Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Sabbath - Sign and Symbol of our Faith

The Sabbath - Sign and Symbol of our Faith
by Susan Richardson  -   November 2015
This year LDS Church leaders worldwide are emphasizing the importance of the Sabbath Day.  Every Stake and Mission Conference we have attended and/or participated in this year has made the Sabbath a priority.  In the October 2015 General Conference, we heard it mentioned several times.  It seems that Church leaders are begging us to pay heed to that commandment.
But why?
I believe it is because it is our sign that we are on the Lord’s side, which is a very good place to be when Latter Day storms begin to rage. 
In the story of the Exodus, the faithful Israelites who followed the Prophet Moses’ counsel to mark their doors with the blood of the lamb were spared the death suffered by the unbelieving.  On that fateful night the first born of every unheeding family and beast died.   It was a simple request, but meant much more to the Lord than the mere swiping of blood on the door.  It was a clear sign that they followed the prophet and feared the Lord. 
There may have been some Israelites along with the Egyptians who thought that was a ridiculous request, or perhaps considered doing it the following night when it was more convenient.  Some may have not wanted to dirty their door or been ashamed by those who are always standing by to mock.  But the Exodus story clearly illustrates that those who did listen and followed the prophet were spared while those who didn’t mark their doors were cursed.
Is it possible that honoring the Sabbath Day is our modern day sign that we heed the prophet’s counsel and that we fear the Lord?  And just as importantly, is it possible that the Lord is taking note of those who are following that counsel? 
According to Ezekiel 20:12, Keeping the Sabbath Day is a sign between God and His Covenant people.  “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbath to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify them.   (Also Exodus 31:13) 
Jeremiah 17:21 teaches us that we should “bear no burden on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. According to scripture, honoring the Sabbath involves more than just resting from our work; it entails setting aside time to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. 
Moreover, Elder Nelson recited the words of Isaiah, “who called the Sabbath ‘a delight.’  Yet I wonder,” he continued, “is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?”  He went on to teach that the Sabbath should be a special and restful day, and not one of drudgery or boredom.
He went on to say that “Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God.  A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.”
Honoring the Sabbath Day in our modern world is particularly difficult when many people are required to work.  It is also often the only day people have for recreation, yard work, shopping, etc.  For many, it seems like an impossible commandment to keep.  Yet, there is great reason and hope for making whatever sacrifice is necessary to honor this holy day.
Surely, in the long-prophesied latter days, there will be great power available to those on the Lord’s side.  Not only does keeping the Sabbath Day holy provide a sign that we are on His side, but we will delight ourselves in the Lord and He will cause us to “ride upon the high places,” (Isaiah 58:13-14) signifying abundance and wealth.  In D&C 59:9 it says, “Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fullness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth… herb, good things whether for food or raiment, houses or barns… everything to gladden the heart, please the eye, strengthen body, and enliven the soul.” 
Elder Cajahuaman shared how honoring the Sabbath Day had blessed his family.  He said that his family owned a store and that business was very slow.  Yet he said that after they began to be faithful in honoring the Sabbath Day, their home began to fill back up with merchandise.
Several missionaries have shared stories of investigators and members alike who chose to quit jobs where they had to work on Sunday and were rewarded with new opportunities and higher earnings.
While the blessings of earthly comforts and pleasures are associated with Sabbath Day observance, the cursing for non-observance clarify the Lord’s seriousness by their contrast.  The Lord’s denouncement of Sabbath day neglect includes words like “kindle fire in the gates” (Jeremiah 17:27) “devour palaces of Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 17:27) and “bring evil and wrath upon people” (Nehemiah 13:18).  Perhaps most disturbing is the reference that he will pour out his “fury” upon them (Ezekiel 20:21).  As we see the “fury” being poured out upon the world at this time, it would do us well to consider the connection between our disregard of the Sabbath Day and the tribulations we are now experiencing. 
The answer to shutting off the fury and tribulations is to obey the commandments, and particularly to honor the Sabbath day.  An account of the people of Nephi illustrates this beautifully.  “The people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land.  They observed to keep the Law of Moses and the Sabbath day holy unto the Lord.” (Jarom 1:5) I believe it is significant that of all the commandments which could have been singled out, it was Sabbath Day observance that they credited for “waxing strong in the land.”  
Just as the Israelites wiped blood on their doors as a sign for death to pass over their homes, keeping the Sabbath Day remains a clear sign that demonstrates our devotion as God’s covenant people, and will merit us, not only promises of protection but of abundance and strength.  As we enter turbulent times, we would be wise to put ourselves on His side before that fateful hour when the Lord may draw a line between those who heed his prophets’ counsel to honor the Sabbath Day and those who don’t. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Super Power Faith

