Peter Walked On Water, But Why Didn’t The Other 11 Apostles As Well?

Peter often gets a bad rap.  Often, the one part of the story that we remember about Peter is that he sunk.  He failed.  But did he fail?  Peter remains the only mortal man to have ever walked on water, but there were 11 other people on the boat.  Why didn’t they get out?  They missed the opportunity of a lifetime because they gave in to fear.  Reason and logic overcame faith.  But Peter, a fisherman, a man who knew more than anyone that a man doesn’t float on water (he sinks!), was eager to jump out and DO what he saw the Savior doing.

Was this experience a great failure?  No!  It was a great success!  Peter learned many priceless lessons. Peter learned that he could walk on water!  When we follow the Savior and do what He asks of us, we can do things we never even dreamed were possible.  Christ was showing Peter the miraculous things he could do through faith!  What a confidence booster!  Peter must have thought, “Wow!  If I can walk on water, is there anything, with Christ’s help, that I can’t do?”  I wonder how many times Peter thought of that experience as he was symbolically asked to walk on water during his ministry – to do things that must have seemed impossible.

While [Peter’s] eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only when with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink….

It is my firm belief that if as individual people, as families, communities, and nations, we could, like Peter, fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might walk triumphantly over “the swelling waves of disbelief” and remain “unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt.” But if we turn away our eyes from him in whom we must believe, as it is so easy to do and the world is so much tempted to do, if we look to the power and fury of those terrible and destructive elements around us rather than to him who can help and save us, then we shall inevitably sink in a sea of conflict and sorrow and despair.

At such times when we feel the floods are threatening to drown us and the deep is going to swallow up the tossed vessel of our faith, I pray we may always hear amid the storm and the darkness that sweet utterance of the Savior of the world: “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. (Howard W. Hunter, “The Beacon in the Harbor of Peace,” Ensign, November 1992, p. 19)

As soon as Peter began to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matt 14:30) “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (Matt 14:31).

Jesus reached out his hand immediately.  He didn’t put His hands on His hips and say, “Peter, it’s your own fault you’re sinking.  Go swim a few laps and think about what you’ve done. Then, just maybe, I’ll think about forgiving and helping you…”

Peter learned that even when it was his own dumb fault that he was sinking, the Savior stood ready to save him as soon as He asked.

The other 11 apostles avoided “failure,” but, as Denis Waitley once said, “ Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  Henry Ford put it beautifully: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

How often has the Lord called us to do something, great or small, and we were too scared to leave our comfort zones and do it?  What great opportunities have we missed when we have given in to fears or doubts?  It is time to be like the great Apostle Peter and jump in with all our might and, despite the storms raging around us, put one foot in front of the other, keep our eyes on the Savior, and discover the amazing things we are capable of!

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1 Cor 2:9 Don’t be too anxious to die…

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Cor 2:9)

Linda S. Reeves gives an insightful explanation that sums up the meaning of this verse beautifully:

Understandably, many have expressed that our Father’s promised blessings are just “way too far away,” particularly when our lives are overflowing with challenges. But Amulek taught that “this life is the time … to prepare to meet God.” It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. President Packer explained, “‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.” However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies” that we experience on a daily basis.

Sisters, I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, “Was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior? (Linda S. Reeves, “Worthy of Our Promised Blessings,” Ensign, November 2015).

I often think Heavenly Father didn’t reveal how absolutely wonderful life would be after we die because then we would be way too excited to die!  We’d walk out into the street hoping a car would hit us =).  He knew we needed to stay on Earth (and not leave prematurely!) so we could gain the experiences we needed that will make us more like Him.  He sent us here to BECOME something.  And that requires effort, time, dedication, grit, and faith (to name a few!).

So often we want to be a marathon runner without wanting to put in the necessary training to become one!  We want the blessings of being able to run 26 miles without running the 3, 6, 10, and 15+ mile runs that led up to that victory!

It’s a natural, human tendency to just want our lives to be easier.  We pray for a removal of our trials, instead of the power and strength to handle them.  But is living on easy-street the purpose of this life – is it even a desirable state?  What marathon runner would feel any sense of accomplishment if, as she crossed the finish line, thought, “Well, that was easy.”

But how do we learn to run for 26 miles when everything around us seems to be falling apart?  What do we do when our challenges are too much and too many?  Five letters will answer all those questions:  G.R.A.C.E.   The power of grace is far reaching:

It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means (Bible Dictionary, “Grace”).

David A. Bednar gave a beautiful example of what it truly means to use grace in your life.

Nephi is an example of one who knew, understood, and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior. Recall that the sons of Lehi had returned to Jerusalem to enlist Ishmael and his household in their cause. Laman and others in the party traveling with Nephi from Jerusalem back to the wilderness rebelled, and Nephi exhorted his brethren to have faith in the Lord. It was at this point in their journey that Nephi’s brothers bound him with cords and planned his destruction. Please note Nephi’s prayer: “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound” (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added).

Do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? “Please get me out of this mess NOW!” It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement.

I do not think the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then “in the strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords, and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.

The implication of this episode for each of us is straightforward. As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon. (David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, April 2012).

 

 

Joseph in Egypt: life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you decide to do about it!

