Nov 29

Blessings in Mortality

Premortal LifeRecently, I was asked how much of our circumstances in this life stem from our valiance in our pre-mortal life. Though I cannot answer that question with absolute precision, we can certainly take a look at what the scriptures state. It would also be of value to consider what has been said on the topic.

First, the scriptures. Let’s take a look at D&C 138:53–56, which says:

53 The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work,

54 Including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world.

55 I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.

56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

Many of the noble and great ones were reserved. So there was clearly gradations in valiance among spirits. We also learn something about this in Abraham 3:22–23, which says:

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

We learn that there were noble and great ones. It even says that some of the souls were good. It also talks about making rulers out of the noble and great ones. Another indication that there were gradations of valiance amongst spirits.

Now, let’s turn to Alma 13:3–4. It tells us:

3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

They were prepared from the foundation of the world on account of their exceeding faith and good works, in the first place (or first estate) being left to choose good or evil. They chose good and exercised great faith. Because of that, they were called to “this holy calling.” So they received particular blessings because of their valiance in the pre-mortal life.

There are several quotes about this that I would like to share, as well. We have this from Joseph Fielding Smith:

“During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions”

(Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 50–51).

This comes from Doctrines of Salvation:

“There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body”

(Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65–66).

From Norman W. Gardner, we have this:

In our premortal life, we were taught lessons that prepared us to assist Heavenly Father in bringing about the salvation of His children (see D&C 138:56). We also had the agency to follow and obey God. Some of Father’s children distinguished themselves through their “exceeding faith and good works” and were foreordained, or given assignments, to serve in specific ways on earth (Alma 13:3). The greatest of those who followed Heavenly Father back then was His firstborn spirit son, Jesus Christ—or Jehovah, as He was known there.

What We Know about Premortal Life, By Norman W. Gardner, Seminaries and Institutes

From Bruce R. McConkie:

From these [John 10:14,27; Rom 8:17,29; 9:11; Eph 1:4] and a host of other passages, it is clear that people do not all have the same talent for recognizing truth and believing the doctrines of salvation. Some heed the warning voice and believe the gospel; others do not. (Page 34.) No two persons are born with the same talents and capacities; no two are rooted in the same soil of circumstances; each is unique. The cares of this world, gold and honor and power and renown, the lusts of the flesh, the chains of past sins, and a thousand other things — all exert their influence upon us. But in the final sense the answer stems back to premortality…. And the talent of greatest worth was that of spirituality, or it enables us to hearken to the Holy Spirit and accept that gospel which prepares us for eternal life. Men are not born equal. They enter this life with the talents and capacities developed in preexistence….

Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pg 33.

And from B. H. Roberts, we read:

I have called attention to these passages to prove that there were some spirits who dwelt with God, so wicked and rebellious that they had to be cast out of heaven, and became the devil and his angels; as well as some who had developed such nobility of character, that God had set them apart or ordained them to be his rulers. Between these two extremes of good and bad, obedient and rebellious were, I doubt not, all degrees of faithfulness and nobility of conduct; and I hazard the opinion that the amount and kind of development in that pre-existent state influences the character in this life, and brings within reach of men privileges and blessings commensurate with their faithfulness in the spirit world. Yet, I would not be understood as holding the opinion that those born to wealth and ease, whose lives appear to be an unbroken round of pleasure and happiness, must therefore have been spirits in their first estate that were very highly developed in refinement, and very valiant for God and his Christ.

B. H. Roberts, The Gospel and Man’s Relationship to Deity, pg. 279.

So it’s quite clear that we received some blessings here in this life based off how valiant we were in the pre-mortal life. What other quotes or scriptures do you know of regarding this topic?

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Nov 28

LDS Study Tools – General Conference Talks

The collection of General Conference Talks found on churchofjesuschrist.org is an excellent resource for studying the Gospel. It literally contains the words of the Prophets and Apostles and other Church leaders. There are many ways to go through the information found there. You can search through it, look through it by a specific conference, watch videos of the talks, or download MP3s of them, to name a few.

This is an absolute must if you’re doing research for a talk or simply want to know more about what our Church leaders have taught on a topic. This is a very good resource to bookmark and use often.

Take a look at the video below for a very quick introduction to the Conference Talks section of the Church website:

Link to talks:

General Conference Talks

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Nov 27

LDS Study Tools – Scripture Citation Index

When we speak of scripture study, what comes to mind is having the scriptures open with perhaps a notebook and a pen for taking notes.  This is great when we want to ponder and discover the scriptures for ourselves.  What if we could get the help of many of the great scriptorians of both our day and the past in understanding the Gospel?  An incredible tool, the Scripture Citation Index, serves this purpose efficiently and effectively.

The description provided on the site is:

“Welcome to the LDS Scripture Citation Index. This index links from scriptures to the general conference talks, Journal of Discourses speeches, and writings in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that cite those scriptures.  So, for example, suppose you want to know who has cited 1 Ne. 3:7 in general conference; click on the Book of Mormon link at the left and scroll down to 1 Ne. 3; there you’ll find the answer.  Who has quoted Matt. 5:48?  Use the New Testament index to find out.