Super Power Faith
by Sister Susan Richardson   November 2015

One of my favorite scriptural examples of someone with superpower faith is the Brother of Jared.  I love how he gained so much faith that he was able to see the Lord with his own eyes, but I am also inspired knowing that he didn’t start out that way.  His journey to gain faith is one that we can all take.

When the languages were confounded, he like many of us when facing challenges didn’t know what to do.  It was his brother, Jared, who told him to “cry unto the Lord” – not once, but several times (Ether 1: 34, 35, 38 and 39)

His first step in acquiring Superpower faith was PRAYER.

He cried unto the Lord as his brother directed him, and the Lord did hear his prayers and blessed him. (Ether 1:40)
He then followed (OBEDIENCE) the Lord’s directives step by step.  The Lord didn’t overwhelm him by telling him he would need to build barges at the outset.  He was first told to gather flocks and herds, (41) and then to travel to the valley where the Lord would meet him.  After being there for some time, he was led to the shore of the sea where he would stay for four years. (2:13)  It was there that the Lord told him to build barges.  Once the barges were built, the Brother of Jared inquired and received instruction about air and light in the boats.  As we can see, his journey began and continued one step at a time.

This is true in our lives as well.  We, like the Brother of Jared, need to inquire of the Lord, and He will guide us line upon line, precept upon precept.  Sometimes the directives will be clear, and at other times we will follow our own best judgment, but without a doubt, we are also on a journey and the Lord is there to guide us if we will ask and then obey His commandments and directives.

HUMBLE -  The Brother of Jared was not perfect.  Even after experiencing miraculous answers to his prayers, he became complacent with respect to God and neglected to pray.  Perhaps one of his weaknesses was pride in thinking that he could make his journey on his own.  Most of us have that same weakness as well, and neglect to seek the Lord’s guidance in our journey.  But the important point is that the Lord loved him, as He loves us, enough to chasten him.  In his case, the Lord corrected him for not praying (Ether 2:14) – not just for a few minutes, but for THREE hours.  That was one long and no doubt very uncomfortable interview, but his reaction to that correction is one that we would do well to emulate.  He didn’t argue or deny his wrongdoing; instead, he was humble and recognized his error and chose to repent of the evil which he had done. 

We, too, should follow the Brother of Jared’s example in humbly acknowledging our faults and making the necessary changes to be more in line with what the Lord would have us do.

WORK – The Brother of Jared didn’t blissfully glide through his journey in a comfortable vehicle only to board a cruise ship in order to get to the Promised Land, but had to work exceedingly hard to accomplish the Lord’s directives.  I also don’t believe the Lord provided every detail of his assignments, but the overall objectives.  At first the Lord was clear in His instructions, but as time went on, the Brother of Jared had to figure out more on his own.  For example, he was instructed in how to build barges, but when it came to light, he had to solve the problem himself.  Since they didn’t have machines, factories, or stores to rely on, he had to build the barges with his bare hands.  Nor did he have big warehouses to work in, but was required to work in the hot sun, as well as in the chilly rain.  It must have been painful and hard.  It goes without saying that he needed to make plans and set step by step goals to accomplish the ominous tasks he was given, and then follow through with his plans.
We, too, must follow the Lord’s directives, which will also require hard work and sacrifice.  We won’t be able to blissfully glide through our journey either, but will have to work in rain and shine, following clear directives at times and in many cases our best judgment.  We’ll also need to set goals and make plans, and never give up until we have accomplished what the Lord has commanded us.  We might want to quit or turn around once we have embarked on our journey,” but, like the Brother of Jared, if we want to grow powerful faith, we need to persevere no matter the sacrifice.

