Sunday, April 24, 2011


Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 22:36-40)

For more than forty years Amul had spent his days on this same hill with the sheep. Each morning he called them to the hills and each eventide he bedded them in the sheepfold. This morning’s sunrise had given no forewarning of the events which would fill this day’s hours. As always, some of the young lambs had bounced and frolicked away from the ewes. A tender crook had returned them to the safety of the flock and gently reminded them of the concerns of their shepherd who was ever diligent with his watching. Although it was somewhat unusual for the clouds to form this time of year, Amul, with little care guided his flock to the tender grasses of spring.

Life on the hills of Bethlehem had given Amul ample opportunity to sort through the puzzling mysteries of life. No longer did the uneasiness which had brought wonder and doubt during the passion driven era of his youth cause him to suffer the pangs of impatience about the many unanswered queries which filled his heart and mind. As the years passed his quests had little by little been changed by the putting on of a gentler nature. He spent the nights in the companionship of his beloved Sarah. Her love had come to be his comfort and a healing balm during the trials that on occasion beset them. His sons delighted in their studies and daily showed increased sensitivity to the teachings of Jehovah and Moses. Only the ancient Job could have enjoyed daughters of greater warmth and beauty than Anna and Elizabeth. His expectations of life had altered over the decades and he now desired only that he might be recognized as one who was a loving husband, a devoted father, one who served Jehovah through his just dealings in the market place and as a shepherd who dutifully tended his flocks.

As that day passed Amul’s concern grew to confusion as with each passing hour the skies darkened and the winds heightened. In such weather the sheep would normally be nervous and the hills would be filled with their anxious bleating. Strangely, this day as the tempest worsened, the flocks remained calm and grazed in tranquility.

Once before Amul had witnessed the wonders of heaven meet with the wonders of earth, on these very hills. When but a boy he had stood with his hand grasping that of his father, listening as the skies were filled with the sound of angels singing, proclaiming with anthemed voices that the Savior and Redeemer, prophesied of old, was to be born that night. Those wondrous sights, those wondrous sounds, though they had happened when he was still a boy and not as yet passed the rights of manhood, had so seared his heart that his mind was still emblazoned with the sight of the sheep lifting their heads to hear the heavenly voices.

That night Amul had attentively listened as his father related the scene to his mother and remembered him describing the cherished moment as one where he felt his body was filled with sweetness and love.

On this day the heavens seemed filled with anger and violence. But as he gazed on the sheep he witnessed that they were once again lifting their moistened heads as if waiting to hear a heaven-sent message. Then it happened, something eternal stirred deep within Amul’s soul and he sensed that the Savior born in Bethlehem was now showering mankind with His love by fulfilling the uttermost part of His earthly mission.

With bowed head Amul pondered the ancient words his father had taught him from the sacred scrolls. Peace filled his heart and as the storm raged, he lifted his head so that heaven-sent moisture filled his eyes. He then saw the whole, understood the purpose of eternity, and felt clean and pure. Then dropping to his knees, he bowed amid his flocks in reverent, thankful prayer as the sweet love of the Savior filled his soul.

Enos who had lived centuries before Amul and whose life was separated not only by time but also by a vast ocean described his own experience in these words:

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and cried in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I Enos knew that God could not lie; wherefore my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen… wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. And it came to pass when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren the Nephites…My faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites. (Enos 4-11)

From the testimonies of the centuries we learn that the natural result of having the sweet love of the Savior fill one’s heart, mind and soul will move them to place their feet upon the lane where love becomes the mover and mainstay of relationships.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Having determined to walk upon the path of happiness the Lord had mapped out in His teachings, having desired to adhere to His admonition of making love the foundation of his life, having found a degree of success in gaining a righteous self-love by peeling some of the sin laden layers of deception which cloud his understanding, having begun the journey leading to a greater understanding of his true identity, having been touched with the compelling love of the Savior moving him to desire the eternal welfare of his neighbor, the disciple of Christ is suddenly impacted with the understanding that as yet he had only been climbing small hills and was now faced with a seemingly insurmountable mountain.

The Lord points out the mini steps we have taken thus far in our journey in the following words:

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same. (Matthew 5:46)

The mighty challenge which yet faces us is given in His overwhelming proclamation:

And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven…But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (3 Nephi 12:43-45, Luke 6:35, 36)

As we immediately begin to excuse ourselves out of striving to be obedient to this mountainous command, believing that for humans the possibility of obedience to such an attribute as ‘loving one’s enemies’ is beyond comprehension let alone being able to actually relate to enemies in such an exalted manner, we are stopped in our rationalization when we encounter in the pages of the Book of Mormon an example of actual mere mortals fulfilling the call to this higher form of love.

Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni, the four sons of King Mosiah, who with Alma the Son of Alma experienced that wonderful transforming moment which led them to find their own righteous self-love, which drove them to love those who love them, one by one they denied to be anointed king by their father choosing instead to go among their enemies the Lamanites to preach the Savior’s Plan of Happiness.

After spending 14 years inviting the Lamanites to come unto Christ, after suffering threats to their lives, imprisonment, and every kind of difficulty Ammon gives us the following report about the mission of these four brothers.

I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice? Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell. Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled with the matchless bounty of his love; yea and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work. (Alma 26:11-15)

As we ponder this remarkable account we discover that as we venture forth upon the mountain, haltingly gaining ground on our ability to love those of our brothers and sisters who have been propagandized into being identified as our enemies, we gain clarity on three principles. First, as we attempt to help those who have been labeled as our enemies, our circle of love will grow and remarkably turn enemies into neighbors. Second, the strength of the Lord will come upon us as we begin to take a portion of His yoke, of bringing others closer to their eternal potential, upon our feeble shoulders. Third, 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)

Herein perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1 John 3:16-23)

I believe if I will but begin to put one foot in front of the other moving ever upward, this monstrous mountain of loving my enemies can also be conquered.

Scripture: Alma 16-26

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Enos, having freed himself of the burden of constantly worrying about his own progress and moved to having a righteous love and appreciation for who he was, turned his thoughts to the collective significant others who comprised his stewardship. As if by compulsion he implored the Lord to consider showering those to whom he had been anointed to serve with His blessings.

We see this same dramatic shift from self-absorbent concern over one’s personal progress to an overwhelming obsession for the advancement and welfare of others who fall in the realm of an anointed stewardship demonstrated in the life of Alma the son of Alma, later in the pages of the Book of Mormon.

Alma the son of Alma, having put away the rebellious ways of his youth and being no longer burdened with those self-love diminishing burdens which come as a natural result of one being weighed down with guilt and remorse because they have yielded to the vulnerabilities of the body and are living in conflict with their eternal spirit which was given life by a loving Heavenly Father; having done all in his power to bring himself to his eternal potential; having partaken of the life-changing Love of Christ which descends on one who is no longer blinded by the lust of the world; having received the enlightening love which allows one to think of his neighbor’s needs before his own; found himself driven by a desire to center his life in the work of God. Having found that the fullness of the Plan of Happiness is found in one’s life as they strive to help their neighbors find and walk upon the path established by a loving Heavenly Father, he went forth with a desire to help his neighbors make those shifts which would move them closer to fulfilling the purposes of their existence.

Like many who had gone through this transformation before, Alma the son of Alma went forth to hold up the everlasting light of Christ which had filled his soul. Willingly leaving behind his position as Chief Judge over all the land, suffering rejection and imprisonment, he went among the Nephites thinking mainly upon aiding his fellow countrymen to find the path which leads away from sin induced self-loathing and partake of the gift of righteous self-love and appreciation, which allows all who taste thereof to receive sufficiently of the Love of Christ, thereby, moving them to be concerned about the eternal welfare of their neighbors.

Almost as a reminder that we must always count the cost before embarking on any journey, we read of Alma the son of Alma going among his Nephite neighbors and finding joy as he witnessed many experiencing this marvelous change which had come upon him. Sadly, he also saw many reject the invitation to enter into the Lord’s way of happiness, whereby coming unto Him they would be recipients of His love, His peace and His rest.

The variableness of the results of Alma the son of Alma’s efforts has always been a powerful example to me and given me understanding and comfort that although he had been filled with the joy which comes when we see another move along love’s progressive path, his dedicated life also shows that in spite of his constancy he still had moments which filled his soul with despair. It seems that if he hadn’t gone through the change which came as a result of his leaving his old life and putting on the new he surely would have been one of those who ‘also went away.’

Two thoughts fill my mind as I ponder upon the history of Alma the son of Alma. First, the Lord will be with us as we labor diligently in his work. Second, the Lord will be with us when we stumble and falter and will lift us as He adds our yoke to His almighty shoulders. I securely feel that as we enter into His work his light will be there to help us see the next step which is to be taken, and His strength will be given so that we can be lifted sufficiently to see beyond the wall which we presently find blocking our way.

