Monday, January 2, 2017

What Motivated Joseph Smith, Jr.'s Prayer? / Lloyd


Today was the first Sunday of 2017, and this year the Church-wide curriculum focuses on the Doctrine and Covenants.


The Doctrine and Covenants is one of the standard works of the Church in company with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price.  It is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given of God through His chosen prophets for the restoration of His holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these last days preparatory to His Second Coming. See Introduction.


I teach boys between 8 and 12 years old, so it’s a time to establish fundamentals -- building on their parents’ teaching and example at home and early Primary instruction starting from age 3 to age 8.


The first question is what motivated Joseph Smith, Jr’s (a boy about 14 and a half) prayer to God in the early Spring of 1820?

The answer that seemed to be the most motivating was that since age twelve, when he started attending meetings at various churches and seriously reading the Bible, Joseph came to believe he was not in harmony with God and he wanted to know how he could be forgiven.


However, when he looked to where he could go to find peace and assurance, the existing strife between churches, preachers, and sect members seemed so discordant to Joseph, he couldn’t see how any of them represented a way to the peace of mind that he sought.


Ultimately, Joseph’s visiting, reading and discussions led him to believe that Heavenly Father would show him mercy and guide him to a church that would help him.


But most important of all, Joseph Smith, Jr.’s search became intensely and personally earnest and worthy of the Spirit's confirmation and assurance when he became convinced that he needed to be right with God and believed that God would respond positively to his personal prayer for help.


It’s likely that like young Joseph Smith, Jr., many adults have felt a sore need to importune God for direction, intervention, and perhaps forgiveness and relief. And today we can build on young Joseph’s experience.



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Joy, What Joy -- This Year We Study The Doctrine & Covenants / Lloyd

From the Introduction printed in the Doctrine & Covenants:
“The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations . . .  
“. . . the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation. .
“The book of Doctrine and Covenants is one of the standard works of the Church in company with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price.
“However, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through His chosen prophets for the restoration of His holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days.
“In the revelations, one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fulness of times; . . .

“. . . and the work that is initiated herein is preparatory to His Second Coming, in fulfillment of and in concert with the words of all the holy prophets since the world began.”

Friday, December 30, 2016

Why Our Family Pays Tithes and Offerings / Lloyd


It’s the end of the year and families, including children, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet with their Bishop for annual tithing settlement.
Beforehand the ward (congregation) financial clerk provided us with a record of our contributions that year, which include tithing and freewill offerings in addition to tithing such as fast offerings for the poor, humanitarian offerings, and support of young men and women serving two-year proselyting missions.  Families come to tithing settlement having reconciled their records of contributions with Church records. Any differences are researched and corrected.
But the most important purpose of tithing settlement is our annual declaration to the Bishop that we are either full tithe payers, partial tithe payers, or paid no tithing at all. A full tithing is 10% of our annual increase. Our parents taught that we pay 10% of our gross earnings before any deductions. Other families may read that differently, but that is not at issue in our declaration to the Bishop. We declare that we have paid a full tithing that year or less.
Paying a full tithing is one requirement for worthiness to receive authorization from the Bishop to enter the Temple and participate in the most sacred ordinances of the Gospel: including marriage for time and eternity, and proxy baptism and other ordinances for our kindred dead which must be performed in mortality.
Reflecting on tithing, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland outlined reasons for paying tithing, which Judy and I can attest to after 49 years of marriage, raising our children, and paying our tithes and offerings. (Holland, “Like a Watered Garden,” January 2002)
ONE -- We pay our tithing to rightfully claim the blessings promised those who do so. “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10-11)
TWO -- We pay our tithing as a declaration that possession of material goods and the accumulation of worldly wealth are not the uppermost goals of your existence.
As one young husband and father, living on a student budget, recently told me, “Perhaps our most pivotal moments as Latter-day Saints come when we have to swim directly against the current of the culture in which we live. Tithing provides just such a moment.
Living in a world that emphasizes material acquisition and cultivates distrust for anyone or anything that has designs on our money, we shed that self-absorption to give freely, trustingly, and generously. By this act, we say—indeed—we are different, that we are God’s peculiar people. In a society that tells us money is our most important asset, we declare emphatically it is not.”
THREE -- We pay our tithes and offerings out of honesty and integrity because they are God’s rightful due. Surely one of the most piercing lines in all of scripture is Jehovah’s thundering inquiry, “Will a man rob God?” And we ask, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” He answers, “In tithes and offerings.”(Malachi 3:8-9)  Paying tithing is not a token gift we are somehow charitably bestowing upon God. Paying tithing is discharging a debt.
FOUR -- We pay our tithes and offerings as a personal expression of love to a generous and merciful Father in Heaven. Through His grace God has dealt bread to the hungry and clothing to the poor. At various times in our lives that will include all of us, either temporally or spiritually speaking.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Terrible Plight of Wealthy North America / Lloyd

 Having seen great poverty in other countries, I understand that in comparison the majority of men and women in this country are unbelievably wealthy -- no matter what we ourselves think.

