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May, 2012

  1. The Brazen Serpent

    May 27, 2012 by Ryan

    People are predictable. They’ve been acting the same way since the beginning, focused on their own problems and overlooking their many blessings.

    The Israelites began another leg of their endless journey. This time, they left mount Hor, and following the Red Sea, and circled around the land of Edom. The collective attitude of the people was discouragement. How much longer would they possibly be expected to keep this up?

    Natural men have a tendency to become prideful and forgetful. Though they had been at this wandering business for a long time, they were being fed daily Manna from heaven. They had in their presence the words of God, and the prophet Moses to teach them. They had seen the cloud by day and fire by night accompanying them.

    Yet they became comfortable with these circumstances, and looked for things to grumble about. They began complaining against Moses. Unsatisfied, they escalated their complaints against God directly. “Why have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! We are tired of eating wafers that taste like honey and miraculously fall from heaven every day but the Sabbath for every meal!” (Well, maybe they didn’t say it exactly that way, but they should have and then they would have recognized how ridiculous they sounded).

    The Lord had warned them that He is a jealous God, and He decided to remind them Who was in charge of this camp. Fiery serpents were sent among the people. This infestation of snakes is not an event to gloss over lightly. “Much” of the people of Israel died from their fiery bite.

    The tribulation was enough to humble the people. In their repentant state, the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee.” They then implored Moses to “pray unto the Lord, that He take away the serpents from us.”

    Moses heard their despite pleas, accepted their contrition, and went before the Lord to pray in behalf of the people.

    The Lord’s unexpected answer to His servant was “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.”

    Moses did as directed, and made out of brass a symbol of the very creature which had caused so much death and devastation. He lifted it on a pole, and announced to the people that if a serpent had bitten them, they must look at the brazen statue.

    True to the Lord’s promise, everyone who lifted up their eyes and looked, lived. Those who did not, perished. (See Old Testament | Numbers 21:4-9)

    Naturally, this miracle became a talking-point for the nation of Israel and the religion of God’s covenant people.

    Just as Christians today remember Christmas and Easter, sometimes they remember the great event and apply the correct and meaningful thought behind the tradition; though often they give it superficial treatment. Those sacred opportunities are lost in the sight of evergreen trees and chocolate bunnies.

    Pause for a moment. Imagine if you had been bitten by a mosquito and infected with the West Nile Virus. Your body is sick, and you have no more hope to live. Then, the leader of the church suggests that you look at a drawing of a mosquito and God will heal you instantly. Just a one-second glance is all it will take. Would you be so consumed with hatred for the creature which is killing you that you would refuse to view the picture? Would you think the act so simple and ill-logical that it cannot possibly be true, no matter how much you might trust the source of the promise? Or would you expend your energy to go and get a view of the object?

    I’ve never been in quite the comparable situation myself, but I have received instructions from my church leader many times of small or simple habits to follow which will improve my life. I’ve heard the advice and brushed it aside. I either thought I was already doing a good enough job with the topic, that I didn’t really have time in my schedule to implement one more good thing, or that maybe the speaker was referring to something which other people listening needed to know and do, rather than me.

    I’ve got bits of pride in my character.

    But back to the story.

    The serpent statue was kept for many years, and was surely valued by the people as a tangible reminder of their history. However, some people lost the true significance and began burning incense to the statue, worshiping the object as an idol. Righteous king Hoshea ordered the statue to be destroyed, ending this practice of idol worship and helping restore the true significance in the hearts of the people (See Old Testament | 2 Kings 18:1-7).

    Some Israelites, like Nephi, taught the correct significance of this event as pertaining to the coming of the promised Savior. Said Nephi:

    And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved. (The Book of Mormon | Second Book of Nephi 25: 20)

    Another man named Nephi (who lived about 500 years after the previous Nephi) declared:

    And as [Moses] lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall [the Son of God] be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal. (The Book of Mormon | Helaman 8:14-15)

    The story, whether understood correctly or not, remained prominent enough in the minds of the people that Jesus used it in His teaching. Said He to the Pharisees named Nicodemus:

    And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (New Testament | John 3:14-15)

    To another group, He later declared His purpose this way:

    I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father. (The Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 27:13-14)

    Could Jesus have more plainly spoken and revealed His purpose? Just as had been done physically for the ancient Israelites, the people now were to look to Him to be healed spiritually and live eternally.

