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Shall we be cast off?

18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.
19 And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.

In Alma chapter 24 we find this powerful testimony given of the Anti-Nephi Lehies, that they would rather die than to risk sinning again is one of the most beautiful scriptures in the Book of Mormon. This group of Lehi's descendants was perhaps the most acquainted with the Atonement and the power of repentance and forgiveness. They had repented of the worst of sins, the shedding of blood. They had been "convinced of [their] sins, and... many murders". Through the teaching of Mosiah's sons they had come to understand the covenants of God and his goodness and mercy. Lamoni further proclaims in Alma 24:

10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain--
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.

This story powerfully teaches us the power of Christ's redemption through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This knowledge has been lost and perverted by the religions of the world. They do not understand the Atonement nor the power of faith that comes from knowing and obeying the commandments of God. They do not understand the process of repentance and because of this the true depth of God's mercy. Nephi saw the reason for this loss of knowledge. He saw that "the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God--because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." (1 Nephi 13:29)
Today's world stumbles around in thick darkness because they have lost the covenant and doctrines that lead them to the tree of life and the precious fruit of mercy, redemption, and peace that come from the Atonement. God knew this situation would come to pass. How was he to honor the agency of his children and yet rescue them from the mistakes being made? We learn from Moroni that the Book of Mormon was prepared for this purpose. According to Moroni's Title Page, its purpose is "that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever."
Repeatedly the prophets writing in the record say that they don't expect this record to benefit their own people so much as a their descendants. The Words of Mormon records "But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will." Nephi describes the lengths he went to to avoid the future conspiracy to confound the translation when Martin Harris will lose the manuscript. "Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not."  (1 Nephi 9:5) One of these purposes was to thwart this conspiracy. Repeatedly the engravers say they are doing what they have been commanded and do not know why. Always they ascribe it to the wisdom of God.
Yet the wisdom of God goes much further than just thwarting a conspiracy of lost pages. The book itself testifies of many things related to the book itself and how it will be brought out of darkness. It is repeatedly described as a testimony and compared to a voice coming forth from the dust of the earth. I find this imagery intriguing. Once I realized that these men were literally now the dust of this continent I could understand this image. They literally do cry from the dust.
The prophet who abridged much of the record and also witnessed almost the entire destruction of the Nephite people understood the need for these writings in the future. He explains his motivations for the future inhabitants of the world, "And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people." (Mormon 1:8) Mormon had a unique perspective, as he had compiled the history from all of the Nephite records and was extremely familiar with the details of the Nephite and Lamanites interactions for the last thousand years. He lead and fought during the decades of the battles leading to the utter destruction of the Nephite tribes, witnessing their wicked descent. But he also had visions of future conditions in order to create the most useful abridgment for future generations. He worked for the future redemption of his brethren. Perhaps the story of the brave converts who submitted to death rather than submitting to sin gave him hope for future generations, who might have the same redemptive experience and not be "cast off forever."
This record is a testament to the love of God for all of his children everywhere and in every time. He prepared the Book of Mormon to counter Satan in the latter days of this earth's life. We live in a most remarkable time on this earth. One that many prophets foresaw and contributed too through their prophecies and writings. The divinity of the Book of Mormon can not be successfully disputed. And those who seek to know for themselves if this is true with a desire to let that knowledge determine their actions in faith and devotion to God and his purposes, can know in remarkable ways the truth not only of this book but the work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a window to the world to clear the dark fog of deception that we live in today. I know that this book is as Joseph said "the most correct book" for I have become "closer to God" every time I study it. I love to dive into its depths because it clears my mind and vision and brings me peace. It shows me the traps Satan has set for us so that I can avoid them and avoid the sorrow that comes from them.


We Believe in Revelation

Mormons believe in revelation.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Article of Faith #9

What is revelation? 
Revelation is the means by which God communicates with us. It can take many forms. Joseph Smith was prompted to pray about what to do. He read the Bible, specifically James 1:5,
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 

He experienced revelation as he turned his questions to the scriptures and was led to James. He again experienced revelation when he felt a prompting to ask God in prayer about what church he should join. Not until he had responded to these strong revelatory promptings did his famous vision of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ open to him.
Elder Bednar described two types of revelatory experiences this way:

A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.
The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently “distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare. "The Spirit of Revelation"

I find that I have experience both and some in between experiences. Often I don't realize that I have had a revelation until something happens that verifies the truth of the thought that was presented to me. Often they come as I open my mouth and testify in a meeting about the topic being discussed. Always at times like this, the words just fit and seem to create a complete picture or idea and they feel satisfying to me. Often they stick in my mind for some time while I roll them around and examine them from all sides.
Who receives revelation? Does this only happen to Saints or Prophets? 
We all receive revelation from time to time. My guess is that it most often happens to us as parents. We just know things. Maybe we know that our children are lying to us, or we suddenly wonder where a silent child has disappeared to. We often don't realize that we are having revelatory experiences. Since we are all children of God and He wants to help us in all area's of our life, we will use revelation to offer that help. Everyone who is open to that direction will receive it.
Why do we need revelation? Well unless we feel like we know it all, and can manage all the balls we juggle in our lives, we need God to help us. He won't do everything for us because it is through our efforts that we grow into the kind of person he wants us to become. So he uses his wisdom and ability to communicate with us to help us know what we need to do. If we can be humble and seek His aid we will find that aid as we ask for it. If we are proud and refuse to ask or seek, it will not be there for us and we will be left to our own strength and wisdom.
Do we only receive revelation in holy places?
We can receive it when and where ever we need it. However, if we purposely put ourselves in a situation contrary to what we know is right, we may find ourselves alone and left to our own devices.
I am utterly amazed at the power and wisdom of God to know just what I need, when I need it and how He communicates with me in the best way for me to understand it. I am often impatient for more knowledge before I am ready to receive it. I had an experience recently in which I felt a rush of revelation and I was overwhelmed. I felt like a sieve that could not hold it in. I think the Lord was humbling me and reminding me that I could not handle all that I desired at this time and that I need to receive line upon line and act on what I receive. This is how these revelations become a part of me. My focus since then has been to spend time writing my thoughts as I study or as I go throughout  my day and recognize a particular thought has been on my mind.
God wants to teach us as fast as will will learn and act. We are here for experience because that is the master teacher.