Joseph’s life was riddled with trials and bumps in the road that he never saw coming.  As soon as he rose to the top, he seemed to get slammed back down to the bottom.  When Joseph was seventeen, he was sold, by his brothers, into slavery in Egypt.  What probably made this a particularly bitter experience is that Joseph had seen a vision showing that he was chosen of God to be a ruler over his brothers.  Being sold into Egypt as a slave must have seemed like a DIRECT contradiction to a promised blessing from the Lord.  It seemed the Lord had promised one thing and allowed quite the opposite to happen.  That must have been, to say the least, a very confusing time.  As Joseph trudged along to Egypt, I’m sure he wasn’t thinking, “Yes!  Becoming a slave is the next logical step to becoming a noble ruler!”  But there is no record of any bitterness or complaint from Joseph.  I am astounded that Joseph’s attitude seemed to be, “Well, I’m a slave now.  I can’t change that, but I can be the best slave there ever was!”  He put his whole heart and soul into his work and before long, his master, Potiphar, “saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 29:3).  Potiphar appointed him overseer over his house.

All was well until Potiphar’s wife desired Joseph.  Joseph chose to be chaste.  He did the right thing and ended up being thrown into prison.  And prisoner is a step down from slave!  Whenever I think my life is unfair, I think of Joseph and suddenly, my life doesn’t seem so bad =)  He could have a few good talks with those of us who think life isn’t fair =)

As if being a slave (or a prisoner!) weren’t hard enough, I think maybe the hardest thing about it was the fact that he hadn’t done anything to deserve it.  The scriptures teach that if we keep the commandments, God will bless us.  While that is always true, the blessings may not always be immediate or obvious.  Being righteous does NOT guarantee that we will not have trials.  But we do have this promise:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). 

There may be no better example of the truth of this scripture than Joseph’s life!   

Please remember this one thing.  If our lives…are centered upon Jesus Christ…nothing can ever go permanently wrong.  On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and His teachings, no other success can be permanently right (Howard W. Hunter, “Following the Mater:  Teachings of Howard W. Hunter,” Ensign, Apr. 1995, pg. 21)

There is a purpose to every trial we are called to endure.  Though we may not know the reason, no trial is a waste.

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.  It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility.  All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.  (Orson F. Whitney as quoted by Pres. Kimball in Faith Precedes the Miracle, pg. 98)

Thrown into prison, Joseph could have become very resentful, but again, there is no record of complaint and once again, his attitude seems to be, “Well, I’m a prisoner.  I can’t change that, but I can be the best prisoner there ever was!”  It would have been so easy for him to have turned his back on God. It would have been so easy for him to have felt betrayed by God.  It would have been so easy to sit in a corner and rot with bitterness.  It says a lot about Joseph’s character and work ethic that “the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.  The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (Genesis 39:23).

Joseph interpreted the baker’s and the butler’s dreams while he was in prison, but it was two years before Pharaoh had a dream that he was called to come and interpret.  Joseph was 30 years old when he was appointed second in command of all of Egypt.  Finally, after 13 years in Egypt, his life started making sense!  That’s a long time to be patient and wait for the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled!  To his credit, he had kept himself so pure and so close to the Lord that when the time came to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, he was worthy to do it and he was so in tune with the Lord that he not only gave Pharaoh the interpretation, but was also able to devise a plan to save all of Egypt!  Pharaoh recognized this immediately and asked, “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Genesis 41:38).  It was obvious that Joseph was a spiritual giant.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from Joseph is how to react when life doesn’t make sense.  When I feel like I’m doing everything I should – keeping the commandments to the best of my ability – and yet feel like my life is falling apart, do I shake my fist at the heavens or trust that the Lord is in control and can see the whole picture while I often just see a tiny piece of it?  Joseph’s trust in the Lord was unwavering.  He had truly learned that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, everything works out in the end.  If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end!  He wasn’t obsessed with how unfair his life was and how things weren’t working out.  He made the most out of every situation he was thrown into!

We know that Joseph’s life turned out great.  We know that he ends up being second in command in Egypt.  We know that he ended up saving his family from starving to death.  But he didn’t know that’s how it would turn out!  THE reason his life was so hard is that he didn’t know what was going to happen.  He didn’t know how long he would be a slave or how long he would be in prison.  He just knew that he wasn’t going to turn his back on God.  All he knew was that if he did his best, God would help him get through anything he was called to pass through.

I remember taking my son to the doctor to get his first set of vaccinations.  The nurse had me hold his head in my hands as she did the first shot.  My poor, unsuspecting, baby wailed at the shock of the pain!  He looked up at me with eyes that pleaded, “Please, mom, help me!  Someone is hurting me!  Please save me!”  My heart broke as I looked into those tear-filled eyes and realized that the only thing I could do was hold him.  How I wish I could have explained that these shots were necessary – that they would save him from contracting terrible diseases that would have caused much more pain than these shots – but I knew that there was no way he would understand my explanations.  I knew it was for his best interest.  It was to prepare (and protect) him for the future.  If he could only know what I did.  If he could only see what I could.  How could I explain that I wasn’t doing it to hurt him?  I was doing it to help him.

So often we want an explanation from God.  We want to know WHY we have to endure certain things.  We want to know why we are having marriage problems, financial problems, parenting problems, employment problems, health issues, etc.  That has caused me to ponder:  why does God often withhold explanations?