    Anciently, the people had to make a faith-filled choice and put forth a physical effort to go view the brass serpent. This implies that they were remorseful, humble, and sincere, or they wouldn’t have left their beds. Similarly, with choosing to look to Jesus there is a choice and an effort involved. That effort is to exercise faith and have a contrite (remorseful and repentant) heart. From there, Jesus can heal us, and in turn point us to look toward His Father.

    Or we can choose to go our own way, as many have been doing from the beginning. Focused on their own problems and overlooking our many blessings.


  2. Dear Pastor,

    May 21, 2012 by Ryan

    Recently, I recommended Lutheran Hour Ministries Daily Devotionals. I still enjoy them, but in a recent devotional Paster Klaus said something that I needed to offer correction on. Here is my reply to him.

    Dear Pastor Ken Klaus,

    I’m a little bit behind in listening to the devotionals, and today I finally heard the Daily Devotional entitled “Kinda, Sorta True,” dated May 1, 2012, in which you flatly stated that The Book of Mormon is wrong and implied that it teaches that salvation comes from a source other than Jesus the Christ.

    I am not aware of what opportunity you have personally taken to study The Book of Mormon, but I would like you to know that I have read it, cover-to-cover, numerous times, along side the Holy Bible. I have found that The Book of Mormon teaches repeatedly, plainly, and beautifully of the Savior’s sacrifice and love for us. The title page states that it was written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

    Like the Holy Bible, various prophets and disciples of God wrote The Book of Mormon over a several thousand years. While the Bible focuses on the tribe of Judah, the people of the Book of Mormon are of the lineage of Joseph, another of Israel’s sons. These experiences contain the rise and fall of people as they either followed or rejected the will of the Holy One of Israel.

    In the devotional, you posed a hypothetical question asking if I would turn in my copy of the Holy Bible or The Book of Mormon, and how would I respond? I would not wish to get rid of either book, for both contain the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both stand as independent witnesses of the grace of God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. (And as Paul reminded us, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” 2 Corinthians 13:1)

    I bear no grudge nor resentment for what you said during your devotional, and I continue to wish you God Speed in your work of “bringing Christ to the nations!”

    Your “Mormon” Listener,

    Ryan Beardall

    P.S.

    If you are interested, I’ve included a few passages below from The Book of Mormon for your perusal. Enjoy!

    Nephi: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2nd Book of Nephi, Chapter 25, Verse 26). “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2nd Book of  Nephi, Chapter 31, Verse 21)

    Jacob: “For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.” (The Book of Jacob, the Brother of Nephi, Chapter 4, Verse 4)

    King Benjamin: “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (The Book of Mosiah, Chapter 3, Verses 17-18)

    Mormon: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life. And it hath become expedient that I, according to the will of God, that the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones, should be fulfilled according to their faith, should make a record of these things which have been done.” (Third Nephi, Chapter 5, Verses 13-14)

    Moroni: “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.” (The Book of Ether, Chapter 12, Verse 41)


  3. Thanks Be to God

    May 15, 2012 by Ryan

    Expert from “Thanks Be to God” by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

    Recently, Sister Nelson and I enjoyed the beauty of tropical fish in a small private aquarium. Fish with vivid colors and of a variety of shapes and sizes darted back and forth. I asked the attendant nearby, “Who provides food for these beautiful fish?”

    She responded, “I do.”

    Then I asked, “Have they ever thanked you?”

    She replied, “Not yet!”

    I thought of some people I know who are just as oblivious to their Creator and their true “bread of life.” They live from day to day without an awareness of God and His goodness unto them.


  4. Mothers Day is like shopping at Target…

    May 13, 2012 by Ryan

    Yesterday evening, my family was at the department store Target when we came upon our Bishop and some of his family, also shopping. Knowing I was going to be speaking at church today, with a smile that indicated he was joking, he challenged me to work the experience into my talk. “Mother’s Day is like shopping at Target…” he mused. I don’t know if I’ll use this in my talk, but here is my attempt:

    Motherhood is like shopping at your favorite department store.

