Monday, February 22, 2016

February 21, 2016 - The Plan of Salvation - The Importance of Learning and Agency


CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: 
Read the sections "Agency and Accountability" and "Education"
in For the Strength of Youth.

I know, I shook things up, putting the challenge first.
But, knowing you, y'all are awesome and can handle it.

This week, we combined (well, we attempted to combine) two lessons: Why is learning an important part of Heavenly Father's plan? and  What is the role of agency in learning the gospel?

And, in case you forgot, now you totally see why you've accepted the challenge to read those two sections in For the Strength of Youth.

Yesterday was an interesting class. It was a bit hard for you all to concentrate, I think, because of the beautiful (if a little chilly) day outside. But I think we got some learning done.
I appreciated all the participation you gave ... even if "Andre le Roc" did look quite nice in those aqua ballet flats. (In truth, I'm still snickering about that.)

As you (my clever, awesome class) pointed out, the reason we were sent here to Earth is to learn and to grow. And we wouldn't be able to become like our heavenly parents if we couldn't choose for ourselves or learn anything ... hence the need for the Plan of Salvation/the Plan of Happiness.

With Satan's plan, we wouldn't have had agency. We're not sure what his plan was exactly (maybe we would all be compelled to make the right choices. Maybe there wouldn't be right and wrong choices to make so our actions wouldn't matter either way), but no matter what his plan was, it negated our agency and wouldn't have allowed us (God's children) to attain ANY degree of our Father's glory.

Agency is vital. Allowing us our agency is the whole reason behind Christ's Atonement -- his suffering, death, and resurrection FOR US. FOR ALL HUMANKIND.
That's a huge price for Him to pay ... and he loves you all so much.
If He had to go through it all JUST for ONE, SINGLE ONE of you, He would do it, not hesitating for a second. Because He loves you.
Please remember that. Please be aware of how precious and loved you are. Always.

Without agency, we would only be acted upon -- like seaweed on the ocean floor, influenced by the current, but unable to make our own changes. That is not what Heavenly Father wants for us. He knows that, to be like Him, to be able to be as He is, we need to know how to act for ourselves. We need the opportunity to make choices for ourselves.

It's important.

It's also very important to learn.

One of my favorite scriptures is Doctrine 109:7:
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;"
I find that, in my experience, it nicely dovetails (which means that it fits perfectly and securely) with Alma 30:44:
"The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
 The more I learn, the more that I am convinced that God exists and established rules for how things work/interact. I enjoy learning about science (and many other things) ... and the more that I learn and observe, the more I see God's hand in all things.

For an example, Rhinovirus (the common cold) is a virus that survives best at a temperature of around 91.4-95°F ... what happens when we come down with a bad cold? Not only do we have an immune response where our white blood cells go and chow down on these invaders, BUT!! Our bodies have another response: we run a fever. This raises our internal temperature to something very inhospitable to the virus. I find this absolutely amazing. I have a testimony that our bodies are amazing creations ... and that they ARE creations. They are gifts from loving heavenly parents to us; to help us grow and become more like them.

There's also been amazing amounts of research done in the areas of Book of Mormon studies -- they've found the presence of horses in the Americas in the fossil record recently, they're doing an amazing dig out in Oman (where, it appears, Nephi and his family built the ship and sailed for the promised land).

If you look for God's hand in these things, looking in faith, you will find it.

Of course, temporal knowledge and spiritual knowledge will come in different ways. We have to prepare ourselves for both of these.
Remember, when we die, we can't take everything with us. We will take our memories, our knowledge, and those relationships we have to others (if we're sealed to our families and our spouses, we will have those eternal bonds ... IF we keep the covenants we've made with our Heavenly Father).

Also, please be aware, the Lord does not set us up to fail. He is on our side, cheering us on. He wants us to make good choices that will lead us to become closer to Him, that will bring us joy and His peace.