Then my epiphany:  If God did explain why we have to go through a certain trial, it would not be a trial!  If God had told Joseph (when he was sold into slavery) not to worry because he would end up being second in command in Egypt and saving his family from starving, would his life have been difficult?  No (or not nearly as much), because it would have made sense.  Joseph’s trials were hard because they didn’t make sense.  He was doing everything God asked him to and he kept getting negative consequences for it (or so it seemed).  He could have said, “Lord, you told me to be chaste and I was and then I was thrown into prison!  That’s not fair!”  But Joseph didn’t complain.

God could have explained, “Joseph, my son, you need to be in prison so you can interpret the butler’s dream so he can introduce you to Pharaoh and so you can save Egypt and your family from starvation.”  But Joseph would never have increased in faith if the Lord had done that.  Explanations remove the need for faith.  The real test is whether or not we will be consistent in keeping the commandments even when things don’t make sense.  True faith means not giving up no matter what happens.  The only thing that is important to keep is our faith.  We are not in control of anything else.  We can’t control many of the things that happen to us in this life, but we can control the strength, vibrancy, and efficacy of our faith.  We are in control of our character and who we choose to become.  We must learn to trust the Lord even when He hasn’t revealed all the answers.

THE TAPESTRY

My life is but a weaving,

Between my God and me.

I do not see the colors,

He worketh patiently.

Oft times he weaveth sorrow,

And I in foolish pride,

Forget he sees the upper

And I the underside.

Not ‘till the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Will God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why

That the dark threads are as needful

In the skillful weaver’s hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern he has planned

ADDITIONAL READING

“See the end from the beginning”

by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

My young friends, today I say to you that if you trust the Lord and obey Him, His hand shall be over you, He will help you achieve the great potential He sees in you, and He will help you to see the end from the beginning.

Allow me to share with you an experience from my own boyhood. When I was 11 years old, my family had to leave East Germany and begin a new life in West Germany overnight. Until my father could get back into his original profession as a government employee, my parents operated a small laundry business in our little town. I became the laundry delivery boy. To be able to do that effectively, I needed a bicycle to pull the heavy laundry cart. I had always dreamed of owning a nice, sleek, shiny, sporty red bicycle. But there had never been enough money to fulfill this dream. What I got instead was a heavy, ugly, black, sturdy workhorse of a bicycle. I delivered laundry on that bike before and after school for quite a few years. Most of the time, I was not overly excited about the bike, the cart, or my job. Sometimes the cart seemed so heavy and the work so tiring that I thought my lungs would burst, and I often had to stop to catch my breath. Nevertheless, I did my part because I knew we desperately needed the income as a family, and it was my way to contribute.

If I had only known back then what I learned many years later—if I had only been able to see the end from the beginning—I would have had a better appreciation of these experiences, and it would have made my job so much easier.

Many years later, when I was about to be drafted into the military, I decided to volunteer instead and join the Air Force to become a pilot. I loved flying and thought being a pilot would be my thing.

To be accepted for the program I had to pass a number of tests, including a strict physical exam. The doctors were slightly concerned by the results and did some additional medical tests. Then they announced, “You have scars on your lung which are an indication of a lung disease in your early teenage years, but obviously you are fine now.” The doctors wondered what kind of treatment I had gone through to heal the disease. Until the day of that examination I had never known that I had any kind of lung disease. Then it became clear to me that my regular exercise in fresh air as a laundry boy had been a key factor in my healing from this illness. Without the extra effort of pedaling that heavy bicycle day in and day out, pulling the laundry cart up and down the streets of our town, I might never have become a jet fighter pilot and later a 747 airline captain.

We don’t always know the details of our future. We do not know what lies ahead. We live in a time of uncertainty. We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. Occasionally discouragement may sneak into our day; frustration may invite itself into our thinking; doubt might enter about the value of our work. In these dark moments Satan whispers in our ears that we will never be able to succeed, that the price isn’t worth the effort, and that our small part will never make a difference. He, the father of all lies, will try to prevent us from seeing the end from the beginning (“See the End From the Beginning,” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference April 2006).

 

Ether 6 The Jaredites: “We learn lessons from storms that we cannot learn from calm seas” (John H. Groberg)

THE FARMER AND THE DONKEY

 One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well.  The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.  Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him.  They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.  At first the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.  Then to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down.  A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw.

With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.  He would shake it off and take a step up.  As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.  Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt.  The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up.  Each of our troubles is a stepping stone.  We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up!  Shake it off and take a step up!

The Jaredites, a people who lived during the time of The Tower of Babel, escaped the curse of the confounding of languages after the brother of Jared prayed and asked the Lord that their family would be able to understand each other.  They traveled in the wilderness and eventually came to the seashore where they faced the daunting task of building barges in order that they might cross over and come to a promised land (the Americas).

How did the Jaredites shake off the dirt and take a step up?

PREPARATION (Ether 6:4,11) – they were on the sea for 344 days.  What if they had only gathered 200 days of food?

LIGHT (Ether 6:2-3,10) – Christ had touched the 16 stones to light up their 8 barges.  It was a symbol that they were bringing Christ with them throughout their journey – He was their light and led the way.

