Sunday, April 26, 2015


It would be hard for me to put a date on when I became aware of self-ness. But then, I find it more difficult with each passing year to correlate dates and events in my life. This could be an introduction to the importance of keeping a journal or at least the importance of dating and labeling pictures. But alas, I will be writing about a much different subject this week.

I know that there were many writers who referred to the 1980’s as the ME DECADE, but since my siblings had referred to me as being spoiled, selfish and self-centered long before that, I am sure I had had thoughts about self-ness previously.

But by the time the ME DECADE came along and I was personally in my fourth decade of mortality, I was well aware of the contagious malady which seems to infect all of us at times and was contaminating most of society during that era.

In the work place, loyalty to ‘the man’ had been replaced by a ‘show me the money’ philosophy.
In marital relationships, ‘co-dependence’ was looked on as an evil and damaging hindrance to ‘personal fulfillment.’

Charity, an age old ‘accountability for the welfare of others’, was replaced with an ever expanding population of ‘homeless.’

In families where ‘blood had always been considered to be thicker than water’ more and more of the world’s population, found themselves trapped in houses surrounded by ‘dysfunctional individuals.’

It seemed that everything we heard and saw provided a mounting pile of evidence of the importance of developing a ‘Me First’ philosophy.

As radio talk shows became increasingly popular, we heard constant counsel given to a steady stream of callers that our main concern should always be that our own personal needs, wants and happiness were paramount above those of all others.

The message of the majority of the popular music of the day almost universally spoke to the theme that each of us needs to get what we want regardless of what price we or others might have to pay.

The shelves of book stores, (can you imagine a day when EBooks didn't exist?) were filled and authors were becoming wealthy as they spewed forth the tenets of the doctrine of ‘How to get yours’.

When I was in my sixth year of mortal life my mother gave birth to brother who was to be called Fred, a son who would bear my father’s name. Fred only bore that name in mortality for eight days and then he made his journey back to live with his Heavenly Family. On special occasions and in certain circumstances

I have been struck with nostalgic thoughts of what it might have been like to have shared my formative years with a younger brother.

One of those nostalgic whisperings came upon me when I was reading the account of those two ancient brothers Cain and Abel. As I was reading that account of an older brother whose life was dominated and controlled by ‘Me-ism’ and ‘Self-ness,’ I wondered if I would have been the ‘Cain’ in the life of the ‘Abel’ in my life. I wondered how I would have answered the Lord’s question if He were to have addressed me with the query, ‘Where is thy brother?’

Very little time would have to be spent in my company, witnessing the interactions I have with the eternal brothers and sisters I brush shoulders with during my daily walk, before it would become pretty obvious what kind of an older brother I would have been to Fred.

As I go to and fro in the ‘daily grind,’ do my interactions and feelings about my eternal brothers’ and sisters’ rise and fall depending on their political affiliations or the propaganda which might be labeling their names as good or evil on the nightly news, or have I come to value the Eternal Relationships over societal expediencies?

Are my abilities to be charitable governed by worthiness of the recipient, or has stewardship replaced self-ness sufficiently in my makeup to compel me towards random compassionate acts of kindness and giving?

Am I so possessive of my talents and abilities, that I feel they should only be used to garner honor and prizes unto myself or have I been consumed with that ‘magnificent obsession’ which consumes me with a desire to ‘take from my meager pile’ and add to that of my Eternal brothers and sisters so that we might all live in a world which is just a little brighter and more beautiful because I was willing to share?

In my familial relationships, am I striving to serve rather than to be served, to love rather than to be loved and to nourish rather than be nourished?

We can only pray, that after we daily brush shoulders with the numerous Abel’s and Sarah’s who surround us and then when we nightly kneel to report to our Lord, that we will be able to joyously exclaim that this day we have indeed been our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The fundamentals of the doctrine of Grace are fairly easy to identify:

Belief in the existence of Deity

Deity dwelt as Man on earth

Jesus the Christ is that Deity

Through Divine means, power and bounteous mercy, Jesus the Christ can cause men to overcome their natures and be transformed.

Everyone must find their garden where they can commit to allowing this transformation to take place.

And it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoke to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words when he had spoken. And they cried with one voice: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has WROUGHT a mighty change in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5: 1, 2)

The question which seems to pop over the horizon immediately is, how do I find that garden and how do I know if I have been changed by the grace of Jesus the Christ?

I have come to believe, that there is not a single garden, but like mansions, one has been prepared for each of us. If so, it would be silly to spend a lot of time talking about a neighbor’s garden when in might not bring satisfaction to anyone but them.

However, there are some indications which the Lord has given us about what our life will be like once we have basked in our garden.

If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15: 10, 11)

A rule of thumb seems to be that if my joy has not become full and I do not abide in the love of Christ through the gift of His grace having filled my being, then perhaps I as yet haven't paid the price to find my garden.

