Making Work Easier

Many people have at least a basic understand of the pioneer history of the Latter Day Saints (the “Mormons.”) Those pioneers that came from different parts of the world, and traveled West to escape religious persecution, were truly the foundation of the early Mormon church.They knew how to work, harder perhaps that almost anyone who came before, or after them.

Fast forward to 1936, when the LDS church inaugurated its “Welfare Program,” designed to help people avoid “the evils of the dole.” In the wake of the Great Depression, the LDS church was decrying an attitude of “something for nothing,” and offering instead a program that would allow church members to get the help they needed, with the expectation that they would give something in return. That program has seen such success over the years, and has changed so many lives for good, that one could hardly argue that it is not inspired.

Today, LDS church members are frequently hired in positions that require honesty, and a willingness to work. That is not to say that only LDS people have these traits (or that all LDS people have them,) but rather to point out that the business world in general recognizes that the LDS church produces hard workers, with good work ethics, good morals, and good leadership skills. In general, we strive to take after our ancestors, and place emphasis on work and self-reliance, in all that we do.

But does that mean we “love” work? Does it mean that work is somehow automatically easier for a Mormon, that for another person of some other faith or no faith at all? Of course not. And that brings me to the topic that I wanted to write on this week, which is: how can we make work easier? By this I mean mentally easier: easier to find motivation to get it done; easier to find value in it; easier to just do it.

In one of the classes I’m taking currently, we had discussion about work this week. One comment that was made by a classmate stood out to me in particular. They said something along these lines:

How can we make work easier? Strive to see and understand who it affects. Find joy in the results of what you’re doing, and the positive things that it accomplishes in the lives of others.

I wish I could recall their words exactly, because they hit me pretty hard. I have personally struggled with my work at times, not because it is too hard, too challenging, or too excessive, but for other reasons I haven’t fully pinned down. I’ve struggled with finding the right motivations, staying on task, and really finding joy in my work.

The first part of what my classmate suggested was that we try to understand who our work affects. This takes the focus off of the work itself, and places the focus on the results. This sort of “results orientation” is something that I have a fondness for, having learned it in the culture of companies I’ve worked for, and used it in my own business culture and ideals. But this thought takes the idea of results orientation to another level, and changes it to “personal impact orientation.” In other words, not just “what are the results of my work?” but “how is my work affecting the lives of other people?” This, to me, is powerful thinking.

The second part of what my classmate says really expands upon the first, and invites me to look for the positive impact of my actions and work. It is easy to relate success, accomplishment, and project completion to a “job well done.” But perhaps I’ve been selling myself short. Perhaps in my work I should be looking for the impact I’m having on people, and what my work means in their lives, in any way I can, in order to find joy in what I do.

It is simply easier to work, even when the work is hard, tedious, or even painful, when we know that our work means something, that it changes lives, and that it impacts the course of history. I think that in some way, we can find that in all that we do that is good and honest. No matter what the job is, the fact that it gets done helps someone, or even many people. Our task is to understand who our work helps, and find out how the results of our work are blessing the lives of those around us.

I pray that we might all find this joy. Please feel free to post, here or on my questions page, if you have any thoughts you would like to share, or questions you would like answered.

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Finding Opportunities to Change

I’m currently taking a few college classes, and one of those is a religion class. In that class, we’re asked to choose an attribute of Jesus Christ, and find ways to become more like Christ. We are to focus on that attribute in our scripture study, and find ways to grow in that attribute. We are also, of course, to pray for help.

This week, we were asked to think about opportunities we have to become more like Christ, and then to determine 4 things we could purposefully do to grow in that way. We were asked to find opportunities to change. I know, from what I’ve experienced personally and from what I’ve seen others experience, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change people. In Ezekiel 36, versus 26 and 27 we read:

(26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

If you read these verses casually, without looking at the rest of revealed scripture, you might think that God is going to do all the work, that He is going to replace our heart, and make us obey His laws. I personally believe that our loving Heavenly Father is going to do all that he can do for us, without taking away our individual choice and accountability. He does all that he can for us by giving us opportunities.