TRUST (Ether 6:4) – The Jaredites did everything they could to prepare themselves for the journey and then they “commended themselves unto the Lord their God.” This principles is also taught beautifully in Doctrine & Covenants 123:17 “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

John H. Groberg writes of a time when, while serving as a missionary for his church in Tonga, he was shipwrecked during a ferocious storm.  The captain of their small motor boat had expressed concern about the heavy storm clouds, but Elder Groberg had assured him that he was a missionary of the Lord and that all would be well – God would protect them.  After all, he was on the Lord’s errand.  The storm hit and, as the boat flipped over and they crashed into the sea, Elder Groberg thought, “This can’t be!  This isn’t true!  I’m a missionary; this isn’t supposed to happen!  I’m not supposed to swin!” He continued, “But it was true and I was there, and I knew I had better quit complaining and start swimming.”

Elder Groberg reported, “I have thought a lot about that experience.  God was with us.  He saved us.  He could have brought us through the storm unscathed and landed us safely in our home port of Pangai.  But for some reason, He chose otherwise.  I have heard it said that sometimes the Lord calms the storm, and sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”

So often in life we think that because we have done things in a certain way, certain results should follow.  But life is like the ocean.  Sometimes we get caught in squalls and storms and things don’t go the way we think they should, even when we think we have done right.  But God can find us in the eye of a storm and give us courage to swim in rough water.  We learn lessons from storms that we cannot learn from calm seas.

I understood better than ever that the Lord’s promise to us personally is that if we do what is right, He will give us peace no matter what the environment.  I know that to be true.  That peace may not come in the way we think or how, where, or when we think, but in the eternal scheme of things, it will come in the way best for us and we will yet praise His name for things we do not now understand.” (In the Eye of the Storm, John H. Groberg, pages3, 5, 6)

WIND (trials) never ceased (Ether 6:5,8) – The wind was relentless, BUT it was blowing them towards the promised land (without it they would have never gotten there!  The very thing they must have, at times, hated was the very thing that was saving them.  IF THE WIND HAD CEASED, THEY WOULD HAVE STOPPED AND THEIR PROGRESS WOULD HAVE CEASED – literally.  Our trials blow us toward the promised land (Celestial Kingdom).  These trials refine us and can help us become the sons and daughters of God we were meant to become.

No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God} will never desert us.  He never has, and He never will.  He cannot do it.  It is not His character.  He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come.  We have found that God….We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed.  We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments (George Q. Cannon in Neal A. Maxwell’s If Thou Endure it Well [Salt Lake City:  Bookcraft, 1996], pg. 121).

…adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happily Ever After,” Ensign, May 2010).

It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happily Ever After,” Ensign, May 2010).

No water could hurt them because their vessels were “tight like unto a dish” (Ether 6:6-7

All the water in the world
And Every Kind of Sin
Could Never Harm a Human Soul
Unless it Got Within

There is no external force that can stop us from reaching the Celestial Kingdom.  Satan can’t stop us.  Christ can’t make us go.  The ONLY one who can stop us is ourselves.  If we choose to sin, then we let water leak into our boats and unless we repair the leak (repent), we will end up drowning ourselves.  We are in full control of how much water leaks into our boat.  We must learn to stop the leaks early.

PRAYER (Ether 6:7) – every time they were buried too deep, they simply prayed and the Lord brought them back up to the top.  Their simple prayers were more POWERFUL than the “mountain waves” of the ocean.  Prayer = Power.  When life gets too hard to stand, kneel.

Another powerful lesson we learn about prayer is how the Lord resolved the issues with the barges.  After they were completed, the brother of Jared came to the Lord and told him there were 3 problems with them: 1) they couldn’t breathe in them 2) they didn’t have a way to steer them and 3) there was no light in them.  For concern #1, the Lord told him what to do (put a hole in the top and the bottom so they could have air – see Ether 6:20).  For concern #2, the Lord told him not to worry about it because He would steer them (Ether 6:24).  For concern #3, the Lord told the brother of Jared to figure out his own solution (Ether 6:23).  From this pattern, we learn that sometimes the Lord tells us what to do to solve the problem, sometimes He takes care of the problem for us (that’s the one I always want!), and sometimes He expects us to use our brains to figure out what to do (and then pray and ask the Lord if it’s right).

PRAISED THE LORD (Ether 6:9) – they kept their focus on the Lord, not on the trials.  They focused on the fact they were heading towards the promised land, not on how hard the wind was howling.  We need to be grateful for how far we have come and not dwell on how far we must go.  Just like the donkey in the story, we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our attitude.  At first, all the donkey did was complain, but he soon learned that complaining about the dirt was getting him nowhere.  As Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “No Misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.”  The donkey realized he could either use his energy to complain or use it to get out!

“When we find ourselves in these squalls or storms, we should remember we don’t have enough energy to complain and still keep our head above water.  Our duty is to swim, not wonder or complain.  We need to get to shore and must leave the reasons for the storm with the Lord.  If all the effort we put into asking ‘why’ were used in swimming, a lot more of us, with His help, would reach shore” (In the Eye of the Storm, John H. Groberg, page 6)

The Jaredites didn’t know the details of their journey.  They didn’t know how many days it would take, how rough the waters would be, etc.  They only knew that God had promised them He would take them to the promised land.  They trusted in that end promise.  Even though they didn’t know HOW they would get there, that didn’t matter, because they knew they WOULD get there.  They knew God always keeps His promises.

