Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Truly Good, and Without Guile

Hello Everyone!

This week I'm taking my title from a recent General Conference talk given by Michael T. Ringwood.  In his talk he focuses on the need to be truly good, and not be persuaded to do good things based upon wanting success or recognition.  He says that we should seek to do "what [is] right for right’s sake rather than for praise, position, power,accolades, or authority."

In seeking to know more about the phrase 'without guile' I turned to the New Testament where Christ himself  says of Nathanael "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"  Being free from guile is a trait praised by the Savior and a trait needed to receive answers to prayers and have the spirit with you at all times.  To better understand guile, we'll turn to an antonymic phrase to study it more closely: real intent.  

Within the Book of Mormon the phrase 'real intent' often appears alongside council regarding prayers and the attitude of prayer.  We are often exhorted to ask and act with real intent (see Moroni 6:8, Moroni 10:4, or 2 Nephi 31:13) and warned against acting without real intent (Moroni 7:6).  Sometimes I feel that we underestimate the power of our deep-rooted motives or desires in how we go about our daily activities.  But we know that God understands the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and we need to do our best to act as Nephi councils with "no hypocrisy and no deception before God" (2 Nephi 31:13).  

We are counseled by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf to be genuine, both in out relationship with God and with man, in his talk "On Being Genuine" in this past General Conference.  He tells the story of Grigory Potemkin who "desperately wanted to impress [several foreign ambassadors]. And so he went to remarkable lengths to showcase [Russia's] accomplishments.

For part of the journey, Catherine [the Great] floated down the Dnieper River, proudly pointing out to the ambassadors the thriving hamlets along the shore, filled with industrious and happy townspeople. There was only one problem: it was all for show. It is said that Potemkin had assembled pasteboard facades of shops and homes. He had even positioned busy-looking peasants to create the impression of a prosperous economy.Once the party disappeared around the bend of the river, Potemkin’s men packed up the fake village and rushed it downstream in preparation for Catherine’s next pass."

We often have to ask ourselves if the image we present to God and man are the true intents of our heart, or is it all a facade to have the impression of being prosperous, happy, or caring?  I echo both Elder Ringwood's and President Uchtdorf's messages of being truly good, and without guile and know that as we come to be more genuine and truly good, that we will have the blessings of the Lord with us always.  Now how one becomes truly good and without guile, is the million-dollar question, but I won't attempt to say that I know how.  Understanding that process is personal to you, and will take much pondering and studying to discover, but I know that God gives answers to those who diligently seek.  

I hope that you all have a wonderful week! 

Elder Gailey

Monday, August 17, 2015

The End of an Era

Hello Everyone, 

So I'm currently reading through the Book of Mormon, trying to finish it one more time before I hit my year mark.  Time sure does fly, I'll tell you that.  But as I was reading a little while ago in the book of Jacob, something stood out to me and caught my attention.  In the first chapter of Jacob, Jacob is relating some of the Nephite history since Nephi finished his record and entrusted the plates to his younger brother.  

Verse 12 of this chapter, though short, made me pause and think for quite some time as I was reading.  This verse reads:

"And it came to pass that Nephi died."

That's it.  That's the whole verse.  It's pretty short, but when I read that my mind was captured by the thought of how sorrowful that occasion would have been.  Nephi was the beloved King of the Nephite people.  So loved was he that after his death, all kinds were called after his name, being called "second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings" (v11).  Nephi was a King who delighted in having his people be industrious.  He taught them many temporal things that they might be a hard-working people.  Early in his reign as their king he "did cause [his] people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands" (2 Nephi 5:17).  He sought for their temporal and eternal welfare, to be a blessing and not a burden upon them.  

Nephi was also their mighty protector.  He had "wielded the sword of Laban in their defence", that they might not fall into the hands of their enemies, who had "swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers" (Enos 1:13).  Nephi was a temporal leader and protector to the end of his days.  
But more important than a temporal leader, he was their leader spiritually.  One who could speak unto them to protect them from the temptations of the adversary.  He was the one who unfolded the doctrine of Christ and the great plan of redemption to the Nephites.  To his children he unfolded the mysteries of God, that they might have a greater understanding of that God who created them, that they might not be blind like his brothers Laman and Lemuel.  He had the gift of revelation and prophesy and was able to understand and expound the words of Isaiah.  He understood them and their plainness, which plainness is not comprehended by any unless they have the Spirit with them.  He lead them along the rod of iron so that they might enter into the joy of the Lord and have eternal rest.  He labored his days to bring about the immortality and eternal life of his children.  

Within this short verse must have been great sorrow and it must have truly been the end of an era for the Nephite people.  Likely after the death of Nephi, there were few or no others who knew of Jerusalem and the teachings of the Jews.  Nephi's death symbolized the loss of the personal connection with the Israelites, and symbolized that this righteous branch of Joseph was fully broken off.  This short verse hit me with great power and I have come to understand, in part, the greatness of Nephi's reign and ministry.  He was a man who feared God, and loved his fellow man, and was obedient to the end.  He was a man to be used as an example of the type of people we should all strive to become.  I find the last recorded words of Nephi to be exceptionally fitting to his personality, and they showcase the attribute we could learn the most from Nephi:

"For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey".