Thus this scripture potentially applies nationwide:  

16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved! (Doctrine & Covenants 56:16)

The Consecration and Stewardship of Property is dramatically documented in the New Testament. First, consider this account of the Rich Ruler in Luke 18:18-26:

18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? . . .

20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
Second, I recently recognized that the account of the Rich Ruler was preface, or foreshadowing, and the key to understanding “voluntarily having all things in common” as administered by the Apostles in the primitive Church of Jesus Christ. The importance of authentic and honest, voluntary agency is dramatically illustrated in this account of the Apostle Peter, Ananias, and Sapphira (Acts: 1-11). Entrance into covenants with God is voluntary. But once under covenant, He holds us accountable, and penalties apply.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Finally, compare these New Testament accounts of having all things in common with the Doctrine and Covenants.  Living the Law of Consecration and stewardship of property was attempted in the Church but temporarily modified until we increase in love for others and in faith and love for Jesus Christ to fully live the law of the Zion and of the Celestial Kingdom:
29 If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.
30 And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.
31 And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose.
32 And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church, that they cannot be taken from the church, agreeable to my commandments, every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family.
33 And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.
34 Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy, as shall be appointed by the high council of the church, and the bishop and his council; (D&C 42: 29-34)
When we consider the current enmity towards war refugees and toward undocumented families in our country, we're reminded of an incident when the United States refused protection and succor to Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich.  
“On 13 May 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the SS St Louis. They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the US - but were turned away in Havana.
“The captain then steered the St Louis towards the Florida coast, but the US authorities also refused it the right to dock, despite direct appeals to President Franklin Roosevelt. Granston thinks he too was worried about the potential flood of migrants.
“They were forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 were killed by the Nazis.” (https://goo.gl/lNqOA7)

“Wo unto [us], rich men, that [judge unrighteous judgement and] will not give our substance to [those in desperate need], for our riches will canker our souls; and this shall be our lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!”

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

America's Pride: Selfish Rich and Greedy Poor / Lloyd


In successive years members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints place study emphasis on a canonical book of scripture: the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants.
In 2016  The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ was the year’s course of study. We learned that Pride was the deadly Disease that caused the denial of Jesus Christ and consequent total destruction of the Nephite and Jaredite Civilizations in Ancient America.
In 2017 The Doctrine and Covenants will be the year’s course of study. And unlike the historical and distinctive cultural perspectives of the Bible and Book of Mormon this study will be uncomfortably close to home. We will study the destructiveness of Pride in modern North American Culture.
Over and over again we will confront the corrosive and dysfunctional symptoms of Pride: the Greedy Rich and the Selfish Poor. Both factions were abundantly evident in this past election. (https://goo.gl/HveNmf)

The Selfish Rich
16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!


The Greedy Poor

17 Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

This Year's Christmas Letter -- Encarceration and Redemption / Lloyd

December 2017
Merry Christmas, Jerome  
I planned to spend as much time as possible in CMC [California Men’s Colony] with you on Christmas Day but neglected to get authorization. Would you please send me a visitor’s form so I can get the process started. Here are some ideas I was hoping we could discuss in person Christmas Day in response to the concerns you expressed in your last letter.   
We received a Christmas card this year with this poem:
Life is like a garden of roses
There are blossoms and leaves all around
But with the beautiful blossoms
Are the thorns which also abound.


All of us have beautiful flowers
In our precious gift of life
All of us are given thorns as well
Which add complexity and strife.


Through the atonement of our Savior,
Whose birth we celebrate with joy,
Comes the enabling power to withstand the thorns
Find comfort and strength, as we, these powers employ.


May your garden have very few thorns next year
May it be filled with  beautiful blooms
May we give thanks to our creator and God
For the beautiful tapestry of His looms.



