By Study and Also By Faith

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

Saturday, July 21, 2007


As we learn the gospel, we learn about agency. Agency is the gift our Heavenly Father gave us from the beginning. The question of whether or not we were to have agency, the ability to choose for ourselves, played a central role in the pre-mortal council. There Lucifer, or Satan, offered to be our savior, but his plan included no agency, no choice for us. Jesus, however, offered to be our Savior and included our having the agency to choose for ourselves. Naturally, God chose Jesus for the role of Savior to the world because it was essential to us to be able to make choices. That was the only way our lives could have meaning and the only way that we could progress and grow and learn.

Agency brings consequences, both good and bad, and there is always the risk of making mistakes. The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to repent of any mistakes we make and to reconcile ourselves to God. The plan of salvation makes possible both the possession of agency and the ability to return to our Heavenly Father, through the Atonement.

Mortal life is complicated by myriads of choices, some small, some medium, and some large. We choose what clothes to wear, what books to read, what career to pursue, whom to marry, and whether or not we will have faith in God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We choose whether to obey God or to obey Satan. The latter choice is usually disguised as freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, without regard to consequences, either to ourselves or to others. It is, nevertheless, choosing to follow Satan.

Our lives are the messy mix of the choices we have made through the years. Repentance and the Atonement allow us to clean up the mess and make progress toward a clean and orderly eternal life. Bringing a wholeness or a completeness to our lives is necessary. We cannot live exemplary lives on the surface and secretly rob banks. If we are to develop any virtue, it must touch every area of our lives.

In our efforts to reconcile every aspect of our lives and create a wholeness, we need some point on which to base our decisions. So do we choose to base our wholly integrated selves on the gospel, or on some philosophy of men? Our choice will have eternal consequences.

We can know, through our study of the gospel and the growth of our faith and testimony, that the correct choice is to base our lives on the gospel. Everything good comes from God. His gospel contains the truth. Therefore, if we base our lives on truth, we will be making the choice that will allow us to become whole and healed and to return to our God.

As we go through the world and live our lives, we learn many things and come in contact with many ideas and theories. Some of these are good and some are bad--some are even evil. How do we know which is which? We turn to the gospel for guidance. Thus we can choose the good and eshew the bad or the evil.

People are going to have some basis for making their choices, even if that base is subconcious. Sometimes we take a liking to some mortal philosophy and accept or reject other things based on whether it fits with that philosophy or not. Is it not better to choose as our basis something we know to be true, something that will lead us toward more truth and goodness and light and knowledge?

Of course, it isn't easy to do this. We want to do the right things and make the right choices, but we can get mixed up and make mistakes. Some of our mistakes come because we don't understand the teachings of the gospel thoroughly. It takes a lifetime to learn it all--an eternal lifetime. We don't always get complete explanations. We have to trust our God, trust that He knows what He is doing. We have to take some things on faith, not knowing the whys and wherefores until later, perhaps not until the next life. The philosophies of men don't give us all the answers, either, but they also do not have the promise that someday they will have the answers.

The gospel teaches us how to make right choices and how to correct our mistakes through repentance and the Atonement. What can the philosophies of men do?

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Some Links

I've been tidying up the links in my left sidebar and now I have added some, or moved them around, and want to call your attention to them.

First up, there are four links for a friend, Confutus. Three are under the heading of "Books, Language, Learning" (scroll down a bit). There is Sapience Knowledge Base, Independent Learning Forum, and the
Independent Learning blog. The SKB is a project outlining knowledge and showing the connections between various topics. The Forum (which can be reached from the SKB home page) is a place for discussing various aspects of self-education, or independent learning, as is the blog. It should also be very helpful to home schoolers and unschoolers (a term new to me!). Then under "Politics, Government" I have placed Confutus's blog called From the Ground. I hope you will visit these sites--very interesting and you can join in with discussion and comments, too!

Another site I've been meaning to link to for some time is Mormon Literature Website. I especially enjoy the essays linked to on the criticism page.