In the pre-earth life, Heavenly Father explained the waves would be tough and that we would have to build ships, but we didn’t know all the details.  All we knew was the end promise – that we would grow to become like Heavenly Father and He would lead us back home.  We don’t need to know the rest.  We don’t need to know why the waves hit so hard, why the wind never ceases, why our boat seems to be constantly hit by sea monsters while other people are gliding effortlessly along, etc – we just need to know that if we keep the light (Christ) as our guide, we will get back.  While we may not know everything, we know enough to keep trying.

Neil L. Andersen shares two experiences about individuals (one of them a personal experience) who chose faith over doubt and decided to act on what they knew instead of acting out of fear about all the things they didn’t know.

“While there are many experiences like the one we are having today, full of spiritual power and confirmation, there are also days when we feel inadequate and unprepared, when doubt and confusion enter our spirits, when we have difficulty finding our spiritual footing. Part of our victory as disciples of Christ is what we do when these feelings come.

Nearly 40 years ago as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came: “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.

Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon. (The Book of Mormon is powerful spiritual nourishment.)

We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality.

Several years ago a friend of mine had a young daughter die in a tragic accident. Hopes and dreams were shattered. My friend felt unbearable sorrow. He began to question what he had been taught and what he had taught as a missionary. The mother of my friend wrote me a letter and asked if I would give him a blessing. As I laid my hands upon his head, I felt to tell him something that I had not thought about in exactly the same way before. The impression that came to me was: Faith is not only a feeling; it is a decision. He would need to choose faith.

My friend did not know everything, but he knew enough. He chose the road of faith and obedience. He got on his knees. His spiritual balance returned.

It has been several years since that event. A short time ago I received a letter from his son who is now serving a mission. It was full of conviction and testimony. As I read his beautiful letter, I saw how a father’s choice of faith in a very difficult time had deeply blessed the next generation” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, Ensign, Nov. 2008).

God is at the helm of our ships.  He is steering us.  And though storms will come our way, the trick is to hold on and don’t jump out of the boat!!! – especially NOT during a storm!  We often have a blurred perspective of what is going on during the storm, but once the water settles, many times the reasons for the storm become clearer and we come out wiser.  But even if we are left without a reason for the storm, we can trust that God will never steer us amiss.

As Brigham Young has said: “We are on the old ship Zion. … [God] is at the helm and will stay there. … All is right, sing Hallelujah, for the Lord is here. He dictates, guides and directs. If the people will have implicit confidence in their God, never forsake their covenants nor their God, He will guide us right” (Brigham Young, “Remarks,” Deseret News, Nov. 18, 1857, 291).

God would never do anything that wasn’t in our best interest.  If He did, then He wouldn’t be God.  Trust that He knows what we need to learn and HOW we will best learn it.  And many times, “we learn lessons from storms that we cannot learn from calm seas.”   Let us be like the Jaredites and learn from their example in how they reacted during the storms.

 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: convinced vs. converted

It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons.  The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject.  They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless.  (John A. Widstoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 8.)

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Matt. 25:1)

The ten virgins were members of the church.  They weren’t just ten random people on the face of the earth.  All of them knew what would be expected of them in order to enter into the wedding.  All ten of them brought their lamps.  The five foolish virgins’ lamps looked just like the wise virgins’ lamps.  They looked like they were full of oil.  They looked good on the outside.  They LOOKED like good members of the church with strong testimonies, but they were empty on the inside.  “They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them.” (Matt 25:3)

When did the bridegroom come?  “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” (Matt 25:6).  We must have enough oil in our lamps to last us until midnight.  Only having enough oil to last us until 11 PM will not be enough.  Much like the ten virgins, we don’t know when the Savior will come again.  We need to make sure we are adding oil to our lamps every day.  We can’t afford to ever fool ourselves into thinking that we have enough, we’ve done enough, and don’t need to be actively adding oil anymore or we may end up like the five foolish virgins who realize, too late, that they do not have enough.

Panicking, the foolish virgins beg the wise virgins to let them borrow some oil.  Elder David A. Bednar counseled us to consider the oil to be the oil of conversion.  He asked,

Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? Can the spiritual strength that results from consistent obedience to the commandments be given to another person? Can the knowledge obtained through diligent study and pondering of the scriptures be conveyed to one who is in need? Can the peace the gospel brings to a faithful Latter-day Saint be transferred to an individual experiencing adversity or great challenge? The clear answer to each of these questions is no (“Converted Unto the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2012).

Did the wise virgins ignore the foolish ones?  Did they make fun of them?  Were they mean?  No.  They told them what they needed to do to go and get some oil.  “…but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”  (Matt 25:9)

Now, in this parable, you could go and buy oil.  What if you could buy your testimony?  How much would you be willing to spend on it?  Would you run down to the nearest store and get the $5 testimony?  Or would you get the $10, $20, $100, or $100,000 testimony?  Even though you can’t buy a testimony, it does cost something.  There is a price to be paid.

