Gospel Truth: Trust in God; Learn from Hard Times Dinner Time Topics for Monday Do We Trust Him? Hard Is Good By Stanley G. Ellis “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. “In … Continue reading
Stress Relief Ideas:
Perfection Quotes, a Parable, and the Path to God
Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually
[E]very one of us aspires to a more Christ-like life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human. ~Jeffrey R. Holland
In that regard, Leo Tolstoy wrote once of a priest who was criticized by one of his congregants for not living as resolutely as he should, the critic concluding that the principles the erring preacher taught must therefore also be erroneous.
In response to that criticism, the priest says: “Look at my life now and compare it to my former life. You will see that I am trying to live out the truth I proclaim.” Unable to live up to the high ideals he taught, the priest admits he has failed. But he cries:
“Attack me, [if you wish,] I do this myself, but [don’t] attack … the path I follow. … If I know the way home [but] am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way simply because I am staggering from side to side?
Christmas Quotes about Jesus Christ
Theme Quotes for December: Christmas is about Jesus Christ
Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Christmas. He is the Reason for the Season.
Wise men still follow Him.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room. ~Isaac Watts
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant! Come and behold him, born the King of angels; Oh, come let us adore him; Christ the Lord. ~John F. Wade
Jesus Christ is the Gift from God. For God so loved the world, He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish but have everlasting life. ~John 3:16
I challenge you to …return to [your] Christian faith and to the strong religious foundation that is so essential for peace of mind and real happiness. ~L. Tom Perry
Sometimes the most precious and sacred things are right in front of us, in plain sight, but we cannot or will not see them …I promise that if we unclutter our lives a little bit and in sincerity and humility seek the pure and gentle Christ with our hearts, we will see Him, we will find Him—on Christmas and throughout the year. ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf
At the meridian of time, in a place so obscure and humble that it was overlooked by the wise and mighty of the world, our Redeemer was born. If this same small, innocuous event occurred in our time, we might well wonder if our own eyes would know what to look for; if we would see our Friend, and open the doors of our souls. ~C.A. Davidson
Gospel Eclipse Glasses prevent Eclipse of Christ in Our Lives
Don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.
The other rare and heavenly event occurring on the same day and captivating millions worldwide was a total solar eclipse. This was the first time such an eclipse had marched across the entire United States in 99 years.2 Have you ever seen a solar eclipse? Perhaps I could describe this in greater detail.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the earth and the sun, almost completely blocking any light from the sun’s surface.3 The fact that this can happen is a marvel to me. If you imagine the sun as the size of a common bicycle tire, the moon in comparison would scarcely be the size of a small pebble.
How is it possible that the very source of our warmth, light, and life could be so greatly obscured by something comparatively insignificant in size?
Although the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, it is also 400 times farther away from the earth.4 From earth’s perspective, this geometry makes the sun and moon appear to be the same size. When the two are aligned just right, the moon seems to obscure the entire sun. Friends and family of mine who were in the zone of total eclipse described how light was replaced by darkness, the stars appeared, and birds quit singing. The air became chilly, as temperatures in an eclipse can decrease by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius).5
They described a sense of awe, astonishment, and even anxiety, knowing an eclipse brings certain hazards. However, they all exercised care to prevent permanent eye damage or “eclipse blindness” during the eclipse event. Safety was made possible because they wore glasses equipped with special filtered lenses that protected their eyes from any potential harm.
In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions—those we face in our daily lives—to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
Neal A. Maxwell took this analogy even further when he stated: “Even something as small as a man’s thumb, when held very near the eye, can blind him to the very large sun. Yet the sun is still there. Blindness is brought upon the man by himself. When we draw other things too close, placing them first, we obscure our vision of heaven.”6
Clearly, none of us wants to purposefully obscure our vision of heaven or allow a spiritual eclipse to occur in our lives. Let me share some thoughts that may assist us in preventing spiritual eclipse from causing us permanent spiritual damage.
Gospel Glasses: Maintain a Gospel Perspective
Do you recall my description of special eyewear used to protect those viewing a solar eclipse from eye damage or even eclipse blindness? Looking at a spiritual eclipse through the protecting and softening lens of the Spirit provides a gospel perspective, thus protecting us from spiritual blindness.
Let’s consider some examples. With the words of the prophets in our hearts and the Holy Spirit as our counselor, we can gaze at partially blocked heavenly light through “gospel glasses,” avoiding the harm of a spiritual eclipse.