KNOWLEDGE - The Brother of Jared’s faith became so perfect that it was replaced by knowledge.  We too can strengthen our faith until it becomes knowledge.  To gain that kind of faith or knowledge, we need to study and learn about the Savior in the scriptures and in the words of the Living Prophets.  We need to communicate with Him in prayer.  We need to obey His commandments.  The more we understand and know the Lord, the more we will see evidence of His “finger” or hand in our lives.  The more evidences we have of His reality, the more our faith will become knowledge.   As we learn from the Brother of Jared, it is possible to grow our faith so much that we too can have such a clear knowledge of the Lord that we can see Him.

EXERCISE FAITH – Even though the Brother of Jared had developed perfect faith, he still needed to exercise that faith by embarking on his journey in small submarine type boats.  Exercise isn’t easy and usually requires doing something beyond our abilities if we really want to grow our muscle.  In the Brother of Jared’s case, perhaps his greatest exercise in faith was boarding that hand-built boat and instructing his closest friends and family to do the same.  Once they were launched, Ether 6:5 states that they were blown by “furious winds” which “never ceased” (v. 8).  As I consider the storms and the crashing of the waves, I imagine there were fearful passengers sick to their stomachs, who suffered from privation, boredom, doubt, and fear, especially when considering that they had no calendared date for their arrival, nor any means of communicating with each other.  When the weather was calm enough for them to open the top in order to let in air, they most likely found themselves totally alone as each boat traveled separately, which certainly would have added to their consternation.

Yet the Brother of Jared exercised faith by singing praises and expressing gratitude in the midst of the storms and troubles.  Singing praises and expressing gratitude is a powerful way to repel fear and doubt and is one of our greatest demonstrations of trust.  We know from Proverbs 3:5 that the Lord guides those who trust him. 
Faith isn’t exercised nor does it grow very fast when things are easy.  Faith grows and is best manifested as it is tested.  The Brother of Jared’s faith grew for years prior to boarding the boat, and his journey to the Promised Land was a 344 day exercise in faith as he met doubt, fear and anxiety with praise and gratitude morning, noon and night.

The blessings received for that kind of faith were that nothing could mar or destroy them; they were guided and had light continually.  (Ether 6:10)  Even more importantly, his faith allowed him to actually see the Lord Himself. 

In summary, if we want to have superpower faith, we would do well to follow the Brother of Jared’s example by:
1.       Praying for guidance.

2.       Obeying both commandments and the guidance we receive perfectly.
3.       Humbly accepting correction and seeking to improve – repenting.
4.       Working hard and persevering no matter how difficult.
5.       Studying the scriptures and learning everything we can about the Savior and His commandments..
6.       Exercising faith through praise and gratitude.

By so doing, we will be able to experience superpower faith as described in Ether 12:19 Mormon 8:24

 Ether 12:19 And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

Mormon 8:24 … And he knoweth their faith, for in his name could they remove mountains; and in his name could they cause the earth to shake; and by the power of his word did they cause prisons to tumble to the earth; yea, even the fiery furnace could not harm them, neither wild beasts nor poisonous serpents, because of the power of his word.

Faith is the greatest super power available to men and women on earth and worth all of our effort to attain it.  As we find ourselves in the turbulent and stormy last days, we would be wise to seek that faith so that we, like the Brother of Jared, will be led and protected in our difficult journey and worthy to be brought back into the presence of the Lord.