The Secret Of Not Yelling When You’re Having An Awful Day

During a dangerous war between the Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon, supplies and soldiers were at a critically low level for the Nephites. Captain Moroni, leader of the Nephite armies, assumed the government was to blame and wrote a stinging letter to the governor, Pahoran.

Pahoran could have chosen to be severely offended. He responded with forgiveness, compassion, and helpful information for Moroni. He explained that there had been a rebellion against the government that Moroni was not aware of. He told Moroni:

“Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

Captain Moroni and Pahoran devised a successful plan to overthrow the rebellion, restore peace in the capital city of Zarahemla, and then send soldiers and supplies to fortify all of the Nephite armies. Moroni and Pahoran could have ended up enemies, but Pahoran waved away the offense and fostered a spirit of cooperation.

“One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, ‘it mattereth not.’
…it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
…You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act.”
–David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” Ensign, November 2006

Pahoran was a master of his anger. It did not control him. He consciously controlled it. How can we teach our children (and ourselves!) to respond in positive ways when we are angry?

How To Teach Children (And Yourself!) To Deal With Their Anger In Positive Ways

It is okay to feel angry. It is a healthy human emotion.Someone enraged by an unjust circumstance in the world can be motivated to start a charity, create awareness of the problem, right a wrong, etc.

It is NOT a sin to feel angry. It’s what we choose to do when we feel angry that counts.

We had a family meeting to discuss how to deal with our anger. A common American phrase “He made me angry!” is a lie. No one can make you angry. It is a choice. We can choose to be kind even when someone is being mean (ever notice how we never lose our temper with a boss, but we often do with family?). Satan would have us believe that we have no choice. But yelling is simply a learned behavior, a negative type of coping to deal with anger. Again, we emphasized that it is okay to feel mad, but it is not okay to yell, hit, throw things, or say unkind words. Those are negative ways of dealing with our frustrations! We need to train ourselves to deal with it in positive ways!

I came up with a list of 20 ways to calm down when you’re angry. We read every one and I asked my kids to raise their hand when they heard a strategy they wanted to try. Each of my kids picked 5-10 strategies and we wrote/drew them on a piece of paper. We had fun practicing different techniques. At the end, we placed our hands over our hearts and promised that when we got angry that week, we would choose to do one thing from our list (no one could say they were too angry to pick anything!).

What did we learn from that week? I thought that the “Movement” category would be the best at getting rid of anger – after all, doesn’t exercise release natural endorphins that help calm us down? Yes, but I have found that sometimes it doesn’t release them fast enough! We discovered that THE ABSOLUTE best way to get rid of anger is LAUGHTER. Our favorite tool has been staring contests. It causes you to focus so intently on the game that you completely forget everything else! And there’s something about staring into the eyes of someone you love (especially your kids) that melts your heart and puts things back into proper perspective.

“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a child to be loved.”
–Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, August 2011

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed singing about what I’m angry about. There’s something inherently funny about someone singing, “I can’t find my keys! Where did they go? I need to remember to put them in the same place….” It cracks my kids up every time (yes, I lose my keys a lot!). Sticking your tongue out while you’re talking works wonders. You can go ahead and say EVERYTHING you’re angry about and you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings because no one can understand you! So, the next time you’re angry, simply stick your tongue out and keep talking! It will make you and your kids laugh as you listen to how ridiculous you sound!

Advertisements

How To Get More Miracles In Your Life

I handed out a small piece of paper to everyone in my class and told them, “You’ve got 60 seconds to list as many miracles as you possibly can. Go!”  Some students had a hard time until I told them to think about all the miracles Jesus performed and then their pencils were writing furiously until I told them it was time to stop. The class came up with an impressive list (I’ll only mention a few):

  • Parting of the Red Sea
  • Walls of Jericho Falling down
  • Ten Plagues
  • Widow of Zarephath’s food (meal and oil) never failing
  • Jesus walking on water
  • Healing lepers
  • Healing the blind
  • Calming Storms
  • Feeding 5000

Defining the Word “Miracle”