    You learn the layout of the store, develop a routine, and shopping becomes easy and comfortable. Life is rolling along smoothly.

    Then, the store management decides to begin a major remodel project. Every piece of merchandise you once knew is moved to a new location. The store becomes disorganized, and you feel lost temporarily while the dust settles. It is like those challenges that upset your life and routine.

    President David O. McKay said: “No nobler work in this world can be performed by any mother than to rear and love the children with whom God has blessed her. That is her duty.”

    Good mothers know people are relying on them to get the job done, and they stick with the task. They push on, work through the challenge, and come out victorious in the checkout stands of life!

    How’d I do, Bishop?


  5. The Importance of Teaching Children the Gospel

    May 13, 2012 by Ryan

    A Minnesota highway patrolman came upon a motorist whose car was stopped along the side of the road. Although not a mechanic, the officer gave the vehicle a once-over. Sitting behind the wheel, he turned the key and saw the fuel gauge was solidly buried in EMPTY. When he shared the problem with the motorist, the fellow furrowed his brow and asked, “Tell me, will it hurt the car if I drive it home this way?”

    Fortunately, you and I understand better than that motorist how important it is for a vehicle to have some gas in the tank. The same is true when it comes to faith. You’ve got to have something — the right something in the tank — or you’re not going anywhere, at least not anywhere you want to go.

    So maybe that is take-home message number 1: You have to put gas in your tank.

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told this story in General Conference a few years ago:

    During a severe winter several years ago, a good number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay. In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed. Regrettably they had fed the deer but they had not nourished them.

    I’m going to call this our take-home message # 2: It not only matters what you fill your own tank with, but it also matters what you feed those you are responsible for.

    President J. Reuben Clark said, of our youth:

    “[They] are hungry for the things of the spirit,” he said; “they are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted. … You do not have to sneak up behind [them] and whisper religion in [their] ears; … you can bring these truths [out] openly.”

    Elder Holland continued:

    “Satan is certainly not subtle in his teachings; why should we be? Whether we are instructing our children at home or standing before an audience in church, let us never make our faith difficult to detect.”

    Then Elder Holland gave us this list to work on in our teaching:

    • Never sow seeds of doubt.
    • Avoid self-serving performance and vanity.
    • Prepare lessons well.
    • Give scripturally based sermons.
    • Teach the revealed doctrine.
    • Bear heartfelt testimony.
    • Pray and practice and try to improve.

    Since Elder Holland advised us to give scripturally based sermons, and to teach the revealed doctrine, I’m going to do that.

    First, let’s look at The Doctrine and Covenants, section 68. What does the Lord want us to teach those we are responsible for?

    25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

    I’m interrupting to change the wording around. The verse has a negative connotation – when I study, I like to reverse the wording and give it a positive meaning. In my mind, I’d reword that this way: Teach them to understand

    • the doctrine of repentance
    • Faith in Christ (and a correct understanding of Him, that He is the Son of the living God
    • Baptism (and the covenant that goes along with this, which we could devote a different sermon entirely to this topic)
    • The gift of the Holy Ghost, given by the correct procedure, at the right time (eight years old), and by the correct authority (the laying on of the hands)

    And finally, changing the last phrase to a positive, the blessing be upon the heads of the parents.

    26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.

    “a law” – this leans into the “covenant” part of the Doctrine and Covenants.

    28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

    There are two more things to work on:

    • Prayer
    • To walk uprightly before the Lord, which I’m going to call ‘Obedience’

    29 And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

    • Sabbath-day Observance

    30 And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, … in all faithfulness; …

    31 Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them;

    I’m interrupting again with the phrase “idlers” – going back to the automobile example, I don’t think the Lord was talking about automobiles and protecting the environment, but what if you have gas in your tank and you sit and idling – not going anywhere, or in context with the verses we just looked at, not teaching and doing the things we just listed, then the Lord is not pleased. Why is He not pleased? Because he knows, continuing verse 31, that “their children are also growing up in wickedness….”