So how do we put on gospel glasses? Here are some examples: Our gospel glasses inform us that the Lord desires that we partake of the sacrament each week and that He desires that we study the scriptures and have daily prayer. They also inform us that Satan will tempt us not to. We know that his agenda seeks to take away our agency through distractions and worldly temptations. Even in Job’s day, perhaps there were some experiencing a spiritual eclipse, described as: “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.”7
Brothers and sisters, when I speak of seeing through gospel glasses, please know that I am not suggesting that we do not acknowledge or discuss the challenges we face or that we walk blissfully ignorant of the traps and evils the enemy has placed before us. I am not speaking of wearing blinders—but just the opposite. I am suggesting that we look at challenges through the lens of the gospel. Dallin H. Oaks observed that “perspective is the ability to see all relevant information in a meaningful relationship.”8 A gospel perspective expands our sight to an eternal view.
When you put on gospel glasses, you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision in the way you think about your priorities, your problems, your temptations, and even your mistakes. You will see brighter light that you could not see without them.
Ironically, it is not only the negative that can cause spiritual eclipse in our lives. Often, admirable or positive endeavors to which we dedicate ourselves can be drawn so close that they blot out gospel light and bring darkness. These dangers or distractions could include education and prosperity, power and influence, ambition, even talents and gifts.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. … There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.”9
Let me share in greater detail examples that could become catalysts for avoiding our own spiritual eclipses.
A few months ago I spoke at BYU Women’s Conference.10 I described how technology, including social media, facilitates spreading “the knowledge of a Savior … throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”11 These technologies include Church websites like LDS.org and Mormon.org; mobile apps such as Gospel Library, Mormon Channel, LDS Tools, and Family Tree; and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. These modalities have generated hundreds of millions of likes, shares, views, retweets, and pins and have become very effective and efficient in sharing the gospel with family, friends, and associates.
All of the virtues and appropriate use of these technologies notwithstanding, there are risks associated with them that, when drawn too close, can put us in a spiritual eclipse and potentially block the brightness and warmth of the gospel.
The use of social media, mobile apps, and games can be inordinately time-consuming and can reduce face-to-face interaction. This loss of personal conversation can affect marriages, take the place of valuable spiritual practices, and stifle the development of social skills, especially among youth.
Two additional risks related to social media are idealized reality and debilitating comparisons.
Many (if not most) of the pictures posted on social media tend to portray life at its very best—often unrealistically. We have all seen beautiful images of home decor, wonderful vacation spots, smiling selfies, elaborate food preparation, and seemingly unattainable body images.
Here, for example, is an image that you might see on someone’s social media account. However, it doesn’t quite capture the full picture of what is actually going on in real life.
Comparing our own seemingly average existence with others’ well-edited, perfectly crafted lives as represented on social media may leave us with feelings of discouragement, envy, and even failure.
One person who has shared numerous posts of her own said, perhaps only partly in jest, “What’s the point of being happy if you’re not going to post it?”12
As Bonnie L. Oscarson reminded us this morning, success in life doesn’t come down to how many likes we get or how many social media friends or followers we have. It does, however, have something to do with meaningfully connecting with others and adding light to their lives.
Hopefully, we can learn to be more real, find more humor, and experience less discouragement when confronted with images that may portray idealized reality and that too often lead to debilitating comparisons.
Comparison apparently is not just a sign of our times but was in times past as well. The Apostle Paul warned the people of his day that “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”13
With so many appropriate and inspired uses of technology, let us use it to teach, inspire, and lift ourselves and to encourage others to become their finest—rather than to portray our idealized virtual selves. Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives.
Let’s now address the age-old stumbling block of pride. Pride is the opposite of humility, which is a “willingness to submit to the will of the Lord.”14 When prideful, we tend to take honor to ourselves rather than giving it to others, including the Lord. Pride is often competitive; it is a tendency to seek to obtain more and presume we are better than others. Pride often results in feelings of anger and hatred; it causes one to hold grudges or to withhold forgiveness. Pride, however, can be swallowed in the Christlike attribute of humility.
Relationships, even with close family and loved ones, especially with close family and loved ones—even between husbands and wives—are fostered in humility and are stymied by pride.