Yesterday, in Relief Society, we talked about "Help from on High," one of the lessons from the Howard W. Hunter manual.
As Sister Berg taught the lesson, she talked about patterns of faith.

This is like the pride cycle of the Nephites, but HAPPY.
  1. Act in Faith
  2. Pray/Study Scriptures
  3. Ponder
  4. Act on Promptings from the Holy Ghost
  5. Faith is strengthened
  6. Repeat
As you see, as we continue this cycle, our faith is strengthened each time, allowing us to grow and develop so that we have greater, stronger faith to allow us to do all things the Lord asks of us. We will also be familiar with the voice of the Holy Spirit, so we can recognize his influence in our life. Which, then, will strengthen our faith.

Sister Berg also shared this video:
Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation - David A. Bednar
(Sorry that I couldn't get it to imbed. I tried. But it's just not going to happen. Oh well.)

I hope that you find this helpful and enlightening (no pun intended).

Next week, we'll be discussing why it's important to teach the gospel, how we can help others to understand Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness, how to help others participate in learning, and how we can use Church music to help learn/teach about the Plan of Salvation.
I don't think we'll cover any of this in depth ... but we're going to try to touch upon these topics.

Go forth and be awesome!

Love,
     Sister Cox

February 14, 2016 - Notes from the Stake Broadcast

I hope that you were all able to attend, pay attention to, and enjoy the broadcast!
I ended up taking quite a few notes ... which I might as well share with you, right? ^_^

Remember, every other year, we'll be having three Stake Conferences (being 1 Broadcast for the region as well as our two typical Stake Conferences).

From President Carlile's address before the broadcast:

  • The story of Christ at the pool of Bethesda; he healed a man on the Sabbath.
    Observing the Sabbath - we should avoid having a set list (like in the Old Testament and, instead, concentrate on doing what helps our hearts and souls
    The man at the pool was looking for healing in troubled waters. We often do the same.
    We must look for the healing and peace available from Christ.
  • President Carlile quoted a poem Sharon Price Anderson wrote inspired by Carl Bloch's painting of Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda.
  • We need to avoid distractions from Christ
  • We have three reasons for observing the Sabbath (from Russell M. Nelson):
    1. Strengthen our testimonies
    2. Strengthen our love of God
    3. Strengthen our affection for and desire to serve Christ
  • Isaiah 58:13-14
  • One way to improve Sabbath Day Observance: MUSIC
    In our meetings, in our classes, in our homes.
    This is the best way to invite the Spirit into our lives.
  • Ward Music Chair, Organist, and Choister should ALL communicate with their Bishopric member and each other.
  • Sacrament Meeting begins with PRELUDE MUSIC - It should be the best 10 minutes of your week, sitting and pondering while listening to hymns
    The Opening Hymn should be familiar and full of life.
    We should not play hymns too slowly or too quickly.
    Special musical numbers are for worship, not to showcase performance skills.
    WE SHOULD ALL PARTICIPATE IN THE SINGING OF THE HYMNS.
  • Change the way you look at the Sabbath. Change the way you observe the Sabbath.


Broadcast Start
Conducting: James J Hamula
(Others there: Dale G. Renlund, Bonnie L. Oscarson, C. Scott Grow)


C. Scott Grow - "How to Remain True to the Faith"
"In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets. "True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word."
  • Scripture study will bless you with power to the convincing of others. This will help parents. Family Scripture Study is a priority.
  • Pray

    Joseph Smith's first prayer is an example of how scripture study is a catalyst for more meaningful prayers.

    ALSO, as Sister Berg pointed out in Relief Society yesterday, the Epistle of James was written to go forth to ALL TWELVE TRIBES of Israel, so it's very fitting for Joseph Smith to be inspired by it, since, as the prophet of the Restoration, one of his duties was to initiate the gathering of the twelve tribes.
  • Attend Church
    We attend church to worship, not as a social responsibility.
    Our sacrifice is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
    We need to examine our lives and repent of our sins.
    You take the name of Christ upon you. Serve in the Church. Become like Him.
    ALWAYS remember Him so that you can have His Spirit to be with you. 


