The Word of God

I’ve recently been pondering a couple of questions:

What do I really know in regards to God’s will for me?

How can we answer the question about religion?

What is the truth?

The common thread between these questions is our desire to know what is real. We all seek to grasp something that is unwavering, something that we can hold on to, something firm to build ourselves upon, something absolute. We yearn for truth. 

Our thirst for truth, and the burning desire to find is part of our eternal nature.

Each time as I contemplate this and the plausible answers to these questions, my mind continuously is led to and finds rest on the idea of The Word of God.

We find in scripture several analogies and synonyms for the Word of God. In this article I will touch on only a few of them.

The Word as a Double-Edged Sword

In the New Testament the apostle Paul admonishes the Ephesian saints and tells them to put on the whole armor of God. He says,

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

To the Hebrews he also wrote:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

The author of Revelation in the New Testament writes:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw…one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (Revelation 1:10-16)

In modern-day revelation, the Lord spoke this through the prophet Joseph Smith:

Behold, I am God; give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my word. (Doctrine & Covenants 14:2)

Finally, the ancient prophet and historian, Mormon, who compiled the Book of Mormon, makes this observation

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5)

So we see from this final example how the Word of God was more powerful than the sword, for when we hear truth and receive it through the Holy Ghost, it peirces to the core of our soul, which has a greater and deeper influence on us than the threat or intimidation of the “sword.” 

But what does the two-edge part mean? 

If we contemplate Christ’s ministry, He being a perfect man who preached the Word of God, we see how it had the effect of bringing peace, comfort, and joy to those who were righteous, yet that same word pricked the hearts of those who had the need to repent and change. This is what it means. This is how God’s Word is as a double-edged sword, that will ultimately be the salvation of those who abide by it, and the condemnation of those who reject it.

The Word as the Iron Rod

Lehi, an ancient American prophet found in the Book of Mormon, told his family about a vision he had:

And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.

And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

And as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit.

And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.

And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood.

And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.

And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.

And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. (1 Nephi 8:10-24)

Lehi’s son, Nephi, later received the same vision and the interpretation thereof, of which he wrote this:

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God. (1 Nephi 11:25)

Just as in their time, we need something to hold on to, even to cling to, to get us through mortality; through the dark mists of the enticing philosophies of men, and back to our heavenly home. The Word of God is that thing that we must cling to; the thing that keeps us on the straight and narrow path.

The Word as Revelation

The prophet Joseph Smith taught:

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. (Articles of Faith)

It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation.

Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. … No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy (see Revelation 19:10).

Jesus in His teachings says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matthew 16:18.) What rock? Revelation.

I solemnly declare as with the voice of a trump, that God still speaks to mankind, the same way He did with those of old or the way that He always has—through a living prophet and by the voice of His Spirit, or the Holy Ghost.

Consider how many different interpretations there are of the Bible, for example, and thus the vast amount of churches that exist. Which doctrine is right? And how can we know it? Again, referring back to the prophet Joseph Smith who had precisely these questions in his youth, found the truthfulness of this scripture by his own experience:

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. (James 1:5)

Furthermore, the scriptures alone do not address specifically the issues and challenges that we face collectively in today’s world. For this we need continued Revelation from God, through a prophet as He has declared:

For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.

And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.

But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. (Doctrine & Covenants 43:2-4)

We also receive personal revelation, or the Word of God to us, through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost bares witness to us personally and individually of the reality of Jesus Christ, and of the veracity of His Atonement. He also testifies of all truth to our hearts and minds as we openly receive it. In these moments our spiritual eyes are opened, and our minds expanded to understand things as they really are. Doubt is completely relinquished by light and we feel a great sense of peace and joy, for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 

The Word is the gospel of Jesus Christ

This is where we come full circle.

In the beginning was the ​gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word,​ and the ​word​ was with ​the Son, and the Son was with God,​ and the ​Son​ was ​of​ God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.

In him was ​the gospel,​ and ​the gospel was the life,​ and the life was the light of men;

​​​And the light shineth ​in the world,​ and the ​world perceiveth​ it not. (John 1:1-5)

After His death and resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples and others according to the will of the Father. On the occasion that he visited some of His “other sheep” He declared this:

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that 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, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:13-22)

Conclusion

And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept. (Doctrine &a Covenants 98:11-13)

The Word of God is truth; much of it absolute to all of us, and partially relative to each of us. We indeed can rely upon the word of God, with confidence that by it He will guide us to the our greatest potential and to the happiness that we seek, and that persists. May we take courage to cleave unto it, to embrace it, and to live according to it!