Although most of us will never be called to the stewardship of working with a whole nation or be asked to leave all and go forth to consecrate all our time to bring to pass the immortality and eternal lives of our neighbors, we have all been called to labor in some small part of the Lord’s vineyard and are asked to go forth with our might in our little corner of the field. My testimony continues to grow that as we unburden ourselves from the deceptions of the world and open ourselves to seeing more clearly who we really are and thereby gain the ability to receive the gift of a righteous self-love we will be astonished at how many neighbors the Lord brings to our corner to whom we will be able to offer our mite.

Scriptures: Mosiah 27, Alma 4-15

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

As I have pondered upon these poignant words of the Savior I have often asked myself the question, what is meant by these words of admonition given so long ago? I have come to be comfortable with the understanding that to love God is to make Him paramount in all my thoughts, all my words and all my works. As I have thought about what it means to love myself and my neighbor I have arrived at the conclusion that in both cases, love is truly given when I attempt to do all in my meager power to help in whatever way I can to move myself and my neighbor closer to eternal potential.

One of my favorite accounts of the process of the development of putting on the attribute of love in one’s life is found in the small book of Enos in the Book of Mormon. I have often left the reading of Enos’ account wondering about the years preceding the account we find on the few pages he recorded. I am sure he was well tutored by loving parents and went through many trials leading up to the days he relates in this short account. He obviously had progressed to the point where his father Jacob felt secure in anointing him to be the spiritual leader of the Nephite people.

Therefore, although Enos had been taught and schooled at the feet of a prophet of God, evidently he, like most of us, had heard the words, but as yet the real meaning had not sunk deep into his heart. When his father Jacob placed upon him the responsibilities of keeping the sacred records and caring for the Church, Enos felt a great need to receive the assurance that his past transgressions had indeed been forgiven and he was acceptable in the sight of the Lord as well as his father. Enos, having done all in his power to bring himself to his eternal potential, prayed all day and into the night, after which the Lord revealed to him that his sins had been washed away and he need have no fear in going forth to do the work to which he had been anointed.

I don’t find it the least bit surprising that once Enos had received the assurance of his worthiness he stepped forward to speak with the Lord on behalf of his fellowmen. Is it possible that we are born with a built in switch which gives us the ability to stand for righteousness with boldness if we can find the strength to move the switch? Is it possible that this same switch allows us to understand and appreciate ourselves as an offspring of Deity and we begin to act as such? Is it possible the activation of this switch allows us to more fully accept and appreciate ourselves as an important part of God’s purposes? Is it possible that by flipping this switch that righteous self-appreciation is turned on? Is it possible that the moving of this switch takes away the loathing we might have felt because of yielding to our weaknesses and we begin to love what we are becoming as a converted Son or Daughter of God?

I will always read Enos’ testimony, not as a solitary moment in his mortal passage, but as the moment where the collective experience of his journey came to fruition and the switch from what he was, was changed to what he was to be and he at last was moved to seriously walk the path he was sent to travel.

Many times as we attempt to move the switch we find the difficulty overwhelming and are stifled before we have finished the task. While the switch remains unmoved we remain forever stuck in a self-imposed limbo of treading in a never ending circle or returning again and again along the same ground. We seem to touch the straight and narrow only occasionally as we go from one fanatic burst of attempting immediate perfection or are moving in a downward thrust toward miserable depths. In reality, the switch only seems to move when through faith we believe and accept the Atonement of Jesus the Christ, place our feet firmly on the path leading unto Eternal Life and faithfully press forward putting off the natural man and having yielded our lives to the Spirit.

I believe that on that fateful day in the forest Enos successfully moved the switch and was then able to unhaltingly dedicate himself to doing that which was good. The wonderful bonus of having thrown the switch is that Enos could now in all humility appreciate the grandeur and wonder of himself as a child of God.

I believe that all other types of self-aggrandizements are counterfeit and will have dramatic falls, often before the sun has sunk below the horizon. The only love of self that will ever have permanence and can in the least way be considered righteous is that love which comes into one’s life when they have moved the switch from a self-indulging life, to a life of fulfilling the purposes for which they were sent to earth. Changing from one who is forever trying to add to their personal pile of tomorrow’s trash and switching to a life which is filled with trying to do the work of God by helping in some way to bring to pass their own immortality and eternal life as well as that of their brothers and sisters.

On that wonderful day Enos righteously made himself one of the neighbors who he was commanded to love, overcame many of life’s shortcomings, at last came to that place in life where he could have unfaltering respect for who he was and unconditionally love that new creature in Christ he was becoming.