Bonnie L. Oscarson - Discipleship
  • "What is discipleship? It is primarily obedience to the Savior." - James E Faust ( https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/discipleship?lang=eng
  • “We teach that the moment they step out of the water, they step out of the world and into the kingdom of God. By covenant, they agree to obey His commandments.Covenants place us under a strong obligation to honor our commitments to God. To keep our covenants, we must give up activities or interests that prevent us from honoring those covenants.” - Elder Robert D Hales (Return: Four Phases of Our Mortal Journey Home (2010), 60.) 
  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - "You NEVER check your religion at the door." ( https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/06/the-call-to-be-christlike?lang=eng
  • Alma to Corianton - "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10) 
  • Deliberate choice of wrong offends the Spirit. He will leave us. 
  • Repentance is still possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 
  • Obedience (discipleship) brings blessings. 

James J. Hamula - The Last Days

  • The advice that Christ gave his disciples applies to us today: "Fear not." "Be not afraid, only believe." 
  • Keep your eyes fixed upon the Lord - Don't allow the world or its troubles to distract you from your faith. 
  • Trust in the Lord and in the power of His deliverance
  • Testimony of the Atonement
  • Isaiah 61:3 - "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." 
  • Follow your leaders
  • God's kingdom in the last days, foreseen by the prophet Daniel, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • There will be no institutional apostasy from the time of the time of the Restoration through the Second Coming.
  • Fear not.
  • His Church shall be a defense and refuge against the storms and trials of the last days.
  • We need to build our lives upon the gospel of Jesus Christ and its doctrines.
  • Hearken to the voice of Church leaders
  • - Perfection is not a prerequisite for a prophet. “I never told you I was perfect—but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).
  • By their fruits ye shall know them.
  • Stand with the Church and its leaders

Dale G. Renlund
  • Story of explaining Adam-ondi-aman to some strangers. He didn't know how to start in explaining WHY this site had such a special spirit present ... but his wife said ~The simple start to that question is that, in 1820, a young boy named Joseph Smith knelt to pray. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and revealed the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ... My husband will now relate to you how that relates to this issue.~ (very poorly paraphrased. Sorry. I really wish I could recall EXACTLY the phrasing that Sister Renlund employs ... but you get the idea.) And, another time, when they were asked why they don't drink alcohol/coffee/smoke, she started with EXACTLY the same answer and passed the rest on to Elder Renlund. He took it in stride with a good sense of humor.
  • ADDRESSING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHURCH
    1. Restoration through Joseph Smith -- The Plan of Salvation
    2. How the Restoration brought about the issue/revelation at hand
  • Commandments have divine origins
  • ACT ON FAITH
    1. Obey
    2. Live it
    3. Receive revelation/blessings
  • Plan of Salvation
    - Gender is an eternal characteristic
    - The Council in Heaven
    - The importance of agency
    - The necessity of the Atonement of Jesus Christ
    1. Allows us to overcome physical and spiritual death
    2. Allows mercy to fulfill the demands of justice (mediator)
    3. Allows the possibility to make temple covenants
    - Mortal life/Post-mortal life
    -- We don't have the dichotomy of Heaven vs Hell. We understand about differing degrees of Glory.
    ---- Satan's approach (in the pre-existence/council in Heaven) wouldn't allow God's children to attain ANY degree of glory.
    ---- Satan can cause us to stop our progression through tempting us to sin. We stop our own progress by choosing evil.
    ----- Our degree of glory that we will attain in our post-mortal/post-judgement state is our own choice.
    - Celestial marriage is a covenant, eternal marriage. Nothing else will endure. We must comply with God's law to attain all that He has promised.

