Sunday, May 27, 2012

Prayers are answered in the best way.

In Primary last Sunday, we talked about all prayers ... and being parents - I'll get to that in a tick.

But to kick the lesson off, I sang a song.  I've discovered that out of all the possible ways to get the kids to listen attentively and act as reverent as possible, I sing primary songs.  Every week without fail, I sing as they colour in.  They usually join in.  It works a treat.

So I sang the words to "Quickly I'll Obey", and repeated it with them joining in, watching my mouth and trying to copying the words.

When my mother calls me, Quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best, each and every day.

When my father calls me, Quickly I'll obey.
I want to do just what is best, each and every day.

Heav'nly Father loves me, blesses me each day.
I want to do just what is best, each and every day.

This led right into our discussion about our earthly parents and our heavenly parents, and why we should obey them.  I asked the kids what they thought, and got so many great responses.  It's fun, never knowing what mood they'll be in and if they'll answer with the 'right' kind of answer, or if they'll bounce off the walls and start the trend of being unrighteously cool.

They were spiritually cool this time, and answered that parents and Heavenly Father know what's best for us.

I then told a story about a child that had a bad dream.  I tried to act it out a bit, capturing the feeling of being lost and frightened.  I think it always helps to widen the eyes.

Did you ever have bad or scary dreams when you were young?  What did you do?  Other than cry, of course, we all agreed we'd want our mummies.  One kid jumped right ahead and said they would pray.  We weren't up to that kind of spiritual discussion, but they were dead on.  Prayer is comforting, just like mummy's hugs.

After talking about why we would call for our parents, we swung the discussion towards calling out to Heavenly Father for help.  Of course, that is through prayer.  I mentioned that my Mum lives in a different city to me, and that we have to speak to each other via the telephone or Skype.  My explanation of Skype didn't work so well.  But they totally understood when I said that is what prayer is like.

The point, however, that I repeatedly repeated was that we should be talking to Heavenly Father LOTS.  'How often to you talk to you parents?  Once a week?'  Nooooooooooo.  'Once a day?'  Nooooooooooo.  It is so easy to forget that Heavenly Father is a parental figure for us.  He needs to hear from us, just as much as we chat to our parents.

Here is a great story about Brother John A. Widtsoe, or "Brother John" as I called him in class.  I had one of the boys pretend to be Brother John.  I shook his hand, 'Why hello Brother John!'  He had a whale of a time being Brother John:

John’s father died when he was young, and John’s mother worked hard to support her children.  John wanted to get a job to help her.  It was not easy to find a job he could do after school, but he finally found one.  One day the man he worked for told him he had done a good job for several weeks and paid him with a five-dollar gold piece.

We all imagined a huge gold piece - I indicated a giant coin with my hands almost the size of a gold ball.  This was fun. 

John said: “Five dollars!  That was money!  I was jubilant!  I would give half of it to my mother; I would buy a new book, and save the remainder.  Into the pocket of my trousers went the bright new gold piece, and off I ran to tell my mother of my good luck.

Brother John then pretended to run to his mum.

But, I said,“On the way home, I put my hand in the pocket to feel … the money.  It was not there!  
Go on, pretend to look for it in your pockets.

I felt all through the pocket again.  The gold piece was not there!  Instead, I found a hole in the pocket through which the coin had slipped.  It was terrible!  I was so sorry that I sat down by the ditch bank and cried.”

I don't have to tell you that my little actor proceeded to crumble up on the floor, pretending to be all sad-like.

John walked back along his path, looking for the gold piece.  The sidewalk he had been walking on was made of planks (boards), and he searched the cracks between every plank.  But he could not find the money.  He finally decided the money was lost for good.

Then all of us, including me, got up and pretended to look for the lost coin.  It was a thorough search.  We found some plastic on the floor, a shred of gold glitter paper, and lots of rubbish in the rubbish bin.

So now what do we do?  They totally knew where I was going with this ...