The many blossoms were listed first -- however, the subsequent list of thorns were show stoppers. 2016 was a tough year for that family.
My social media profile suggests a different emphasis and focus on life experience:
Wonderfully married since 1967, 9 children, 40+ grandchildren. Senior Psychiatric Technician at a maximum security, forensic psychiatric hospital, where I learned how extraordinary the depth & breadth of the human condition can be and the Atonement of Jesus Christ that permits us to experience so much of life (good & evil, virtue & vice, light & darkness, health & sickness, pleasure & pain) and yet return home safely to our Father, who is God. And He shall wipe away all our tears and give us understanding of all things mortal with compassion and joy.
For me it’s been more a process of experiencing many of mortality’s oppositions and contrasts -- both bitter and sweet, so I can return to God with greater intelligence, with having experienced both bitter and sweet and learned to choose the sweet and reject the bitter. Living with contrast may be the key to perception and understanding -- which to me is truth, or intelligence.
When we wander across lines of propriety into sin’s realm with its resultant pain, in effect we identify those essential areas of weakness that we ourselves need to comprehend and overcome in mortal life. The challenge is whether we will accept the unique and personal tutelage that Christ will set before us so we may fully learn from our experience while climbing to higher ground and greater intelligence and joy. Neither theoretical nor academic, intelligence is experientially confirmed reality.
So Jerome, I would ask you for introspection:
  1. Do you now walk in peace among your peers in prison?  Consider this comment from Mormon:
3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.
5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing” (BofM, Moroni 7)
  1. And, is Enos’s experience of God’s forgiveness your experience?
3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
9 Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.
10 And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. I have given unto them this land, and it is a holy land; and I curse it not save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy brethren according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.
11 And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren [enemies], the Lamanites.
12 And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.” (BofM, Enos 1)
A peaceful walk with the children of men and a personal witness of God’s forgiveness are two essential standards of an open book exam that we aspire to understand and master before we find ourselves in front of Christ for real. If we find ourselves uncomfortable in a prison Psych Eval before secular clinicians, how will we feel standing unprepared before Jesus Christ. He may not be accusing, rather within the standard of his pure and glorious presence we will feel acutely the contrast of who we have become in mortality.
Therefore, trusting in Him now, are we willing to travel the uniquely tailored path which He sets before each of us that we might not wither and cringe in his presence at the last day?
“. . .  men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (BofM Mosiah 3:18-19)
Do we have unfailing faith in His overwhelming love for us individually, no matter what our choices have been thus far in life, knowing that His only desire is to bring us safely home. In summation, as Boyd K. Packer said:
“That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.
Then “the peace of God, which passeth … understanding” comes into your life once again. [Philippians. 4:7] Then you, like Him, will remember your sins no more. How will you know? You will know! [BofM, Mosiah 4:1–3].
Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee. Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was . . .  reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith, and he said, “Listen to this!
“‘Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us [Family History and vicarious temple-saving ordinances]; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission. [Your forefathers depend on you to identify them and complete sacred vicarious temple-saving ordinances for them. Thus you can never be a throw away person.] ’”
“There is never a time,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.
And so we pray, and we fast, and we plead, and we implore. We love those who wander, and we never give up hope.
I bear witness of Christ and of the power of His atonement. And I know that “his anger kindleth against the wicked; they repent, and in a moment it is turned away, and they are in his favor, and he giveth them life; therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” [Boyd K. Packer, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness, Oct 1995]
So Jerome, are you prepared, even determined, to walk the road God sets before you -- be it continued custody at Coalinga Prison for now or released to your home, according to what He determines will be most helpful in enabling you to return safely home to Him? Surely you will never be a throw away son. But rather than giving you exempting privilege, count on Christ’s continuing personal attention, prescribing whatever it takes to get you there -- however difficult to pass through.
God watched Joseph’s brothers sell him into Egypt and then extended prison time to get Joseph just right. Scripture documents God’s pattern for schooling chosen sons -- why not those who are already in prison? He expects our undivided attention and peaceable walk even in prison. Believe it or not, it’s harder to demand that of us on the outside.
God’s not mean and vindictive, He just wants what we need from Him and He will keep at individuals until they get it right or they throw their hands up and cry “enough already.” He calls it “striving” with us; I call it “pestering.” But, it’s that simple, and it’s our call to keep at it or drop out angry and crying -- ripe for destruction.
We talked about Mormons’ understanding that if not the Celestial Kingdom then the Terrestrial or Telestial. But those Kingdoms aren’t booby prizes that someone just lands in when they fall short -- they are Kingdoms of indescribable glory and require personal cleaning up and qualification.
Remember, “Not until [Christ] has redeemed and saved [to some level of glory] every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission.” That is also our Father’s promise to all who kept their premortal first estate and qualified for a mortal body and coming to Earth. Those who threw in with Satan before Earth life forfeited any glory whatsoever or chance for joy.
And the qualification process for a level of Glory is achieved sooner in life when cooperating with Christ and in possession of a tangible body than in death without a mortal body -- in case you were thinking dropping out of the course (ripe for destruction) sounded easier.  We are never throw aways, but sons or daughters of God -- always accounted for, looked after and loved -- a wonderful reason for celebrating Christmas.

I look forward to visiting with you again, Lloyd

See: My Church Calling - Prison Ministry



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