10 April 2014

How to Study the Scriptures.

Diligently.



Oh, you wanted a longer answer? Okay, here are my suggestions.

Listen to them on tape or compact disc. CD’s are available from church distribution; tapes can sometimes be found at Deseret Industries or yard sales in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. The benefit of listening is two-fold. First you hear all the words and names pronounced correctly (or at least consistently), and following along in your book while listening to the reader uses two senses and therefore is more memorable. Second, you can get through quickly enough to have a good overall sense of the story. This is particularly valuable with the Old Testament, and the Book of Mormon. The Doctrine and Covenants doesn’t follow a story line so listening isn’t quite as fun, although still valuable.

Listening is great with young children who don’t yet read, and for reinforcing the emerging abilities of beginning readers. I like the tapes better because it is easy to stop, back up and repeat. When we came across the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-baz in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 18:1), we listened to it four or five times because the children thought it was the coolest name they’d ever heard.

Study them in conjunction with the Sunday School lessons. Follow the reading assignments in the student booklet (including any chapters that are skipped, because reading more never is wasted) and come to class prepared with thoughts, impressions, questions and insights. The teacher will love you!

Study them topically. Choose a topic you want to know more about, look it up in the topical guide and read all the scriptures listed. As you read, look at what’s ahead of and after the verses so you get a sense of context and outcome. Follow the footnotes to find related verses. Write your impressions, thoughts and feelings in a notebook or journal as you gain understanding of the topic and how it fits in your life. (Maybe I should say see what changes in me are necessary to fit the scriptural standard.)

Study them for revelation. Begin at the beginning and read slowly for understanding and personal revelation to come to you. Ponder or meditate as you find something that touches your heart. Write in a journal or notebook to capture your revelation.

Study them as if on a quest. Right now I’m reading the Book of Mormon looking for examples of gratitude, thanksgiving and cheerfulness. I have an inexpensive copy and a yellow-green pencil to mark with, so as I find what I’m looking for I mark it. Without the distraction of my other markings I will be open to seeing new things within the stories and testimonies.

Study them chronologically. The Old Testament and New Testament were not put together in chronological order, rather they are ordered by type of “book”. History, law, prophecy, poetry, testimony, epistles, or whatever. Although it is a bit more work to do so, reading everything chronologically really helps understand what is happening and why things are said.  (This New Testament list shows chronology by when written rather than by when the events happened, but it's interesting nonetheless.) (Also, parts of the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price are before Genesis) (Oh, one more thing, Joseph Smith said that Song of Solomon wasn't inspired scripture, so you don't have to read that.)


So, there are six ways to study the scriptures. I’m sure there are more. The important thing to remember and do is to study or read daily: Gather the manna daily; try to save it and it won’t last, it has to be gathered every day. Drink deeply of the living water and eat your fill of the bread of life daily! 

08 April 2014

My thoughts (Which I hope are in line with His Thoughts)

My husband came home from General Priesthood Meeting relaxed and in a good mood; he shared with me some of the stories and themes from the talks they'd heard. He got on the computer while I rustled up some dessert for the men (they're all taller than me so I think of them as men now!). He has the ability to stay calm when reading things that make my blood boil. He found an article about the Ordain Women protesters and told me about an interview with a sixteen year old who said she wanted to be ordained because she had skills and talents that she wanted to be useful in the church. (Or something to that effect.)

Herewith are my thoughts about ordaining women to the priesthood.

First: In all of the scriptures I have read, Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, God is absolutely consistent in following the Great Plan of Happiness. At different times and in different places his covenant people have had more or less of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but never a different gospel. And in all of the scriptures The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God has been given to men and men only. This is one of those instances where God our Father in Heaven could say "Because I said so," without any other explanation, like good parents can and do, and we should obey without question. At the time we are mature enough and ready we will understand the why.
(I will state right here that I have never questioned and have always "just known" that this was the correct order of things.)

Second: I doubt very much that the sixteen year old girl is currently fully using her talents and skills to build the kingdom of God. Does she hold a calling such as Laurel President? Are all of the Laurels under her stewardship active, temple worthy girls? Is she sharing the gospel with others to the point that they come to church, are taking lessons with missionaries and preparing for baptism? How many generations of family history has she completed? Is her own personal history up to date? Does she reach out to serve others without being assigned or asked? Does she have all the skills and talents she will need to raise and teach children, keep a home, and prepare children to serve missions? Are her prayers effective? She can do all of this and much more without being ordained to the priesthood. When women are perfect in their own sphere, then it might be understandable for them to look at anothers shere, but not until then.