I know that to gain knowledge of great worth requires extraordinary personal effort.  This is particularly true when our desire is to obtain spiritual knowledge.  President Kimball put it this way: The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones–but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them . . . Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough.  It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life . . . Of all knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389-90).

Profound spiritual truth cannot simply be poured from one mind and heart to another.  It takes faith and diligent effort.  Precious truth comes a small piece at a time through faith, with great exertion, and at times wrenching struggles.  The Lord intends it be that way so that we can mature and progress.  (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, November 1993, p. 88.)

There are those who have made a casual, even an insincere effort to test the scriptures and have come away having received nothing, which is precisely what they have earned and what they deserve.  If you think it will yield to casual inquiry, to idle curiosity, or even to well-intentioned but temporary searching, you are mistaken.  (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1974, p. 95.)

I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures.  I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God.  I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted.  At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1995, p. 99.)

The price you have to pay is the price that all righteous men and women pay – a life totally dedicated to Christ and His cause.  A life of keeping the commandments every day and enduring to the end.  A life of doing the thousand little acts of goodness and kindness that change us and make our faces show who we really are – divine children of our Heavenly Father.  Harold B. Lee said the gods we worship write their names on our faces (Elder Alexander B. Morrison, Friend, Nov. 1997)

Christ paid such an enormous, enabling price for us!  Will we not apply His Atonement in order to pay the much smaller price required for personal progress?  Being valiant in our testimony of Jesus, therefore, includes being valiant in our efforts to live more as He lived.  (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 1997)

This touching story shows that the price we pay is not really a sacrifice.  It is never a sacrifice to live the gospel of Jesus Christ because you get back so much more than you give.

A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.”

Then President McKay quoted an observer who was present in that class: “Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.

“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …

“ ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ ”

He continues: “ ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“ ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’ ” (David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” The Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948)

How much is a testimony worth?  Can you put a price on it?

Your personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of your testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty.

A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life.

It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.

A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path.

As you fortify your own personal testimony, you will have power to make correct choices so that you can stand unwaveringly against the pressures of an increasingly vicious world.

…fundamental truths must become part of the very fiber of your character. They must be an essential part of your being, more treasured than life itself (Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

Those who know Christ best are those who have paid the price to know Him.

“The only measure of true greatness is how close a man can become like Jesus.  That man is greatest who is most like Christ, and those who love Him most will be most like Him.  How, then, does a man imitate God, follow His steps, and walk as He walked, which we are commanded to do? (3 Nephi 27:27, 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).  We must study the life of Christ, learn His commandments, and do them.  God has promised that to follow this course will lead a man to an abundant life, a fulness of joy, and the peace and rest for which those who are heavy burdened long (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, [1988], 327-328)

The five foolish women were convinced the church was true.  It made logical sense in their minds and they went through the motions of being good members.  The five wise women had become truly converted to the gospel.  They had experienced that mighty change of heart that King Benjamin’s people experienced where “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent…has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”  (Mosiah 5:2)

The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19, 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ (David A. Bednar, “Converted Unto the Lord, Ensign, Nov. 2012)

There is great concern to make sure our children aren’t just convinced the gospel is true, but that they become fully converted to it.

Harold B. Lee talked about the young people of the Church and about the challenges they face in growing up in this world in which we live.  He expressed his deep concern about the fact that some of them could go through Primary, Sunday School, Mutual, priesthood quorums, and Seminary and come out the other end without testimonies.  He said: “Do you know why I think it is?  Because our young people have grown up spectators.” (Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer, 1985, 505.)

Our young people are very good at showing up to things.  They show up to church, young women and young men activities, seminary, devotionals, etc, but showing up is not enough.  Two people can show up to the same meeting and one of them can come away with tremendous insights and goals to make personal improvements while the other person may have thought the meeting was boring and a complete waste of time.  The meeting was the same.  The difference lay in the people.  We must be actively engaged in learning and living the gospel.  It is not enough to just go through the motions.

Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music….

…We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.

…If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance and will either quit dancing or, almost as bad, keep dancing only because of the pressure they feel from others who are dancing around them (Elder Wilford W. Andersen, “The Music of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 2015).

So how do we help our youth (and ourselves) HEAR the music?

Sometimes we become so anxious to help and teach our students that we simply disseminate to them the principles that we have learned or been taught.  We have all felt the power, excitement and motivation of personal discovery through the Holy Ghost.  The greater good for our students might accrue if we lead them in such a way that they become able to begin making discoveries for themselves (Harold B. Lee, Address given to seminary students, 24 Feb. 1973.)

The prophetic efforts of Joseph Smith did not center in sharing his spiritual experiences but rather in the effort to qualify us to have our own spiritual experiences.  The emphasis was not on what he had seen but on what we could see… Joseph invited us to check him by having our own Sacred Grove experience. (Joseph Fielding McConkie , Regional Studies in LDS Church History, 206-207.)

For the gospel to be written in your heart, you need to know what it is and grow to understand it more fully…sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more.  Studying in this way, you may not read a lot of chapters or verses in a half hour, but you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you (D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 11.)