We have indexed the scriptures cited by speakers in LDS General Conference between 1942 and the present, and those cited by speakers recorded in the Journal of Discourses between 1839 and 1886.  The citations in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith come from the special edition, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Richard C. Galbraith and published by Deseret Book in 1993 (ISBN 0875796478).”

A potentially useful process of using this incredible tool is offered to you below.  In no way is it intended to be the best or most authoritative way of drawing upon this great work.  The steps are as follows:

  • Log into your Study Journal.
  • Open your scriptures to wherever you are in your personal studies.  Let’s suppose we are in Alma 13, for example.  Read the first verse.
  • Visit http://scriptures.byu.edu/.  In the left pane, there is a place to click down to Alma 13.  There are many citations that include the first verse.  Click each of them.
  • As you read each citation, you may come upon one or more that shed an incredible amount of light on the meaning of that passage for you.
  • When something touches your heart, take a note of it in your Study Journal.  Link your new note to whatever scripture reference you are studying.  Link in applicable keywords.  If appropriate, link it to other entries in your Study Journal.

Consulting the words of Church leaders and authorities can open the scriptures to you in a very uplifting and edifying way.  This great tool can help propel your Gospel learning more quickly than otherwise might be possible.

This helpful resource is also available for Apple iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) and Android devices in the respective app store or marketplace.

Here is another helpful article on using the Scripture Citation Index: Enhance Scripture Study with the Scripture Citation Index

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Nov 27

Gratitude – A Commandment

The Lord requires gratitude, and we are better by having it. We can never have too much, in fact. So, I wanted to chat a little about gratitude in my post today.

Let’s see what the scriptures have to say about gratitude. Let’s turn to D&C 59:21 which says:

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Pretty clear that we should be thankful for everything that the Lord has given us.

This is consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which tells us:

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It is interesting to note that when Lehi’s sons returned with the plates, the very first thing they did was to thank the Lord. But they didn’t just say a quick prayer and thank Him, they offered a sacrifice and burnt offerings. They may have even built an altar for this purpose. Then, once they had done that, Lehi looked at the plates. But the very first thing they did was to offer thanks. We see this in 1 Nephi 5:9–10, which tell us:

9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

10 And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.

In Alma 34:38, we are commanded to live in thanksgiving daily:

38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

From the Gospel Topics section of the Church website, under Gratitude, we learn:

“The Lord has promised, ‘He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious’ (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). Gratitude is an uplifting, exalting attitude. People are generally happier when they have gratitude in their hearts. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful.”

For a further understanding of gratitude, I would highly recommend studying in detail the Gratitude entry in the Gospel Topics section of the Church website. There are plenty of talks, chapters from books and manuals, videos, and a lot more on the topic of gratitude. Take a look:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/gratitude?lang=eng

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Nov 26

Unique Gospel Study System

We’ve got a way to completely overhaul your scripture study. Take a look at what our study journal has to offer.

The Gospel study journal:

  • provides you with the full LDS scriptures online
  • allows you to quickly retrieve notes and thoughts that you have recorded.
  • you can print your journal notes out at any time.
  • makes it easy to share thoughts and ideas with others.
  • makes it easy to remember the entire thought you had when you made the note.
  • allows for new inspiration – not bind you to only what you’ve already learned.
  • helps keep your scriptures from wearing out because of over-marking them.
  • helps prevent losing all of your notes should your scriptures get lost.
  • provides some structure without being overly rigid.

The journal entries you create can be linked together. You can tag them with keywords. You can link scripture references to them. Entries may also contain citations from other books which you feel are relevant.

Take a look at the QuickStart Guide to see how easy it is to use.

We want to your feedback!

Please leave thoughts, comments, and suggestions on our Contact Us page.

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Nov 25

Faith and Works

Recently, there was a question that came up as to whether we need faith or works or both for exaltation. There has been a bunch of debate on this topic. I wanted to weigh in on how I understand it.

First off, let’s see what the scriptures have to say about faith and works. Let’s turn to James 2:14–22, which tells us:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

For me, this is one of the clearest passages in the scriptures on this topic. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” We need both faith and works, clearly. But why is that the case?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks informs us:

Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.

It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference Report, 2000

I feel like Elder Oaks explains it rather well. Part of our judgment will be on what we have become. To become something, you have to practice being that thing. That means actions that are in harmony with that goal.

For example, if you want to become more like the Savior, one way you could do that is through charity. So, you do your best to practice having charity until it becomes part of you.

It feels to me personally like this is the main reason that works matter just as much as faith does.

See also: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/11/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng

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Nov 24

LDS Study Tools – BYU Speeches

There are some wonderful gospel study tools provided by BYU. Today, we wanted to share one of the richest resources available for studying the Gospel. It’s called BYU Speeches. The site has speeches given at BYU over the past several decades. You can search by topic or by speaker.

Each speech has several methods of obtaining it. You can read the speeches, listen to them, watch, download, or print them. This is a great resource to see what folks have said on certain topics.

