Friday, May 29, 2009

Fortress of Righteousness

We read in Alma how Captain Moroni fortified the Nephite lands and cities as a protection against angry and aggressive forces which were attempting to destroy his people. He describes his efforts in fortifying the cities in Alma 50.

1 And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.

2 And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.

3 And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high.

4 And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them.

5 And they were prepared that they could cast stones from the top thereof, according to their pleasure and their strength, and slay him who should attempt to approach near the walls of the city.

6 Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land.

Moroni recognized the severity of the conflict and the nature of his enemies so he prepared strongholds as a protection for his people. His people fortified the cities with heaps of dirt and pickets and Moroni caused towers to be built tall and strong that the people could see and defend should their enemies come upon them.

Likewise, as parents, we must recognize the severity of the evil forces which are pushing upon our families, seeking to destroy us. We must fortify our homes to be strongholds of safety, or as Joseph B. Wirthlin called it, "a fortress of righteousness". We have been given a design, or pattern by our Heavenly Father, through His prophets, to strengthen and protect our families. We can also follow Moroni's example in fortifying our homes like he fortified the Nephite cities.

We can follow a proven design by fortifying our homes, building them upon the righteous principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once we follow this divine design and build our home upon a sound foundation we must maintain our family fortifications. Moroni erected towers to keep vigillant watch in case the enemies came close. Likewise, as parents we must keep watch upon our children to ensure evil influences do not creep in underneath our noses. We must maintain a Christ centered home with both parents standing as equal partners in marriage, keeping guard in the towers overlooking the home.
Dallin H Oaks said, "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, love and compassion."

Elder Wirthlin has said, "If Satan can weaken or destroy the loving relationships among members of families, he can cause more misery and more unhappiness for more people than he could in any other way." (Spiritually Strong Homes & Families, May '93 Ensign)

Satan is at war with us. Are we at war with him? And are we taking the threat as seriously as we should or do we suffer from a false sense of security?

Elder Russell M Nelson said, "I know that the earth was created and that the Lord's Church was restored so that families could be sealed and exalted as eternal entities. And I know that one of Satan's cunning methods of undermining the work of the Lord is to attack the sacred institutions of marriage and the family."

The threat against our marriages and families is real but we can have confidence that as we follow God's patterns in establishing and maintaining our families on principles of righteousness and we are vigillant in maintaining the spiritual fortifications of our home, we will be victorious against the forces seeking to destroy us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

My wife teases me because my memory is often found lacking, but I vividly remember a snow camp I participated in when I was a young scout. This particular camp was on Mt. Bachelor in the Oregon Cascade Mountains.

It was a beautiful crisp day with a cloudless sky and our Scout Troop had spent months preparing for this snow camp, learning how to cross country ski and build snow caves. We learned how to properly design and build the cave allowing for ventilation and drainage of the condensation. Following this design, our snow cave would keep us warm and dry. During our preparations we acquired the proper equipment and clothing and we were ready to go. Our scoutmaster had taught us well.

The day of the camp we were excited. We drove to the mountains and skied a couple of miles in to our site and began to set up camp, but instead of spending the time and putting forth the effort to create a proper snow cave, my friends and I decided we had a better idea. Instead of building the cave, which would keep us dry and warm, we dug a wide ditch, figuring we could lie safely below the cold blowing wind and we could enjoy sleeping comfortably under the beautiful mountain stars. Despite the good teaching and counsel we had received from our leader we had discovered a better way to camp in the snow.

By 5:00 PM the sky was nearly dark and the clouds began to move in. We were tired from all the snow playing and skiing we had done so we finished dinner and climbed into our sleeping bags. We could hear the wind blow harmlessly above us and we were comfortable in our ditch.

An hour or so later fear began to set in as we heard thunder and saw lightning flash across the sky, and then it happened. It rained. And not just a light sprinkle. It rained hard and steady. My comfortable little ditch became a small stream as the rainwater searched for a conduit to run off. My warm down sleeping bag was right in the middle of the stream. It quickly became soggy and cold, but I was determined I would endure and not let the others see how uncomfortable I was. I was not willing to give up my position in the ditch or accept defeat, but the night seemed to last forever. I remember being horrified when I heard snow mobilers come through the camp. I looked at my watch after what had felt like an eternity and realized it was only 9 PM. At that point I knew this was going to be a long and difficult night. I climbed out of my useless sleeping bag which felt like a pile of wet mashed potatos and my clothes were soaked. A couple of my friends were already up so I joined them around a camp stove warming our hands and trying to heat up water for hot chocolate.

After a couple of hours around the stove I was exhausted. I needed to find a place to lie down and get some rest but I knew my sleeping bag was useless so I quietly crawled into my wise scoutmasters snow cave where he, his sons and a couple of others were sleeping comfortably. There was not much space so I squeezed my way in and found some open ground and lay down to sleep on the cold snow in my wet clothes.

I don’t know how much time passed but I recall my scoutmaster waking me up. Apparently my chattering teeth and shaking body had awakened him and as a medical doctor he was concerned hypothermia had set in. Fortunately I survived the night because of his care.

When I was taught and counseled to build a snow cave, I never imagined it would rain, snow maybe, but not rain. I thought building my ditch was just as good, or better than a snow cave. Instead of following wise counsel and having a positive experience with this snow camp, I had to learn my lesson the hard way. I am reminded of the quotation, “an intelligent man learns from his mistakes but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

We have numerous examples in our scriptures of individuals and even entire peoples who ignored the words of the prophets and were destroyed as a consequence. These people thought they knew a better way, or simply didn't care about the counsel that was given. Are we wise enough to learn from the mistakes of others and learn that we must follow the counsel of the prophets of God? Or are we doomed to learn our lessons the hard way, and hope that somehow we are saved from our own foolishness?

Finding Safety in Counsel (Henry B. Eyring- May ’97 Ensign)

“We are blessed to live in a time when the priesthood keys are on the earth. We are blessed to know where to look and how to listen for the voice that will fulfill the promise of the Lord that he will gather us to safety.”

“Sometimes we will receive counsel that we cannot understand or that seems not to apply to us, even after careful prayer and thought. Don’t discard the counsel, but hold it close.”

“When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they consider it either faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel.”

“Having listening ears requires humility.”

If we have listening ears we will find safety in the counsel of our priesthood leaders and prophets. I hope others will not be as foolish as I was when I was a young scout, disregarding the counsel of my leader because I could not see the reason, or wisdom of the counsel. Even though I thought I was exempt from such counsel, it was meant as a protection for me. Likewise, the counsel of the prophets is meant for each of us. We are not exempt from obeying any commandment or counsel from our Father in Heaven. We will find safety as we heed the counsel of the prophets.