Nephi’s 4 steps to receiving revelation

Nephi’s 4 steps to receiving revelation

In 1 Nephi Chapter 11, Nephi explains a pretty amazing vision that he had, where he saw the virgin Mary, baby Jesus, Christ’s ministry, the vision of the tree of life, Christ’s crucifixion, Christ’s visit to the Americas, and had a Q&A session with the Holy Ghost. Pretty amazing, as far as revelations go. Verse 1 gives us the roadmap he followed to get there:

“For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.”

Did you catch the 4 steps? Here’s what I saw:

  1. Desire to know something (and be humble enough to admit it when you don’t know something–see 1 Nephi 11:17)
  2. Believe that the Lord can make it known unto you
  3. Take time to ponder
  4. Allow yourself the time, space, and state of mind to be caught away in the Spirit of the Lord.

There are numerous references in Chapter 11 to desire and belief, but I think the last 2 steps are equally important. We need to create the space to ponder and be ready for the Lord to speak to us. What can we take out of our lives to create that space?

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Why pray?

Why pray?

So, when turning to the scriptures to find and get answers to our questions, what role should prayer play? How can we ensure that we are involving God appropriately into the equation, so it’s not just an intellectual exercise to study the scriptures, but a spiritual one? The scriptures that tell us to ask and we shall receive, who are we asking? Are we asking the scriptures, or are we asking God? How do we structure that conversation?

I’ll admit, my prayers are not as sincere right now as they have been in the past. I find myself often turning to the same phrases that I’ve said many times, and not really thinking about what I’m saying.

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with repeating the same thing every day, as long as it isn’t vain, right? But what does vain mean? One definition is “having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment”. So a vain repetition is to repeat something without it meaning anything. If I pray for something and I really mean it, it doesn’t matter if I said the same prayer yesterday or 2 minutes ago. I just need to say prayers with meaning.

So, how do we say prayers with meaning? There are probably lots of ways, and I encourage you to write your thoughts in the comments. Here are some ideas that I’ve had as I’ve pondered the subject:

  • Remove formality. Make your language as regular as possible. Act like God is in the room with you, and you are having a conversation.
  • Listen. If you are having a conversation, and especially if you are asking questions, take the time to listen.
  • Think about what you’re saying. When giving prayers in public, we might feel a little uncomfortable if a person pauses to find their next words. Why should that make us uncomfortable. Isn’t that the essence of praying?
  • Pause. Try throwing in pauses into your prayers. At least one pause per prayer. It could be a pause to listen, a pause to think about what to say next, or a pause for the sake of stillness, or to feel the presence of your maker. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
  • Keep the conversation going. God asked us to “pray always”. I believe that means that we can talk to God in many different ways. We can think questions to him at any time, whether or not our eyes are closed. One of my favorite prayer activities is to try to converse with God throughout the day, about as many things as possible. Ask Him questions, tell Him what you are thinking, all throughout the day. This can bring so much spiritual closeness.

Prayer is an essential part of scripture study and spiritual development. We must take things to the Lord, and we must constantly look for ways to improve the way we communicate with God. As we look for ways to add meaning to our prayers and communication with God, he will guide us to the questions and answers that we should be seeking, whether through the scriptures or some other way.

The most inspiring speech I’ve heard in years

I went to a networking event for work. There’s no way I could have imagined such an impactful evening.

First, a few notes about the organization that hosted the event. It’s a charity called “Legal Services for Children” (http://www.lsc-sf.org/). Their name pretty much sums it up, but this is an organization that helps kids get access to legal services. A common example is to help kids who were brought over to the US illegally, grew up in the US, and then get faced with deportation. There were some very special stories about how lawyers have not only helped their clients with little access to representation, but have loved and helped children in a very vulnerable situation to overcome a number of challenges.

The keynote speaker was amazing. He was the oldest of 3? children, and spent his youth either homeless or in foster care. Grand Central Station in NYC was the place he slept the most growing up. He had some pretty incredible and heart wrenching stories about his early years.

His name is David Ambroz. He is now the Executive Director of Corporate Citizenship & Social Responsibility at Disney | ABC Television Group. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget his message about foster care. He said that he penned the first three words of this public service announcement while thinking of his foster siblings.

 

I love this ad. It humanizes foster care. It inspires the right kind of people to take the right kinds of actions to help those who really need it. Check out http://fostermore.org/

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

The case for writing

Why should we write?