I asked my students to work with someone in the class and come up with the definition of a miracle – to really ponder that word and what it meant. I was inspired by the beautiful definitions they came up with:

  • A blessing directed to you out of love to miraculously strengthen you and lift you up spiritually.
  • God’s help (something man can’t do)
  • A personal and individualized blessing
  • Anything that lifts you spiritually
  • A blessing that strengthens you

As we discussed each of these definitions, I emphasized the fact that a miracle doesn’t have to be a huge, spectacular event such as the walls of Jericho tumbling to the ground! Miracles can be a very “small” and personalized event. One of my all-time favorite definitions of a miracle is this:

“A miracle is the evidence of the hand of God in your lives.”
–Celeste Witt, Professor at Brigham Young University

CU060711-001hr

Now, when the children of Israel were trapped between a huge sea and an Egyptian army, the parting of the Red Sea was pretty big evidence that the hand of God was in their lives!

Just a quick side note: I’ve always wondered who could be dumb enough to follow the Israelites into the Red Sea! I mean, if you were charging full-speed ahead to kill some Israelites and were suddenly, and miraculously, stopped by a pillar of fire, don’t you think a light bulb would go off in your head saying, “Hmmm, maybe God is protecting these people?” Who on earth follows after unarmed people after watching a sea part in two? Not the brightest people I’ve read about…

Truly, this was a hand-made miracle for the children of Israel, but miracles aren’t necessarily always that dramatic.  There are so many other “ordinary” events in our lives that are just as miraculous.

Tender Mercies

David A. Bednar taught this concept beautifully. He basically described a miracle as a Tender Mercy. He told about his experience of being called into a new leadership position (one of 15 men who lead our entire church worldwide!). He felt the weight and responsibility keenly. Just before he was to address the entire church in a world-wide conference, a hymn was sung entitled “Redeemer of Israel.” Elder Bednar described this event as follows:

“Now, the music for the various conference sessions had been determined many weeks before—and obviously long before my new call to serve [as a leader over the entire church]. If, however, I had been invited to suggest an intermediate hymn for that particular session of the conference—a hymn that would have been both edifying and spiritually soothing for me and for the congregation before my first address in this Conference Center—I would have selected my favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.” Tears filled my eyes as I stood with you to sing that stirring hymn of the Restoration.

Near the conclusion of the singing, to my mind came this verse from the Book of Mormon: ‘But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance’ (Book of Mormon, 1 Ne. 1:20).

My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi’s phrase ‘the tender mercies of the Lord,’ and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord.” Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
–David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” April 2005 General Conference

Tender Mercies are NOT random events or coincidences. God knew that Elder Bednar would be asked to fill this leadership position and He knew that his favorite hymn was “Redeemer of Israel.” The Lord had arranged this Tender Mercy long before Elder Bednar was even asked to speak!

It was a tender moment when the Lord reached down from heaven to show His son that He was there, He understood, He would help, and that things would be okay. No one knew about this miracle except for Elder Bednar and God himself. And that’s how most of the miracles have been in my life. I knew they happened, and the Lord knew they happened, and that was enough. Most modern-day miracles are not broadcast to the world. They happen in quiet, ordinary places to very ordinary people.

Modern Day Tender Mercies

My brother related the following experience shortly after his wife delivered their fifth child:

baby-718146_1280“While delivering our latest bundle of joy, in the final minute before delivery, I could tell from the look on Deborah’s face that she was in extraordinary pain — she later said that it was much more painful than the delivery of any of our other five kids. She called out repeatedly for help, and I remember feeling so powerless and helpless. I said some silent prayers asking God to help her. Afterward she received the distinct impression that God had helped her through it. I was very grateful.

A short while later, after the placenta also came out, the doctor came to show it to us. She explained to us that our daughter’s placenta had a “velamentous cord insertion”, which apparently means that sometimes part of the blood vessels in the umbilical cord are attached to the placenta in an unusual place and don’t have the gelatinous protection layer that the rest of the umbilical cord does. The upshot is that those vessels can easily rupture without that extra protection. A normal delivery is apparently quite dangerous for such cases, because even the mom’s water breaking if not the rest of the process of birth can rupture those vessels and cause the death of the baby (and maybe even make the mom bleed a lot too). Even if they don’t rupture, they can get heavily compressed and send the baby into distress, and then they’ll need to do an immediate C-section. As the doctor was explaining this to us, she referred to our daughter as a “miracle baby” multiple times. She also said that in her 30 years of delivering babies, this was only the second case of a velamentous cord insertion that she had ever seen.