One, Two, Three

1.

The Godhead are One.

We are

Collectively to be of one heart and one mind.

Only then are we

One with them.

2.

When He was here he told them

If two of you shall agree

It shall be

“For where two or three 

are gathered together in my name, 

there am I in the midst of them.”

3.

The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

These three make up the Trinity.

With three He made the first presidency

Thrice denied when the cock crowed.

Day three came whereupon He rose.

Three times He asked, “Lovest thou me?”


Treasure: A Matter of the Heart

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —Matthew 6:21

My friends, pure truth does not get any simpler and straight forward than that; a simple statement that even a child may understand, and yet the depth of our Savior’s words is endless.

Even from the beginning, one of Lucifer’s greatest vehicles to further his purposes is the use of the treasures of the world to sway mankind to take part in evil doing. His “gospel”, if you will, is based on greed, selfishness, pride, and secret combinations. Perhaps, this is why the apostle Paul makes this observation in his first epistle to Timothy:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. —1 Timothy 6:10-11

This is not to say that money in and of itself is the root of all evil, but that the love for it is.

It is precisely in this, then, that we must learn and truly know that one of our main objectives and challenges in mortality is to overcome our natural senses and passions. If we do not they likely will quickly and quietly overcome us, as Christ also taught us specifically regarding the love for money:

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. —Matthew 19:24

Consider the actual incident during Christ’s ministry with the young rich man who approached Him with the question of how to obtain eternal life, whereupon the Lord answered him by saying it is by obedience to the commandments that we fundamentally obtain that gift. The young man replies by telling Jesus that he has done these things from his youth. Finally, the Savior extends yet a personal commandment to this young rich man to sell all of his great possessions, give of his wealth to the poor, and then to follow Him, whereupon the young man turned away sorrowful, because of his love for his earthly treasures (Matthew 19:16-21).

From this and other examples alike, the Lord has taught us:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men —Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-35

And thus we see how tightly knit our heart is to that which we treasure, whatever that my be. And thus the Lord admonishes us:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal —Matthew 6:19-20

So, knowing here that we are directly instructed by Jesus Himself, how do we lay up treasures for ourselves in Heaven? 

The answer to this question resides in yet another paradox of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is that as we give of our substance to the poor and the needy, together we all become recipients of greater blessings, not only in the temporal aspect, but also in things pertaining to our spirituality, including our final and eternal dwelling with God.

This paradox begins with the two “great commandments:”

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.—Matthew 22:37-39

In this same vein, a Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob, taught his people the following, beautifully tying in how the treasures of the earth are meant contribute to fulfilling the great commandments:

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. —Jacob 2:17-19

King Benjamin, another Book of Mormon prophet and king expounds upon this further in his final words to his beloved people:

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.

And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. —Mosiah 4:12-26

We can find various instances in the scriptures where this paradox or principle was put into practice. I invite you to pay particular attention to the outcome:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. —Acts 2:44-47

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. —Moses 7:18

This, my friends, is pure economics. It is also known as the divine law of consecration, established by God. How interesting it is that as we unitedly seek to build God’s kingdom in this way, and make all that is ordained and sactified by God our treasure here on earth, we defy greed, we defy selfishness, we defy pride, we defy and conquer the Evil One. And we all prosper in all things to the point that there are no poor among us. 

Let us learn throughout our lives to live this law, and “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order,” (Mosiah 4:27). May we find the courage and will to make truth our treasure, and thus setting our hearts on that which will never fail, is my humble hope and prayer.


Thief in the Night. Children of Light.

We currently live in the last days before the second appearance of Jesus Christ to all the world. Many of us may have mixed feelings about that day, or of the preceding times and seasons. After all, we read from the Holy Scriptures of perhaps disconcerting calamities and destruction that are to precede that day, which is also known as the Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord. So, it is understandable why we would have these mixed feelings of excitement for the Lord’s return and global rule in righteousness, but also fear of the calamities to come beforehand. However, a greater understanding of what the scriptures tell us further about the last days can offer those of us who seek to find ourselves on the right hand of God during that time some greater peace of mind.

First of all, we can acknowledge and identify the prophecies recorded regarding some of the signs that were to precede the Second Coming that have already been fulfilled. Some examples of such signs are wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against each other, and also natural disasters such as earthquakes and famines (Matthew 24:6-7). Christ Himself said of these things, “…but the end is not yet…All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Jesus also told His apostles that the gospel would be preached in all the World “as a witness unto all nations,” just before the end would come (Matthew 24:14). This effectively began with the “times of refreshing” as spoken of by Peter in which there would be a “restitution of all things,”  (Acts 3:19-21) also known today as the Resoration of the Gospel, by way of the prophet Joseph Smith. From the humble beginnings of the restored church of Jesus Christ, that same gospel today has been introduced to nearly every nation on earth, and by the miraculous power of God it will reach all people, even to the corners of the Earth. 