Take a look at a quick intro to the tool in the video below.

Here is the link to BYU Speeches:

BYU Speeches

Check out other tools outlined on our Study Tools page.

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Nov 22

Sustaining Our Leaders

Sometimes we may question whether direction that comes from our leaders is truly inspired. We wonder if we are the best person suited for the calling or whether it truly came from the Lord. Perhaps we take issue with correction that we have received from our bishop.

Let’s take a look at what the scriptures say about this. In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, it says:

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

We can see that if direction or correction comes to us from a leader, we are to consider it as having come from the Lord. As far as we are concerned, their direction should be considered as law for us. We should also remember that we have sustained them.

When we sustain someone, we let the Lord know that we will uphold them. We make a promise. Regarding this, President Henry B. Eyring has said:

“By raising your hand to sustain, you make a promise. You make a promise with God, whose servants these are, that you will sustain them.”

These humble servants of Heavenly Father have been called by inspiration to the positions which they hold. They carry the mantle of that calling. Part of that mantle is the ability to receive revelation regarding the fulfilling of that calling.

In the Institute manual for the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1, we are informed:

“No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the Priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure.”

What can we do if we find ourselves at odds with one of our leaders? First off, we would do well to internalize D&C 1:38 that we reviewed above. Also, we could pray to have a testimony of their direction and for the desire to follow it. We could fast for them that they might be inspired to do and speak the will of the Lord.

If your bishop gives you council, the very best thing you can do in the Lord’s eyes is to follow it. Do as you are directed, and the Lord will bless you for it. I have seen this happen in my own life.

See also: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/34eyring?lang=eng

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Nov 21

Enduring to the End

Have you ever had to go through something hard? Some experience where there was no way around it, only through? Maybe something like a traffic jam. How well would you say that you endured to the end?

When we talk about enduring to the end, what does that refer to? What are we talking about?

Marvin J. Ashton described it this way:

“Greatness is best measured by how well an individual responds to the happenings in life that appear to be totally unfair, unreasonable, and undeserved. Sometimes we are inclined to put up with a situation rather than endure. To endure is to bear up under, to stand firm against, to suffer without yielding, to continue to be, or to exhibit the state or power of lasting.”

“If Thou Endure It Well,” in General Conference Report, October 1984

It’s not really just gritting your teeth and hanging in there until the ordeal is over. It is staying strong through it, standing up against it, not letting it affect you.

Hartman Rector, Jr. also had some enlightening thoughts on the meaning of this concept. He said:

“What does that mean? I believe it means basically three things.

One: We must continue to repent for the rest of our lives because we will still make mistakes, and we must go home clean or we can’t dwell with the Father and the Son (see D&C 84:74).

Two: We must continue to forgive others. If we do not forgive others, we cannot obtain forgiveness ourselves (see D&C 64:9–10). And three: Yes, we must be nice. If we’re not nice, I don’t think we’re going to make it. In other words, we must have charity, which is really love plus sacrifice. We must serve our fellowmen, women, and children, and if we do all else but we do not serve the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the sick and afflicted, both temporally and spiritually, according to their wants, we cannot retain a remission of our sins from day to day.”

“Endure to the End in Charity,” in General Conference Report, October 1994

Where does enduring to the end fit into the Gospel? Dennis L. Largey explains:

“The doctrine of endurance to the end is taught twenty-two times in the Book of Mormon in teachings by Christ, an angel, and seven prophets. The doctrine spans the entire Book of Mormon time period and probably was taught in the plates of brass as well. The requirement of endurance to the end appears consistently in context with the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. One could easily make the case that the Book of Mormon teaches that there are five first principles and ordinances of the gospel, the fifth being enduring to the end.”

Dennis L. Largey, “Enduring to the End,” in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium, pp. 57-59

For a scriptural treatise on this topic, one could refer to the entire chapter of 2 Nephi 31. Such is beyond the scope of this article. However, we can refer to verses 15, 16, and 20, which say:

15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Again, this is a very small summary of how enduring to the end fits into the Gospel. The whole of 2 Nephi 31 should be studied to understand it on a deeper level.

Just given what we have discussed here, however, one can see its importance. So the next time you’re having a hard time, whether in a trial or challenge, do your best to endure it well. Not only that, but it is also something we will need to do diligently and continuously throughout the rest of our lives. We would do well to endure to the end in righteousness.

See also:

2 Nephi 9:24
3 Nephi 15:9
3 Nephi 27:6,19
D&C 63:20

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Nov 19

LDS Study Tools – Gospel Topics

Gospel study tools can be very useful in our quest to understand the Gospel. What we’d like to do is suggest tools and methods of studying that will help in your pursuit of the truth. Today, the tool we’re presenting is the “Gospel Topics” study tool on the Church website. It has a long list of topics down the left side. When you select one, an article on that topic appears on the right side.

This could be great for personal study and understanding. Or, it could be used to help in writing a talk. Maybe it could be used in other insightful and uplifting ways.

Here is a short video introducing the Gospel Topics section of the Church website:

Here is the tool:

Gospel Topics on churchofjesuschrist.org

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