By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Breaking Chains

Last year, in the July 2006 Ensign, there was an article called "Breaking the Chains of Sin" by Elder H. Ross Workman of the Seventy. In this article, Elder Workman discusses slavery--not physical imprisonment/restraint, but spiritual slavery.

Many think of captivity only in terms of imprisonment by other people. Physical captivity is abhorrent, but the effects may not endure eternally. The greater bondage is to the father of lies—a form of captivity that is far more devastating and potentially longer lasting. Remarkably, this spiritual captivity results from personal choice as one yields to uncontrolled desires and passions. One can be in captivity to sin or to the pursuit of worldly honors such as fame, wealth, political power, or social standing. One can also be in captivity through obsessive preoccupation with activities such as sports, music, or entertainment.

A particularly powerful source of captivity is tradition. Traditions exist in every culture. In some countries, tribal traditions run deep. Some of these traditions are wonderful, preserving culture and defining social order. Other traditions are contrary to the gospel and priesthood government and, when followed blindly, result in captivity.

Even individual and family traditions can lead to spiritual captivity. Traditions that are contrary to gospel principles offend the Spirit and, if followed, obscure one’s ability to be guided by the Spirit to recognize righteous choices that would expand freedom. For example, consider family traditions regarding the Sabbath. How does your family feel when a major sports event conflicts with Church responsibilities? Yielding to unrighteous influences diminishes your freedom and amplifies the danger of captivity.
In these three paragraphs, Elder Workman points out that it isn't just what we usually think of as sins (robbery, murder, etc.) that can enslave us. It is anything that we carry to extremes, including things that aren't bad in and of themselves (at least, they are not bad in moderation). It can be blogging or video games or sports or any number of things that lead us to neglect our duties and obligations--that lead us to neglect our families and our God. I think many of us fall into this trap.

Freedom to choose all that is “expedient” is a gift given by God to His children. Thus, we can choose liberty (freedom) and eternal life through Christ, or we can choose captivity and death according to the power of the devil (see 2 Ne. 2:27). It is often said that we are free to choose whatever course we desire, but we are not free to avoid the consequences of that choice.

Spiritual captivity rarely results from a single choice or event. More often, freedom is surrendered one small step at a time until the way to regain that freedom is obscured....If we are succumbing to spiritual captivity, we may not recognize the growing loss of freedom in our lives. Yet the more spiritual captivity we experience, choose, or permit, the less freedom of choice we feel in matters of spiritual importance.

Some seek to explain spiritual captivity as something out of their control. Is it really out of their control? Typically, freedom to make righteous choices is measured by a willingness to sacrifice that which is the object of desire or passion. Hence, sacrifice is a guiding principle and is the key to setting oneself free from captivity.
The slavery we allow ourselves to brought into limits our choices and our freedoms. It damages our lives and the lives of those around us. I liked Elder Workman's final paragraphs:

Some people feel they are in captivity because of their poverty. Poverty can indeed be disabling, limiting some of the choices one can make. However, poverty is not a source of captivity in the eternal sense.

The mortal Jesus had few possessions, and He relied on others for His food and keeping. Yet He was not in captivity. His willingness to sacrifice all that Heavenly Father required and to keep all the Father’s commandments brought Him ultimate freedom.

The Lord requires sacrifice to test the faithful. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. He asked the rich young ruler to “sell that thou hast, and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). The Prophet Joseph Smith and the pioneer Saints sacrificed much to establish the Church “in the top of the mountains” (Isa. 2:2). The Lord asks us to sacrifice too.

Father Lehi, in his last recorded discourse to his sons, pleaded with them to “shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe” (2 Ne. 1:13). His words evoke the Savior’s message: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).

How, then, does one “shake off the awful chains” of spiritual captivity? As we purify our hearts through repentance and turn to the Savior with a firm determination to obey His commandments, He will enlarge our strength through the power of His grace. Each righteous choice we make can then lead to future righteous choices. The struggle to escape spiritual captivity and regain our freedom is not always an easy process; indeed, it may lead us through the refiner’s fire. But because of the Atonement and the great gift of repentance, “though [our] sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18).

