Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Willing Heart

After reading my cousin's wife's post about Helman 6:36, I wrote some additional commentary on my Book of Mormon Inspection blog ... you can read the whole entry here.

This is what I added:

Hardened vs. Willing Heart

This morning, I read a blog post by my cousin's wife about her thoughts on Helaman 6:36. She had some really good insight into this verse. So I read Helaman 6:36 as well as the preceding two verses.

Mormon contrasts the hardened Nephites with the willing Lamanites. Helaman 6:34-36 says, "And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.

"And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.

"And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words."

She cross-referenced the word "willingness" to Exodus 25:2 and 2 Corinthians 8:12. Then she noted that "willingly" in Exodus 25:2 is cross-referenced to the Topical Guide entry of Initiative. She comments, "Do I take the initiative to ask and find out what the Lord wants, rather then wait till the last minute and decide to follow him when things get difficult, or complain and make excuses? I have experienced both scenarios and I can say that I have felt the blessings of taking the initiative and being willing. Not only do I experience great blessings but my faith is strengthened."

Regarding taking the initiative in keeping the commandment and following the will of God, there are two people who are great examples of keeping this counsel … President Henry B. Eyring and our current stake president Gary Riding.

When President Eyring was called to the Apostleship, there was an article in the September 1995 Ensign that talked about his life. There are two sentences I remember from this article. In talking about his father Matthew Eyring said, "My father has told us that there are two things that he prays for every night. The first is, ‘What blessings do I have that I am not aware of?’ and the second is, ‘Whom can I help?’ And,” Matthew adds, “Dad says there has never been a day that his prayers haven’t been answered.” (Gerald N. Lund, “Elder Henry B. Eyring: Molded by ‘Defining Influences’,” Ensign, Sep 1995, 10)

I am such a laid back person that I’m afraid I feel pretty content with what I have been blessed with. But after rereading part of that quote and also what my cousin's wife said, I wonder how many blessings the Lord has for my family and me that I have not asked for. In her post she says, "I think sometimes it is easy to say, "I don't want any more or I have all that I need." I have met many people who have said this. When we have a willing mind, then I believe our minds are enlightened and the power of the Spirit is able to expand our learning and knowledge."

The other person who I think takes the initiative is our stake president Gary Riding. I have heard him speak on more than one occasion of how he prays for guidance from the Lord. Like President Eyring, he specifically asks the Lord what he needs to do that day … who he can serve. Then he would proceed to give examples of how his prayers have been answered.

One example of his that I remember is when he was jogging through the park and came across a man who seemed to be in mental anguish. President Riding felt inspired to stop and talk to the man. I don't remember all the details, but I think the man was having some marital and other problems in his life. A missionary moment ensued and the man was later baptized. After President Riding finished his talk, the man stood up and testified how his life was changed because of President Riding's prayers and his willingness to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

So I guess the personal application here is that I need to be more earnest in my prayers, have a willing heart … be willing to accept the Lord's will and then do it, and then be diligent in seeking the Lord's will through daily and constant prayer. Then I need to recognize and heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost through the course of the day. And in order to recognize those promptings, I need to listen. In the July 2008 Ensign in another article about President Eyring, he teaches, "The key to hearing those answers and knowing that God has an interest in our lives, he says, is to develop a listening ear. “We’ve got to be quiet and listen. In my life, when I have failed to receive a clear feeling or have missed the voice of the Spirit, it is because I was too busy, too noisy inside, and too full of my own world.” (Robert D. Hales, “President Henry B. Eyring: Called of God,” Ensign, Jul 2008, 8–15)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Prayer: ASK

Today was High Counselor Sunday. As kids, we used to call it Dry Counselor Sunday because the High Counselor usually gave a boring talk. But today's speaker was anything but dry. In fact, it was one of the best talks I've heard in a Sacrament meeting in recent memory.

His subject, given from the Stake President, was prayer. He structured his talk around an acronym ... A.S.K.

When we pray, we should:

A - be ALONE. He mentioned that when Joseph Smith went to inquire of the Lord, he went to the woods to be entirely alone. As the Savior taught in 3 Nephi 13:6, we should enter into our closets and shut the door to be alone. I think we are asked to pray in private so that we are honest in our prayers ... so that we feel we can say and express anything to our Heavenly Father.

