Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving

Edward Sanford Martin has said “Thanksgiving Day comes by statute once a year. To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”

It was not until 1863 that Thanksgiving Day became a national Holiday as declared by President Abraham Lincoln. At this time of year and particularly on Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded to offer our gratitude to the Lord, as well as to our family, friends and neighbors. As citizens of this great nation we have a rich heritage we can appreciate and be thankful for. Our American heritage, including the trials and efforts of our Pilgrim ancestors, is a blessing given to us from the Lord.

Instead of sharing a history of the Pilgrims and the origins of Thanksgiving I think it is more important to discuss the value of giving thanks to the Lord, to our neighbors, and how we can show our gratitude.

Luke 17:12-19

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole

Only one man, a Samaritan who was despised of the Jews, returned to offer gratitude to the Lord. Even Jesus asked “ Where are the 9”? Why did the others not return to offer gratitude to the Lord for being healed? We may look at this story, and think how simple it should have been to return and give thanks. But do we return and give thanks to the Lord for our blessings, and do we return and thank others.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul counseled “ In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

To the Corinthians Paul proclaimed “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” ( 2 Cor 9:15 ) How often do we thank God for his unspeakable gift.

From the passages I have just shared we can see that showing gratitude is important to the Lord. But why is it so important? What is the purpose of showing thanksgiving and gratitude? I believe there are a couple of purposes and a reason why He desires that we are a grateful people.
In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus responds to the question about which is the greatest of all commandments.

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself


We are to Love God and we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. How can we Love God, and how can we love our neighbor if we do not have the humility to show gratitude to them.

The first reason it is important to show gratitude is that it shows our humility before the Lord and our love of Him. Like the Samaritan who returned to “Glorify God” and offer thanksgiving, we too can acknowledge the greatness of God by offering our grattitude directly through prayer, as well as indirectly by serving others and being grateful to others.

The 2nd important reason we show gratitude is to show our love of our neighbors.

Acts of gratitude may be simple, but they are also powerful. A story is told of a grown man who had his memory pricked concerning a favorite teacher from grade school. He made the effort to locate this teacher and wrote her a brief note, offering his thanks for her teaching and care. The man later received a letter back from this elderly teacher, overcome by the note of thanksgiving she received. She explained that in all of her years of teaching, his note of gratitude was the first she had ever received. The simple note became a treasure to her.

I believe as we are kind to others and as we thank others, our words and deeds of thanksgiving also praise God.

A familiar passage comes to mind in Matthew 25: 35-40.

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me

What we do unto our neighbor is the same as doing it unto our God. As we love our neighbor we love our God. As we thank our neighbor, we thank our God and we are keeping the 2 great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Thomas S. Monson has said- “ Whatever language is spoken, “Thank you”, frequently expressed will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway”

Just think about how the man showing gratitude to his teacher or the Samaritan who was healed, praised God and offered his thanks. How did that affect his life?

Offering a simple thank you is easy to do and can have a tremendous impact on both the giver and the receiver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

When we give repeatedly, we become a cheerful giver. When we are stingy in giving, the rare times that we do give become more of a struggle and we are less cheerful in giving. When we give our thanks and gratitude we are also giving a touch of joy and happiness. As we practice and make a habit out of showing gratitude to others we become cheerful givers.

We have so much to be thankful for. As we offer gratitude we please the Lord and we are blessed with great joy and happiness in our lives. We can share that joy with others. Lets be like the Samaratin, and the man who gave thanks to his teacher, and the boy who was offered a gift. Let us be cheerful givers of gratitude to the Lord and our neighbors.

2 Cor 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. Lets be thankful to our Heavenly Father for his unspeakable gift. The gift of the Saviors life touches each of us.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Determined Discipleship


Recently, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles advocated the passage of Proposition 8 in California. The Church aggressively supported and encouraged its members to support with manpower and finances, the passage of this initiative. Its aim was to defend traditional marriage by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This doctrine has been clearly taught by the brethren in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It states, “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” It continues, “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother…” This doctrine is not hateful, it is not cruel or even na├»ve. It does not seek to hurt or cause damage to others. It is simply a statement of truth, as voiced by prophets of God.

