Beneficial Fruit

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I was thinking today about the beginning of the Book of Mormon –  father and son prophets Lehi and Nephi travel to a land of promise with their large family.  The road is not easy.  Here are just some of the issues:

  • Return to Jerusalem twice (surely over a day’s journey) to get important things that they left behind
  • Robbed by Laman
  • Constant fighting and bickering
  • Broken bow in the wilderness (threat of starvation)
  • Camping in the wilderness.
  • Having children in the wilderness
  • Have to build a boat
  • Travel by boat to the new world
  • Build a home in a new, foreign land

Certainly they saw miracles (visions, revelations, angels, the liahona, women were able to have strength even while having babies in the wilderness) but it didn’t occur to me until today how much hard work and suffering they endured.  Surely a loving Heavenly Father could have had a boat waiting for them when they reached the land Bountiful!

But then we get down to the question of whether or not we want our children to walk or do we want to carry them in our arms for the rest of their lives?  When a toddler learns to walk, they will fall.  It will be a struggle.  When our children learn to tie their shoes, read, ice skate, bike, compete – whatever it may be, there will be difficultly.  Blood, sweat, tears, and more often than not,  pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental).  However, if we don’t let them struggle through, how will they ever learn to do anything?

Which brings me to this absolutely amazing quote that I recently found –

Easy things never produce much beneficial fruit. Neither our Father in Heaven nor His Holy Son take delight in seeing you struggle to overcome obstacles, resolve questions, or find solutions to complex and challenging problems. However, they do rejoice when you willingly recognize that these steps are steps to growth which lead to action that molds your character.

Elder Richard G. Scott, To Learn and to teach More Effectively, 21 August 2007 during BYU Campus Education Week.  (See full transcript here.)

Beneficial fruit.

Read this next and see how it fits in –

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.   If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15: 4-8).

And look at the scripture just a few verses before this last (John 15:2) –

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

“Easy things never produce much beneficial fruit.”  We want our children to succeed,  to be better than we were.  In a modern-day and age, with so many conveniences, that’s hard to do!  So pressure of a different kind has to be placed upon us.  Disease, death, difficulty, unemployment, heartache, temptation, trial, sorrow – trials carefully calculated to help us turn to the true vine, and through Him, do amazing things with our personal pathway.

Just look at the fruit that the Book of Mormon is bringing forth.  I know it’s changed my life, and I’m grateful that though they went through difficult circumstances, they left fruit that refreshes the soul and brings one closer to the Savior.  What a precious gift to give another – the best of oneself.  And only God, with His infinite power, knowledge and love for us as individuals, can help us become the best of ourselves and then, through His power and miracle, let those gifts that we’ve brought forth go forward to bless others.

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The Spirituality of Service

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda, Carl Bloch, 1883

In a lesson on Sunday, the teacher talked about service and then referenced a talk by Elder Derek A. Cuthbert entitled, “The Spirituality of Service” (Ensign, May 1990, 12) from which I will draw some ideas and the title of this post.

The main premise of the talk is this –

The Lord’s work is spiritual work. It relates to changing lives, developing true values, and overcoming worldly influences.

Service changes people. It refines, purifies, gives a finer perspective, and brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others’ needs ahead of our own. Righteous service is the expression of true charity, such as the Savior showed.

Elder Cuthbert listed ten ways in which service increases spirituality;

  • Service helps us establish true values and priorities by distinguishing between the worth of material things that pass, and those things of lasting, even eternal, value.
  • Service helps us establish a righteous tradition. I think that this is vital in the age of affluence that we live in.  Youth and children need to learn that self-indulgence is the oldest path to destruction.
  • Service helps us overcome selfishness and sin. “We have turned every one to his own way.” (Isa. 53:6.) In modern parlance, they “did their own thing,” whatever the adverse effect upon others.
  • Service helps to recompense for sin. The prophet Ezekiel explained this when he declared, “None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right.” (Ezek. 33:16.) Again, James taught that to “save a soul … shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20.) We can express regret and feel remorse for things done wrong, but full repentance should include recompense, such as service gives.
  • Service helps us generate love and appreciation.
  • Service is the principal way of showing gratitude to the Savior. “Inasmuch as [we] have done it unto one of the least of these [his] brethren, [we] have done it unto [Him].” (Matt. 25:40.)
  • Service channels our desires and energies into righteous activity.“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:26–27).
  • Service helps us cleanse ourselves and become purified and sanctified.
  • Charitable service helps us do as the Savior did. “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27), and again, “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (D&C 100:16).
  • Service helps us to get to know the Savior, for “how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?” (Mosiah 5:13)

A Confession –

I’ve always had a problem with traditional service.  Since I was a young girl, wonderful youth leaders set up “service opportunities” that were difficult for me.  On my mission, there were times that I felt guilty if I didn’t go tracting (going door-to-door to find persons interested in our message).  I listen to discussions on “community action” and “friends for change” and I shudder.

Then I feel guilty that I am not “healing the world”, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving the shirt off my back, or caring the way that others feel that I should be caring and pitching in.

But maybe, that’s because I wasn’t made for that kind of service.

Please understand me, I believe that all people should learn to serve, but I wonder sometimes, if our service is the right kind – the kind that the Lord would have us give.

A Mini Parable –

Tonight, I was preparing dinner.  My five-year-old wanted to help.  I got out some beautiful paper dolls and asked her to play with her two-year-old sister.  That would help me immensely as I got the rest of the dinner ready.

No, no, she wanted to set the table, and insisted on getting the china plates out herself.

But, I had made soup.

All I needed, the thing that would give me the most help, would be for her to play with her sister, so I could take care of everything else.

