building from where you are

When Ether 12:27 gets quoted in church it’s often to remind us of our responsibilities in the process of our development. Be humble, acknowledge our weaknesses, and approach the Lord. But if that were all then this blog post wouldn’t exist.

There’s more to it than that. Let’s start with the scripture:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Ether 12:27

Ether 12:27 isn’t just a formula for self improvement. It’s a contract back by our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

How this contract becomes activated is interesting. Lots of times we’ll think that if we admit weakness, we’ll be mocked or required to feel bad that we have a weakness. Making ourselves feel bad isn’t part of the repentance process.

Also, what if we changed this slightly from weakness to opportunity? “If men come unto me I will show unto them their opportunities. I give unto men opportunities that they may be humble..”

As far as the way it feels when we approach him, James 1:5 clearly states that the Lord doesn’t upbraid (belittle/ridicule) us for approaching him.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him

James 1:5

We often focus on our parts of these scriptures, but lets also remember this is an acknowledgement that the Lord is willing to work with us at whatever stage we happen to be.

Your list of the imperfections opportunities you have right now is exactly where he wants to start. Don’t be afraid to try.

Help us be what our Father Sees

One doesn’t have to be religious to consider how powerful the message of a loving Heavenly Father is to those who subscribe to the belief. Recently in our family scripture study we discussed the question,

If you were asked to to describe what Jesus Christ was sent to earth to do, what would you say?

It was a pretty powerful question as we then heard several thoughtful responses from each of our children. I did my best to summarize and consolidate their responses. Here’s what I came up with.

He’s here to help us be the person our Heavenly Father sees.

This is why John 3:16 says

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And Moses 1:39 says

For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

The work and the purpose of the Savior is to help us be the person our Heavenly Father sees.

Completing Families

Earlier I wrote about how without the work done in the temple the earth would be utterly wasted at the second coming. Today I found Mister Hill.

Up until a few hours ago this child was simply listed on the death records in Ohio by his last name. Knowing the death date doesn’t allow the temple work to be done. A birth date is required because children under the age of 8 do not need to be baptized.

Today I found his birth date, or rather his birth range. FamilySearch correctly had the 1900 census connected to the parents. That document, while extremely imperfect, at least told me who was in the household on the 27th and 28th of June 1900. Mister Hill was not listed. This meant I could use June 1900 to September 1901 as his birth range. Once his birth range was listed it allowed me to print the card for sealing him to his parents.

This morning, there was a missing son. Now he’s been found. It’s my responsibility to get the work done to help complete this family, and without that work occurring the whole purpose for this wonderful, beautiful earth would be wasted at the second coming.

There’s a real joy that comes from doing this work. It’s nice to spend those moments doing the things you love and taking care of those who have passed away.

This is the Christ

A generally short song with a powerful message. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published this song as part of its Ensign magazine in 2006, but thanks to social media it can garner more attention and reach a wider audience than it did in print.

We can debate which version on YouTube is best. I like this one.

1. They heard His voice, a voice so mild.
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake.
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior, who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify:

This is the Christ.
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the Healer of our souls,
Who ransomed us with love divine.

2. I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane.
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With Saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify:

Words: James E. Faust, b. 1920, and Jan Pinborough, b. 1954

Getting Mad

Recently I discovered that the breakfast cereal Froot Loops doesn’t actually have fruit in the name. It was a pretty obvious observation, but one that I hadn’t made in my adult life. Now at just over 40 I found the insight to be a few years later than when I had preferred to notice.

I doubt there will be a spelling test when it comes time to be judged at the end of my life. The more likely test will be about whether or not I have repented. Recently I noticed something as painfully obvious as the spelling of Froot Loops, but this time it was about the repentance process.

In the Gospel Principles manual for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints it lists the steps of the repentance process as:

  • We Must Recognize Our Sins
  • We Must Feel Sorrow for Our Sins
  • We Must Forsake Our Sins
  • We Must Make Restitution
  • We Must Forgive Others
  • We Must Keep the Commandments of God

Getting mad at yourself is not one of the steps in the repentance process.

Let’s say it was.

How long are you supposed to be mad at yourself depending on the issue? What’s the ratio? Does steeling a something warrant being mad 1 week for every dollar? A week is a long time to be mad at yourself. Think of all the good things in life you’d miss out on being made at yourself for an entire week! What if the ratio was only a day? You’d still miss out on a pretty sunset/sunrise not being able to appreciate it if the ratio were a day. Do you think that’s the way it’s supposed to be?

Sounds painfully obvious, but how often do we fall into the trap when we realized that we’ve failed to make our failure feel worse by getting mad at ourselves? Annie Duke’s Thinking In Bets contains this insight about how we treat a loss.

Amos Tversky’s work on loss aversion, part of prospect theory (which won Kahneman the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002), that losses in general feel about two times as bad as wins feel good. So winning $100 at blackjack feels as good to us as losing $50 feels bad to us. Because being right feels like winning and being wrong feels like losing, that means we need two favorable results for every one unfavorable result just to break even emotionally.