Many years ago an executive of a large retailer called me to talk about his company, which was being bought out by one of its competitors. He and numerous other headquarters personnel were extremely anxious that they might lose their jobs. Knowing that I was well acquainted with senior management of the acquiring company, he asked if I would be willing to both introduce him and give a strong reference on his behalf, even to arrange a meeting for him. He then concluded with the following statement: “You know what they say? ‘The meek shall perish!’”
I understood his comment was more than likely intended as humor. I got the joke. But there was an important principle that I felt might ultimately be of use to him. I replied, “Actually, that isn’t what they say. In fact, it is just the opposite. ‘The meek … shall inherit the earth’15 is what they say.”
In my experience in the Church as well as throughout my professional career, some of the greatest, most effective people I have known have been among the most meek and humble.
Humility and meekness fit hand in glove. May we remember that “none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.”16
I pray that we will strive to avoid the spiritual eclipse of pride by embracing the virtue of humility.
In conclusion, a solar eclipse is indeed a remarkable phenomenon of nature during which the beauty, warmth, and light of the sun can be completely covered by a comparatively insignificant object, causing darkness and chill.
A similar phenomenon can be replicated in a spiritual sense, when otherwise small and insignificant matters are drawn too close and block the beauty, warmth, and heavenly light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing it with cold darkness.
Eyewear designed to protect the sight of those in the zone of a total solar eclipse can prevent permanent damage and even blindness.17 Gospel glasses comprised of a knowledge and testimony of gospel principles and ordinances provide a gospel perspective that can similarly provide greater spiritual protection and clarity for someone exposed to the hazards of a spiritual eclipse.
If you discover anything that seems to be blocking the light and joy of the gospel in your life, I invite you to place it in a gospel perspective. Look through a gospel lens and be vigilant not to allow insignificant and inconsequential matters in life to obscure your eternal view of the great plan of happiness. In short, don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.
I bear testimony that no matter the obstruction that may block our vision of gospel light, the light is still there. That source of warmth, truth, and brightness is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bear testimony of a loving Heavenly Father; of His Son, Jesus Christ; and of the Son’s role as our Savior and Redeemer.
Bible Facts and Biblical Symbols
The Threshing Floor
Find out what happens in this step in the harvesting process—and how it relates to the Lord’s harvest.
“I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit.” Doctrine and Covenants 35:13
Threshing is the process by which the grain husks, or chaff, are loosened. It is done after the fields have been harvested and usually involves crushing the grain stalks on a flat surface, or threshing floor. Threshing is necessary before the final process of winnowing, which separates the husks from the edible grain before the grain is ground and stored.
What We Can Learn
Just as threshing involves a strong physical act (crushing), the Lord sends forth His humble servants to “thresh the nations by the power of [His] Spirit” (D&C 35:13). Of course, the Spirit’s power isn’t violent in the same way threshing is, but its effects can be similarly impressive. Although it is still, small, and peaceful, the Spirit can penetrate to people’s hearts and help bring about great things, such as the conversion of souls and the breaking down of barriers to the Lord’s work.
Is a means of dividing.
The Spirit divides the righteous from the wicked, the Lord’s people from the world, and Satan’s lies from God’s truth. Those who hear the Lord’s voice through His servants, who have not hardened their hearts, and who choose to repent are counted among the righteous. The wicked experience the Lord’s judgments against them.
Precedes the final separation.
Threshing is a necessary step before the final winnowing. Throughout history, the Lord has at times sent His judgments against wicked people. At His Second Coming, He will separate the wicked from the righteous in preparation for His millennial reign. Before this separation, His servants and His people help prepare the world for the judgment to come by bearing witness through the power of the Spirit.
- The harvested and cut grain, such as wheat or barley, was spread to dry on flat, open surfaces, or threshing floors (see 1 Chronicles 21:20–23).
- The dried stalks were either beaten with flails or crushed by an ox or a donkey dragging a heavy board in which sharp stones were embedded (see Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9).
- The Lord often used the image of threshing as a metaphor for the judgments that He or His people would mete out on other nations or the world, either anciently or before His Second Coming (see Isaiah 28:27–28; Isaiah 41:15; Jeremiah 51:33; Micah 4:13; Habakkuk 3:12; Luke 3:17).
Defending the Faith
The Lord needs a people willing and able to humbly yet firmly defend Christ and the kingdom of God.
War in Heaven
In the premortal existence we possessed agency, reasoning powers, and intelligence. There we were “called and prepared … according to the foreknowledge of God” and were initially “on the same standing” with our brothers and sisters (Alma 13:3, 5). Opportunities for growth and learning were widely available.