John said: “Then I remembered that the Lord knew where that gold piece was, and that if he would help me, and wanted me to find it, it could not be lost for long.

“So I got down on my knees [in] back of a big tree, and told the Lord all about my trouble, and asked him, if he thought it was the best thing for me, to help me find [the gold piece].  When I got up I felt so much better.  I felt sure the Lord had heard my prayer.

“[It was getting dark].  One could not see anything on the ground very clearly, especially a small piece of gold.  But I walked right on, not so slowly this time, for I knew the Lord was helping.  About half way up the second block, there in the grass lay my lost five dollar gold piece. … I almost shouted with joy.  How glad my mother would be, and how I would enjoy that book I had planned to buy.  I leaned up against the fence and said, ‘Thank you, O Lord, for finding my money for me. 

“Since that time I have known that the Lord hears prayers.”  [1]

I like how John offered a second prayer - a prayer of thanks.

Have you had any experiences like this one?
When you ask for help, Heavenly Father will hear you.

The real lesson to be learnt is this one : prayers are answered in different ways.

Looking at a black and white picture of Zacharias and Elizabeth holding their baby boy John, I told the story found in Luke 1:5–17 - that they were both righteous people, and that they had prayed lots and lots for a baby.

One day, an angel visited Zacharias in the temple, and said:

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
(Luke 1:13–14)

And you know what?  The angel's message did happen, and Zacharias and Elisabeth had a baby boy.
So Heavenly Father had heard all of Zacharias and Elisabeth’s prayers all along.  It just hadn't been the right time for their child to be born.  This was because, of course, baby John would grow up to be a great prophet, born at that specific time to prepare many people to believe in Jesus Christ.  And baptise him.

Can you see that sometimes we pray for something that is really really good, but it turns out it's just not the right time?  Heavenly Father hears all our prayers and answers them in the ways and times that are best for us.

This is when we talked about our parents - sometimes we ask them for something, and they say 'no' because they know it it not good for us.  Or perhaps 'not yet' or 'not now'.

To illustrate this point - and I was sure this exercise would backfire - we played a game.  I had each kid take turns at pretending to be a parent.  I would give them the scenario (I ended up being the child), and they had to decide what was best for me.

As it turns out ... these kiddies are going to make great parents.  They were all spot on, for the most part.  We did have some fun ...

Here are some examples:
Q:  Your child is hot and hungry, and wants to eat an ice cream bar.  And it’s almost dinnertime.  What do you say?  Why?

Q:  Your child wants to wear a swimming suit out to play.  It is a cold, rainy day.  What do you say?  Why?

Q:  Your children have finished all their work.  They ask if they can go play outside.  What do you say?  Why?
Q:  Your children are not very careful with their toys or books.  Rather than take care of them, they want to buy new ones.  Then, at the store, they see one of their favourite books and ask if they can have it.  What do you say?  Why?

So guess what, boy and girl bloggers.  Parents want what is best for their children, and so does Heavenly Father.  Heavenly Father always answers our prayers, and he answers them in ways that are best for us.  Just as our parents sometimes say 'yes', sometimes 'no', and sometimes 'not now', our Heavenly Father may answers our prayers with a 'yes', with a 'no', or sometimes with a 'not now'.
I honestly believe that Heavenly Father knows what is best for each of us, and that he always answers our prayers in the best way.

You should accept Heavenly Father’s answers to your prayers, even when the answer is “no” or “not now.”

Clearly adapted and quoted and practically copied from Primary CTR lesson #19.

[1]  Taken from John A. Widtsoe, “The Lost Gold Piece,” Children’s Friend, Sept. 1947, p. 369

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thought for Friday.

1.  I am seriously good at starting blog posts.  I currently have 46 in draft.  This does not indicate that I am hopeless at finishing things, quite the contrary.  It's actually a good example of how I like to plan things in advance .. and how I can sometimes get ahead of myself.  I've got posts about future projects and even future announcements, ready to go ... when I have a project or an announcement to blog about.  I guess I consider my draft box my Pinterest account for "stuff to blog about in the next 1-5 years".