True faith has enormous power, but there are principles that must be followed to unleash that power…. you must practice the truth or principle you have faith in. As you live it consistently, there will come a witness of its truthfulness through the power of the Holy Ghost….He will confirm the certainty that His laws will produce the promised results when obeyed willingly and consistently (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

The Lord will hear your prayers in time of need. He will invariably answer them. However, His answers will generally not come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. There is a pattern that must be followed. You are asked to look for an answer to your prayers, then confirm that it is correct. Obey His counsel to “study it out in your mind.” Often you will think of a solution. Then seek confirmation that your answer is right. This help can come from prayer and from pondering the scriptures, at times by the intervention of others, or from your own capacity, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

At times the Lord will want you to proceed with trust before you receive a confirming answer. His answer generally comes as packets of help. As each piece is followed in faith, it will unite with others to give you the whole answer. This pattern requires the exercise of faith. While sometimes very hard, it results in significant personal growth (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

I know that true happiness comes from having a lamp that is full of oil.  When our lamps are low, we feel empty.  We feel lonely, discouraged, sad, and dissatisfied.  People roam the world looking for happiness, but all the “fun” things the world has to offer leaves them feeling even more empty than before.  The truth is that the happiest people on earth are those who are living the most like Christ.  The more Christ-like we are, the more forgiving, patient, compassionate, generous, optimistic, not easily offended, resilient, determined, joyous, unselfish, peaceful, loving, and courageous we are.  And how could life not be beautiful if we are all of those things?

David and Goliath: When the time for performance has come, the time for preparation has passed

David didn’t wait for the Lord to call him to kill Goliath.  He tells King Saul, “Let no man’s heart fall because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (1 Same 17:32).  Other men had to be called and they were scared to death (Moses, Jonah, Gideon, etc).  David saw a problem and immediately jumped in! He was already so courageous that he was able to persuade the king to let him, a shepherd with no military experience, battle a man that would decide the fate of his entire nation.

Have we prepared today to fight our Goliaths of tomorrow?  When David woke up that morning, he didn’t know that he would have to fight a giant, nine foot-tall warrior!  But it didn’t matter because he was ready!  We need to have a testimony so strong that it doesn’t matter what trial comes our way because we are strong enough, determined enough, and courageous enough to tackle anything!  Then we can be at peace because we know that whatever comes, with the Lord’s help, we will come off conquerors.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

Another reason Daniel was fearless is that he had past spiritual experiences to sustain him.  David didn’t know that he would someday have to fight off a terrifying monster of an enemy, but God did.  So God sent him experiences to prepare him.  As David was tending the sheep, a lion and a bear (see 1 Sam 17:34-37) came and he, with the help of the Lord, was able to kill them.  These past spiritual experiences let him KNOW that the Lord was with him and would help him.

We all have a Goliath of a problem to face (depression, divorce, abuse, grades, contention, low self esteem, friends, homework, poor health, eating disorder, loneliness, sickness, addiction, rejection, discouragement).  What would be the saddest tale of all is WHEN (not if) our Goliaths come, we are unprepared for the challenge!

To every man there comes… that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a special thing unique to him and fitted to his talent. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour. -Winston Churchill

5 Characteristics of “Goliaths” in 1 Samuel chapter 17

  1. vs 4 – they seem bigger than life – insurmountable
  2. vs 5-7 they are tough to fight (well protected)
  3. vs 9 desires to make us its servant
  4. vs 16 feels it never goes away (constant nagging)
  5. Vs 11 makes us afraid (takes away faith)

HOW TO OVERCOME A GOLIATH  – Have students read through verses 26-51 and find how to overcome Goliaths.  Have them pick their favorite one and then share it with a neighbor.  Share it with the class.  Journal:  How have you overcome big problems in your life?  What do you do when you’re going through a hard trial?  Think of a time when you or someone you know, overcame a tremendous obstacle

  1. Vs 26 see the problem for what it truly is
  2. Vs 32 be willing to fight it
  3. Vs 33 don’t let others discourage you or tell you it can’t be done
  4. Vs 36 know your strengths
  5. Vs 37 have faith
  6. Vs 39 be yourself
  7. Vs 40 realize it may take several tries (David didn’t collect ONE stone; he took five)
  8. Vs 47 realize God will help you (you are not alone)
  9. Vs 50 do the little things (small and simple)
  10. Vs 51 completely kill it,

“There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot tall men, but they are men and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you  into their use. There are drugs of various kinds. . . . There is pornography, seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other materials designed to take your money and lead you toward activities that would destroy you.

The giants who are behind these efforts are formidable and skillful. They have gained vast experience in the war they are carrying on. They would like to ensnare you.

It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to their products. You see these materials on all sides. But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands. You have been counseled and taught and advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you. . . . You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them. . . .

Victory will be yours. There is not a [person] within the sound of my voice who needs to succumb to any of these forces. . . . You have His power within you to sustain you” (Gordon B. Hinckly, Ensign, May 1983, 46, 51).

This article is a great resource for teaching the importance of spiritual preparation.

At a recent stake conference, a returned missionary spoke on the subject of preparing for missionary service. He used the analogy of a father saying to his son, “I will be happy when you play in your first basketball game so you can learn to dribble and shoot the basketball.” He compared that example to a father saying to his son, “I will be happy when you go on your mission so you can learn to be a good person and teach the gospel.” This analogy had a significant impact on me as I reflected on my life.