However, equal access to the teachings of a loving heavenly home did not produce a uniform desire among us—Heavenly Father’s spirit children—to listen, learn, and obey. Exercising our agency, as we do today, we listened with varying degrees of interest and intent. Some of us eagerly sought to learn and obey. With war in heaven on the horizon, we prepared for graduation from our premortal home. Truth was taught and challenged; testimonies were borne and ridiculed, with each premortal spirit making the choice to either defend or defect from the Father’s plan.
Ultimately, retreating indecisively to neutral ground was not an option in this conflict. Nor is it today. Those of us armed with faith in the future Atonement of Jesus Christ, those energized by testimonies of His divine role, those possessing spiritual knowledge and the courage to use it in defense of His sacred name fought on the front lines of this war of words. John taught that those valiant spirits, and others, have overcome Lucifer “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11; emphasis added).
Yes, the promise of a Savior and of a bloodstained Gethsemane and Calvary won the premortal war. But our premortal courage and testimony, our willingness to explain, reason with, and persuade other spirits also helped stem the tide of falsehoods from spreading unopposed!
Having successfully completed a premortal tour of duty in His defense, we became witnesses of His holy name. Indeed, having proven us in battle and being thus assured of our hearts and courage, the Lord later said of us—members of the house of Israel—“Ye are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10). Let us ask ourselves: Is this declaration still true of us today?
Our Current Battle
A conflict for the minds, hearts, and souls of our Father’s children still rages today in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While many in the world are sincerely curious about the teachings of the Church, an ever-widening gulf between the wicked and the righteous separates a world in moral free fall from restored gospel truths.
“We live in a time when we are surrounded by much that is intended to entice us into paths which may lead to our destruction. To avoid such paths requires determination and courage.”
“As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. … Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone?”1 ~Thomas S. Monson
Are we both willing and able to engage in polite discussion with those who have honest questions?
“Even as we seek to be meek … , we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand.”3~Dallin H. Oaks
How many of us are proactive, valiant defenders of the faith?
He needs a people “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [them]” (1 Peter 3:15).
You may ask, “Can someone as weak as I am be a valiant defender of Christ and His restored gospel?” Your perceived weakness can be made strong as you accept that all the Lord initially requires is “[your] heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). Endowed with a courageous spirit, the “small and simple” of the world are His favorite recruits. Remember that by “very small means,” He delights to “confound the wise” (see Alma 37:6, 7). If you are willing to share and defend the restored gospel and its leaders and doctrines, you may consider the following suggestions.
- Know whom and what to defend.
A solid defensive strategy is the foundation for a solid offense. While you can’t effectively defend that which you know nothing or little about, you won’t defend it if you don’t deeply care. Just as a hireling, who is paid to care for the sheep, will retreat or flee at the first sign of trouble, so you will not hold your defensive lines very long unless you have a spiritual conviction that your cause is just and true.
Those who know and live the gospel are filled with both understanding and a burning conviction kindled from worthiness and personal experience.
- Evaluate your fortifications.
Honestly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your gospel understanding. Are you setting a good example by living a Christlike life?
Could it be that diligent study will help you gain the confidence and courage you seek?5
- Strengthen your fortifications.
Prayerfully read the scriptures, again and again.
“When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased.”6 ~Richard G. Scott
As you become increasingly prepared, you will “wax stronger and stronger” in your confidence as a witness of Christ (see Helaman 3:35). Start with brief and simple answers. They will be adequate in most situations. But you can also strengthen your defenses even more by studying related scriptures and connecting various doctrines.
- Seek opportunities.
Remember, “discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.”7
Stand as a Proactive Witness
As you continue defending the gospel of Jesus Christ, “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify [you] for the work” (D&C 4:5). As a wicked world continues violating the moral and doctrinal standards of God, Christ depends on even the least of us to be living witnesses of His name.
Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) reminded us that
“it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. … In this world so filled with problems, so constantly threatened by dark and evil challenges, you can and must rise above mediocrity, above indifference. You can become involved and speak with a strong voice for that which is right.”8
May your gospel living and your defense of that same gospel be a reflection of the depth of your conversion to Jesus Christ.
Parents as Teachers:
Christian Moral Standards and Biblical Values for Children and Youth
Written, Not with Ink
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26 )
Jochebed, mother of Moses, gently laid her infant son in a carefully crafted little ark, then watched over the short river journey of her precious cargo until he was safely in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. Even then, in the king’s court, she was there, nursing him and vigilant in his care.