It is disappointing to read accounts of the disgruntled opponents of Prop 8 protesting outside the temples and at churches, and possibly even participating in anthrax hoaxes to a couple LDS temples. It is disappointing, but not surprising that individuals who oppose God’s law would also oppose the church trying to support God’s law. What is more discouraging is the lack of support, both for the original proposition and the aftermath, by some members of the LDS church.

I read reports of so called “enlightened” church members who support gay marriage and I have to scratch my head. They support their position by making inane comments like, “God loves everyone equally” or “it is not our right to deny happiness to anyone”. Of course these statements are true, but the statements are being misapplied to behaviors, not people. God certainly loves everyone, and because of that love he wants them to know his law and live by it which will ultimately bring them true joy and happiness.

These same “enlightened ones” further comment that they “want to be supportive” of gay friends or family members, or “they don’t want to discriminate” which of course implies that the rest of us, including the Prophet, do wish to discriminate and be non-supportive. The truth is, these “enlightened” members likely have one of 2 problems. 1- They lack a steadfast testimony that God makes his will known to his servants the prophets, or 2- they lack the moral courage to stand up and be counted on the side of God and his law, worried more about the potential loss of business, or the thoughts and words of their peers, family or friends.
To the LDS proponents of gay marriage I simply ask, what’s next? If you are willing to cast aside the words of the prophet in exchange for your own faulty wisdom in this matter, where will your arrogance stop? There is safety in the counsel of the prophets. Conversely there is danger in following our own path in opposition to God. It is called apostasy and it does not end well for the individual.

I have included some of the words from a talk Neal A. Maxwell gave 30 years ago. It could not be more appropriate today. Please read and enjoy.

Neal A. Maxwell, “A More Determined Discipleship,” Ensign, Feb 1979, 69–73
Excerpts from an address delivered at Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978

Discipleship includes good citizenship. In this connection, if you are a careful student of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people; and causes, not candidates.

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21.)

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!

We are now entering a time of incredible ironies.

“What the secularists are increasingly demanding, in their disingenuous way, is that religious people, when they act politically, act only on secularist grounds. They are trying to equate acting on religion with establishing religion. And—I repeat—the consequence of such logic is really to establish secularism. It is in fact, to force the religious to internalize the major premise of secularism: that religion has no proper bearing on public affairs.” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 51–52, 60–61.)

Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M. J. Sobran also said, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59).

This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as un-trendy and unenlightened.

But there is occurring a discounting of religiously based opinions. There may even be a covert and subtle disqualification of some for certain offices in some situations, in an ironic irreligious test for office.

If people, however, are not permitted to advocate, to assert, and to bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and views they hold which grow out of their religious convictions, what manner of men and women would we be?

It may well be that as our time comes to “suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41), some of that special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship.

If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues, which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds, which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Prop 8- Sore Losers?

On November 4th, 2008 elections were held across the United States of America. A new President and Vice President were chosen. Congressmen and women, Senators, State Legislators, and Governors were all elected. Even County & City Officials were elected to their respective offices. Whether they were the incumbent or running for the first time, individuals placed their faith in the electoral process, and placed their name on a ballot. Each candidate made their case to the electorate and when the votes were counted there were winners and losers.

Chances are, most people were disappointed in the outcome of at least one of the multiple races they had the privilege of voting in. I know I was. But at the end of the day, there was a peaceful, respectful transition of power, from the old to the new. This is the way the United States operates and it is truly a wonderful thing.

Many of us also had the opportunity to vote for various ballot initiatives. Nationwide these initiatives ranged from increased smoking regulations to tax increases for school funding, from parental notification for minors seeking abortions to State constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Like the candidates we voted for, some initiatives were more controversial than others. In the end we voted to make our will known regarding these initiatives and chances are good we were pleased with some outcomes and disappointed in others. But still, the voice of the people was heard.