2.  I'm waiting for a super wonderfully big something to come back from the framers.  I'll keep it all hush hush until I take some photos.  And some new furniture finally arrived.  And some old furniture is about to arrive. (is that vague enough?)  Again, I need to upload photos.  Argh!

3.  While at the framing place, I totally converted the sales lady to Pinterest.  I know, you're thinking someone needed to be converted??  But she had no idea what it was.  I think I'm entitled to a little commission.

4.  It's freezing in Adelaide, and not yet winter, so we invested in an electric blanket.  It's been a good while since I've had one of those in my life.

5.  Has anyone read The Great Gatsby recently?  I did read it in high school, I think, but can't remember the levels of inappropriate-ness.  Any help?  My book club is thinking about reading it towards the end of the year, in time for Baz's new movie, but want to keep it clean ( .. and boy, does the trailer for the upcoming movie not look clean).

6.  As another week is winding down (thank GOODness), I'm gearing up for another Primary lesson and another Institute lesson.  Gosh these come by fast.  At least you can feel included - read all about last week's eventful Primary lesson, and a no-so-recent Institute lesson, tomorrow (just in time for some spiritualness).

7.  I'm really looking forward to my parents coming to visit for the upcoming Australian long weekend.  Do you think my folks are too old and fragile for go-kart racing??

(pinned here)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Willing to serve.

Somebody in my family of two is speaking in sacrament meeting tomorrow.
Which reminds me ... I wonder if they read this?

Have a good weekend!  Don't freeeeeze too much, like us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Remember Lot's Wife.

A little while ago, I blogged about Abraham.  Did you use it for scripture study?

We looked at the beginnings of his life, his character, and what was promised to him.  He really was a good guy.  He was blessed to be the Father of Many Nations (what a great title).  He was also given a few other titles in the scriptures, and these titles indicate what kind of guy Abraham really was. 

They also indicate what is required of us to receive the blessings of Abraham.

"Friend of God"  -  Look at James 2:23.  What is required of us to become friends of God?

"Father of the faithful"  -  Look at Galatians 3:8-9.  How is faithfulness to God and to our covenants related to the Lord's promises to us?

One of the "jewels" of God  -  Look at Doctrine & Covenants 101:3-4.  What must someone demonstrate to God to become one of his 'jewels'?

Something to think about.

So what's next?  Well, in Genesis 18:20 to 19:38 we read of Sodom and Gomorrah.
I'm fairly certain we speak of two places as a phrase these days, without understanding the events behind the names.

Sodom and Gomorrah were just two of a few places about to be destroyed by the Lord for severe wickedness.  There was a whole section of country so terribly wicked, that they were practically past saving.  That's saying something.

Faithful Abraham, knowing what would happen, besought the Lord to refrain from destroying Sodom.  He really really tried.  He practically begged:

And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord.

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.
And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 
And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.

And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

(Genesis 18:20-33)

Look specifically at verse 24. 
“Abraham knew that the cities of the plains – Sodom and Gomorrah and other places – were wicked cities, housing wicked, godless people … He was aware that destruction of those cities was imminent; but in his compassion for his fellowman, he begged and pleased with the Lord, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city”, will you spare the others of the city?” [1]

Now look at verses 24-32. 
“That pleading being granted, came Abraham again and prayed that the cities would be saved if 45 were found, or 40 or 30 or 20 or down to ten, but apparently there could not be found even ten, in those vicious cities, who were righteous.  The evil continued.  The sin was too well entrenched.  They had laughed and joked about a destruction.  The transgressions for which Sodom had apparently been renowned continued on.  In fact, the people wanted to take advantage of the pure angel men they had seen come into the city.  The vicious men pressed and would have broken down the doors to get to them.  Everything was done that could be done by Abraham to save the city, but it had become so depraved and wanton that to save it was impossible.” [2]

And so the cities were destroyed, and it was done through the power of the priesthood.

