Friday, January 1, 2016

Laying Down our Weapons of Rebellion

"Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, each of us can become clean and the burden of our rebellion will be lifted.
Recently I was blessed to meet with a most impressive group of youth from the state of Idaho. One virtuous young woman asked me what I feel is the most important thing they should be doing in their lives right now. I suggested they learn to recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives. Today I expound on one aspect of that power, which is the personal strength we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In the Book of Mormon we read of Ammon and his brethren teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people who were “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people.”1 Many of the people were converted and chose to leave behind their sinful behavior. So complete was their conversion that they buried their weapons and covenanted with the Lord that they would never use them again.2
Later, many of their unconverted brethren came upon them and began to slay them. The now-faithful people chose to succumb to the sword rather than risk their spiritual lives by taking up arms. Their righteous example helped even more people to be converted and to lay down their weapons of rebellion.3
Through Ammon, the Lord guided them to refuge among the Nephites, and they became known as the people of Ammon.4 The Nephites protected them for many years, but eventually the Nephite army began to wear down, and reinforcements were gravely needed.5
The people of Ammon were at a critical moment of their spiritual lives. They had been true to their covenant never to take up arms. But they understood that fathers are responsible to provide protection to their families.6 That need seemed great enough to merit consideration of breaking their covenant.7
Their wise priesthood leader, Helaman, knew that breaking a covenant with the Lord is never justified. He offered an inspired alternative. He reminded them that their sons had never been guilty of the same sins and therefore had not needed to make the same covenant.8Though the sons were very young, they were physically strong and, more important, they were virtuous and pure. The sons were fortified by the faith of their mothers.9 Under the direction of their prophet-leader, these young men took their fathers’ place in defense of their families and homes.10
The events surrounding this critical decision demonstrate how the Atonement of Jesus Christ brings personal strength to the lives of the children of God. Consider the tender feelings of those fathers. How must they have felt to know that the rebellious actions of their past prevented them from protecting their wives and children at that moment of need? Knowing personally of the atrocities their sons would now face, they must have privately wept. Fathers, not children, are supposed to protect their families!11 Their sorrows must have been intense.
Why would their inspired priesthood leader fear their consideration to retrieve their weapons, “lest … they should lose their souls”?12 The Lord has declared, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”13These faithful fathers had long since repented of their sins and become clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, so why were they counseled not to defend their families?
It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit.
Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence. We must be ever vigilant to avoid his enticements. Such was the case of the faithful Ammonite fathers. Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins.
In between the many battles, Captain Moroni directed fortification of the weakest cities. “He caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers … until they had encircled the city … with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.”14 Captain Moroni understood the importance of fortifying the weak areas to create strength.15
These Ammonite fathers were much the same. They needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past. Their sons, who were blessed with righteous traditions, were not as vulnerable to the same temptations. They were able to defend their families faithfully without compromising their spiritual well-being.
The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment,16 when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.17
Undoubtedly, there is some allowance that the Ammonite fathers were taught the false traditions of their parents, but all of Father in Heaven’s children come to mortality with the Light of Christ. Regardless of the cause of their sinful deeds, the effect was the development of a spiritual vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit.
Mercifully, they were taught the gospel, repented, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ became spiritually much stronger than Satan’s enticements. It is likely they had not felt the temptation to return to their brutal past, yet by following their prophet-leader, they didn’t give Satan the chance to “[cheat] their souls, and [to lead] them away carefully down to hell.”18 The Savior’s Atonement not only cleansed them from sin, but because of their obedience to the counsel of their priesthood leader, the Savior was able to protect them from their weaknesses and strengthen them. Their humble, lifelong commitment to forsaking their sins did more to protect their families than anything they could have done on the battlefield. Their submission did not deprive them of blessings. It strengthened them and blessed them and blessed future generations.
The end of the story illuminates how the mercy of the Lord made “weak things become strong.”19 These faithful fathers sent their sons off under the care of Helaman. Though the sons fought in fierce battles where all received at least some injury, not one life was lost.20 The young men proved to be a vital boost to the weary Nephite army. They were faithful and spiritually stronger when they returned home. Their families were blessed, protected, and strengthened.21 In our day, countless students of the Book of Mormon have been edified by the example of these pure and righteous sons.
Each of us has had times in our lives when we have made poor choices. We are all in desperate need of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of us must repent of any rebellion. “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”22 He cannot because He knows what it takes to become like Him.
Many of us have allowed weakness to develop in our character. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we, like the Ammonites, can build spiritual fortifications between ourselves and any past mistakes that Satan attempts to exploit. The spiritual protections built around the Ammonite fathers blessed and strengthened themselves, their families, their country, and future generations. The same can be true with us.
So how do we build these eternal fortifications? The first step must be sincere, thorough, and complete repentance. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, each of us can become clean and the burden of our rebellion will be lifted. Remember, repentance is not punishment. It is the hope-filled path to a more glorious future.
Father in Heaven has provided us tools that help to build the fortifications between our vulnerabilities and our faithfulness. Consider the following suggestions:
    Make covenants and receive ordinances for yourself. Then steadily and consistently work to provide ordinances in the temple for your own ancestors.
    Share the gospel with nonmember or less-activefamily members or friends. Sharing these truths can bring a renewed enthusiasm into your life.
    Serve faithfully in all Church callings, especially home teaching and visiting teaching assignments. Don’t be just a 15-minutes-a-month home or visiting teacher. Rather, reach out to each individual member of the family. Get to know them personally. Be a real friend. Through acts of kindness, show them how very much you care for each of them.
    Most important, serve the members of your own family. Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one. Give freely of your time and attention.
In each of these suggestions, there is a common theme: fill your life with service to others. As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children,23Satan’s temptations lose power in your life.
Because your Father in Heaven loves you profoundly, the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes that strength possible. Isn’t it wonderful? Many of you have felt the burden of poor choices, and each of you can feel the elevating power of the Lord’s forgiveness, mercy, and strength. I have felt it, and I testify that it is available to each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Hide References 