In parallel to this marvelous work of the gospel being preached in all the world, there will continue to be much tribulation in the world. Mens’ hearts shall fail them, and in a state of iniquity they shall rebel against God and grow in hatred towards one another (Matthew 24:9-12). Events will occur that will bring the great nations of the earth to their knees in utter destruction, anarchy and chaos (Isaiah 48-49; 2 Nephi 22). It is quite disconcerting to read the afflictions that will come upon mankind in those days. So, we might ask ourselves at this point, “What is to done that we may be spared of these calamities, or protected from them? Where or to whom can we turn for peace?”

Recall the words of Paul, the apostle, to the Thessolonian saints about the time in which we now live: 

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness (1Thessolonians 5:1-5).

There are many in the world today that aren’t aware of, disbelieve or even do not take interest in this particular subject, or even in religion at that. To them the end will come like Paul tells “as a thief in the night,” or rather surprisingly. How many of us today could say or think, considering how advanced our societies are in science and technology, that such a sudden, dramatic change could take place, or why it would? But the prophets and scriptures are very plain and clear that it will be so, and thus it will be upon these people, or in other words, the unprepared and wicked, that the calamities prophesied will fall.

Paul describes those of us who follow God and His Christ, both in faith and in works, as “the children of light” which implies that we will be able to see and recognize both temporally and spiritually the signs of the times. Paul then gives us a charge: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). So, here we learn that part of following God in this sense requires that we are watchful, and not passive. We cannot simply rely on God to just save us in a state of passiveness and ignorance. That is not, and never has been the pattern of divine deliverance. In order to become part of Israel, or the Lord’s people, we are required to be faithful to the gospel, watchful of the signs, and to prepare ourselves both temporally and spiritually. We must also follow and heed the council of the Lord’s anointed prophets.

In addition to his eloquent, messianical utterances and prophesies of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah speaks also of the divine deliverance of Israel, or the Lord’s people in the last days in many instances of his book found in the Old Testament. There he mentions the miraculous works that should be done among the Lord’s chosen people in these days and ultimately their divine deliverance from the destruction which is to come to the earth and its inhabitants. Nephi, another ancient prophet from the Book of Mormon, and his brother Jacob, expound upon his words in various incidents where they give us such clarification as this:

For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.

Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire (1Nephi 22:16-17).

Furthermore, in a revelation given to the prophet Joseph Smith regarding the saints in these the latter days, the Lord made this declaration:

I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear (Doctrine & Covenants 38:30).

We can and ought to prepare now while there is yet daylight left today, for “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). We should not pray to know what day the Day of the Lord will be, for it is written and given to us already that “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36). Rather, we should pray to know what we can do today in order for us to be numbered among Israel, or the Lord’s people whom He will protect and spare in that truly great and dreadful day. May we take time to consider these things, and plan our preparations. May we live and act in sobriety. May we be watchful, not only of the signs, but also of ourselves; our thoughts, words, and deeds. May we learn to have patience, long suffering and charity towards our fellow men. And finally, may we always remember our Lord and Savior, and turn to Him in these last days, that we may become His holy people and be delivered by His holy grace. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Intent

A benefit of writing is being able to go back and read what one has written. 

The things of which I have chosen to write are the things I consider to be the “weightier” matters of life, and the principles that, to me, have brought great joy, hope, and peace; and how I have personally learned of or from them.

Recently, as I have been reading several of my previous posts another life learned truth, one that is common among, and at the core of nearly all the things I have written, was made manifest — INTENT.

In most cases the single aspect that determines if an act is good or evil is our intent of that action. A prime scriptural example that comes first to my recollection is that of the hypocrites, of whom Christ spoke these words:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Despite the fact that these hypocrites did righteous acts, such as praying, and fasting, it was their intent that made them unacceptable to God. Consider Cain’s offering to the Lord in the Old Testament (Genesis 4:5-7; Moses 5:22-23). 