Later when I got home, I remember thinking that not only had God saved my wife from who-knows-what, He had also miraculously saved my baby daughter — but I never would have known of the second miracle had the doctor not noticed something highly unusual about the placenta and pointed it out to us. As I prayed that night, not only did I thank Him for helping, I remember even commenting to Him that I almost didn’t even notice the great miracle He had done for me in my life. After those comments, the thought was impressed upon my mind that if I had completely missed the second miracle that it wouldn’t be a unique event by any means.

I guess it goes to show that God is aware of us and helping us far more than we tend to realize.”

My brother and his sweet wife would have never known a miracle had occurred if the doctor hadn’t told them! They just would have thought it was another delivery, albeit a more difficult and painful one. After we pass into the next life, I think we will be astounded when we find out about all the behind-the-scenes work our Father in Heaven did just for us.

This miracle wasn’t recorded in scripture for millions of people to read about, but it was just as miraculous and humbling. Only a handful of people knew about it which just goes to show that God is not just a God of the entire Universe, but a God of individuals – His children, that He very personally cares for and deeply loves.

Christ didn’t go around to large crowds of people, wave his hand, and cure hundreds of people at the same time. He went to them individually, one on one, and healed them. Large crowds were waiting to hear His message, but he was never too busy to stop and help one individual (see 3 Nephi 11:15, Mark 5:21-24, Mark 5:25, 29-34, Mark 10:46-52)

A God of Miracles

Some may ask, “Do you really believe God plays such an individual role in our lives?” Absolutely! What good is a God that doesn’t – a God that just does a few, fantastic miracles once in a while for His children? What good of a mother would I be if I checked up on my kids every few weeks to see how they were doing?

God is a God of miracles. That is who He is and what He does for His children. The scriptures are filled with examples of the miracles He performed.

clouds sun lightBut if God performed so many miracles in the Bible, where are those miracles today? Has He stopped doing them now? My testimony to you is that he has NOT stopped performing miracles. They are happening all around us. We just have a problem RECOGNIZING them for what they are. I repeat: the problem is not a LACK of miracles. The problem is the lack of our ability to see and recognize them for what they truly are!

The prophet Mormon understood this principle and was frustrated that his people were no longer believing in a God who still performed miracles for His children.

15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought? (Mormon 9:15-17)

Mormon argued that if God performed miracles since the world was created, and if God is an unchangeable being (see Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and to day, and forever”), then why would God simply stop performing miracles? There must be a reason. Does He love us less today then He did back then? No! Has he lost His power? No! Then we must have simply grown too smart, solved all the world’s problems, and don’t need Him anymore. No! Of course that’s ridiculous! (See “Profile of a Prophet,” by Hugh B. Brown for further reading on this argument).

18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles. (Mormon 9:18)

Christ performed miracles to show us what He can do for us in our lives if we will only let Him. If He could heal a leper by touching Him, what can He do for you in your life?  There is not any tragedy He can’t heal you of.  There is no wound He can’t heal, no heart He can’t mend, no life He can’t repair.

19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. (Mormon 9:19)

Mormon does caution us that miracles can cease among the children of men, but it is NOT because God’s character has changed. It’s because ours has!

 20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust. (Mormon 9:20)

Whether or not we are receiving miracles is not so much dependent upon God as it is upon ourselves and the condition of our faith!

Did You Know God Just Saved Your Life?

road twilightWhen I was in college, I was driving home after hanging out with some friends and, having stayed too long, raced home to finish my insane amount of homework! I drove along the back roads which were very dark. All I could see was an occasional headlight of another car or a light on a house.