Experience shows that God is not going to force anyone. Look at the interactions between Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ: Judas was an apostle, he was close to the Savior, he had every opportunity to follow Jesus. And even with all of that, Jesus did not force him to choose what was right. He did not expose Judas’ heart and make him change it. Jesus did not use His endless power to force Judas to change.

Likewise in our lives, God will give us every possible opportunity to change, but he will not force us. He also expects that we are going to do our part by studying, praying, believing, and acting. We aren’t to sit on a couch and wait for God to change our heart, or drop opportunity in our lap. We are to walk the roads of life, and look for opportunities to become more like Christ. We are to help the Samaritan brother, the one that doesn’t believe as we do, along our way. We are to fill our lamps with oil, not wait for someone else to give us their oil. We are to invest our talents, and make them grow for when the Master asks for an accounting. We are to seek out the lost sheep. We are to work in the vineyard, no matter how late we feel we’ve arrived.

All of these parables that the Savior gave us demonstrate followers that were willing to act. We can’t sit around waiting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change our hearts and our lives. We have to “follow” the master, actively and enthusiastically, if we ever want to become more like Him.

I know that we can do it. Though we are expected to act, we are not left alone. Christ has promised us “another comforter,” even his Holy Spirit, to help us find the way. I know that Jesus Christ walked the earth, and that He lives today. I know that we will be given every opportunity to become more like Him, but that He expects us to take the opportunities he gives us, and do all that we can with them. My prayer is that we will all be more open to those opportunities, and that we will all work harder to seek them out, no matter how hard they might be to find.

Cause and Effect in Religion and Life

It is easy to feel like life is a series of events that happen to us, that are entirely outside our control. Consider the story of Job in the Old Testament; he lived a worthy life, but had to suffer great loss, physical pain, and the rejection of family and friends. Certainly, Job could have considered himself a being that was being acted upon, like his friends at the time encouraged, rather than a being that was created to act (see this 1 minute video for some brief context.)

Ultimately the question to ask is: Was Job merely a victim in his circumstance? We know, having his full story in front of us, that the Lord had a purpose in testing Job. Because of his life, and willingness to endure, we have an almost ultimate example of faith through trials. We have an understanding also, because of Job, that not all bad things that happen to us are a result of sin or unworthiness; in other words, not every bad thing in our lives is a punishment. That concept was not entirely clear for the people of Israel at the time, and even after that time, but it is abundantly clear now, in part because of Job.

With Job we begin to see the disconnect between cause and effect in our lives. Bad things can happen to good people, and vice versa. We know from Matthew 5:45 that God makes the sun shine and the rain fall on the good and on the wicked. With that knowledge in place, we should further consider Job’s situation by asking: How did Job respond?

We are beings that were created to act. We were given moral agency in this life; the ability to choose for ourselves how we would act and react. What happens to us in life is not necessarily an effect of something we did, but how we choose to act and react to life is entirely in our control. And our choices and actions will have consequences; if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

Imagine if Job had not gone through his trials with faith. Now move ahead to Christ, our ultimate example, and imagine what our spiritual outlook would be if He had chosen not to drink of that bitter cup, which He begged might be removed from Him. Christ was perfect, without sin, yet suffered for every sin of mankind. He did not cause His own suffering, yet he chose to patiently bear our grief and our burdens.

The scriptures are full of cause and effect. But they are also focused entirely on a being, even Jesus Christ Himself, who suffered for things he did not do, so that we could have hope. As we go through our lives, suffering sometimes for things we did not do and over which we have no control, we should remember who we can turn to, and who we can lean on, in our times of trouble. Perhaps we will be able to look past the surface causes and effects in our lives, and view the greater cause and effect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and overcome all things. That is my prayer for each of us.