This, to me, is one of the most fundamental and freeing truths there is, and what I mean by that is freeing from the expectations or philosophies of the world, as well as those who are of this world. In this same vein as we learn and grow in our ability to base our words, thoughts, and actions upon righteousness, with an eye single to God and His glory, we obtain a profound peace and assurance; a confidence much too great to express with words, as Jesus also observes just after His teachings previously quoted:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

In order to ensure that our intent is right, we must learn to have our eye single to God, and His glory, and thus we cannot err. That is essentially how we become one with Him; making our will according to His will, and our mind as the Lord’s mind. As we strive and practice this, by asking ourselves in our choices and situations, that famous question: “What would Jesus do?”, and by praying unceasingly in the name of Christ, our minds and heart will turn to Him, and the Holy Ghost will show us all things that we must do, and write His commandments upon our hearts, to the point that we have no more disposition to do evil.


Fruits

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7:16-20).

There are three general lessons we can gain from understanding fruits. The focus of this article is upon these lessons.

The prophet, Joseph Smith, pretty well sums up the first lesson or principle as follows:

“God has set many signs on the earth, as well as in the heavens; for instance, the oak of the forest, the fruit of the tree, the herb of the field—all bear a sign that seed hath been planted there; for it is a decree of the Lord that every tree, plant, and herb bearing seed should bring forth of its kind, and cannot come forth after any other law or principle.”

This concept applies and follows in exactness to things like the choices we make and their subsequent associated consequences. The choice is like unto the seed that is planted, and the fruit of that choice is the inevitable consequence. Consider how this principle is set forth by the Lord in these scriptures:

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated (D&C 130:20).

I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise (D&C 82:10).

We’ve all heard the correlating phrase to this concept: “You reap what you sow.” Other scriptures that come to mind that further demonstrate this truth:

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:-16-23).

And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.

For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth (Alma 3:26-27).

These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.

And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.

Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?

O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all (Alma 41:7-15).

To solidify this concept in your mind I say again: we reap the fruits of the kind of choices we make.

The second lesson that we can learn from fruits is that they not only represent cause and effect, or obedience to consequence, but through that same principle the end fruits themselves become a means for us to make judgements, or discern between other fruits, as well as  between good or rotten ones. Remember Christ’s words in the primary scripture of this article: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Satan’s ultimate goal is to thwart God’s plan, or in other words, thwart us from being able to return to Father’s presence by leading us carefully astray. False doctrine, where the carnally attractive philosophies of men are mingled with truth, can be enough to slowly deviate us from the straight and narrow path, just as how a simple train switch can dramatically alter the end destination of a train, or how being even just a couple degrees off course can dramatically alter the destination of an aircraft. That is precisely why Jesus warned us against “false prophets” or false teachers previous to His teaching about the fruits:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).

As it is written in the scriptures, we were placed here on earth to act, not to be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:13-16). This ultimately means and refers to our ability to reason, and make decisions based on our reasoning; to be agents unto ourselves. With this ability to choose, which we refer to as agency, we are thus required to perform a type of analysis and judgement between differing choices or ways. We have already established the fact that once we choose one way or another and act accordingly, the consequences of our choice inevitably follow. This process, to a large degree, is the purpose of mortality, and is the test therein.

Fortunately, God has not left us alone nor unequipped for this critical task. We have all been given a great gift to help us correctly discern between right and wrong, and to make right choices. This gift is our conscience, or the light of Christ that is inherently in us. The ancient prophet, Mormon, instructs us about this gift, and how we can effectively use it, in the Book of Mormon:

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ (Moroni 7:15-19).

Furthermore, when we choose to be baptized, as the Lord Himself has shown us that we must do, we gain an even greater gift: the gift of the Holy Ghost who gives us further light and knowledge of truth, and personal direction in our daily lives if we but listen to His gentle whispers. This leads me to the third lesson we can gain from understanding fruits.

My grandfather Donnell Hunter taught me this lesson in a short sermon that he wrote. I conclude by quoting it directly as follows:

Near the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount the Savior said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

Many people use this scripture to judge the Church by the bad examples of some of its members. For some reason they discount the good examples of other members. This is like finding a rotten apple on a weak branch of the tree and judging the whole tree to be bad. What about all those good apples? Do we cut down the whole tree for producing one rotten apple?

In that vein it’s interesting how the Lord deals with his olive tree in the parable taught by Zenos [Jacob 5 —Book of Mormon]. When the Lord discovers his olive tree is starting to perish he doesn’t destroy the whole tree. Instead he finds a way to help the tree produce good fruit again. He takes cuttings and grafts them throughout his vineyard to see if they will take root and produce good fruit. Then he grafts cuttings from wild trees into the main tree to preserve its roots.