Deeply, Strictly Obedient vs Moderation in All Things

In a recent conversation I was again reminded of the phrase "moderation in all things." This phrase has always bothered me. As I pondered on this feeling I realized that this was the opposite of being strictly obedient. Immediately, a favorite quote came to mind:
"When obedience ceases to become an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power." - Ezra Taft Benson...quoted by Donald L Staheli titled "Obedience- Life's Great Challenge."

 I love the imagery evoked by this quote. I thought of Helaman's stripling warriors who were strictly obedient to the commandments and were greatly and miraculously blessed for it. I want to be strictly obedient like that.

Recently, I have been changing my eating habits to become more in line with the "do's" in the Word of Wisdom. I had read it many times looking for what I should be eating to be healthy. I have tried so many diets trying to protect myself from diabetes, which runs heavily in my family and has always been my fear. But all the information was conflicting. I finally got fed up with the obviously manipulated theories and decided to once again turn to the source of all truth and study the Word of Wisdom. I had just seen the documentary Forks Over Knives again and it struck me that this was in line with the Word of Wisdom. As I began to reread section 89, I discovered a line that changed my entire perspective.

"12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
And it is PLEASING to me that they should NOT be used??  Wait a minute! It says I can please the Lord by simply not eating meat? No mysteries or vague instructions? (Mind blown!) I thought about how I disappoint the Lord in so many ways, and rejoiced that in this one area I could please Him! "I can do that!" I thought. This was a black and white, do or don't do task that I could perform. I began to look up all the verses that referenced meat or grain or food. My thoughts began to be opened to all the subtleties that I had completely missed or discounted. I had often countered that line with D & C 49:18.
"And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meatsthat man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;"  
As I pondered and studied, I realized that the Lord was not saying that eating meat was sinful or evil, nor was he forbidding it. He plainly says that there is a time and season when we may need to eat animals. (Winter, Cold, Famine, Excess of Hunger.) Yet when had I ever been in that much need? NEVER. EVER. I went on to read about Daniel and the Kings diet of meat and wine. Daniel asked for a ten day trial. So, I decided to give it a ten day trial too... I didn't even realize the days had passed... I have never felt better since giving up meat and dairy (another story).
 It's now been about 6 months of varying strictness. I can feel the difference. But the change has benefitted more than my health. It has benefited my sleep, my ability to breathe, my grocery budget, my food storage planning, and my spirituality. I feel that I am more able to receive revelation, I have a greater desire to learn, and a greater sensitivity to the presence of the Holy Ghost. I have felt warnings and direction for upcoming events and decisions in my life.

What does this have to do with obedience? It is one example of strict obedience that is often greeted with the line "moderation in all things". Another scripture points out the falsehood of this phrase. Revelations 3:15-16 
know thy worksthat thou art neither cold nor hot: would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarmand neither cold nor hot, will spue thee out of my mouth.

I don't want to be moderate. I refuse to be lukewarm.

Yesterday I found a 2011 BYU-I devotional by Kim Clark called "Deep Obedience". There is so much food for thought, but here are the five things he advises us to be deeply obedient with.
1. Love God with all your heart. 2 Walk in the strait and narrow path. 3 Bring to the Lord a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. 4 Keep the Sabbath Day holy. 5 Do all these things with gratitude and a cheerful heart.
Each of these five things could be a separate essay, and I intend to take the time to ponder them and how I can better apply this advice in my life. Let me share with you this thought from his talk. Ask yourself if this describes the often cited (but non-doctrinal) "moderation in all things".

"Our Heavenly Father wants all we have to give—our physical and mental capacity, our attitudes and desires—totally committed to serving Him in the name of His Son. He wants to write the gospel covenants in our hearts so that the promises we make to Him become our deepest desires, our most important commitments." 
Elder Clark's phrase Deep Obedience is as penetrating to me as the imagery of a Quest for Obedience. Take the time to ponder just where you can improve your own obedience because we have been warned:
Our time is a dangerous time—a time of great evil and temptation, a time of confusion and commotion. In these perilous times, the Lord’s prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, has called us to rescue the wounded in spirit, to stand for truth with courage, and to build the kingdom of God. Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts. Kim Clark "Eyes to See and Ears to Hear
I know hard times are coming. I also know that to be prepared I need to be more deeply and strictly obedient in all things.
PS Stay by the Tree!

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