Despite the opposition of those who would have killed him, Moses grew to manhood, delivered his people from bondage, and left to the world the priceless moral code known as the Ten Commandments. Moses went on to his reward, but opposition to his work continues.
In the New World, about 148 B.C., the prophet Abinadi was put to death by a king, for defending the plan of salvation and the Ten Commandments.
This revered code has been preserved, found today inscribed in stone or metal. The Ten Commandments have been ridiculed, forbidden, removed from public display. Yet within the calm eye of stormy hostility, this code remains serene, steadfast, and immovable.
After the children of Israel broke the Ten Commandments and other higher laws, Moses was instructed to create a complex structure of rules and regulations.
Today, many try to replace the Ten Commandments with gargantuan legal documents of government regulation.
Laws of men come and go. People have been killed or thrown in jail defending the Ten Commandments. But this moral code persists as a foundation for all civilized societies. Why? Because its Author is absolute— the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The Ten Commandments are moral absolutes.
Those whose behavior is consistent with moral absolutes are guided by what is called “internal government.” These individuals can successfully govern themselves, but are accountable to a just God.
When internal government breaks down, external government takes over, with rules, regulation, and bureaucracy. Persons under external government are accountable to men, who may not be just.
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a timeless novel about justice and mercy, hero Jean Valjean served in prison for decades because he stole one loaf of bread. He learned about mercy when a compassionate priest bought his freedom with two valuable silver candle holders. Because of that gracious gift, Valjean lived out his life serving and bringing joy to others. But Javert, his jailer, refusing to accept the price paid for Jean’s deliverance, became obsessed with re-capturing him. Failing in his objective, Javert finally ended his own miserable life. Such is the state of man at the hands of human justice.
In a civilized society, however, justice must be served, or there would be nothing to deter evil and protect the innocent. But much as we may desire to be morally perfect, we all fall short. What is to be done?
Many today reject moral absolutes because, like Javert, they do not understand the plan of mercy. A loving Father in heaven knew that his children would fail to keep all the commandments that justice required. Only His perfect Son could meet the absolute demands of justice and pay the price for His children’s deliverance.
Parents need not be afraid of holding their children to high moral standards. The atonement of Christ is a safety net in the times of falling short, but it is fastened to repentance. Like Valjean, our children must forsake evil, or justice will have claims upon them.
If we as parents, like Jochebed, diligently train, nurture, and safeguard the internal government in our children, their souls will remain clean and whole when all around them are falling apart. Despite the fading ink of human doctrine, our children can remain true to eternal principles, written, not with ink, but in the fleshy tables of their hearts. (2Cor.3:3)
But remember, “It is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
Children prepared with strong internal government will always make honor and virtue their choice; they will triumph over evil, and rejoice.
Dinner Topics for Thursday
- Give examples in the world today of human injustice, in which the Ten Commandments have been perverted and the atonement of Christ is denied.
- If we do our very best to live high moral standards, but fall short, what must we do to receive the mercy of Christ?
Copyright © 2010 by Christine A. Davidson
True to the Faith
By Evan Stephens
Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
While we know the powers of darkness seek to thwart the work of God,
Shall the children of the promise cease to grasp the iron rod? No!
We will work out our salvation; we will cleave unto the truth;
We will watch and pray and labor with the fervent zeal of youth. Yes!
We will strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord,
With the faithful ones redeemed who have loved and kept his word. Yes!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command, soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.
Christian Standards for Children and Youth
I will follow Heavenly Father’s plan for me.
I will listen to the Holy Spirit.
I will choose the right. I know I can repent when I make a mistake.
I will be honest with Heavenly Father, others, and myself.
I will use the names of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ reverently. I will not swear or use crude words.
I will do those things on the Sabbath that will help me feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
I will honor my parents and do my part to strengthen my family.
I will keep my mind and body sacred and pure, and I will not partake of things that are harmful to me.
I will dress modestly to show respect for Heavenly Father and myself.
I will only read and watch things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will only listen to music that is pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will seek good friends and treat others kindly.
I will do my part to strengthen my family.