Doing the Will of the Lord

It is one thing to know, and quite another thing to do. You can open the scriptures, read and study, and become quite knowledgeable concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can become an expert on the life of Christ, the acts of the Apostles after he lived, and even the entire history of Judaism leading up to His birth among men. You can fill your mind with wonderful stores of useful and beautiful knowledge.

But all of that would only fill your mind with good things. To actually do the will of the Lord is another step.

In Romans chapter 12, we read what we must do that we might “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And the TODO list is not a list of things to learn, or feel, or think. It is a list of things to do: prophecy, teach, exhort, donate to the poor, be affectionate, hard working, continuing in prayer, rejoicing with those that rejoice, weeping with those that weep, being honest with all men, feeding our enemies, and overcoming evil with good.

That is a long list of things to do.

In the Book of Mosiah, chapter 4, we are told a long list of things to believe in, including repentance. But the prophet Mosiah is careful not to leave it at that; at the end of his exhortations, he adds: “and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.”

To know is not enough. Even to believe is not enough. We must do the will of the Lord, as Christ did when He set the ultimate example for us, by suffering and dying for our sins. In Matthew chapter 7, at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Grace, and the Next Steps of Doing

At this point, some Christians may be tempted to dive into a discussion about the merits of Grace and works. In Martin Luther’s famous work “On the Freedom of a Christian,” published in 1520, Luther set forth the idea that a Christian was not obligated to obey any law, being justified by Grace. What is not often recalled is that Luther also put forth the idea that the true Christian, though free through the Atonement of Christ, was absolutely and unavoidably destined to be the “servant of all.”

Though Luther’s words are interesting and inspiring, they do not represent scripture, revealed by God to His prophets. Certainly, as Luther points out, none of our “works” will save us. They simply do not have that power. Christ alone can save us. But the true Christian knows that does not excuse us from doing the will of the Lord. Rather, it frees us from the bonds of sin, which impede our ability to do any good thing, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, enables us to act.

And so with Grace, not in opposition to it, we move forward, knowing that our sins cannot stop us, if we are with Christ. We move forward with confidence, knowing that we might understand and do the will of the Lord in our own lives, by following His teachings as found in the scriptures, as revealed to His servants, and as revealed to us personally.

Progression is Not Perfection

As I have struggled and strived to understand and do the will of the Lord in my own life, I have learned that progress, not perfection, is the key. Sometimes I think that we humans believe that we have to be perfect before we can say we are doing enough. You see it in every aspect of our living. Knowing we are children of God, and heirs of God and join heirs of Christ, as we read in Romans 8, we tend toward perfection. I think those desires are good. Yet I believe that even a lifetime of perfect effort by any of us won’t produce perfection.

And that being the case, I believe that it is enough to do the will of the Lord, as he has taught us. It’s a hard lesson for me, but I think it’s important. Doing His will demonstrates my love for Him. It demonstrates my willingness to be obedient, and gives me opportunities to grow and to help lift others. In the end, His grace is sufficient for me, and my obedience is a demonstration of my gratitude.

Having Confidence in God

I want to share a subject that I’ve been pondering and studying for some time, and more in earnest recently. It’s a subject that appears in scripture, so I must assume that many others have pondered it before me, and that many others ponder it still. It is “Having Confidence in God.” By that I mean two things:

Having confidence in the nature, character, and purposes of God

“So it is with our belief in God. Unless we know him and understand his nature and character, we cannot have perfect faith in him.” (N. Eldon Tanner, 1978) We also read in John 17:3, “and this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

Before we can have confidence in God’s nature, character, and purpose, we need to know who God is. The best way to begin understanding God is through the scriptures; for an LDS person like myself, that includes the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon, which is “Another testament of Jesus Christ” (learn more about what the Book of Mormon is here.)