    11th ARTICLE OF FAITH - Dealing with differences in opinion/beliefs
    - Treat all with love and tolerance. Show respect to each other.
    - Our doctrine is NOT nefarious (God loves everyone).
    - Do NOT act in a bigoted way. That is not following Christ's example or obeying His laws.
    - Love and live the doctrine. Love all people. We CAN do BOTH.
    - Disagree without being disagreeable. Aim for understanding, respect, and (most of all) love.

    He also had some great examples of how to treat others of differing beliefs/lifestyles.
    1. His family is friends with those of other religions with different practices (Word of Wisdom)
    They choose to go out to dinner together. The other family can order alcohol. They don't preach at this other family. They show love.
    2. They could be friends with a couple in a same-sex relationship. They don't have to approve of that lifestyle. They also don't need to chastise the couple/family.

    Show love, tolerance, and respect. They are Heavenly Father's children, too. They should be treated like it.
--------------

I hope that you all received some answers and learned some wonderful truths to help you become closer to Christ,

I'll work on typing up what went on in class yesterday. Hopefully, it'll be up soon!

Be awesome!

Love,
Sister Cox

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 7, 2016 - The Plan of Salvation: Overview

Found at: http://www.the-exponent.com/february-young-women-lesson-what-is-the-plan-of-salvation/

Most everyone (of our usual crowd ... there are a few that we're still missing) was there for class last week (and no one will be in class next week due to the Stake Broadcast ... so, instead of our class, we'll ALL be together with the rest of the Stake. Have fun seeing your friends from other wards ... but do try and pay attention and be spiritual and all. If I see you, I'll wave!).

So, for class we mostly just went over WHAT IS The Plan of Salvation/The Plan of Happiness. Because it's always good to have a refresher ... and I think that this was a really good class. Everyone participated (were we always all on task? No. But everyone was involved in class for the most part, which was AWESOME).

THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE (and next week's, too, since I won't be seeing you to give you a different one): READ "The Plan of Salvation" Section in True to the Faith.
(For bonus credit, you can also check out the whole page about the gospel topic of The Plan of Salvation over at lds.org.)

As I said, we really just talked about what happened to bring about the Plan of Salvation and why it was needed and what will happen at the end.

  • We all existed with our Heavenly Parents in the Pre-Existence. We were spirit beings. We are his spirit children, created from intelligences (Nothing comes from nothing, right?)
  • We knew that to progress (and to reach our goal of becoming like our Heavenly Parents) we would need to leave our heavenly home, come to Earth, receive mortal bodies, and learn and grow and develop those characteristics that our Heavenly Parents have.
  • Heavenly Father presented his plan to us ... in it, since we would be separated from him, we would need a savior to allow us to return home again.
  • Lucifer volunteered, but would not allow us to have agency. He would guarantee that EVERY SINGLE PERSON returned ... but, with this plan, without agency, it wouldn't get us any closer to our goal of becoming more like our Heavenly Parents.
  • Jesus volunteered, agreeing to atone for the sins we would make and the suffering we would create for ourselves and others as we worked towards becoming more and more like our Heavenly Parents.
  • As you can probably guess (since we do live in a world where Jesus was born, suffered, died, and was resurrected for us), Jesus was chosen. Lucifer (and those who followed him [being a third part of all Heavenly Father's spirit children]) rebelled. There was a war in Heaven. Lucifer's side was defeated. He was cast out as Satan, along with all his followers. They never got to receive bodies. They cannot progress. ... They're kinda mad/bitter about that. I can't blame them for being upset. It stinks.
  • The rest of us have the opportunity to receive a mortal body, to be born on Earth, make covenants with our Heavenly Father, and to progress towards the overall goal of becoming more like our Heavenly Parents.
There are a LOT of things, as we study the Plan of Salvation, that we learn ... It is a very simple, yet a totally complex topic.
  • We pass through a veil of forgetfulness as we come to Earth. If we didn't and we still knew EVERYTHING that we knew then, this life wouldn't be a test. We would already KNOW everything so we couldn't grow. 
  • Adam and Eve came to Earth. While in the Garden of Eden, they transgressed ... which allowed them to become mortal (they could die) and separated them from God (sin). This is refered to as The Fall. We're all subject to sin and death ... which is why we all NEEDED a savior.
  • Jesus is our Savior. Because He has undergone everything, He understands EACH ONE OF US PERFECTLY.
    I don't know about you, but this really is comforting to me. He knows exactly what I am going through, what you are going through. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. and He loves us perfectly. This is a wonderful thing. I can't comprehend it all, but, oh, I am very thankful for it.
  • Jesus was crucified and died for us. He also was resurrected, overcoming physical death. Because He overcame death, we will ALL be resurrected. We will be complete souls -- our spirit and body will be reunited. We will overcome physical death. (Even the really naughty people. This is a gift to EVERYONE.)
  • Because Jesus atoned for our sins (ALL our sins. All the sins we've made, all that we will make, all that we might make), we can repent ... this lets us overcome sin. You could also say (very truthfully) that sin is separating ourselves from God (like how death separates our bodies from our spirits), so sin is spiritual death.
    To overcome sin, we have the opportunity to repent. When we repent, our sins are forgiven. Heavenly Father won't hold them against us. Repentance isn't easy ... but it is the only way to bridge that gap we've set between ourselves and our Heavenly Parents.
    (I like to tell my kids that if you don't feel close to Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father, who moved? [The answer is us. They are perfect. They won't change. We ... leave lots of room for improvement.])
And that brings us (mostly) to what happens after we die ... so I'm going to bring up another diagram. It's not as pretty ... but I really like it:

This is the chart for Gospel Essentials class from http://www.vcaa.com/epistles/charts/plansal.htm
If you want MORE information, there's another, more in-depth, chart under the Gospel Doctrine link at that site.

So, you see, in that center section there, Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison.
Those who hare righteous and have been baptized get to go to Paradise. They'll also get to help do missionary work to the unbaptized or unrighteous (but baptized) folks.

One things that I LOVE about the gospel is that Heavenly Father treats everyone equally. 
EVERYONE will get a chance to learn the fullness of the gospel and to choose for themselves, even if they didn't live in a time or place when it was preached on Earth. He really does love ALL His children.

And, as you can see, there's a HUGE reason for temple work and family history to be done. We have ancestors and friends (whom we might not remember now, but we knew them back in the Pre-existence) who have been waiting for decades, centuries, millennia to have the opportunity to be baptized. And this is work that we can do.
(I've done temple work for some of my ancestors, only a very few of them people that I had met or knew -- my Grandma among them. And my husband has been baptized, confirmed, and done the work for my Pop-pop to have received all his covenants [well, besides being sealed to his wife, since she's still alive]. It is a very special experience to have the opportunity to perform this work for these individuals, to do something for them that they are not able to do for themselves. I very strongly recommend living so that you are always worthy to attend the temple and share these wonderful blessings with those who've gone on before without being able to do this work themselves. It allows you to do some very, very Christlike service. And I'd love for you all to have that opportunity. ... And if you don't have family names to do, there will always be names at the temple for you to serve those individuals. They will be grateful for the opportunity to choose to accept this work you've done for them).

Also, I made sure to mention in class that, even if we've done someone's temple work, that doesn't mean that they HAVE to accept it.

AGENCY is the whole reason for the Plan of Salvation. If we can't choose for ourselves, there's no point to even having this mortal experience ... which is why Satan's plan wouldn't have worked.

After being in the Spirit World (Paradise or Prison) and receiving a full knowledge of the gospel, we'll be judged. Jesus is our Mediator. He's earned the right to extend us mercy because he atoned for us. If we accept His Atonement (repent and forgive others), His mercy will fulfill the demands of justice.