The Savior promised, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32). Let us implement in our lives those principles that we know to be true. Rather than submitting to captivity, let us make righteous choices and “continue in [the Savior’s] word.” Then we shall be truly free.

There is always hope. We can always free ourselves. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


If you missed my comment on "June Thoughts", I passed my first CPCU test! Hurray! I'll have to wait a couple more weeks to get a detailed report of how I did, but they put up a "Pass" on my grade page on the website, so I am very relieved. However, I have seen the book for the next class/test. It's twice as thick as the last one! Oh, my.

I am having a tough time thinking of anything to write about today. I don't know why that happens. My brain is going all the time. Maybe that's the problem--it flits from one subject to another and worries about stuff in between. An undisciplined mind--that's what I've got!

In Oklahoma City, we've received more than 22 inches of rain in the past 3 months! That is a record. It's good because we've had some dry years and this will raise the water table underground and fill up the lakes, rivers, and ponds. I do think we are getting a little tired of the rain. It doesn't rain all the time--we have sunny days sometimes. It's awfully humid, though.

I have started reading Paul's letters in the scriptures. I just finished Romans. Sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly what Paul means in specific passages, but his testimony and teaching of the gospel shines through overall. Scriptures aren't always easy to understand, but with prayer and persistence, I find that they become more clear. I also think that we progress in understanding the scriptures, just as we do with everything else--step by step. Certainly it is wonderful to always be learning new things each time I read. There is great treasure to be mined in those books.

Now that I don't have to have my head buried in an insurance book all the time, I have been reading some Henry David Thoreau and sampling some other nature and science writers. Interesting stuff.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Enjoying Nature

Thirty years ago, the Ensign published an article called "Discovering Nature" By Sharon Dequer
in the June 1977 issue. One thing she says is:

Think of the attitudes parents convey to children in such experiences, not necessarily attitudes about thunderstorms or snakes, but about life and the joy of living! Spiritual experiences can’t be staged, but one fruitful avenue that involves our children and ourselves in inspiring experiences is to explore—fully and enthusiastically—God’s creations. In the course of growing up we tend to acquire a worldly sophistication that dampens this enthusiastic sense of wonder about nearly everything. Cultivating wonder about nature heightens our appreciation of all creation and begins to break down our artificial distinction between things temporal and spiritual. (See D&C 29:34–35.)
Sister Dequer offers some suggestions for exploring nature:

A good way to begin discovering nature is by becoming more “sense-able.”

Teach your eyes, for example, to see, not just to look. Become alert for movement, large and small, in the grass, in the sky, at the borders of your vision. Look for colors that differ from their surroundings and for subtle changes and mixtures of hue. (There must be a hundred shades of green or brown in any summery scene). Look for shapes that seemingly don’t belong—a bird-shape or pine cone amid the fine branchlets of a tree.

Carry a small mirror with a hole at one edge on your adventure walks. Use it to get a worm’s eye view of the underside of a mushroom or the inside of a hollow tree. Put a long stick into the mirror hole and reach up for a bird’s eye view of a nest and its contents.

At night, hold a flashlight in front of your nose and scan with the beam; you’ll catch the gleam of reflected eyeshine in grass, bushes, gravel—anywhere. Possibly hundreds of creatures are looking at you: moths, beetles, spiders, frogs, mice, cats, raccoons—each with its own sparkly or glowing eyeshine color, like jewels in the night.

Then turn out the light. Although in that narrow beam you can see clearly, without it your eyes will quickly become dark-adapted, and you will see vastly more.

Concentrate on smells. Sample the breeze. Then take your nose up close and sniff the bark of trees. Different species often have characteristic odors (vanilla, cinnamon, or just pungent, sweet, indescribable). Unlock the distinctive qualities of leaves by crushing one, or (better for the plant) by rubbing it firmly between your fingers.

Experiment with taste and touch. Close your eyes and let someone put an object in your hands. What shape is it? What size and texture? Is it wet, dry, smooth, sticky, rough, furry, brittle, flexible, heavy, light? Smell it; brush it against your cheek. You might not know what it is, but could you find it again amid a number of other, possibly similar objects? Making a more complex game of it, could someone else identify your object from just your description?