Here are a few things that I’ve learned about the nature of God through my study of the scriptures, that have helped me gain confidence in Him:

  • Matthew Chapter 5 – We can infer much about the nature of God through the life of Jesus Christ, and through this chapter, His “sermon on the mount.” We learn that the “peacemakers” will be called the children of God; we learn that we should “Love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us].”; We learn that we should be perfect, even as God is perfect. If God is perfect, he certainly has all of the attributes that Christ describes in this sermon.
  • Acts 10:34-35 – “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” We learn that God doesn’t care where we are from, what status we hold, or about anything but that we respect him and obey his commandments.
  • D&C 59:21 – “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (read in context here)
  • Exodus 34:5-6 – “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth”
  • Moroni 7:13 – “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God”
  • John 1:14 – He is full of grace and truth.

Taking just these few scriptures among hundreds that you could find that describe the character of God and His Son Jesus Christ, I have begun to understand that God is loving, forgiving, kind, long-suffering, patient, and full of compassion for us and our time here on earth. He wants us to return to live with Him, and has done everything He possibly could do to make that happen.

Knowing these things helps me have a strong confidence that God loves me and wants me to succeed. I have confidence in His character, and his willingness to be patience as I develop my own character in His image.

Having self-confidence in and through the goodness of God and His Son, Jesus Christ

In my mind, the logical progression of desires after we’ve started to understand the character of God and Jesus Christ is to grow individually to the point where we can have confidence in ourselves. The type of self-confidence I’m imagining is the confidence that Jesus Christ himself had and demonstrated while on earth. It’s the type of self-confidence that Paul demonstrated during his Apostleship. It’s the type of confidence that all of the prophets that ever walked the earth have demonstrated. It’s the kind of confidence that let’s us proclaim our faith boldly, and live our lives knowing that we are doing all we can to please God.

Admittedly, this is an area where I fall entirely short. I don’t have the confidence that Jesus Christ had, nor even the confidence that Paul or any of the prophets had as they went about their missions. I seek daily to simply understand God’s will for me in the day-to-day aspects of my life. And when I do understand God’s will, I struggle to actually do His will!

I believe that the process of learning to know God’s will and do it, and thereby gain self-confidence, will take some time. I know through examples in the scriptures that it can be done, and that I don’t have to wait my whole life to align myself with God and to do His works. But I also know that even when we’re aligned and working, we have to strive continually to stay on that path, to never deny Him.

It is my prayer that we can all work a little harder to understand God and Jesus Christ, and strive a little harder to live the way they want us to live, so we can gain the self-confidence that will lead us to better things.

April 2015 Mormon General Conference

I used to post quite a bit before a general conference, when information wasn’t really gathered up and presented on lds.org in a way that was easy and approachable. But in recent years, the LDS church as really improved the usability of their website, and made information clear and easy to find. Technology has moved forward, and the LDS church has stayed at the forefront, making it easier than ever to find answers to questions people may have about the LDS (Mormon) church.

General Conference is a world-wide broadcast meeting that the entire Mormon Church membership of over 15 million, plus anyone else who is interested, can take part in. It happens twice yearly, with an “Annual” conference and a “Semi-Annual” conference. 2015 marks the 185th anniversary of the conference, which has been going on continuously since 1830.

For anyone who is curious about the Mormon faith, general conference is one of the best ways to get information that is accurate and honest. The conference is broadcast over the internet, so it’s easy to watch any time you want, including live on Conference weekend. For schedules and more information visit the official website:

https://www.lds.org/church/events/april-2015-general-conference?lang=eng

If you have any questions about Mormon General Conference, or anything else, feel free to ask me here!

The LDS church and the LGBT question

It should come as no shock to anyone that Christians are against homosexual relations. We believe that sexual relations are only appropriate between a man and a woman, legally and lawfully married. We also believe that marriage, an institution that God created, can only be between and man and a woman. None of that is news, to anyone.