Sabbath Worship, Discipleship, and Small Acts of Faith
Sabbath Worship Drop by Drop
By Ariel Szuch
Sometimes when the topic “keeping the Sabbath day holy” comes up in church, I squirm in my chair a little. There has been a lot of emphasis placed on the Sabbath day lately, and I know it’s not meant to be guilt-inducing, but sometimes I can’t help but think, Here we go. Another way I’m not measuring up to expectations. After all, I don’t always make it to church on time. I don’t always feel like my focus is in the right place ALL DAY LONG. I don’t always feel the Spirit super strongly at church. And I may or may not doze off for a few minutes in sacrament meeting about every other Sunday.
It can be easy to feel like we’re falling short on keeping the Sabbath day holy when not all of our Sundays look like the picture-perfect, peaceful, restful, Spirit-filled day we have in our heads as the standard. I know I can get it in my head sometimes that truly keeping the Sabbath day holy requires colossal effort—everything has to be clean, I always have to be well-rested, I need to have “holy thoughts” the full 24 hours, I should read my scriptures for at least an hour, and so on.
But I don’t have to do that. And neither do you.
Heaping high (and honestly, often arbitrary) expectations on ourselves for keeping the Sabbath day holy—or keeping any other commandment—beyond what God and our leaders have counseled us to do weighs us down and robs us of the joy of obedience. The Lord’s pattern does not center on massive efforts powered only by our own sheer grit and determination. Rather, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise” (Alma 37:6). Just like it does to keeping every commandment, this principle applies to keeping the Sabbath day holy as well.
Drops of Holiness
Instead of these huge efforts, I have found it helpful to think of my Sabbath day worship as filling a lamp—one that needs oil to burn, like in the parable of the ten virgins. Drops of holiness, if you will, that accumulate week after week and year after year. Thinking about what I’m grateful for in the shower while getting ready? Drop. Taking three minutes to read over the sacrament prayers before church? Drop. Saying a prayer of gratitude for the Savior as I take the sacrament? Drop. Drops of holiness are small, simple things that fuel the flame of my faith in Jesus Christ and my desire to turn my heart toward Him on the Sabbath day, and every effort counts.
On a recent Sunday, I walked into church after missing sacrament meeting the Sunday before. As I came through the doors, I felt a little rush of anticipation, and it hit me—I’ve missed this. I had missed the opportunity to add oil to my lamp, to fill up my spiritual tank. Looking back over the previous week, I could tell that my spiritual reserves had been low. I hadn’t handled stress as well and had been quicker to get frustrated and take offense. Coming back to church was like getting a drink and realizing how thirsty I had been, and I could feel the warm welcome of the Spirit envelop me.
As I reflected, feeling a little guilty for missing the previous week, I thought about how the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy gives God an opportunity to bless us. He doesn’t give us commandments to set us up for failure, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to punish us if we fall short of perfection. Instead, the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy gives us an opportunity every week—drop by drop—for our entire lives to practice turning toward Him and becoming like Him. Each effort, regardless of perceived past failures, is rejoiced in by a loving Heavenly Father. With that realization, taking the sacrament was especially sweet that week.
The Sabbath is a day to listen to God’s voice, not the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough and we’re not measuring up. We offer up our little part, our small drops of oil, each week, knowing that God accepts even the smallest effort to turn toward Him. The sacrament cup is a beautiful reminder of that. Jesus drank the entire bitter cup, paying the price for our sins, pains, and sorrows so we can return to God’s presence. He didn’t do it to shame us into obedience (“Look how much I did for you! Quit whining and shape up!”). Instead, all He desires is for us to drink our little cup—to do our small, day-to-day and week-to-week efforts to keep the commandments and keep the Sabbath day holy—with gratitude, knowing that in the end, it is His efforts that make everything possible.
Building Foundation of Faith through Obedience to God in Small Daily Life Activities
Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It
By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. ~Alma 37:6-7
Bible Story of Naaman
Small acts of faith, even when they seem insignificant or entirely disconnected from the specific problems that vex us, bless us in all we do.
Consider Naaman, a “captain of the host of … Syria, … a mighty man in valour,” and a leper. A servant girl told of a prophet in Israel who could heal Naaman, and so he traveled with an escort of servants, soldiers, and gifts to Israel, eventually arriving at Elisha’s house. Elisha’s servant, not Elisha himself, informed Naaman that the Lord’s command was to “go and wash in [the river] Jordan seven times.” A simple thing. Perhaps this simple prescription struck the mighty warrior as so illogical, simplistic, or beneath his dignity that he found the mere suggestion offensive. At the very least, Elisha’s instruction didn’t make sense to Naaman, “so he turned and went away in a rage.”
