mary because she was nine months pregnant. When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem they looked for a place to stay the night, but there wasn't a single room available except for a stable where the animals stayed. Mary had her baby, and His name was Jesus Christ.

On the night Christ was born, a few shepherds were tending their flocks. Suddenly, an messenger angel from heaven appeared and scared the living day-lights out of them. The angel knew he had scared them because he had to comfort them and told them not to be afraid because he had great news. He said Christ was born that night and told them where to find Him.

It then tells the story of how the wise men (who were different from the shepherds the angel appeared to) went to see Jesus Christ and gave Him gifts. And that's why we celebrate Christmas by giving presents to people we love. Great, isn't it?

But often times, I think we overlook the message the angel gave to the shepherds. In Luke 2:10-11 it reads:

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Fear not. Christ is born!
Or in other words: "Hey guys! Jesus Christ was born today! You know, the Messiah? The Savior? The Redeemer of the world who has been prophesied would come to save man from their from their sins almost since the beginning of the world on both sides of the globe? He is going to bring many billions of people peace and happiness! Isn't that great?"

What better message is there out there than that? There is a Savior who was born, what more important thing could the angel Gabriel have told them?

"Jesus Christ will heal people!" or "Jesus Christ will fulfill the Law of Moses!" or "Jesus Christ will raise the dead!"

All of that stuff is cool and great and all, but the most important message we were supposed to get out of the Christmas story isn't the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that were brought to Jesus by the wise men. It wasn't the new star appearing in the sky or that Mary and Joseph paid taxes. It was that Jesus Christ was born.

Jesus Christ didn't only die for us, but He was also born for us. We can more easily pass through life's sorrows. He was born to free us from our sins. We can perform and take part in ordinances essential to our eternal salvation. We can have guidance and direction in our lives. We have the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God. (Just a little hint: follow the links in this paragraph to see the message.)

So during this Christmas season, take a little more time to reflect on the "good tidings of great joy" brought to the shepherds by Gabriel. Think about why Christ came into the world. Think of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Think of the real reason for Christmas.