In the United States, we as a society have accepted those values for generations, and adopted them into law. They have been a part of our collective laws and organizations. Overall, I feel that our cultural judeo-Christian values have been overwhelmingly positive as a guide. But we’ve had our issues as a nation too: discrimination, hate, persecution, prejudice, and mistreatment are issues we’ve dealt with over and over. These ugly, sometimes horrific problems have affected the LGBT community, people of various races, the handicapped, the elderly, and even the Mormons.

Our failings as a society are human issues, and you see similar failings in societies throughout history, and around the globe. Today, issues of sexual orientation, how we treat each other, and religious freedom, are all colliding. It seems like all sides are feeling extremely threatened, and all sides are pushing back as hard as they can to get what they want.

Enter the Mormon church. Today, prominent Mormon leaders released the following call for more laws that focus on protecting religious freedom, while at the same time protecting the rights of the LGBT community:

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-news-conference-on-religious-freedom-and-nondiscrimination

How will the LGBT community react? It’s hard to say. The LDS church has supported the rights of the LGBT community in the past and not gotten a lot of recognition for it.

If you read the article above, you’ll realize that what the Mormon church leaders are promoting is entirely fair, and is founded in the very core of our country’s beliefs in freedom. Protect those who need protection, and make sure that it isn’t a one-sided issue. There are real, fair, and important issues to consider on both sides of the argument, and it is critical that we take time to think as we re-shape our society. The argument is complex, and deserves great consideration.

Mormon religious temple clothing

For a long time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a. the “Mormons”) have experienced some amount of misunderstanding concerning their religious clothing. Most religions have identifying religious garb that is visible, usually worn over other things, or worn alone: the Jewish Prayer Shawl, the Catholic Chasuble, and so forth. For those religions who have externally-worn clothing with religious meaning, most outside their faith accept their practices without issue.

Mormons, on the other hand, wear their religious clothing differently. For one, we have religious clothing that is worn only inside our temples. This reflects the ancient Israelite traditions as described in Exodus 28-29:

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/ex/28

While our temple clothing certainly isn’t as elaborate as what is described in the bible, much of the symbolism is the same.

Perhaps our most misunderstood religious clothing is what we call the “temple garment.” These are underclothes that some Mormons wear under the clothing, as a constant reminder of the promises we’ve made to keep the commandments of God. They are a personal reminder of our personal commitment to God, and are not meant to be visible externally.

Recently, the LDS church released a video explaining our religious clothing. You can view it here:

I personally have heard my fair share of ridicule concerning my religion’s clothing. For the most part though, that ridicule comes from those who either have some issue with the Mormon church to begin with, or would otherwise ridicule any religious clothing. I’ve never been personally “offended” by such ridicule, since i know it is born out of general disrespect of religion, or other issues.

If you found this post because you are curious about “Mormon underwear” then I hope the video sheds some light on the subject and answers all of your questions. If not, please feel free to ask any questions you may have here!

Come tour the Phoenix Arizona Temple!

Arizona is home to more than 400,000 LDS members. For many years, LDS members in and around Phoenix have had to travel to Mesa, AZ to attend temple services, some travelling more than an hour, making the Mesa temple one of the busiest in the world. 

A few years ago, the LDS church started work on the Phoenix Arizona Temple. Now, the Temple is finished, and will be open to the public for tours starting in October of 2014!

Public Invited to Tour Phoenix Temple

The Phoenix Temple sits on just over five acres adjacent to an existing meetinghouse located at the intersection of Pinnacle Peak Road and 51st Avenue. It is a single-story building and has a footprint of 27,423 square feet with a full basement and a 90-foot spire. The materials and workmanship are of the highest quality, and the grounds are created and maintained to bring a sense of peace and tranquility to those who enjoy the grounds and the surrounding community.

If you live in or near Phoenix, AZ, this is an opportunity to view the inside of an LDS temple, one of less than 150 in the world. Once dedicated to Temple ceremonies (including marriages, baptism for the dead, etc) the Temples are open to any faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but during the open house, anyone can tour them, enjoy their beauty, and learn more about what they are and what they are for.

Please feel free to ask any questions you might have!