I came to an intersection where I needed to turn left and saw a car coming.  If I turned left quickly, I could beat it and get home sooner, but then the prompting came, “Wait, just wait.” As I hesitated, I had another very strong feeling to slow down and wait. I did. I slowed down and let the other car pass. As I turned left onto the next street, my headlights caught the shape of a man who had just finished jogging across the street. Had I turned any sooner, I could have hit him and seriously injured or even killed him! I was so shaken I could barely drive the rest of the way home. I wanted to get out of my car, chase him down, grab him by the shoulders and say, “Do you realize that God just saved your life?”

That man will never know that God saved his life that night. He will think that jog was just another ordinary run. He would have left his wife and kids, gone jogging and come back – a very uneventful evening – or so he thought.

He didn’t know that God saved his life, but I did. I am so grateful for this experience. I got to see the hand of God in action and I have never forgotten it. Since then, I have often wondered how many times God has literally saved my life and I’ve been totally oblivious! How much behind-the-scenes work does He do for me every day that I’m totally unaware of? I came away knowing that God watches over all of His children. I had experienced it first hand. I had this sacred experience of witnessing the love of God for a man that was out late jogging – a man I didn’t even know, but a man that God was actively protecting and watching over.

A Change in Perscpective – How To Recognize A Miracle

How do we recognize the miracles all around us? Henry B. Erying gives us the keys:

“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.

He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”

I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: ‘Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’ As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.

The years have gone by. My boys are grown men. And now and then one of them will surprise me by saying, “Dad, I was reading in my copy of the journal about when …” and then he will tell me about how reading of what happened long ago helped him notice something God had done in his day.

My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies. You may not keep a journal. You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve. But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done. You remember that song we sometimes sing: “Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
–Henry B. Erying, ‘O Remember, Remember,’ General Conference October 2007

journal-1090599_640 I have kept a Tender Mercies journal and it has been life-changing. It was different from a regular journal or even a gratitude journal because I was purposefully looking for how God had blessed me THAT DAY. Some days were rough and a million things went wrong, but there was NEVER a day where I couldn’t think of at least one thing the Lord had done for me that day.

It started to open up my eyes to how much the Lord is in the little details of our lives. And I realized, that if I hadn’t taken time to actually ponder about my day, I would have missed many of the miracles He did for me because I didn’t see them for what they were as I was rushing about my day.

Scripture Pancake: So, the question really isn’t “How can I get more miracles?” but “How can I recognize the miracles that the Lord is already sending my way?” That is our great challenge, opportunity, and blessing.

How To Make Your “Sundae” A Delight

“Today, class, we’re going to talk about Sundaes!”  I pulled out some ice cream and put three big scoops in a bowl.  “Who wants some ice cream?”  I always had some VERY eager students raise their hands!  “Oh good,” I continued, “but plain vanilla ice cream isn’t very good.  Let’s put some toppings on it!”  I pulled out some ketchup and, ignoring the protests of my students, squirted a generous amount on top.  “Hmmm, this isn’t very healthy.  Let’s add some green beans!” The class moaned as I continued to put black pepper, beans, and other “disgusting” things on top.  “You’ve ruined it!” some of them groaned.  “What are you talking about?” I argued, “Green beans are delicious.  Black pepper spices things up!”  Amazingly, I always had a few students who still wanted to eat it!

The class contended that all of the ingredients I had put on top were good, but NOT on a sundae.  “Exactly my point!” I exclaimed, “there are many things that are good things to do, but not on a S.U.N.D.A.Y!  So many of us start out our Sundays on the right foot.  We go to church and get 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream, but then we come home, and through our Sabbath Day activities, proceed to dump ketchup, green beans, and pepper all over it!”  I announced the theme of my lesson: Don’t ruin your Sunday!

Let’s turn to the Book of Mormon for an example of a people who were ruining their Sundays!  The Zoramites had built a synagogue to worship in.  Inside, they had built a high stand called the Rameumptom that would only admit one person at a time.  Every person climbed up the stand, said the exact same prayer, and then they “returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again” until the next Sunday! (see Alma 31:23).  Satan must have whispered, “See, you built a church.  You go every Sunday.  You’re a good person.”  There is a big difference between going to church each week and being changed by what you learn at church.  One of the main purposes of church is to teach you the tools, motivate, and help you to live better DURING the week.