    That phrase hit me. “Their children are also growing up in wickedness.”

    Our Lord sees and understands perfectly all that goes on in our world, and knows the tremendous wickedness that is in it.

    He wants the Doctrine of Repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, obedience, and Sabbath day observance taught to the children to give them something to help and protect them spiritually from the wickedness of the world in which they will grow.

    Then a different thought came to me. This revelation came in November 1831. If the Lord was concerned about the wickedness then, how much more is He concerned now?

    At the Worldwide Leadership Training given this year, February 2012, Elder Russell M. Nelson told us. He said,

    “In reality, we are raising our children in enemy-occupied territory. The homes of our members must become the primary sanctuaries of our faith, where each can be safe from the sins of the world.”

    In General Conference addresses just last month, you can hear this theme repeated by several speakers. I’ll pick one: Elder M. Russell Ballard’s talk entitled “That the Lost May Be Found.” You’ll recall that he began by talking about the GPS built-into his phone. He reminded us that:

    Being lost can apply to whole societies as well as to individuals. Today we live in a time when much of this world has lost its way, particularly with regard to values and priorities within our homes.

    One hundred years ago, President Joseph F. Smith connected happiness directly to the family and admonished us to focus our efforts there. He said: “There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home. … There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life. … The home is what needs reforming.”

    So what can we do to not become lost? First, may I suggest that we prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home. Remember President Harold B. Lee’s counsel that “the most important … work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” and President David O. McKay’s timeless “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

    Organize your lives to provide time for prayer and scriptures and family activity. Give your children responsibilities in the home that will teach them how to work. Teach them that living the gospel will lead them away from the filth, promiscuity, and violence of the Internet, media, and video games. They will not be lost, and they will be prepared to handle responsibility when it is thrust upon them.

    President David O. McKay had some comments about the verses we looked at earlier:

    The inspiration of God is seen in requiring the Latter-day Saints to keep their homes intact and to teach their children the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” This command from the Lord, given to us in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, verse 28, leaves no question as to the responsibility of parents to teach their children—a responsibility too frequently shifted to the shoulders of the Church, public schools, and officers of the law.

    Three groups carry the responsibility of training children: First, the family; second, the Church; third, the state. The most important of these is the family. By divine edict the Lord has placed upon parents the responsibility, first to teach the doctrine of repentance; second, faith in Christ, the Son of the living God; third, baptism and confirmation; fourth, to teach children to pray; fifth, to teach children to walk uprightly before the Lord [see D&C 68:25–28]. Parents who shirk this responsibility will have to answer for the sin of neglect.

    The greatest trust that can come to a man and woman is the placing in their keeping the life of a little child. If a man defaults who is entrusted with other people’s funds, whether he be a bank, municipal, or state official, he is apprehended and probably sent to prison. If a person entrusted with a government secret discloses that secret, and betrays his country, he is called a traitor. What must the Lord think, then, of parents who, through their own negligence or wilful desire to indulge their selfishness, fail properly to rear their children, and thereby prove untrue to the greatest trust that has been given to human beings? In reply the Lord has said: “… the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25.)

    There is nothing temporary in the home of the Latter-day Saints. There is no element of transitoriness in the family relationship. To the Latter-day Saint the home is truly the basic unit of society; and parenthood is next to Godhood. The secret of good citizenship lies in the home. The secret of instilling faith in God, faith in his Son, the Redeemer of the world, faith in the organizations of the Church, lies in the home. There it is centered. God has placed upon parents the responsibility of instilling these principles into the minds of children. Our schools, our Church organizations, and some worthy social institutions are all helps in the upbuilding and guidance of the youth, but none of these—great and important as they are in the lives of our youth—can supplant the permanence and the influence of the parents in the home.

    Elder Ballard reminded us of something similar in his talk. He said, “The Church is the scaffolding with which we build eternal families”

    Continuing to quote President McKay:

    Obedience is heaven’s first law, and it is the law of the home. There can be no true happiness in the home without obedience—obedience obtained, not through physical force, but through the divine element of love. There is no home without love. You may have a palace and yet not have a home, and you may live in a log house with a dirt roof, and a dirt floor, and have there the most glorious home in all the world, if within those four log walls there permeates the divine principle of love, [which creates] that blessed obedience and compliance that makes life worth while.