Feeling the shapes of plant stems may bring you some surprises. Although most are round, some are square (the mints), and others, found in damp places, are triangular (sedges have edges).
Her suggestions can bring you to an appreciation of nature without turning it into "dully labeling countless plants and animals and reciting collections of detailed bits of lore". Not that a more scientific approach is dull to some of us! Nevertheless, it is good to sometimes just enjoy what's out there as it is.

This kind of exploring nature can be done anywhere--in a backyard, a park, a small flowerbed, or a tree. You can go out at night and look at the moon and stars. You can observe pets and, yes, even household pests (before disposing of them in whatever way suits your sensibilities)!

In your exploring, you will feed your spiritual self in surprising ways. Also, see my posts here at Scholar and here at Writing Blog, my other blogs, for more information on this topic.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

June Thoughts

Summer is well on its way. In less than two weeks it will officially be summer in the northern hemisphere. While I don't like hot weather, I do enjoy the flowers and trees and animals--even when they make me sneeze! I do miss living in the country and being able to get a good view of the night sky. I love looking at the stars.

I have not had a good year so far. It isn't that anything major has gone wrong. Well, each thing has felt major to me at the time, but in all honesty, I knew I would survive every bit of it and I have. It's been a constant round of things like allergies/sinus problems, respiratory flu/bronchitis, a spider bite, car repairs that wiped out my savings and frustrated me no end, and some struggles with depression--probably due to the rest of the list!

I also have an insurance class going on--the final is Friday, 15 June. Then another class next fall. I have a total of 7 to take to get a professional designation.

Then there was Mother's Day and Memorial Day. Not that those are bad things, nor is the insurance class, but they add to my Things-to-Do list. I've been trying to do some writing--both for my blogs and for projects of my own that I am working on.

None of this is anything that everyone doesn't go through at times. I wish I didn't let it get to me so much, but when you don't feel well and then stuff happens, it's easy to feel a little extra discouraged and overwhelmed. I have been working on regrouping and on being more calm and serene and tranquil. The gospel helps with this immensely, of course. What would we do without the Lord?!

The Lord does help us through these things that are a part of life, but we also have to put forth the effort to do our part. I can be a real slacker, but thankfully, I can repent of my foolishness and improve. I think being humble and teachable are important parts of improving. We are then open to what the Lord wants us to learn from our various experiences. We are also open to what the Lord wants to tell us--to reveal to us.

I love the Lord and the gospel. I love that we have living prophets and apostles who can counsel us and instruct us and pass the Lord's wisdom on to us. What a great blessing we have!


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Thoughts on Personal Revelation

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (History of the Church, 6:50.) Then there is this:

"And again, verily I say unto you that it is your priviledge, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am------not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual"(Doctrine and Covenants 67:10)
Also, there is the brother of Jared:
And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him. (Ether 3:19-20)
When I read such statements as this, I think of what a wonderful gift we have in personal revelation, and I also think that we fall short in using this marvelous blessing from the Lord.

If we wish to receive personal revelation, we need to prepare ourselves for it by living the gospel as fully as possible and by being humble. This is not to say that the Lord cannot or will not send inspiration by the Holy Ghost to anyone at any time--many receive inspiration from the Lord to guide them in finding the Lord. But I think ongoing personal revelation comes to those who prepare themselves for it. We do not have to be perfect, but we should be sincerely trying to do the best we can to follow the Lord and do His will. I think being humble is a major factor, as well.

Different people might receive personal revelation in different ways, but if we live close to the Lord through prayer and scripture study and obedience, we come to know Him and how He communicates with us. We learn over time how to recognize the Lord's voice in our minds and hearts, so that we are not deceived by our own wishes or by Satan's influence. You might say that personal revelation is something that we grow into during our lives on earth. We live faithfully and we gradually receive more and more. What we receive then helps us to do better and to be better.

Personal revelation to guide us through our lives--what could be finer?

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