When I was a young boy, my greatest desire was to play basketball. Fortunately, I had a father who was anxious to see that his son’s desire was met. Dad and I would practice the basics of passing and dribbling the basketball hour after hour in our small kitchen. I would listen to college basketball games on the radio and dream of playing college ball someday. Serving a mission was far from my mind at that time; consequently, I spent very little effort in missionary preparation. In an attempt to ensure some balance in my life, my dad—who had not held a Church calling in many years—accepted the call to serve as my Scoutmaster. He operated by the book, and due to his diligence, some of my friends and I became Eagle Scouts. I realize now that Scouting is great preparation for a mission.

My boyhood dream came true when I made the basketball team at Utah State University. During my second year at Utah State, a returned missionary befriended me. Because of his example I began looking at my associates at school, including those on the basketball team, and realized that the people I most wanted to be like were those who had served missions. With the kind and loving mentoring of my good friend—and, I am sure, as a result of my mother’s prayers and good example—my desires changed. After my second year at Utah State, I was called to serve in the Western Canadian Mission.

Three months into my mission, a new missionary from Idaho was assigned to be my companion. We had been together only a few days when I realized something very significant: my new companion knew the gospel, while I only knew the discussions. How I wished that I had prepared to be a missionary as hard as I had prepared to be a basketball player. My companion had prepared for his mission throughout his life and was immediately a valuable member of the team. How important it is for fathers and sons to work together on the basics in preparing for a mission.

I believe it is appropriate to compare the game of basketball to missionary work. The game of basketball includes not only the time you compete with another team on the court but also the hours of proper training and practice. The great work of saving souls is not limited to the two years that you serve a mission but, rather, requires years of righteous living and preparation in order to meet the standard for full-time missionary service. (Daryl H. Garn, “Preparing for Missionary Service,”  Ensign, May 2003, 46)

We love all our missionaries who are serving the Lord full-time in the mission field.  But there is a difference in missionaries.  Some are better prepared to serve the Lord the first month in the mission field than some who are returning home after twenty-four months.  We want young men entering the mission field who can enter the mission field “on the run,” who have the faith, born of personal righteousness and clean living, that they can have a great and productive mission (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, [1988], 192).

THE POWER OF PRAYER TO FORTIFY AN INDIVIDUAL AND CHANGE THE FATE OF A NATION

Daniel was a man of power and influence during the reign of King Darius.  The King had 120 princes and 3 presidents who ruled over these 120 princes.  What was Daniel’s role?  He was the FIRST of the three presidents.  The only man more powerful in all of the kingdom was the king himself.

The other presidents and princes conspired against Daniel to get rid of him, but “they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6:4).  They came up with a clever idea – since they couldn’t find anything wrong that he was doing, they would simply find something right that he was doing and get him in trouble for it!

It is interesting to me that, out of all the myriad of things they could have chosen, they chose prayer.  These men KNEW that Daniel would be willing to die for the privilege to pray.  How did they know that?  What must Daniel’s prayers have been like?  How did he pray?  What did he say?  How long and how often did he pray?

These wicked men convinced King Darius to sign a decree that no man could ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days except the king or they would be cast into a den of lions.  How does Daniel respond to this decree?  “Now when Daniel KNEW that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime”  (Daniel 6:10).  Daniel prays!  He could have simply waited 30 days to pray, but he didn’t.  He couldn’t go for 30 days without prayer and these wicked men knew he couldn’t.  I’m sure Daniel wouldn’t have been able to go without prayer for 20 days or 10 days or even one day.  If that decree had only been in effect for ONE day, Daniel would have still ended up in that lions’ den.  For Daniel, life wasn’t worth living if he couldn’t pray.

Daniel wasn’t a 90% Saint. He didn’t just keep the commandments when it was convenient for him.  He didn’t care what people thought. He didn’t stop keeping the commandments to please his boss (the king), his co-workers, his friends, or anybody else. He only cared about what God thought of Him.

When Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den, King Darius fasted all night and RAN to the lions’ den at first light crying, “O Daniel…is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?”  Daniel told him of his miraculous protection and the King rejoiced.

I have often wondered what would have happened had Daniel chosen to simply pray silently for 30 days.  What if he had just closed his windows and prayed in his closet?  That way he could have still kept the commandment of God to pray while avoiding the lions’ den entirely.  But Daniel was a man of integrity.  The decree was a wicked decree.  It specifically forbade anyone from praying to God.  Daniel wasn’t going to stay silent and let evil win.  He refused to sit around and just wait until a wicked law was changed.  Instead of privately protesting the law, he actively, publicly fought against evil.  He let EVERYONE know he was not going to comply with this wicked law.  Because Daniel boldly made a stand, his righteous example led the King to believe in the true God of heaven.  Darius sent out a decree that the entire nation was to worship Daniel’s God.  Daniel’s religion became the new state religion!  His standing up for what was right not only wrought miracles for him, but for the King, and opened up the way for the entire kingdom to be converted to the true and living God.  If Daniel had been too scared to stand up for what was right, King Darius may never have been converted.

Daniel’s need to communicate with his Father in Heaven was as strong as his need to breathe.  Daniel knew he could never have real joy and peace in his heart if he turned his back on what he knew to be true and refused to make his convictions known. And so, in spite of worldly pressures and trying circumstances, he chose to stand up for what was right.