S - SPEAK. When we pray, we should not keep the words in our minds. Although we can say a prayer in our hearts anytime, when we pray privately in our closets, we should pray out loud. He again referenced the First Vision and mentioned that Joseph Smith, when he entered the woods to pray, had never prayed out loud before. I've prayed out loud before as well as prayed in my mind and there is a distinct difference between the two. When I pray out loud, hearing myself speak to Heavenly Father is more sincere and humbling.

K - KNEEL. When we pray privately, we should kneel as an act of reverence to the Lord. I remember as a missionary we would put our flip flops on the floor and kneel on them because the cement was so hard. But now that I live in a carpeted home, I find myself not kneeling in personal prayer so often.

Amen - Another point he discussed in his talk was that when we say "amen" we are saying we agree with what was said. He discussed that fact that we need to say "amen" with faith. He suggested that when we say "amen" we should add a few words in our mind ... "go to work." So when we say amen, in our heart and mind, we should be saying "I agree to go to work." By doing this, we will exercise our faith more. I think it was President Hinckley (although I may be wrong on that) who said "pray as if everything depends on God and then work as if everything depends on you."

It was a great talk on prayer. I really needed to hear those words of counsel today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

Recently, I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting. I was assigned the topic of a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit. I delivered this talk on May 25, 2008.


My wife and I met in Spanish class. She came running down the hallway to introduce herself to me. I reciprocated by offering to help her with her paper (I felt she needed some help and I had some ulterior motives). Our teacher’s name was Bruce Lee. We were married in 1998, had our first, Emma in 2000, then Ben in 2002, Erick in 2004 and Camille in 2006.

In the summer of 1998, I picked up an extra job working in the Laundromat as a “mangler.” I sacrificed my time to earn the money to buy an engagement ring for Jill. I’m glad I sacrificed for her … she was and is worth it.


In ancient times, the Lord commanded that Adam and his posterity offer sacrifices. Moses 5:5-8 teaches us about this. (Read the scripture and commentate)

I’m sure for them, it was indeed a sacrifice to offer up the fruits of their labors to the Lord much like it is for us as we pay our tithing today.

Joseph Smith taught us about sacrifice too. He said, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (see Guide to the Scriptures Sacrifice).

The scriptures are full of examples of sacrifice, both of the Savior’s great sacrifice and of others’. We read of Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice and of the saints crossing the plains and building up the kingdom of God on the earth. One of my personal favorite examples is that of the brazen serpent that Moses raised in the wilderness for the children of Israel. They were bitten by fiery serpents. Moses provided a means for them to be healed. They had to get off their beds and looked up the brazen serpent. Those who made that small sacrifice were healed while those who did not died.

What Christ Taught of Sacrifice

Christ taught us what we are to sacrifice. He did away with burnt offerings and instructed us to sacrifice something different.

3 Nephi 9:20 teaches us what we are to offer as a sacrifice (broken heart and contrite spirit … read the scripture and commentate).


The Guide to the Scriptures defines Broken Heart: “To have a broken heart is to be humble, contrite, repentant, and meek - that is, receptive to the will of God.”

To me, the idea of a broken heart is easy to understand. We all have had our hearts broken or we know someone whose heart has been broken. When we see others suffering, it breaks our heart. We are humbled and we have pain in our hearts.

Contrite is a little more subtle. I have never really known what contrite means. So I looked up the definition.

1. caused by or showing sincere remorse
2. filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement; penitent
3. filling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent
4. contritus, literally "worn out, ground to pieces"5. thoroughly bruised or broken
6. broken down with grief and penitence; deeply sorrowful for sin because it is displeasing to God
7. to rub down, to wear out, used until so common as to have lost novelty or interest, hackneyed, stale.
In this light, we understand that our spirits are to be worn out or ground to pieces.

We have all heard the story of the sculptor who after having finished his work of art saw that it had a crack in it. Knowing that it wasn’t perfect, he decided to start over. He broke it to pieces, grounded those to smaller pieces and the added water. Once he did that, the sculpture became clay again and he was able to re-make the work of art.

The gospel application is obvious. We are to break our hearts as he broke the sculpture. We are to have contrite or ground or worn out spirits as the sculpture is ground down. We are to be baptized as the hardened clay is softened by water.

How do we break our hearts and become contrite?
I see two ways in which our hearts are broken and our spirits become contrite.

One, we can lead a life of sin to the point that we are lost. We ended up having no where to turn but to God. Our hearts are truly broken and as a lost child, we submit to anyone who will help us find our way home.

The second way is to humble ourselves by striving to break our own hearts and being contrite.

