Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts Unceasingly"

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. 
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. - (D&C 121:45-46)
Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants is one of my favorite chapters of scripture. It is exceptionally clear and direct. Lately I've thought a lot about this phrase: "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly." I think this is one of the most difficult commandments given to us, with some of the greatest blessings promised.

This is one of the most difficult challenges offered in scripture, followed by some of the choicest blessings. You could re-organize it like this:


 - Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith.
 - Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.

 - Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.
 - The doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
 - The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.
 - Thy scepter (shall be) an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.
 - Thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
An immature approach to following the commandments is to wonder how much you can get away with and still be okay in the Lord's eyes. I think this is the natural approach for almost all people: commandments tell us what to do, including things not to do, so we should test the limits of how much we actually have to obey.

If we are going to let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly, we are going to need to keep all immoral thoughts from our minds at all times. In other words, we cannot have this spiritually immature attitude of pushing morality as far as we can. We need to keep ourselves clean, even in our thoughts known only to us and God. As I write that, I must acknowledge that I have a long way to go to keep this commandment, but the blessings are powerful.

To me, it is obvious why someone who is virtuous, even in her or his thoughts, would be more comfortable in the presence of God, understand His doctrine more fully, and feel the Holy Ghost more readily. All of these things seem more comfortable in a pure mind. The last two blessings seem less obvious; I know that I am more comfortable with having a pure-minded ruler who loves completely.

As a father, the idea that my family - one application of dominion - flows unto me forever and ever without compulsion sounds more like heaven than perhaps anything else. I believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that They love us.

Monday, July 22, 2013


I believe that whatever we choose to believe in, we can gracefully accept that people will disagree. There is no need to believe that anyone who disagrees on a particular point is anti-family, brainwashed, incompetent, racist, homophobic, hates the poor, hates the rich, or otherwise incapable of legitimate thought. In a time where public discourse is increasingly polarizing, we should rise above the conflict and disagree civilly.

I am as passionate about what I believe in as almost anyone. Part of my motivation for writing this blog is how much I value my faith, and how much it has helped me. My hope is that it might bless others equally; I can say without equivocation that there is no place in Christianity for intolerance.

Many confuse tolerance with acceptance. Being courteous to someone who is smoking a cigarette doesn't mean you endorse smoking, just as being rude to anyone sinning doesn't equate to righteousness.

As in all things, it is more worthwhile to espouse virtues than to decry frailties. When I was a missionary, I spent some of my time helping get visas for other missionaries in the country where I served. One of the people at the embassy asked us what we stood for? We told her that God has called a prophet today just as He did in the past, and that this prophet teaches of Christ right now. She then asked: what do we criticize? We told her that we weren't in the business of criticism. She was amazed at this answer; she fully expected us to denounce at least some of the churches in the country.

Christ gave us the Gospel of Peace, and peace is the message we should take to the world. We must do this without bickering, with respect, and most of all with love. If we do not live by this then there is no chance people will accept His message; all will simply question why we do not practice what we preach.

I know that God loves all His children. He does not excuse our sins, yet He loves us as a perfect Father loves His sons and daughters. If we are to follow Christ, we need to cultivate this love, and tolerance is an entry step on that path. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Today I asked myself why is reverence so important? Some places - both religious and secular - go to extreme lengths to maintain reverence. Certainly, anywhere that you are asking children or adolescents to be reverent it is going to be a lot of work. I know that it is worth it, but I wanted to write down some thoughts on the subject.

I think an okay definition of reverence could be the appropriate respect for where you are and what you're doing. Obviously, someone who is at a cemetery shouldn't be loud and obnoxious, just as someone who is handling a firearm should be careful. To show adequate respect to God or His House I think we should also recognize that He knows better than we do and that we need to seek knowledge from Him.

The reason reverence is so important is simple - it facilitates communion with the Holy Ghost which will instruct and purify us. The still, small voice is very difficult to hear if we are irreverent.

I think about the Nephites to whom Christ appeared after His resurrection. They had to hear the Father's voice three times, and on the third time they only understood because they "... did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came." (3 Nephi 11:5)

I also consider the temples of our Church. To borrow a concept from my father-in-law, praying in the temple often feels like a 'local call.' It is easier to receive answers to prayers and understand the Lord's will in the temple because His Spirit lives there. It can live there because of the reverence that abides there as well as the worthiness of those that enter.

I have often heard the idea expressed that God speaking to a person makes that person chosen or special, but I believe that our Father is constantly speaking to all of us - His children. The disconnect is on our end. Reverence will bring us a step closer to recognizing and hearing His voice more often.

Of the greatest moments of my life, many of them have been very quiet; if you were sitting in an adjacent room you wouldn't necessarily have known that anything was happening. In these sacred moments I was communing with my Father, receiving healing and understanding. I am not capable of sustaining these periods constantly nor forever - that is why I refer to them as moments. I believe that as I become more disciplined in my reverence I will receive more of them more often and benefit more from it.