Then, after that judgement, we will all be resurrected (not all at the same time. The righteous people will be resurrected first, then on down the line ... so, please do try to be Celestial Kingdom material so that (if I keep my covenants, too) we'll all see each other there. Sound cool?


Here's yet another good one
http://www.scripturecompanion.com/Downloads/Plan_of_Salvation_color.jpg

Then we'll be ready to go to our final place.
  • Celestial Kingdom - The highest glory. You need to be baptized, for sure. If you want to be able to achieve a higher level within the kingdom (and why not shoot for the best?), you'll need to make (and keep, naturally), your baptismal covenants, receive your endowment, and be sealed to your spouse (if you don't get married here on Earth, don't worry ... things will work out. Just be prepared to do it, right? Heavenly Father WANTS for you to get the best that He can offer. He's totally on your side. And, with Jesus Christ helping, you can't fail).

    In the Celestial Kingdom, we'll be with Heavenly Father. It'll be pretty awesome, so I hear.
    And we'll be there, sealed to our families. Which is awesome.
  • Terrestrial Kingdom - So, this place won't be horrible ... but it's not going to be the Celestial Kingdom. Jesus Christ will visit and minister to the people here, but they won't be able to be with Heavenly Father. And that's rather sad. But they'll be comfortable as they are ... so I guess that's okay.

    My Institute teacher, Brother Dale Kirby (who was AWESOME. Seriously, when you're out of high school, when you have an opportunity to take an Institute class, GO FOR IT. Trust me.) told us that the people here will be comfortable keeping the ten commandments, but they wouldn't be happy keeping the higher law. So it's not like they're bad people, by any means. They just don't really have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. Well, at least not strong enough to be baptized into his Church ... But they'll get to know him better since he will come to teach and minister to them.
  • Telestial Kingdom - Here's where it's going to be pretty ... not great.
    Brother Kirby taught us that the people here wouldn't be happy keeping the ten commandments. And they wouldn't be comfortable around Jesus OR Heavenly Father ... so the Holy Ghost will visit them and teach them.
  • Outer Darkness is the worst place. Please don't go there, okay?
    The individuals who end up here have gone through a second spiritual death. They have no desire to repent. They will live under Satan's rule.

    This isn't just a place where people who've just made some REALLY BAD DECISIONS (e.g., Adolf Hitler, etc.) go ... No.

    The people who will inhabit this level of not-glory will have had a clear and full understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ ... but will have allowed themselves to fall away to the point they deny the Holy Spirit (after receiving it [Doctrine and Covenants 76:35]) AND Jesus Christ.
    And, what's sadder is that they've gotten to the point where they CAN'T repent. (The link takes you to an article from the April 1986 Ensign where H. Donl Peterson, BYU professor of Ancient Scripture, discusses the meaning of "Hell" in the Book of Mormon. It's actually a really great, rather deep, answer that gives a lot of information.
  • Those who will end up in Outer Darkness have chosen to live in a way where they do not get to receive any part of Heavenly Father's glory. 
And you know how I totally just gave a shout-out about Institute? You should totally check out the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual chapter about Section 76. It's good stuff. Just because you're not in Institute doesn't mean that you can't check out those awesome manuals!

While we were talking about Outer Darkness, it suddenly occurred to me that those who are in Outer Darkness didn't just deny the power of the Holy Ghost. They also are denying him to be around them. This is something that had never occurred to me before. So, THANK YOU for helping me to get to a place where I was able to receive a little bit of revelation/inspiration as we taught each other. It was a really wonderful experience.

I know that this is crazy-long (AGAIN) ... but, well, the gospel is pretty awesome. And I just want you to know that these things are important. And knowing them will help you to be a better missionary and a better person. I love you guys and I really want you to be able to progress and be way better than I was at your age. If there's anything that you especially want to know or have been wondering, let me know and I'll work to research it (or, better yet, to help YOU research it). ^_^

Go be awesome! The world needs your righteous influence!
     Love,
          Sister Cox

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January 31 - The Godhead - Wrap-up

Since there were five Sundays in January, but only four lessons, we reviewed a bit of what we learned ... which was a good call since half of you were out of town (We missed you).