I deleted some of the Bloggernacle Links because I figured that since I link to LDSelect and Mormon Archipelago, I didn't need to have so many individual links up. That made the list less long.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007


A few days ago, we surpassed our normal yearly average rainfall--but it's only mid-July! There have been flooding problems and yet we desparately needed to get our lakes and rivers and the water table replenished. Things don't always happen evenly, but we find that we can cope with whatever happens.

It is so green here now and the flowers are blooming like crazy. People have trouble keeping up with the mowing and the weeding these days. One of my favorite things to see is a group of little house wrens bathing in a small puddle. First, I see water shooting up into the air. Then, as I get closer, I see the little birds splashing with their wings. After their bath, they hop up out of the puddle and fluff themselves up to dry. Very cute. It always makes me smile.

Today it isn't raining and the sun is out. The air this morning didn't feel as heavy with humidity as it has been. It felt almost cool in the light breeze, but, being July, it is now feeling warm and humid again. I run the air conditioner more to get the humidity out of the apartment than because it's particularly hot.

Nature always makes me think of our Heavenly Father and what a lovely world He created for us to live on. We take it for granted usually, but when we stop to think about this gift, among many other gifts, we can feel very loved and appreciated.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reflections about Zion

I've been thinking about Zion today. It is defined in the scriptures as the pure in heart. It also sometimes refers to a place, such as Jackson County, Missouri, or the New Jerusalem. Enoch's city was called Zion. Sometimes it refers to the Church and its stakes. When we are counseled to build up Zion, I take it to mean that we are to strengthen the Kingdom of God in whatever way we can.

In the February 1979 Ensign R. Quinn Gardner writes an article called "
Becoming a Zion Society: Six Principles". The six principles he lists are love, service, work, self-reliance, consecration, and stewardship. Breaking down what building Zion means is useful for helping us see it, not as some ethereal concept out of our reach, but as something that we can and should be working on right now, wherever we are.

In the January 1991 Ensign President Ezra Taft Benson's First Presidency Message is called "
Strenthen Thy Stakes". In it, he discusses the purposes of stakes and the responsibilities of members. This, too, can break down the concept into something manageable that we can work on. From "Ideas for Home Teachers" at the end of the article, we learn that:

1. The Lord has instituted stakes for four major purposes:

—to unify and perfect members living within them.

—to be models of righteousness.

—to be a defense for the members.

—to be a refuge from the storm when it is poured out on the earth.

2. Stakehood places important responsibilities on members:

—to be “lights” of the gospel, to share the gospel with others, and to prepare sons and grandsons for missions.

—to make our homes places of refuge, love, and harmony.

—to seek the blessings and ordinances of the temple for ourselves and our kindred dead.

—to be self-reliant.

—to participate in the programs and activities of the Church.

—to be a full-tithe payer and generous contributor of fast offerings.
This gives us something we can get a handle on and put into action.

A third article about Zion comes from the May 2006 Ensign which reprints "
Zion in the Midst of Babylon", a conference talk by Elder David R. Stone of the Seventy. In his talk, Elder Stone discusses the possibility of creating Zion and the kind of influences of Babylon that must be overcome to do so. It is so easy to be overly influenced by the worldly culture that surrounds us and to put too much emphasis on the philosophies of men. We receive the messages of Babylon daily, hourly, through media, through public schooling and higher education, through our friends and neighbors and relatives, through our work--there are many sources. It can be overwhelming and it can take up our time and our thoughts, distracting us from the gospel. We can't withdraw from the world, nor should we, but we can set our priorities so that we put God first. We can create Zion in our homes as a refuge for our family from the world, where they can be taught true principles.

It is sometimes difficult to sort out what we need to do and be. Thoughts of "building up Zion" and "strengthening her stakes" can be overwhelming--what does it mean and how can we, as individual saints do anything about it? Basically, what it comes down to is living the gospel to the best of our ability and being a good example. We can all work on that.