Duke, Annie. Thinking in Bets (p. 36). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

We don’t like being wrong. It hurts. So it’s pretty easy to defend ourselves by taking the side of the authoritarian in our own mental narrative. This works against the goal of helping us overcome whatever we need to repent of. It’s an obviously dumb trap to fall into–just like thinking Froot Loops was spelled differently. Nonetheless, here we are. It takes mental effort to avoid and overcome the trap, but knowing that it’s there helps.

So, for those who could use a dose of the painfully obvious, (and it took me until I’m 40 to see it) getting mad at yourself is not part of the repentance process.

Photo by Tim Gouw on

Spirit Wrestling

At the last General Conference for our church we were asked to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year.  I did the math and in order to finish with a bit of a buffer we’d have to read three chapters as a family a day.  So we got started.

Our format for how we accomplish this has changed a bit to fit our family’s particular needs.  The kids have shown how tired they are when they are asked to read in the morning.  There’s a lot of misreadings that occur when eyes are still closed.  One example of the misreading that has emerged was with our 13-year-old son who has recently found himself quite enjoying sports.

Just over a year ago he went from being pretty sedentary to playing football.  Then he tried baseball.  Football season showed up again.  Then it was wrestling.  He was actively wrestling when we started reading the Book of Mormon and the season was still going strong when we got to Alma chapter 8.  His portion of reading landed on verse 10 which says:

10 Nevertheless Alma alabored much in the spirit, bwrestling with God in cmighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.

The teenager missed the comma between spirit and wrestling.  He literally read it as spirit-wrestling then didn’t finish the sentence.  He exclaimed, “Spirit wrestling!  Sounds cool!”

IMG_20181210_124322474I’m not sure what he was thinking spirit wrestling was.  Maybe it was when he was sore from practice the night before and he figured he’d be less sore if his body wasn’t required for wrestling.  We’ll never know for sure.  His siblings and mother pointed out the error, he got embarrassed and now it’s a subject he’s not willing to revisit.

The word wrestling in the scriptures is significant here.  I hope that when adults read it they not only remember the all important comma, but that they also consider the nature of the verb.  Any good wrestling match is tiring.  It’s usually a match that in order to win one must have prepared to be stronger and capable of out maneuvering his opponent.  Opponents are intentionally evenly matched and in many cases they are decided by one person’s will overcoming the other.

You’ll notice here that the word spirit isn’t capitalized.  Alma wasn’t wrestling with the Spirit of God.  That would be spirit with a capital S.  He’s wrestling with his own spirit.  He’s wrestling with his personal feelings and goals to bring them to a level of humility that he might approach our Father in Heaven asking for things that are His will.

We can take a great lesson from this verse, look at our own lives and see if there is anything that might require us to wrestle with our spirits in order to be the person we need to be in order to feel comfortable when we see our Heavenly Parents once again.

Utterly Wasted

Both the Jewish faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a strong relationship to a prophecy at the end of the Old Testament concerning the return of the prophet Elijah.  Elijah is famously known for his showdown with the Priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18.  His return was prophesied hundreds of years later in Malachi 4 (KJV):

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

NIV Translates it thusly:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Both verses list the consequence for Elijah not coming and the hearts not turning as a type of a curse with the NIV version being more aggressive listing what the KJV translators had termed a curse to total destruction, but what if it wasn’t about destruction?  What if the root was something closer to wasted and was understood as ‘being laid to waste’ or cursed in the Old Testament translations?

The historical word used here Early in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is the record of an angel visiting Joseph Smith and recounting the prophecy in Malachi:

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

The change from curse (KJV) and total destruction (NIV) in this quoting is listed as the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.  In combination with the other translations it appears to just be another word for the destruction that is prophesied as part of the second coming.  But I like this version, because it works beautifully when cross referenced.

To be clear Elijah has returned, and with him the Priesthood authority to bind families on earth and throughout the eternities.  The ordinance is considered to be just as important as baptism.  Hence there is an ordinance done in temples known as sealing. The work in temples is done for the living and on behalf of those who have died.  This work is the highest ordinance that we can obtain here on the earth and so The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints considers it a part of their mission to have the work performed for all those who have ever lived on the earth (those who have died still have to accept the work on their behalf).  These sealings bind one generation to another turning the hearts of the children to their fathers and enabling the eternal life with our families.

sky earth galaxy universe

So, what should we cross reference Malachi’s prophesy with?  How about a verse in the Book of Moses? In chapter 1, Moses is shown all of God’s creations and marvels.  In the revelation the Lord not only shows his works, but also their purpose.  In verse 39 we read:

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Moses speaks of the purpose of earth and all of God’s creations as bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  The immortality and eternal life that come from receiving all the ordinances (baptism and sealings being among them) that are necessary for salvation.  Malachi speaks of the importance of combining the human family together.  The two scriptures are in wonderfully perfect harmony.  If the entire human family isn’t brought together then literally the earth would be wasted–not wasted in the sense of a curse–but wasted as in the sense of rubbish–unable to serve a purpose and tossed aside.

Now, isn’t that cool?