One of the class members (not me) gave a very nice talk about the Holy Ghost in Sacrament meeting. I know that he wrote it in Google Docs, so you COULD get a copy of it from him if you ask nicely.

We mostly covered the topic of looking for God's hand in our lives ... and why looking for (and RECOGNIZING) it is important.


First off, we talked about the Pride Cycle ... you can see this happen over and over (and over and over...) in The Book of Mormon.

The Nephite Cycle of Righteousness ... or, in short, the Pride Cycle

If you don't remember from class (or don't totally understand the image), here's the gist of it:

  • People are righteous. They follow the commandments. 
  • God blesses them, spiritually AND temporally. They have nice things. They have enough to cover their needs and some left over.
  • They forget WHERE those blessings come from. They start to feel entitled (like they DESERVE these nice things). They don't feel/show gratitude.
  • Because they're not grateful, they start to become proud. They don't pray. They don't share with those less fortunate (Example: Rameumpton -- The poor people weren't even ALLOWED to worship because they didn't have nice clothes. ... That's COLD.)
  • Since the people aren't remembering God, they disobey/ignore the commandments.
  • Heavenly Father can't send them as many blessings as He was before ... In fact, he has to send bad stuff. The people suffer. They suffer a LOT.
  • This suffering turns them to call upon God, since they sure can't get themselves out of this predicament. They humble themselves. They remember God. They're grateful for His help.
  • [Repeat ad nauseum. "Ad nauseum" is a phrase which here means "until you're sick of it." ... Because, as you read the Book of Mormon ... or the news, really, you see this happen over and over (and over and over and over...).]
Which brings us around to WHY seeing/recognizing the hand of the Lord in our lives is REALLY important.

If we are paying attention and looking/seeking to notice these blessings, we will find them. And, if we make a conscious effort to take notice, it will help us to REMEMBER.

(Factoid: "'Remember', is used 136 times in the BofM; 144 times in the King James Bible;
40 times in the Doctrine and Coverents;
and once in Pearl of Great price.
B of M: 8 x 1st Nephi; 22 x 2nd Nephi; 3 x Jacob; 21 x Mosiah; 37 x Alma; 12 x Helaman; 12 x 3rd Nephi; 6 x Mormon; 6 x Ether; 7 x Moroni" - Link [Answers.com])

Judging by how often we are exhorted to remember, it's not a far stretch of the imagination to guess that it's rather important.
Because, if we remember, if we look for and recognize the blessings that we are receiving ... won't that help us to be grateful? To remember? To be aware of how much we are blessed, protected, and loved?

And, in effect, won't that help us to turn to God always?

Which would bring us to this different cycle:

Look! In this cycle, we don't have to make stupid choices!
I love how this chart illustrates that if we simply choose to remember God, we can totally skip over the dumb/icky/sucky/bad parts of the Pride Cycle ... which is a HUGE blessing. Since I, for one ... I mean, you could feel differently, much prefer for things to go well and to avoid punishments for myself and everyone around me.

So, one thing that we didn't cover nearly as well as I wished we had is the HOW of going about this.

For this, I'm drawing from Elder D. Todd Christofferson's CES speech, "Recognizing God's Hand in Our Daily Blessings."

