Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recognizing And Receiving Answers to Prayers

Early in modern Church history, Oliver Cowdery wanted to help with the translation of the Book of Mormon. While he wasn't wildly successful, the experience he had benefits us all because of the counsel he received on the matter in D&C 9:7-9:

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must astudy it out in your bmind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your dbosom shall eburn within you; therefore, you shall ffeel that it is right.
 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a astupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is bsacred save it be given you from me.
The Lord is teaching Oliver Cowdery - and all of us - that receiving answers to prayers is often an active process. I do not believe that the Lord wants robots; we are all His children. He doesn't want us to be passive in our own lives.

Whether making an important decision, trying to answer one of life's heavier questions, or whatever it might be, what has worked best for me is to do everything I can to resolve it myself, but always be attentive to direction I receive in response to prayers.

Obviously, this isn't an easy thing to do. The more you think about it and the more you have determined it yourself, the more likely you are to become attached to whatever solution you come up with. However, if we are praying along the way, we can give the Lord many opportunities to guide us throughout the process, as well as many opportunities to seek and express our own humility. Without humility, it is unlikely that we will ask "with a sincere heart, with real intent," and therefore less likely that we'll receive answers to our prayers, and even less likely that we'd follow them if we did receive them.

One example of how active receiving answers to prayers is comes in 1 Nephi 11-15. In these chapters, Nephi is conversing with an angel. Its interesting to note that the angel asks a lot of questions. Many things are not said directly; Nephi is invited to interpret much of what he is shown and told, and then the angel confirms his interpretation. I've never seen an angel, but my experiences receiving answers have been similar.

I've been actively involved in almost all of the most memorable and impactive experiences of my life. The Lord answers our prayers to teach us and direct us, and He invites us to be involved in receiving those answers so it isn't simply in one ear and out the other.

I know first-hand that God answers prayers. Every time I learn more about Him it makes me recognize how much He loves us and wants to talk to us, because we are literally His children. Prayer is among the greatest gifts we have as His children, and I know that He wants all of us to use it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Receiving the Priesthood

Today I've had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Priesthood and how it has affected my life. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all men and young men who are active in the Church and maintain certain standards of conduct can be ordained to the Priesthood. Starting at 12 a young man can become a Deacon, with progressive ordinations at 14 and 16. Each new one comes with a few more duties, more responsibility, and more potential for blessings. As you become a man, there is a minimum age (18) for when you can become an Elder and be ordained to the higher Priesthood, but things don't happen as automatically. A commitment to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood makes a larger jump in terms of duty, responsibility, and potential for blessings.

I remember the day I was ordained an Elder. My surviving grandfather made the trip as well as one of my uncles. My father ordained me. After being ordained, Grandpa Beer told me: "What you got to day is the best thing there is." That was all I remember him saying about it. He didn't multiply words or attempt to explain things more than that. Perhaps he knew that my attention span was still growing? At any rate, it was the perfect sermon for me, and has stayed with me since.

D&C 84:19-20 provides a great lesson on the implications of the Priesthood:
19 And this greater apriesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the bkey of the cmysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the dknowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the aordinances thereof, the power of bgodliness is manifest.
I know that this scripture teaches the truth. Many of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have been blessed with came through participating in a Priesthood ordinance. One that stands out in memory happened almost ten years ago, in Praia, Cape Verde. I remember confirming a man a member of the Church; for a few brief minutes the connection between myself and my Father felt absolute. It reaffirmed all of my beliefs; most of all that I was doing His work and spreading His word.

As far as the key to the knowledge of God, I don't claim to have a lot of knowledge but I can share a brief thought: Christ taught that to find our life, we should lose it (Matt. 16:25). If we are serving in the Priesthood, we will put others before ourselves. I think that this is one practical way to gain the knowledge of God. President Faust taught a lot more on this subject.

I know that we can all learn these lessons of the Priesthood and have power in it through righteousness and humility. God wants us to understand and come to know Him, and He will help us get there if we will be led.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Family: A Proclamation to the World Part I

I love the proclamation on the family, given in 1995 by President Hinckley and the leadership of the Church. I'm going to write a series of posts about it of which this is the first. In the middle of the third-to-last paragraph it says:
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
I think this is fantastic marriage advice to everyone. I was discussing this recently with my dad - he has managed to stay married for 39 years and counting - and he said that he thinks repentance might be the most important word in that sentence.

One of the things that doesn't always seem obvious when you're engaged and when you're first married is how much your spouse will upset you, or how bad he or she will hurt you at times. I'm not saying it'll be something terrible or even something intentional, but conflicts arise in marriages and you have to move past them. Recognizing you are wrong will mean a lot to your spouse; sincere apologies and working to right your mistake will heal your relationship.

I believe my Father's statement implies that forgiveness is also essential. When you're with someone for a long time they will have done many things over the years that have hurt you. Even if these are all small things like getting home late for dinner, little things build up. The weight of even small grudges can become a tremendous burden in any relationship. We should forgive our spouses as the Lord forgives us all - completely. He doesn't even remember sins we repent of and that should be our goal. Forgiving completely allows the healing to go so deep as to remove even the emotional scars of any pain.

Faith and prayer can be strong foundational stones that support us through the most difficult times of life; they are equally powerful in marriage. Our Heavenly Father wants our marriage to be sweet, joyous and sacred. I personally know that His Hands are ready to lead us in building our families.

The second to last principle mentioned is work. Nobody gets places worth going without working. I don't believe that marriages stay strong because a couple is just a perfect fit for each other. I think the best marriages happen because of work.

Finally, we get to wholesome recreational activities. Everyone feels pressure and stress in life. I admit that many of the times where there have been arguments at home the root cause comes from outside, like an awful week at work. Having fun is a great way to handle stress, and minimize these kind of fights. Get to know how to help your spouse relax, his or her favorite games, music, dance, or whatever it is that you can enjoy together and make sure to do these things when life gets turbulent.

Attempting to follow this advice has helped me in my own marriage. I know that living it better will make my marriage even better. I am lucky to have experienced how sweet life can be with a loving, supporting companion by my side. Nothing I have accomplished is mine; everything is ours. These principles are the key to a relationship where you mutually elevate and edify each other, and a fantastic goal for all.