    There is a responsibility upon all, and especially upon fathers and mothers, to set examples to children and young people worthy of imitation. Parents must be sincere in upholding law and upholding the priesthood in their homes, that children may see a proper example.

    It is the duty of parents and of the Church not only to teach but also to demonstrate to young people that living a life of truth and moral purity brings joy and happiness, while violations of moral and social laws result only in dissatisfaction, sorrow, and, when carried to extreme, in degradation.

    It really does matter what you put in your gas tank, and the right kind of food that feed those you are responsible for.

    Elder Holland said

    Let us both ‘instruct and edify’ as the revelations say, that our teaching may ultimately be “from on high.” (D&C 43:8, 16) The Church will be the better for it, and so will you, for as Paul said to the Romans, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Rom. 2:21)

    Sources:

    Introduction based on a Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries; “Don’t Want To Offend You, But…,” April 17, 2012 http://www.lhm.org/dailydevotions.asp?date=20120417

    Elder Jeffery R. Holland quotations from “A Teacher Come from God,” April 1998 http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/a-teacher-come-from-god?lang=eng)

    Doctrine and Covenants references at http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/68.25-31?lang=eng#24

    Elder Russell M. Nelson quotation: “The Doctrinal Importance of Marriage and Children”, http://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-leadership-training/2012/01/the-doctrinal-importance-of-marriage-and-children?lang=eng, Paragraph 4.

    Elder M. Russell Ballard, “That the Lost May Be Found;” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/that-the-lost-may-be-found

    David O. McKay quotations from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, (2003), 152–61, Chapter 16: The Noble Calling of Parents; http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-david-o-mckay/chapter-16?lang=eng


  6. The Race of Life

    May 12, 2012 by Ryan

    When I reflect on the race of life, I remember another type of race, even from childhood days. My friends and I would take pocketknives in hand and, from the soft wood of a willow tree, fashion small toy boats. With a triangular-shaped cotton sail in place, each would launch his crude craft in the race down the relatively turbulent waters of Utah’s Provo River. We would run along the river’s bank and watch the tiny vessels sometimes bobbing violently in the swift current and at other times sailing serenely as the water deepened.

    During a particular race we noted that one boat led all the rest toward the appointed finish line. Suddenly, the current carried it too close to a large whirlpool, and the boat heaved to its side and capsized. Around and around it was carried, unable to make its way back into the main current. At last it came to an uneasy rest amid the flotsam and jetsam that surrounded it, held fast by the tentacles of the grasping green moss.

    The toy boats of childhood had no keel for stability, no rudder to provide direction, and no source of power. Inevitably, their destination was downstream—the path of least resistance.

    Unlike toy boats, we have been provided divine attributes to guide our journey. We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life but with the power to think, to reason, and to achieve.

    Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal voyage without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him guidance to ensure our safe return. I speak of prayer. I speak too of the whisperings from that still, small voice; and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, which contain the word of the Lord and the words of the prophets—provided to us to help us successfully cross the finish line.


  7. Focus Group

    May 3, 2012 by Ryan

    Are you on the go, all the time… chauffeuring children from school to soccer practice and piano lessons while you try to decide what will be served for dinner? If you frequently feel an urgent need to shop at Wal-mart to purchase poster paper for tomorrow’s science fair project, you may qualify for a research study involving an new politician created for the treatment of Walmart-Mom Syndrome. Mitt Romney and the Grand Old Party is conducting this study. The GOP staff is a team of political research professionals. Qualified participants must be female voters with children under 18 living at home who shops at Walmart at least once a month, and who are experiencing overactive schedule symptoms. If you qualify for the study, all study-related care will be provided at no cost. Call Mitt Romney Political Research at 857-288-3500 to see if you could be a potential voter for the solution to America’s problems. That’s 857-288-3500. Call 857-288-3500.

    (This blog post is intended as a parody and is not paid for or sponsored by any political party or candidate)