The role that I asked her to fill was one that fit her capabilities, would develop her talents, would help her learn to love her sister more, and would bless me by helping keep both of them happily occupied so that I could finish my work.

So, by not doing what I asked, she caused more work for me – I had to clean up the plates, re-set the table, comfort her sister, keep them both occupied, and, you guessed it, clean up the paper dolls.

Thoughts on Serving in the Lord’s way –

Several months ago we were singing, Because I Have Been Given Much, Hymn #219 and the phrase,  I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see, caught my attention.  Again, the guilt (as previously mentioned) set in –  I don’t go to the homeless shelter, we have very little money, I don’t have time to volunteer, thoughts ran through my head.

Then it occurred to me to think about the gifts that the Lord did give me, and whether or not I was sharing them.  A happy heart, smiles, faith, gospel knowledge, kindness, love. Yes, I had been sharing those.  Not perfectly, but I’ve tried.

The Savior said;  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

If I start to find out what the Lord would have me do to serve, utilizing my talents (which I am commanded to develop – D&C 60:13) and the abilities (time, resources, etc) that are at my disposal.  In this way I will not run faster than [I have] strength (Mosiah 4:27).

How do I find out what I need to do?  I pray.

For prayers to be efficacious, they must be in harmony with the plan of heaven. The prayer of faith bears fruit when such harmony exists, and this harmony exists when prayers are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit manifests what our petitions should be. 21 Absent this inspired guidance, we are inclined to “ask amiss,” 22 to seek only our will and not “Thy will.”23 (Bishop McMullin, Our Path of Duty, April 3, 2010)

In this way, I am doing the work that the Lord needs done, and it will bless both me, and those that I am prompted to serve.

When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.  (President Boyd K. Packer, The Power of the Priesthood, April 3, 2010).

I can’t do it all, but I can do some things well –

A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.  A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence. But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.  (Sister Beck, And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”, April 3, 2010)

I think it begins when I realize that there are times and seasons to do different types of service.

When I was a single seminary teacher, I was able to go to the Temple weekly.  Now, as a part time working wife and mother of two, I hardly have time to go to the temple.  But my service, those I’ve been called on to love and care for, are my husband and daughters.

I promised the Lord, that even when the service is hard, and even when I’m tired and don’t get a lot of “me time”, that I would find ways to give Christ-like love to them.  I promised to make my home a safe-haven, so that they can become beings of love and service as well.

As my children grow older, as circumstances in life improve, as I have more to give, I can go to the Lord and ask for more assignments.

Jesus Christ healed the sick because He had the power to do so.  He taught because He had studied the gospel, knew the revelations and was given the commission to teach.  He performed the Atonement and Resurrection because He was the only uniquely qualified Being to do that imperative work.  He understood His calling, prepared Himself and finished the work that He was called to do.

So maybe, I should find out what I need to do for Him and do it, realizing that (though it may not be what I think is necessary)  it will be unique and vital for me and it will serve His eternal purposes.

Time Dollars and Talents

Tonight we had a Family Home Evening on talents.  My babies are young – five and two, so FHE night has to be quick, fun, and entertaining.

I set up a display table with a bunch of items that one can use to develop talents; sporting equipment, books that I’m writing, a book on drawing, one on crafts, a book of Mormon in Bulgarian, etc.  That got the attention of the family!

We began by each sharing a talent – playing the piano, dancing and my husband sang.  Then I shared scriptures about talents, Doctrine and Covenants 60: 2, 13 (my five year old said that it meant that we needed to give our talents to Heavenly Father.  I liked that).

We acted out the parable of the talents Matthew 25: 15-29, in this case talking about talents not as money but as skills.  (I used colored pencils as the talents, the girls really loved it).

Then we wrote down the talents that we felt that we had been given from the Lord and the ones that we were going work on developing this week.

The idea that really stuck out to me was the end of verse 13 from the Doc & Cov scripture –  “Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.”

That got me thinking about a concept.  Several years ago, my cousin and I began to talk about the commodity of the eternities.  What will purchase the most after this life?  We discussed the fact that the thing that will “buy” us anything at all,  is the time that we spend here.

So we came up with the idea of time dollars.  Everyone is given the same amount of time dollars each day – to use as we see fit.  However, we are accountable for what we do with the time dollars.  Some spend them more wisely than others.  And, the way that we can make it back to live with our Heavenly Father again depends entirely on what activities we do with our time here.

I believe that one of the best things that we can spend our time on is in developing our talents.  Then we can “divide our gifts from [the Lord] with every brother that [we] see” (Hymn # 219 – Because I Have Been Given Much).

It also gives us joy when we use our talents, so why do we spend so much time in idle activities?  I’m trying to give up nasty time-sucking habits, and putting in their place the things that will help me feel better about myself and most importantly, those that will help me throughout the eternities.


Peace in Troubled Times

Mt Timpanogos Temple, American Fork, Ut.

One of the greatest gifts that the Holy Ghost gives us in these last days is peace in the middle of chaos and trouble.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”    John 14: 27

I’ve been learning (over the past few years) that everything that gives me a feeling of physical safety (jobs, people, possessions) can be taken away.   When it’s all gone, I continue to exist.  The challenge then is how to rebuild?  We  must rebuild, because life will go on.

Look for a moment at nature.  It continues to build around everything in the way.  After a fire, a forest will re-seed.  When a road is built, the water runs off of the road and gives water to the vegitation that thrives at the edges of the concrete.

Heavenly Father is that way too.  He seems to be able to take every bad situation and make something better out of it.  This is a talent I am trying to aquire!