    1. Alma 17:14; see also Alma 17–27.
    3. See Alma 24:20–27.
    4. See Alma 27.
    6. See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129.
    7. See Alma 53:10–13.
    8. See Alma 53:14–16.
    9. See Alma 56:48.
    11. See Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129.
    12. Alma 53:15.
    14. Alma 53:4.
    15. See Ether 12:27.
    20. See Alma 57:2558:39.
    21. See Alma 58:40.

2016 New Year Thoughts

Today we are starting a New Year.
With each New Year for me there is a time of reflection, new challenges to be faced and new blessings to be found.  I also find myself thinking about what changes I could make in my life in hopes of being a little kinder, more patient and less prideful.  I must admit the inside reflections can cut as you realize the changes you would like to make.

For the last few months a Book of Mormon story has been playing out in my mind.
It is found in Alma 22: 7-18.
In this account one of the sons of Mosiah is teaching the Father of a King that had been taught by their brother Ammon.  Aaron is asking the king "Believes thou that there is a Go?"  To which the King replies.
"I know that the Amalekites say that there is God....And if thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe."
Aaron goes on on to teach this King about God in the verses that follow but the one verse that has been running over and over in my mind is found in verse 18.  The Kings response to what he has been taught.
"O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee."

What a powerful statement, "To give away all my sins to know thee."  I guess I have some things I need to let go off that I may come to know my God on a deeper and more intimate level.
Another passage which is found in the Book of Mormon has been quietly whispering in the background.
This thought is found in Alma 23:7: "For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God anymore..."

Apparently my New Years resolutions have become life time resolutions as I try and give away all my sins and as I lay down my weapons of rebellion.

Elder Holland had a fitting New Year devotional given Jan 13, 2009 that is fitting for this New Years thought.  Elder Scott also had a talk concerning the weapons of rebellion.  I will put if on a separate post due to the length of each talk.

Welcome 2016.

"The Best Is Yet to Be

From a Brigham Young University devotional address given on January 13, 2009. For the full text of the address in English, visit
Jeffrey R. Holland
Look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.
The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk about New Year’s resolutions, but I do want to talk about the past and the future, with an eye toward any time of transition and change in our lives—and those moments come virtually every day.
As a scriptural theme for this discussion, I have chosenLuke 17:32, where the Savior cautions, “Remember Lot’s wife.” What did He mean by such an enigmatic little phrase? To find out, we need to do as He suggested. Let’s recall who Lot’s wife was.
The story, of course, comes to us out of the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, when 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; emphasis added).
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. The scriptures tell us what happened at daybreak the morning following their escape:
“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).
My theme comes in the next verse. 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 into a pillar of salt (see verse 26).
Just what did Lot’s wife do that was so wrong? As a student of history, I have thought about that and offer a partial answer. Apparently, what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before she was past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once said, such people know they should have their primary residence in Zion, but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon. 1
It is possible that Lot’s wife looked back with resentment toward the Lord for what He was asking her to leave behind. We certainly know that Laman and Lemuel were resentful when Lehi and his family were commanded to leave Jerusalem. So it isn’t just that she looked back; she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin.