As the Savior continued to speak to his disciples it becomes evident that once having been touched by this grace, I should, or better said, I will then become committed to helping others find love and joy by discovering their gardens.

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15: 12)

It seems that one of the signs that the grace of Christ has filled us with joy and love is the demonstration of our gratitude by inviting others to experience the same fulfilling joy and love.

For this cause we also , since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son. (Colossians 1: 9-13)

As we examine the after garden lives of such men as Augustine and Paul we find some interesting correlations in their lives which manifest the depth and sincerity of the change which the Grace of the Son of God has wrought upon them.

They become committed to lives which continually demonstrate their gratitude to the Lord.

They go beyond an emotional verbal commitment of their beliefs, to lives of works and actions which better the spiritual and physical conditions of those they encounter.

They submit their own will to the will of Him whose grace filled them with joy and love.

They abandon the propensity which we all have to keep score and compare crosses.

They willingly take the charge of becoming obsessed with this magnificent challenge.

There may not be more important words than the prophet Nephi wrote in his later years: For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

Sunday, April 12, 2015


It may have been that the teaching experiences I had while serving on my mission in Mexico as a young man were too easy and too free of contention. Because when Kathleen and I were involved with the teaching of the restored gospel to our friends the Beattys, there arose an abundance of discord in the process.

I hasten to say that it was not the Beattys who were contentious, but some well-meaning friends from their previous church who felt a need to attend a few of the discussions and put forth challenges whether they were needed or not.

Interestingly, after their baptism Bruce Beatty confided with me that one of the reasons he and his wife had been moved to pray about the truthfulness of the gospel which had been restored through Joseph Smith was the difference in the demeanor which accompanied the teaching of the principles which Kathleen and I brought forth and those which came from their friends who were trying to save them from ‘the worst decision they could possibly make’.

Before pursuing the main ideas of this week’s Thought, I want to relate some of the events which led to the conversion of Augustine, he who is most often referred to as Saint Augustine. What follows is taken from History of Christianity by LaTourette and Augustine’s own work, Confessions.

As a youth Augustine was given Christian instruction. His father was a pagan and did not receive baptism until he was on his death bed. His mother did not have Augustine baptized because, accepting the belief that baptism washed away sin committed before it was administered, she wished him to defer it until after the heat of youth was passed and with it the excesses of that ardent age.

In his teens he took a concubine, who, before he was eighteen, bore him a son. Dissatisfied with his inherited faith, he tried Manichaeism, but he later abandoned it for the study of Neoplatonism.

At the age of thirty he went to Milan where he came under the influence of Ambrose who guided him to Christianity. His friends persuaded him to give up his concubine, with whom he had lived for eighteen years, and encouraged him to marry a young Christian girl.

While awaiting marriage, he took another concubine. Interestingly, during his early efforts to overcome the needs of the flesh, he prayed, ‘Give me chastity and continency, only not yet’.

Suffering from conscious moral self-disgust because of his inability to control his sexual desires, he rushed into the solitude of a garden to be alone with his struggles. In desperation he cried out to God:

“How long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry, forever? Remember not our former iniquities… So I was speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice… chanting, and oft repeating, ‘Take up and read; take up and read.’ Instantly my countenance altered… I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find… I seized, opened, and in silence read that section, on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 13: 13, 14) No further could I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

Influenced by his conversion experience, he came to the conclusion that man was totally impotent to effect any change in his behavior without the grace of Christ Jesus.

In the process of likening all things unto ourselves we often discover some interesting truths.

From the experience with the Beattys I came to the realization, that having been born, as was Nephi of old, of goodly parents who taught me in my youth, I had never learned the sweetness of the gospel by being able to compare it to bitter voices.

I was soon satisfied that a contrary influence into the process of conversion was not an essential element. In fact the scriptures seem to overwhelmingly confirm that our efforts should be concentrated on sincere seeking and avoidance of contention with others.

However, and probably even more importantly, when I became acquainted with the teachings of Augustine, I had to ask myself the source and power of my belief. Likewise, I had to wonder if the testimony I had was sufficient, since I wasn't sure my behavior had been dramatically altered.

Had I had that change described by the apostle Paul when he wrote to Timothy?

According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Timothy 1: 11-16)

What was the pattern of my belief:

Did I believe because of the influence of my parents?

Did I believe because it was comforting and provided a very peaceful life?

Did I believe because the great majority of my social structure centered on my belief?

Did I believe and was my life different because of the consuming grace of Christ Jesus?

Even a cursory investigation of the first three queries immediately led to the obvious conclusion. These influences had definitely had their impact on who I am and who I am becoming.

However, I was soon to discover that the investigation of the latter, of the assisting grace from Christ, would require a lengthy study and tremendous effort.

(To be continued)