I understand disappointment. I experienced a great deal of it on the 4th, but I can’t understand the anger and hatred generated in some when they don’t get their way. It’s as though some are spoiled children throwing a temper tantrum in the store, kicking and screaming when mom tells them they cannot have a piece of candy. Of course the tantrum embarrasses mom when everyone in the store turns to look scornfully at the inept parent, but it should also embarrass the child who knows better.

Opponents of California Proposition 8 are acting like these spoiled children at the store and they should be embarrassed by their behavior. The State Constitutional Ban on Same Sex Marriage passed. While it’s reasonable for the opponents to present a legal challenge if one exists, it is not reasonable to target individuals and churches in hopes of embarrassing them, ruining them financially, or coercing them by threat into a different action. It is shameful to call for financial or physical harm to be inflicted on people who simply disagree with them.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a strong proponent and a member of a broad coalition making the case for protecting the traditional institution of marriage by banning same sex marriage. I am proud of the church for taking such a strong stand and I applaud the entire coalition for their efforts. The coalition made their case, the election was held, and they came out victorious. The coalition of churches and individuals exercised their constitutionally protected free speech and now are being targeted by the angry, petty, electoral losers.

Whether we agree with the outcome of every race or not, we need to keep in perspective our great privilege of living in a free society. We must recognize the rights of others to disagree without vilifying or seeking to cause them harm. It would be shameful for McCain supporters to protest the election of Barrack Obama and threaten his supporters. It is equally shameful for the opponents of Proposition 8, nationwide, who are protesting against churches and individuals, seeking to damage and intimidate them. Honestly, their behavior is embarrassing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Law of the Fast- Part Two


What are the benefits and blessings of obeying the law of the fast?
The benefits and blessings of fasting are as numerous as the reasons for which we fast. We know that fasting increases physical well-being. We know fasting helps us to master our own body, appetites and desires and this self mastery increases our ability to follow all of Gods commandments. We know that the Lord hears the desires of our hearts when we fast and pray and contribute a generous offering. This brings about many unique and individual blessings. We also know that fasting helps us to develop spiritual strength. Moses received spiritual strength from fasting. The four sons of Mosiah exemplified the powerful combination of fasting and prayer when they”searched the scriptures” and “they had given themselves to much prayer and fasting”.

Esther 4 - Through the power of fasting, Esther was able to save the lives of her people. After personally fasting for 3 days and 3 nights and asking others to fast with her for the common purpose, Esther invited the king and Haman to attend a banquet she had prepared. At the banquet the king asked her what she would like and she responded that she would like to invite the King and Haman to another banquet the next day. It was that night that the King was unable to sleep and had scriptures read to him. It was at this time that he was reminded of the heroism of Mordecai and asked the question of his servants what had been done to reward Mordecai for saving his life. When they told him nothing had been done be began to think about what he could do to reward Mordecai. It was this night and early the next day, after Esther, Mordecai and others had completed their 3 day fast, that the King was unable to sleep and was reminded of the good that Mordacai the Jew had done.

I believe the righteous desires of the fasting heart were answered. The Jews were spared from their death sentence, Mordecai and Esther were raised up in power along side the king, and Haman was hanged by the gallows he had constructed for the purpose of hanging Mordecai.

-The Law of the fast is not new. David O McKay taught, “Historians tell us that the custom of fasting dates back to the early history of the human race. Whatever its origin, it is significant to note that several virtues are attached to the observance of the custom. All the principles associated with fasting seem to point to the fact that it produces, first physical well-being, then, Self mastery, next, an opportunity to help others, and finally, spiritual strength.” “But the greatest of all benefits from fasting is the spiritual strength derived by the subjection of physical appetite to the will of the individual.” (David o McKay Gospel Ideals- Improvement Era 1953 pp 208-213)

We have been invited to experiment with a proper fast. Adhere to the 4 steps of a proper fast and see if the results are different than when you cut corner, or don’t fast at all.

1- Abstain from food
2- Pray
3- Testify (youth- this means you too)
4- Contribute

Gaining a testimony of fasting = fasting properly = increased spiritual strength, self mastery, physical well being, and ability to help others.