  • Look to God DAILY - We need to be praying daily. We need to be aware that all our blessings come from Him.
  • Trust in the Lord - Often it is easier to trust in money or some other seemingly-surer way to get things done. But, really, trusting in the Lord is where it's at. Everything else will eventually fail us. We will even, at some point, fail each other. But God is perfect. He WILL NEVER fail us.
    He knows our needs. He knows what's best for us. It's in His power to give us what is best at the best time for us. (See why we need humility? It's HARD to accept that even when we want something good and we want it NOW that, just maybe, there's someone who knows better than us ... and has that thing (or something even better!) saved to give us at the BEST time for our development. I'm not going to lie. Sometimes it's REALLY HARD to accept.)
  • That goes right with the next idea - Work through Problems.
    If we have strengthened our faith and trust in the Lord, we'll be able to press forward with faith. We'll be able to maintain (and strengthen) our testimonies as we go forward, knowing that God is on our side, that He will help us. We're not in this alone. Never. Christ's atonement guarantees that we never are alone in our struggles. And, if we call on the Lord, He will hear us and help us.
  • These things will help us to Reach Our Potential.
    You are a child of God. He knows who you are ... better than you know yourself. He knows what you're capable of. He knows how to help you to become better, to become perfect, like Him. (Seriously, I'm aware of the fact that I'm currently QUITE a screw-up. BUT!!! If He can take someone like ME and make me (ME!!) like Him ... if I can humble myself enough to allow Him to do His work, He WILL turn me into something amazing.
    And He will do the same for you. He loves you. He knows what you can become. He sees us for our potential, not for who/what we are right at this very second. And that gives me a lot of hope.
  • Seek the Lord's Help in Serving - When we know who we are, when we can feel the love of the Lord, we will want to serve others so that THEY can feel of His love.
    (Also, if we NEED to feel the Savior's love, we will feel it when we serve His children. It's a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me).
    Of course, service projects aren't the only way to feel the Lord's love or to serve Him.
    When we make those simple choices that bring us closer to Him, we serve Him.
    Personal prayer (or helping with family prayer), scripture study, observing the Sabbath, being an example to those around you, living your gospel standards set forth in "For the Strength of Youth", showing love and respect yourself and others, expressing gratitude (to Heavenly Father and to those around you), .... I could go on, but all these things (and many, many more) are ways in which you can choose to serve God. 
  • Remember the Bread of Life - Just like we covenant as we take the Sacrament each week, we need to always remember our Savior. Jesus Christ took on all of the consequences of our sins -- not only the suffering we would bring upon ourselves, but the suffering we would inflict on others through our poor choices. And the consequences and suffering that we would have to endure due to other people's choices -- and that's a HUGE sacrifice that we could never wrap our heads around. At least, not here in mortality. It was an infinite sacrifice ... and, well, when I think about it, I am always awed to the point that I cannot describe how grateful I am. It is, indeed, wonderful. And, if we always remember Him, we will be less inclined to make those poor choices that would separate us from Him, keep us from feeling the fullness of His love for us, and cause suffering to ourselves and others (including Him).
There are other things that we can do to recognize God's hand in our lives ...
  • Count our blessings.
  • Write them down for our posterity ... Think of how amazing it is/would be (depending on your ancestors' journaling skills ... I am from a long line of non-journalers) to read of a time when one of your ancestors recalled how s/he was blessed/protected and how it affected her/him.
    Or how great it will be for one of your descendants to read about YOUR blessings!
  • Write them down for yourself.
    This way, when you're feeling down or not as loved, you can remember how you were blessed. And you'll be more easily able to see the blessings you currently have.
I'm sure there are more, but this is getting crazy-long as is. (Sorry! But I just get excited about the gospel. And I'm rather verbose by nature.)

Sometimes your blessings will not be in-your-face ... they might be small things that you only notice upon reflection after the fact. But, if you look, you'll see evidence that your Heavenly Father knows you. That He knows your needs. That He loves you.
I like to think of them as little love-notes from Heaven ... but that might not be your cup of (rooibos) tea (or other tisane or hot chocolate).

But I know that you will find them if you look for them. Because I know that Heavenly Father loves you so very, very much.

Next week, since it's February, we'll be discussing the Plan of Salvation. So you can be aware of what's coming up.

Also, I still expect to hear some examples of how you've noticed Heavenly Father's hand in your life.

Now go and be awesome!
     Love,
         Sister Cox