Later he finds that the branches he grafted throughout the vineyard have produced good fruit. One of them has two branches—one with good fruit and one with bad fruit. Instead of destroying this tree he leaves it, but with time the bad branch chokes out the good branch and the tree becomes totally corrupt. The other trees also produce good fruit at first but later begin to go wild until all the trees have gone bad. 

The mother tree once again produces good fruit through the strength of its roots. But it grows top heavy and is later encumbered by all kinds of fruit, none of it good.

In one last effort the Lord and his servants reverse the process. They cut out the worst branches of the mother tree and graft back in cuttings from the other trees that had descended from the original to see if that combination will once again produce good fruit. It does for a time, and the Lord harvests much good fruit until the end of the season, when the whole vineyard is finally destroyed.

So how does this relate to the Savior’s teaching that by their fruits shall you know them? He sees the possibilities in the whole vineyard. We see only a few twigs. Paul says, even then, we see through a glass, darkly. Mark Twain goes further and says we see through a glass eye, darkly. I think that’s what happens if we allow the failings of others to undermine our own testimonies of the truth and of the Gospel.

That’s also why we need to cultivate our own personal testimony, to see clearly and not rely on the borrowed light (or sometimes darkness) of others.


Ye Are the Salt of the Earth

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13).

What type of salt are you?

This saying of Jesus of Nazareth comes from His renowned Sermon on the Mount, of which the people there at the time that He delivered it were “astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29).

I also feel that same witness of Christ’s divine power and authority as I read these words in the New Testament.

The base idea of this simple parable is that we be true to our convictions, and to be truly converted. For, if we are not true to the convictions that we claim to be ours, it is for naught; good for nothing, and indeed we prove to ourselves and portray to others that they are, in all actuality, not our convictions at all, and therefore we have not become converted.

To me, this parable or comparison of us as the salt is also a symbol of our own individual or personal holiness, or sanctification, which ultimately lead to our level of conversion. The terms holy and sanctified are synonymous, and mean to be made or set apart; consecrated for a special or divine purpose. In many latin languages, the words holy and Saint are the same. That is interesting and significant to me, because it gives me a lens to view myself as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and by this I mean and include all of us who strive to become a true disciple or follower of our Beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, what is it exactly that we are to be separated from as we grow in our own personal holiness? The indirect answer to this question is found in what Jesus later taught in that same Sermon on the Mount:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

Holiness and sanctification come by seeking and serving God, and yielding our hearts unto Him (Helaman 3:35). Therefore, we are to separate ourselves from mammon, which means or refers to “the world”, or worldliness. 

We first begin this path by outwardly showing God that we covenant to follow Him through the ordinance of baptism, of which we are then promised the reception of the Holy Ghost; who in time sanctifies our hearts as if it were by fire. 

We further achieve this separation or sanctification by the Spirit when we do the will of God with a righteous intent or attitude. As the apostle James observes and encourages:

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:21-25).

This is effectively why the Lord has given us the charge and commandment to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), so that we may obtain this sanctification, and thus become more and more like Him, as well as lay hold upon every good thing.

Even more importantly is the attitude or intent that we do the will of God. As the prophet Mormon observes:

For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.

For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.

And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such (Moroni 7:5-9).

In conjunction with these thoughts, we become the good savory salt, and a “light on the hill” to those around us as we follow Paul’s counsel to Timothy:

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

By doing all of these things we will assuredly know and fulfill what James also taught:

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:17-18, 24, 26).

This teaching indeed falls directly in line with Christ’s salt example. It is by our works, or by our doing the Lord’s will that makes the difference of us becoming either the good savory salt of the earth, or the good for nothing salt that is cast out. 

Although this may seem as rather blunt, we may rest assured that our conversion is truly a lifelong process. It is not required, in fact impossible, that we be completely converted overnight. We must remember the that the true pattern of progression and conversion is from grace to grace, line upon line, and precept upon precept. 

We must also care enough, and listen to the Spirit as He gives us personal guidance and what I like to refer as personal commandments in our aid to become holy. You will find that the word of God extends beyond the general commandments given in scripture. Indeed we may receive personal commandments that are unique to us, just as the Savior imparted the personal commandment to the young rich man to sell all that he had and give to the poor, in addition to his obedience to the scriptural commandments since his youth in order for him to be perfect, and to gain eternal life. 

Our lives matter. We each and individually matter at least to God and Jesus if to no one else. We can make a difference in the world and in the lives of those we cross paths with. That impact will either be for good or for bad. Let it be for good. Now, may we find confidence in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in His infinite Atonement, to gain the faith and resolve to move forward on the path of holiness; that we may become truly converted to His gospel, and thus become the true salt of the earth.