Faith Points to the Future

As a new year begins and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.
So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently, she thought that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as what she was leaving behind.
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, and to miss the here and now and tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there and then and yesterday are some of the sins of Lot’s wife.
After the Apostle Paul reviewed the privileged and rewarding life of his early years—his birthright, education, and standing in the Jewish community—he says to the Philippians that all of that was “dung” compared to his conversion to Christianity. He says, and I paraphrase, “I have stopped rhapsodizing about ‘the good old days’ and now eagerly look toward the future ‘that I may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me’” (see Philippians 3:7–12). Then come these verses:
“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” (Philippians 3:13–14).
No Lot’s wife here. No looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah here. Paul knows it is out there in the future, up ahead wherever heaven is taking us, that we will win “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forgive and Forget

There is something in many of us that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either our mistakes or the mistakes of others. It 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 is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.
I was told once of a young man who for many years was more or less the brunt of every joke in his school. He had some disadvantages, and it was easy for his peers to tease him. Later in his life he moved away. He eventually joined the army and had some successful experiences there in getting an education and generally stepping away from his past. Above all, as many in the military do, he discovered the beauty and majesty of the Church and became active and happy in it.
Then, after several years, he returned to the town of his youth. Most of his generation had moved on but not all. Apparently, when he returned quite successful and quite reborn, the same old mind-set that had existed before was still there, waiting for his return. To the people in his hometown, he was still just old “so-and-so”—you remember the guy who had the problem, the idiosyncrasy, the quirky nature, and did such and such. And wasn’t it all just hilarious?
Little by little this man’s Pauline effort to leave that which was behind and grasp the prize that God had laid before him was gradually diminished until he died about the way he had lived in his youth. He came full circle: again inactive and unhappy and the brunt of a new generation of jokes. Yet he had had that one bright, beautiful midlife moment when he had been able to rise above his past and truly see who he was and what he could become. Too bad, too sad that he was again to be surrounded by a whole batch of Lot’s wives, those who thought his past was more interesting than his future. They managed to rip out of his grasp that for which Christ had grasped him. And he died sad, though through little fault of his own.
That also happens in marriages and other relationships. I can’t tell you the number of couples I have counseled who, when they are deeply hurt or even just deeply stressed, reach farther and farther into the past to find yet a bigger brick to throw through the window “pain” of their marriage. When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died to heal.
Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is that charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, “Hey! Do you rememberthis?” Splat!
Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, “Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?” Splat.
And soon enough everyone comes out of that exchange dirty and muddy and unhappy and hurt, when what our Father in Heaven pleads for is cleanliness and kindness and happiness and healing.
Such dwelling on past lives, including past mistakes, is just not right! It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. In some ways it is worse than Lot’s wife because at least she destroyed only herself. In cases of marriage and family, wards and branches, apartments and neighborhoods, we can end up destroying so many others.
Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does: “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
The proviso, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with his or her earlier mistakes—and thatsomeone might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves—often much more so than on others!
Now, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies of the Book of Mormon, bury your weapons of war and leave them buried (seeAlma 24). Forgive and do that which is sometimes harder than to forgive: forget. And when it comes to mind again, forget it again.

The Best Is Yet to Be

You can remember just enough to avoid repeating the mistake, but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to the Philippians. Dismiss the destructive, and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family, your friends, and your neighbors. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go. That is the thing Lot’s wife didn’t get—and neither did Laman and Lemuel and a host of others in the scriptures.
This is an important matter to consider at the start of a new year—and every day ought to be the start of a new year and a new life. Such is the wonder of faith, repentance, and the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The poet Robert Browning wrote:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who saith, “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” 2
Some of you may wonder: Is there any future for me? What does a new year or a new semester, a new major or a new romance, a new job or a new home hold for me? Will I be safe? Will life be sound? Can I trust in the Lord and in the future? Or would it be better to look back, to go back, to stay in the past?
To all such of every generation, I call out, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11).
Keep your eyes on your dreams, however distant and far away. Live to see the miracles of repentance andforgiveness, of trust and divine love that will transform your life today, tomorrow, and forever. That is a New Year’s resolution I ask you to keep.
Young Adults

Leaving the Past in the Past

When I was 16, I didn’t get along with my twin brother at all. We fought about everything. One day he humiliated me at school with an intensely critical and personal attack in front of a group of friends. His actions and hurtful words left me devastated in a way my teenage self could not bear. Even when our parents confronted him about the incident, he never said he was sorry. For years I held onto the pain.
He was still on his mission when I received my own mission call. I was preparing to enter the temple and began to reflect on my life to find where I needed to change to feel prepared to go to the temple. I realized that even though I didn’t often think about what my brother did, I still needed to forgive him.
My brother had hurt me more than anyone else, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to forgive him. So I prayed for help from Heavenly Father.
With His help, I decided to start writing my brother regularly on his mission. Before that, I’m sorry to admit, I hardly wrote him at all. Then I sent him a package. When I left on my mission, he came with my parents to the missionary training center and gave me a hug. He even wrote me a few times.
I know that even though it may take time, with Heavenly Father’s help, we can let the past remain in the past.
Illustration by Scott Greer

Learning from This Article

What lessons from the past can guide you in the future?
What blessings do you want to exercise faith to receive?
Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us.
Paul taught, “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.”
Live to see the miracles of repentance and forgiveness, of trust and divine love that will transform your life today, tomorrow, and forever.
As Lot and his family left Sodom, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt for disobeying the Lord (see Genesis 19:26)."