The way to do this is to same list found on our list of Sunday School answers. We pray, we read the scriptures and meditate on them. We have gratitude in our hearts and express that gratitude in prayer. We serve others. As we do these basic things, we become more humble and willing to serve God. We begin to yield our hearts to God.

As Elder Maxwell taught us of discipleship, there really is only one thing that we truly posses that we can give to God and that is our will, our heart. (see Neal A. Maxwell, “Insights from My Life,” Ensign, Aug 2000, 7 where he says, “I am going to preach a hard doctrine to you now. The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship. There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one final thing He asks of us. And the other things are not very, very important. It is the only possession we have that we can give, and there is no lessening of our agency as a result. Instead, what we see is a flowering of our talents and more and more surges of joy. Submission to Him is the only form of submission that is completely safe.”)

As we become more willing to give ourselves and our hearts to God, the more we become sanctified.

Helaman 3:35 describes this process as it happened to the Nephites and Lamanites (read and commentate).

End with your testimony.



D&C 56:17-18Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the dearth shall be theirs.

3 Nephi 9:20And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.

Psalms 34:18
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Psalms 51:17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

2 Nephi 2:7Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

2 Nephi 4:32May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!

Helaman 8:15And as many as should look upon that serpent should alive, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.

3 Nephi 12:19And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.

D&C 20:37And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.

Guide to the Scriptures
Broken heart - To have a broken heart is to be humble, contrite, repentant, and meek - that is, receptive to the will of God.

1. caused by or showing sincere remorse
2. filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement; penitent
3. filling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent
4. contritus, literally "worn out, ground to pieces"
5. thoroughly bruised or broken
6. broken down with grief and penitence; deeply sorrowful for sin because it is displeasing to God
7. to rub down, to wear out, used until so common as to have lost novelty or interest, hackneyed, stale.

Bruce D. Porter, “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 31–32
"When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master."

"When we yield our hearts to the Lord, the attractions of the world simply lose their luster."

Object lesson: take come "soft" clay and some "hard" clay. Can hard clay be broken, ground down, added to some water and made malleable?

Gerald N. Lund, “Opening Our Hearts,” Ensign, May 2008, 32–34

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Feeling the Spirit Once a Day ...

... keeps the temptations away.

As discussed in a previous post, one of my MTC teachers (Asa Neilson) taught us that we should always strive to be happy and to feel the Spirit at least once a day. That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in the whole two months I spent in the training center.

I figure this is a good place to keep a hold of those experiences I try to have every day.

One of the many great things about the Information Age is the incredibly easy access to virtually limitless information. Blogs are a wonderful way to share and communicate some of that information. One of the blogs I regulary read is Jeff Linday's Mormanity.

Today Jeff posted a story from a convert (named Jim) who faced intense pressure from his pastor when he was investigating the Church. One of the main points that Jim made was how his pastor told him that he could not rely on his feelings to know the truth. The pastor told him that when the missionaries tell him that the burning in his heart is the Holy Ghost, it actually is the devil! At that moment, Jim was inspired to share Luke 24:13-16, 28-32 with his pastor:

13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
• • •

28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the
day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Jim's experience is very edifying. The rest of the story is very uplifting too ... I encourage you to hop over to Mormanity to read the rest.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


There is so much to learn. I've not been posting to this blog because I really didn't see a need to. I've been wrapped up in my "inspection" of the Book of Mormon as well as studying Isaiah. But with the recent fury over Elder Ballard's remarks about members getting more involved on-line, I think it appropriate to reboot this blog.

The original goal of this blog was to be a place for me to post thoughts and study notes from my personal studies of the Gospel. If I had an out-of-the-blue thought, I would post it here ... or post my thoughts about what was said in a Gospel Doctrine class or sacrament meeting talk. Perhaps it will be a place for dialogue between me and those who read it (if anyone reads it :-) ) But mostly it will be for my eyes and my benefit as I read, study and find things on-line ... and maybe it will be of use to others.


I just read an interesting article over at Meridian Magazine entitled Questions Mormons Should Ask Themselves From FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. From there, I read about theosis or human deification. I've heard it before and read it many times on-line from people trying to persuade others that the LDS church is a cult. They use Isaiah 43:10 to argue that no man can become like God.

Theosis is a type of theology meaning divinization. I searched the word at wikipedia and found a nice article on it there. I remember in my humanities class at BYU that we learned early Christians indeed believed that they could become like God. This teaching has since been lost, but is taught again today by the LDS church.

Coming across this article is rather timely as I'll be studying Isaiah 43 very soon.