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;
And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
(Genesis 19:24-25)

Okay, so we've read about the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other wicked cities in that area.  But what was their crime?  What was such a big deal that they had to be destroyed with fire and brimstone?
What was the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Genesis is pretty clear that the people of these two cities had become extremely immoral, engaging in homosexuality and other abuses.
But the prophet Ezekiel offers us greater insight:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me:  therefore I took them away as I saw good.
(Ezekiel 16:49–50)

Pure religion.  Heard about it?
James said that pure religion was to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep [oneself] unspotted from the world”. (James 1:27)

This is what I didn't fully understand.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah had not only partaken of the filthiness of sexual immorality, but they had rejected their fellow men in need. [3]

Alrighty then .. what does that convey to us today?  What do you get out of this?

This is what I got out of it:

Do you remember how in the New Testament, it records that time the Saviour cautioned His disciples of the coming destruction of Jerusalem?  He warned them to flee the city without delay, to not bother about going home and getting any possessions.  He then said, almost out of the blue,  "Remember Lot's wife."  (Luke 17:32)
Then the Saviour continued speaking to His disciples, admonishing them that he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life will find it.

Interesting ...  because we all know what happened to Lot's salty wife.

Bruce R. McConkie paraphrased the Saviour's New Testament scripture like this:
“Look not back to Sodom and the wealth and luxury you are leaving.  Stay not in the burning house, in the hope of salvaging your treasures, lest the flame destroy you; but flee, flee to the mountains. Seek temporal things and lose eternal life; sacrifice the things of this life and gain eternal life.” [4]

McConkie makes the implication that Lot’s wife, all the way back in Genesis, started back to save some of her possessions, and was caught in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But we must look deeper.  There is sooo much more to it than that ...

(turns out there are pillars of salt in Sodom)

We read of this in Genesis 19. 
The Lord, “having had as much as He could stand of the worst that men and women could do, told Lot and his family to flee because those cities were about to be destroyed.  “Escape for thy life,” the Lord said, “look not behind thee…; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17).  With less than immediate obedience and more than a little negotiation, Lot and his family ultimately did leave town but just in the nick of time.  At daybreak the morning following their escape it says, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities” (Genesis 19:24-25).
“Surely with the Lord’s counsel “look not behind thee” ringing clearly in her ears, Lot’s wife, the record says, “looked back,” and she was turned to a pillar of salt.”
“Apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife is that she wasn’t just looking back, but that in her heart she wanted to go back.  It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her.  As Elder Maxwell once said, such people know they should have their primary residence in Zion but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon.” [6]

Looking back wasn't the problem - not the main problem at least.  Both Laman and Lemuel did just that when their prophet-father Lehi obeyed the Lord when they were commanded to leave Jerusalem.  All these parties were guilty of looking back with resentment toward what God had asked them to give up or leave behind.
The problem was that Lot's wife looked back longingly.  "In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future.[7]
"To yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now; to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future; to miss the here-and-now-and tomorrow because we are so trapped in the here-and-then-and-yesterday – these are some of the sins” of Lot’s wife. [8]

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian people, and in it he summarised his highly privileged life before he joined the church.  He had a birthright, a well-to-do education, he had standing in the Jewish community.  Then, in his letter, Paul said that all that was nothing - it was dung - when compared to his conversation to Christianity.  Yup, dung.  Poop.
Paul was really saying 'I've stopped reminiscing about the good old days.  I'm looking forward, "that I may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me."
There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life – either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others.  That is not good.  It is not Christian.  It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ.  To be tied to earlier mistakes – our own or other people’s – is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cases and desist.” [9]
Then note this in Philippians 3:13-14 : “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

[1] Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Do We Continue to Tolerate Sin?”, Ensign, May 1975
[2] ibid
[3] Old Testament Student Manual, 6-7 
[4] Old Testament Student Manual, 6-8
[5] - [9] Jeffrey R. Holland, Remember Lot’s Wife, BYU Devotional, January 13, 2009  (underline added)   BRILLIANT TALK!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lately I've been noticing.