But Naaman’s servants gently approached him and observed that he would have done “some great thing” if Elisha had asked it of him. They noted that since he was asked to do only a small task, shouldn’t he do it, even if he didn’t understand why? Naaman reconsidered his reaction and perhaps skeptically, but obediently, “went … down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan” and was miraculously healed.8
Small Daily Life Activities
When we decide to do “whatsoever [God] saith unto” us, we earnestly commit to align our everyday behavior with God’s will. Such simple acts of faith as studying the scriptures daily, fasting regularly, and praying with real intent deepen our well of spiritual capacity to meet the demands of mortality. Over time, simple habits of belief lead to miraculous results. They transform our faith from a seedling into a dynamic power for good in our lives. Then, when challenges come our way, our rootedness in Christ provides steadfastness for our souls. God shores up our weaknesses, increases our joys, and causes “all things [to] work together for [our] good.”6
A few years ago, I spoke with a young bishop who was spending hours each week counseling with members of his ward. He made a striking observation. The problems that members of his ward faced, he said, were those faced by Church members everywhere—issues such as how to establish a happy marriage; struggles with balancing work, family, and Church duties; challenges with the Word of Wisdom, with employment, or with pornography; or trouble gaining peace about a Church policy or historical question they didn’t understand.
His counsel to ward members very often included getting back to simple practices of faith. Frequently, however, their response to him was one of skepticism: “I don’t agree with you, Bishop. We all know those are good things to do. We talk about those things all the time in the Church. But I’m not sure you’re understanding me. What does doing any of those things have to do with the issues I’m facing?”
It’s a fair question. Over time, that young bishop and I have observed that those who are deliberate about doing the “small and simple things”7—obeying in seemingly little ways—are blessed with faith and strength that go far beyond the actual acts of obedience themselves and, in fact, may seem totally unrelated to them.
Daily acts of obedience are solutions to the big, complicated problems
It may seem hard to draw a connection between the basic daily acts of obedience and solutions to the big, complicated problems we face. But they are related. In my experience, getting the little daily habits of faith right is the single best way to fortify ourselves against the troubles of life, whatever they may be.
Some rewards of obedience do come quickly; others come only after we are tested. In the Pearl of Great Price, we read about Adam’s tireless diligence in keeping the commandment to offer sacrifices. When the angel asked Adam why he was offering sacrifices, he answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” The angel explained that his sacrifices were “a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father.” But that explanation came only after Adam had demonstrated his commitment to obeying the Lord for “many days” without knowing why he was supposed to offer those sacrifices.9
God will always bless us for our steadfast obedience to His gospel and loyalty to His Church, but He rarely shows us His timetable for doing so in advance. He doesn’t show us the whole picture from the outset. That is where faith, hope, and trusting in the Lord come in.
God asks us to bear with Him—to trust Him and to follow Him. He pleads with us to “dispute not because ye see not.” He cautions us that we shouldn’t expect easy answers or quick fixes from heaven. Things work out when we stand firm during the “trial of [our] faith,” however hard that test may be to endure or slow the answer may be in coming.10 I am not speaking of “blind obedience”11 but of thoughtful confidence in the perfect love and the perfect timing of the Lord.
The trial of our faith will always involve staying true to simple, daily practices of faith. Then, and only then, does He promise that we will receive the divine response for which we long. Only once we have proven our willingness to do what He asks without demanding to know the whens, the whys, and the hows do we “reap the rewards of [our] faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.”12 Real obedience accepts God’s commandments unconditionally and in advance.13
Every day, consciously or otherwise, we all choose “whom [we] will serve.”14 We demonstrate our determination to serve the Lord by faithfully engaging in daily acts of devotion. The Lord promises to direct our paths,15 but for Him to do that, we have to walk, trusting that He knows the way because He is “the way.”16 We must fill our own waterpots up to the brim. When we trust and follow Him, our lives, like water to wine, are transformed. We become something more and better than we ever otherwise could be. Trust in the Lord, and “whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
Biblical Quotes on Strength and Mercy from Psalms
King James Version
David finds shelter in the Lord, abides in the Lord’s presence, and keeps his own vows.
1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.
5 For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.
David praises God as his defense, his rock, and his salvation—The Lord judges men according to their works.
1 Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved.
5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.
10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.