The tower gave the Zoramites the illusion that they were close to God.  Now, the goal of every Sabbath is to come closer to God, but you can’t do that merely by constructing a tower (a one time event).  We must actively choose to do things, throughout our life, that bring us closer to Him.  If God feels far away, He is NOT the one who has moved!

The tower only admitted one person at a time.  Contrast this with Moroni 6:5 which reads “And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”

Now, the Zoramites were correct in going to church – that is a crucial step in keeping the Sabbath Day holy:

A man of my acquaintance remained home each Sabbath and justified himself by saying that he could benefit more by reading a good book at home than by attending the sacrament meeting and listening to a poor sermon. But the home, sacred as it should be, is not the house of prayer. In it no sacrament is administered; in it is not found the fellowship with members, nor the confession of sins to the brethren…: ‘It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus’ (D&C 20:75) (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, [1982], 220).

However, as important as it is to go to church, the Zoramites were NOT keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  The Sabbath doesn’t end after church!  It lasts the ENTIRE day!

Today is the Sabbath. It does not end when we leave this session; it does not end if someone calls on the phone or knocks at our door inviting us to come out and play, go for a ride, to a ball game, or shopping; it does not end because we are on vacation or someone is visiting us, whether member or nonmember….The Sabbath lasts all day! (H. Aldridge Gillespie, “The Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 79–80)

But didn’t God rest on the Sabbath?  Isn’t it a day when we can relax, hang out, and have some fun?

The Sabbath is not a day for indolent lounging about the house….The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. [Failure] to do these proper things is a transgression on the omission side.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969), 96–97)

I think the problem lays in the fact that, in the English language, rest means to relax, but let’s look at how the word “rest” is used in the scriptures!  Do we really think God created the Universe in six days and then went and took a nap on the seventh?  What does the term “rest” really mean?  Let’s take a look at the following scripture chain (D&C 77:12, 3 Nephi 27:19, D&C 84:20-24, and Alma 13:12-13)

 We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it (D&C 77:12)

This scripture does not even mention the Lord resting on the seventh day.  It says he was sanctifying his work.  God did work on the Sabbath, but it was a different kind of work – a spiritual, purifying, sanctifying work.  We’ll come back to that later.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. (3 Nephi 27:19)

Those who enter into his rest are those who are sanctified (have become clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ).  What does it mean to enter into his rest?

24 But they [the children of Israel during the time of Moses] hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. (D&C 84:20-24)

God’s definition of rest is to receive the fulness of his glory.  It is to receive your salvation (as members of my church would say – it is to receive your exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom (see D&C 76:6)).

That is how Alma uses the word “rest” as well:

Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.  And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest. (Alma 13:12-13)

When we think of the word “rest,” we think of being lazy, relaxing, and doing nothing.  But that is NOT God’s definition of rest.  Entering into the Lord’s rest means entering into his Kingdom.  Therefore, the Sabbath is a day to prepare yourself to enter into the Lord’s rest – to prepare yourself and sanctify yourself so you are more worthy to enter his presence (get to the Celestial Kingdom).  The Sabbath is a day to REST FROM worldly activities and ENTER INTO THE WORK of the Lord which is, actually, restful work because the more you become like God, the more at rest you are and the easier life becomes. God is in a restful state.  It is easy for him to keep the commandments.

Once each week man is commanded to cease his own labors and allow God to perform His work of sanctification on him. Resting on the Sabbath, then, implies far more than taking a nap or stopping normal activities. Mankind must enter into the Lord’s work on that day. This work involves making themselves and others more godlike, another way to speak of sanctification. Doing the work of the Lord (sanctification) often involves great activity on the Sabbath day, and the day may not be restful in the usual sense. One can assume that if doing good to an animal on the Sabbath is approved by the Lord (see Matthew 12:11; Luke 13:15), then doing good to men is an even higher good. The two commandments for the Sabbath are rest and worship (see D&C 59:10).  The Hebrew verb la-avodh, “to worship,” means also “to work” and “to serve.” This holy work then creates a new and holy man… (In “The Fourth Commandment,”  Part 1, The Ten Commandments Today, pp. 55, 57–58.) (See also Exodus 20:8-11, D&C 77:12, 3 Nephi 27:19, D&C 84:22-24)

You know you’ve kept the Sabbath Holy if, at the end of the day, you can honestly say you feel closer to Heavenly Father than you did at the beginning of the day.