I've started taking an interest in the world around me.  All its colour and personality.

Yay for Instagram!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Who was Melchizedek?

Do you know who ordained Abraham to the priesthood?

For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house. 
And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro;
And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb;
And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu;
And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy;
And Jeremy under the hand of Gad;
And Gad under the hand of Esaias;
And Esaias received it under the hand of God.
Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—
Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah;

(Doctrine & Covenants 84:6-14)

Firstly,  I like this scripture because it's like reading a family pedigree chart.  Or a line of authority card, which shows you that the line of priesthood power is unbroken.

Secondly, we learn that the prophet Abraham was ordained to the priesthood by the great High Priest Melchizedek, whom he served under.

This may be slightly off topic, but .. meh.  It's in the book of Genesis.
And it's been on my mind lately ..

This scripture also confirms something .. and this is key.  The priesthood - God's power - is ETERNAL.  By that I mean, it has no beginning or end.  It is everlasting.  And it is powerful!

When Adam was lovingly kicked out of the Garden of Eden, God didn't abandon him.  On the contrary.  Our loving Heavenly Father taught his son Adam the principles of the gospel, including the plan of salvation.  And the priesthood was conferred on him.
In fact, "he holds the keys of all the dispensations, which appointment he received under Jesus Christ".
“Adam received the holy priesthood and was commanded by the Lord to teach his children the principles of the gospel.  Moreover, Adam was baptised for the remission of his sins, for the same principles by which men are saved now were the principles by which men were saved in the beginning.”

“As time went on men departed from the truth, and the priesthood was withdrawn.  All flesh became corrupt, and the Lord said: “The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence” (see Moses 8:13-30).   So the flood was sent and the earth was cleansed from its wickedness.  The Lord then appointed Noah and his sons to stand at the head of the human family.  Noah, too, received the holy priesthood and taught his children the gospel.”

“However, after a few hundred years had passed men became corrupt and refused to follow the teachings of their fathers.   Again there was an apostasy.  During this time there was on man in the city of Ur, among the few that remained faithful to the lord, who sought after righteousness.  ..The Lord answered Abraham’s prayer, and he received the priesthood …”  [1]

How about this one:
Do you know why we now call this priesthood after Melchizedek?

Look to Doctrine & Covenants 107:1-4 to find out:

There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.
Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.
Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.
But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The prophet Joseph Smith taught:
Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the grand council of heaven before this world was."

Abraham was present in this council, and was privileged to see the hosts of pre-existent spirits in a vision here.

So were you.  Many noble and great ones.  (read that in Abraham 3:22-23)
Just like Abraham, "thou art one of them, thou wast chosen before thou wast born."

Hold that thought for a moment, and look to Alma 13:3.

“All those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood in this life were, as Alma teaches, “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God”, because they were among the noble and great in that premortal sphere.”  [2]

Are you aware of the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood?  But are you really?
“There are no blessings reserved for apostles that are not freely available to all the elders of the kingdom; blessings come because of obedience and personal righteousness, not because of administrative positions.”  [3]

Here is a mighty table of the ten big potential blessings:
This is completely the work of Bruce R. McConkie [3].  I just summarised it and table-ised it.

Go ahead and study this up.  I don't blog that often, so you've got time.
And always consider:  how did Abraham and Melchizedek act to obtain the priesthood AND these blessings?
How then must I act?

[1] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, p.327-28
[2] Bruce R. McConkie, “God Foreordains His Prophets and His People”, Ensign, May 1974
[3] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Ten Blessings of the Priesthood”, Ensign, Nov.1977
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