Third: What do those women want to do? Conduct meetings? All presidencies of all the organizations and auxiliaries conduct meetings. Go Home Teaching? What's wrong with Visiting Teaching? (I once thought about having MiaMaids and Laurels serve with visiting teachers, but realized that perhaps it would be inappropriate because of confidentiality issues to have young sisters assisting.) Give blessings? My mother's prayers were heard and answered, sometimes instantly. When she prayed for something it happened. I suppose it was because of her purity, her virtue, her exceeding great faith, whatever it was, it worked! My father's priesthood blessings were no more efficacious than my mother's prayers of faith. I think what the priesthood has done for my father was give him reason to be virtuous and pure so that his blessings would be effective. Mom was that way already. Do those women want to prepare, bless and pass the Sacrament? They remind me of immature children who can't be content seeing what another has until they've taken it away, and once gotten, find it's not so fun after all. Why can't the men and boys have something that civilizes and ennobles them without some female getting in a snit because she can't have it too? Do they want to "run" things? Being a leader is not telling others what to do, believe me, I've learned the hard way. We set an example, encourage, teach and love, but cannot force or punish anyone. 

Fourth: The roles and stewardships of men and women are different yet complementary, they complete each other. One cannot be exalted without the other because it takes the two different halves to make a whole. Perhaps men would be more effective and efficient in church callings if more wives were taking responsibility for their homes and allowing their husbands time to study the gospel and leadership principles, serve in callings and spend time fulfilling their duties without having to work to support the family and then come home and be responsible for fixing dinner, doing dishes, cleaning up after the children and taking care of the children "so the wife can have a break." From personal experience of the opposite I would gladly never have a break if my husband was out doing the work of the Lord. 

Fifth: This is the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Through Joseph Smith the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored and re-established. Many radically different doctrines were revealed and put into practice. Don't you think that if women were to be ordained to the priesthood it would have been so from the beginning? That it has not must say something about the order of things as they are now. I know that this is the true church of God and His Son on the earth today. We are led by a prophet, Thomas S. Monson, with other prophets and apostles to assist him. The priesthood is God's power and authority to give to whom he chooses after the order set in heaven. One day when all is revealed we will fully understand His order and realize how truly perfect it is.

20 March 2014

Awesome?

I have lived and served in about a dozen different wards and branches of the church. Each has been the same in organization and doctrine, and each has been different in size, culture and personality. Looking back I think I’ve learned something valuable from each one. And I’ve been thinking about them recently and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.

The adjective awesome is thrown around a lot. It’s probably among the most overused adjectives right now. According to my dictionary awesome means “inspiring with an overwhelming sense of reverence or fear.” With that definition in mind I’d like to explore the question “What would an awesome unit (ward or branch) be like?”

A unit could be called awesome if it had 75% Sacrament meeting attendance (there’s always someone out sick, on vacation or at work), and at least 90% Home and Visiting Teaching. A unit would qualify as awesome if they had more individuals and families to teach than one set of missionaries could handle, and convert baptisms every month, with those converts staying active because of the love and nurturing they receive.  A unit could be called awesome if it also had ongoing temple preparation classes; and if all the adults who had been members longer than one year had full temple recommends and were endowed and sealed. A unit could be called awesome if there was an ongoing teacher improvement class and graduated members could teach any of the classes on the spur of the moment, and could give inspiring Sacrament meeting talks without wasting time on how they were asked to speak and how nervous they are and how they decided what to talk about, ad infinitum.  A unit could be called awesome if the majority of the members went the extra mile without having to be asked; as it is many of us have to be begged and cajoled to go even the first mile. A unit could be called awesome if it were attracting and retaining people instead of losing them to inactivity. An awesome unit would have more than one person who played the piano and organ, and more than one who could lead music, and would have a choir that practiced and performed regularly and actually sounded great. A unit would be awesome if the members didn’t get offended at every little thing and were humble and forgiving. A unit would truly be awesome if the members acted upon their testimonies and exercised faith instead of just saying the words. If it is true that “by their fruits, ye shall know them” then an awesome unit would include a culture of excellence in all they did from the bulletins to the music and speakers, to the home and visiting teaching, to the classroom lessons and discussions inspiring each other to reach higher, work harder and love more deeply.

At the other end of the scale would probably be pathetic, which is defined as “evoking pity, sorrow, or compassion; miserably inadequate”. How does a unit move up the scale? Just calling something awesome doesn’t make it so or even encourage it to be so. In addition to loving their members, leaders teaching correct principles and practices, sort of like a coach of five year old soccer players would, through demonstration and repetition, could move a unit to actions that would bear fruit worthy to be called awesome. It’s what I’m attempting to accomplish in our Relief Society. I get discouraged because it seems to be such a slow process. But when I stand before the Lord on judgment day to give an accounting I want to be able to say I did my best to both love and teach the sisters and bring them to Christ.


What do you think makes for an “awesome” ward/branch?