When my mom was teaching a class of children, she asked them if they knew what the 10 commandments were.  With her help, they listed 9 out of the 10 on the board, but she purposefully left #4 blank.  She announced, “Great job!  Let’s move on with the lesson…”  The class, of course, wouldn’t let her.  They wanted to know what #4 was!  My mom simply responded, “Oh, that one isn’t very important.  No one keeps it.”  They protested, “It’s one of the 10 commandments!  It has to be important!”  My mom insisted that it wasn’t and started moving on with the lesson, but a little boy, more curious than the rest, demanded to know.  My mom looked him in the eyes and said, “If I tell you, will you keep it?”  He didn’t even hesitate, “No!” Apparently, he didn’t want that kind of responsibility!  I love how honest children are!  My mom (probably trying to hold back a smile), wisely said, “If you won’t keep it, then why should I tell you?”  She taught her lesson for a while until the little boy promised he would keep the 4th commandment if she would just tell them him what it was.  So she read him these verses:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God:in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.(Exodus 20:8-11)

She talked about how everyone must not think it’s important since the mall parking lots are full and the churches seem to be more  and more empty.

But just showing up for church is not enough.  The Zoramites showed up for church, but it didn’t do them much good!  We need to be actively engaged at church.

Years ago I was sitting in a sacrament meeting with my father.  He seemed to be enjoying what I thought was a dull talk,…I watched my father, and to my amazement his face was beaming as the speaker droned on.  I kept stealing looks back at him, and sure enough, through the whole thing he had this beatific smile.

… [As] we walked home I remember walking with my father on the shoulder of the road,….I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting.  He said it was wonderful.

Now I really had a problem…I was puzzled.  I was trying to summon up enough courage to ask him how I could have such a different opinion of that meeting and that speaker.

Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind, because he started to laugh.  He said:  “Hal, let me tell you something.  Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting.  When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say.  Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.”  He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along.  Then, with that special self-deprecating chuckle of his, he said, “Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting.”  (Henry B. Eyring, to Draw Closer to God: A Collection of Discourses, p. 22-23)

Spencer W. Kimball further explained our individual responsibility on the Sabbath:

But we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even simply to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, [1982], 271).

He also gave a powerful suggestion for the purpose of the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is a day on which to take inventory—to analyze our weaknesses…(Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, [1982], 216).

Isaiah was trying to teach the same thing – that the Sabbath isn’t a time to do what we want, but to do what the Lord wants, improve ourselves, and draw closer to Him.

13 ¶If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, fromdoing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:13-14)

The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of delight!  It is not one of drudgery.  It is not a day of bemoaning the fact we can’t do some of our favorite activities.  Look at the amazing blessings we get if we will just give ONE day to the Lord!

BLESSINGS FOR KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY HOLY

The prophet Jeremiah had the serious responsibility of warning the Jews that, if they didn’t repent, Jerusalem would be taken captive by their enemies.  He pleaded, prophesied, and cried repentance, but no one listened.  In Jeremiah chapter 17, the Lord tells Jeremiah that if the people will just keep ONE commandment, the entire city will be spared.  Jeremiah goes to each gate of the city and proclaims this commandment.  What is it?  Searching the scriptures?  Praying?  Going to church?  Serving your fellowman?  No, it was keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  God wasn’t even asking them to be righteous every day.  They just had to give him ONE day and they couldn’t do it.