I hope that you call can come to appreciate Nephi as the great prophet, protector, and teacher that he was.  I hope that you all have a great week!

Love, Elder Gailey

Monday, August 10, 2015

Simple Truths from King Benjamin

Hello Everyone!  This week I want to talk about one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon, and one for me that has great power.  

In an address to his subjects, King Benjamin gives many great insights to his people concerning a wide array of topics.  From the purpose of life, the importance of the Savior, service, and what I find to be most important, is an exhortation on what to believe to gain the most out of this mortal life.  This powerful exhortation comes in Mosiah Chapter 4 verses 9 and 10.

King Benjamin begins by telling his people to simply "believe in God" and to "believe that he is".  This simple pronouncement of belief tells us of an important gospel truth.  This truth is that God is, not was.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and believing this will lead to greater understanding of the doctrines and principles of the gospel, as well as a greater understanding of the purpose behind that knowledge.  A belief in God is fundamental to this life.  Knowing that we have a loving Heavenly Father can bring much comfort to this chaotic life.  Sometimes it is the most simple truths and beliefs that can have the most profound impact on a persons life, for it is those key doctrines that are the basis for all others.  

Continuing in his address he bears witness that God "created all things, both in heaven and in earth".  Once we understand that there is a God, and we know that we are his children.  It is important to know that everything that we see around us was created for us.  God did not take a stroll through the universe, find the earth, and say "What a coincidence, I was looking for a place just like this!"  This earth and all we see around us was carefully created, and often we don't admire or pay full gratitude for the things that we see is intrinsic to this mortal life.  We don't question how the laws of physics came into play, we just know that they work.  We often don't notice the great planning and care that went into the most fundamental parts of this universe.  

King Benjamin goes on to give comfort.  I'm not sure about you, but creating a universe is a little out of my range of skills at the current moment.  But knowing the span between the knowledge of man and God, King Benjamin tells his people "that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend".  But nowhere does he say that we can't comprehend, he simply says that we currently don't.  This life is a time for us to learn and to grow in comprehension that we might one day be like our Father in Heaven and live a life like his.  

Knowing of this span between God and man, and knowing that we are upon this earth for the purpose of gaining knowledge, we must come to understand that there is a way prepared for us to bridge the chasm between heaven and earth.  And this is through "repent[ing] of your sins and forsak[ing] them".  It is through repentance and using the Atonement of our Savior that we are able to become like our Father in Heaven.  But this requires us to "humble [ourselves] before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you".  As Jeffrey R. Holland stated: "It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, 'I’ll change'—and mean it".  We have been promised that as often as we repent, we will be forgiven.  

Perhaps the most important part of these two verses is the very last statement made by King Benjamin.  He states boldly that "if you believe all these things see that ye do them".  Knowing that repentance works isn't enough, just as knowing that studying can help you pass a course won't guarantee a good grade.  It takes work to bridge the gap between God and man, but fortunately that's why God has given us an infinite atonement.  God knows that we are fallible, and has laid from the foundation of the world, a plan that will allow every one of his children to return to him, if they exercise their agency and repent.  

I hope that all of you will pay heed to King Benjamin's exhortation.  His words are great and are still applicable to us in these days.  These words and key beliefs have the ability to change every human life.  I know these things to be true.  I love you all, and hope you have a great week!

Elder Gailey

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Be Equal in Strength

Hello World!

So one of my favorite chapters in all of recorded scripture also is one of the most repetitions and monotonous in all of recorded scripture.  If any of you are familiar with the Book of Mormon and it's stories, you are likely familiar with the 77 verse allegory (76 if you remove Jacob's intro to the passage) of the Vineyard recorded in Jacob chapter 5.  

For background, this allegory, recorded by an ancient prophet named Zenos.  It tells the tale of a Lord of a vineyard who repeatedly nourishes, grafts, digs, and dungs a series of olive trees.  Throughout the allegory the efforts of the Lord of the vineyard and his servant are recorded as they try and preserve good fruit, while eliminating the bitter.  This allegory is long and covers a vast sea of topics, themes, and types, but I wish to focus on two verses located in the latter-half of the chapter: 

65 And as they begin to grow ye shall clear‍ away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and lose the trees of my vineyard.
66 For it grieveth me that should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.
(Jacob 5:65-66)

These verses highlight an important attribute of this mortal life.  That attribute is simply that the Lord's will for us is to grown in strength, experience, and spiritual maturity.  But in order to accomplish this goal, there must be an opposition.  Just as weight-lifting achieves no purpose in zero-gravity, so too does life lose it's purpose if there is no opposition.  

In the allegory, the Lord of the vineyard commands his servants to remove the bad branches only as the good branches are able to have strength sufficient.  The Lord has promised us that he will not tempt us above that which we are able to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13).  And so in this allegory, Zenos outlines that the Lord will let us struggle and grow in strength, so that we can become as a tree planted with firm roots and strong branches.  

I believe I have spoken a bit on the need for opposition, for without it we cannot grow.  Remember that it takes no effort to be a loser, or to stay at a low level.  Face those encumbering trials around you and know that God will clear them away as you grow in strength to face them.  I know that the Lord gives us strength sufficient for all trials we endure, all according to the faith that we have in him.  So endure with faith and press forward, knowing that there is a land of paradise ahead.  
I hope that you all have a great week!
Love, Elder Gailey