Sadly, Jeremiah watched as Babylon destroyed the city and took many, many captive.  I have often pondered about this chapter.  Why, out of all the commandments, did the Lord pick the Sabbath Day?  I finally came to the realization that if you keep the Sabbath day holy, you will automatically begin keeping all of the other commandments!  If you would just stop sinning on one day, give it to the Lord, and allow Him to start speaking with you, you will automatically want to start praying, reading your scriptures, serving others, etc.  One of the greatest blessings of keeping the Sabbath Day holy, is that YOU are made holy.  It transforms your heart to the point that you no longer desire sin.  You WANT to live righteously.

“…we will be amazed at how much we were blessed in important—though often unperceived—ways through keeping the Sabbath holy; and to our sorrow we may sense how many blessings we kept from ourselves by not consistently keeping the Sabbath day holy. Oh, my dear brothers and sisters, there is power in keeping the Sabbath day holy….If we would have God’s blessings and protection as individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, we must keep His Sabbath day holy. (John H. Groberg, “The Power of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Nov 1984, 79)

I love the Sabbath day! It has blessed my family in countless ways. I bear a testimony born of personal experience that the commandments of the Lord are “true and faithful.”  I know you will be happier, enjoy greater peace, and find your lives made glad as you witness the miracles that come to each person and family who make the sacrifice of keeping this eternal covenant. (H. Aldridge Gillespie, “The Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 79–80)

When I was in college there was an engineering class I was sure to fail. I didn’t understand a thing the teacher was saying.  He’d put up crazy equations and mention things from biology, chemistry, physiology, and physics and somehow expected his freshmen to put it all together!  Everyone in the class was confused, frustrated, and feeling pretty helpless.  This professor was used to teaching graduate students and had no idea how to teach freshmen.

I prayed and prayed about this class.  I couldn’t understand anything in the book and the homework was ridiculously impossible.  My friends finally got together and announced they were going to do a study group once a week where they could do the homework together and prepare for the upcoming test.  I was so relieved.  I was sure this was the answer to my prayers.  Unfortunately, the only time all of my friends could meet together was on Sunday.  My heart sank.  I had never done homework on Sunday before.  In high school I had decided I would never do homework on Sunday.  I would keep that day reserved for Heavenly Father and spiritual things.  Even though I had some really challenging classes in high school, I kept my promise even if it meant staying up until midnight on Saturday and waking up at 3 AM on Monday morning to finish.

I didn’t know what to do.  All week I stressed about it.  I had to go to these meetings or I would fail.  I was sure of that.  But how could I do that to Heavenly Father?  I did some more praying.  One night as I said my prayers, I knew I shouldn’t go.  Not because I’d feel like an evil, terrible person, but because I didn’t want to go.  I wanted to have a day where I could relax and work on my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I told Heavenly Father that if I was going to fail then I was okay with that.  My relationship with Him was more important to me than passing the class.  I promised I wouldn’t go to the study sessions on Sundays.

I worked and prayed hard over the material during the week.  I was envious of my friends and how much less time it took them to do the homework.  The big day of the test came and I was scared.  I filled it out as best as I could, but it was very difficult.  I was sure I’d missed a lot.  As it turned out, I had, but to the amazement of myself and all of my friends, I scored higher on that test than ALL of them!  I don’t know how (and they sure didn’t either!), but I had.  And it was like that every test!  I out-scored them EVERY time.

I learned a lot about priorities from this experience.  I learned that if you put God first everything else will fall into place.  God may not give you more time (he won’t give you 26 hours instead of 24), but my testimony is that He enables you to do more in less time.

You will notice that I have purposefully NOT given a list of what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath.  I have not listed what things are good toppings – chocolate syrup, sprinkles, bananas, and whip cream – or what the “bad” toppings are – ketchup, black pepper, and beans.  Russell M. Nelson discussed how to determine which activities are appropriate on the Sabbath.

…I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.  With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.

How can you ensure that your behavior on the Sabbath will lead to joy and rejoicing? In addition to your going to church, partaking of the sacrament, and being diligent in your specific call to serve, what other activities would help to make the Sabbath a delight for you? What sign will you give to the Lord to show your love for Him?

Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time. (Elder Nelson, “The Sabbath is a Delight,” April 2015 General Conference).

What things has your family done to make the Sabbath more of a delight?  Comment below!

 

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.