Writing is a way of formalizing our thinking. Writing is an art of creation. When you write, you are making something, and creation is what we are designed to do.

Jesus gave a chilling rebuke to the Nephites, when after reviewing their records, “Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing?” (3 Nephi 23:11)

When God gives something to us, how can we show that we value it?

We can remember

We can write

We can act

Writing is a form of action, which also helps us remember. The beauty of writing on a blog is that what God has taught someone can be used to teach someone else.

The only things we know about Christ are the things that were written.

Where are you writing the lessons that God is teaching you?

What’s more important, the question or the answer?

What’s more important, the question or the answer?

Questions are the beginning of a journey. They are portals leading you to the adventure of seeking an answer. Once you get the answer, the quest is over, unless you’ve been able to uncover more questions along the way. If you feel like you have all the answers, you are deprived of the action of looking for them. It’s like downhill skiing. What part of skiing is the most fun? The journey, or arriving at the bottom?

Yes, answers are important, but even more so are the questions. What do the scriptures tell us about asking questions?

“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). Who doesn’t lack wisdom? Shouldn’t we all be constantly looking for questions that we can ask God, so that he can give wisdom to us liberally?

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7)

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.” (2 Nephi 32:4)

“If ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)

How many revelations were received by someone who had all the answers? Why would God waste his time giving revelations to people who aren’t looking for then.

When studying the scriptures, or anything, it’s imperative to continue to look for the questions. Questions expand and focus the mind.

This blog post originated from a question. I recently spoke to my dad about scripture reading. I said something along the lines of “How do I get engaged in scripture reading again? When I open the scriptures, I can’t help but feel bored. This is completely new to me. I’ve always had such a strong witness of the importance of daily scripture reading, but I’m just not feeling it right now. What suggestions do you have?”

I don’t remember everything that we discussed, but here are a few things that I learned. It all started with having the humility to ask a very honest question that I had been afraid to vocalize.

  1. Reading chronologically at a normal pace isn’t going to cut it for me anymore. While I haven’t memorized the scriptures, I’ve certainly read them many times, and it’s just too hard for me to get anything significant by re-reading the stories.
  2. I need to ask questions while I read
  3. I can’t read the scriptures on my kindle, standing on the train, after an intense day at work, and expect too much from the exercise. I have to put a little more into my reading than that.
  4. I need to write something to help engage my brain.

As a matter of fact, that last point is why I’m writing this post. I had thought that I’d be writing a very eloquent post once a week, but that’s just too much of a barrier for me. I’m going to try starting my daily blog again, but this time focus on my spiritual learning exclusively. Daily blogging is just easier than any other frequency. Sure, the messages will not be as meaty as they could be, but it’s the surest way to keep me accountable, and keep the momentum going. It’s how I plan to get more out of my personal scripture study.

What do you do to get the most out of your scripture reading? What questions are you seeking answers to? If you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love it if you could post  it in the comments.

Do you live next door to a refugee?

Do you live next door to a refugee?

Just under 2 months ago, I returned to the United States after living in a developing country for two years. It has been an interesting experience, and reverse culture shock has taken forms that I did not expect.

One feeling that I’ve had a lot is that I live such a comfortable life. So many of us in the United States and developed world live an incredibly comfortable life. I don’t want to get too used to that. I don’t want to forget that there are billions of people out there struggling for life’s basic necessities: food, water, shelter, safety. And I don’t want my kids to forget that either.

My wife and I have been struggling with these uncomfortable feelings. We’ve been trying to figure out a way that we can adjust to life, but not forget the outside world. Most of all, we’ve been trying to figure out what we can do to help.

On Sunday, we received an answer to our prayers. It came through the words of Patrick Kearon, who explained in great detail the plight of refugees, and the importance of getting involved. It was an electrifying moment. My wife and I both felt that this would become a new focus for us. We will help refugees.

Right now, I don’t know all the what or the how, but I know the why, which is more important. I will help refugees because:

  • Refugees are innocent victims.
  • I know what it feels like to arrive in a new country with no friends.
  • It’s a way to help reduce the impact of global human suffering without having to leave home.
  • I feel that God wants me to help refugees.
  • Many refugees have lived through some awful stuff.
  • Connecting with refugees and hearing the stories will help me and my family remain connected to world events in a very personal way.
  • It feels like the right thing to do.
  • Because I want to reduce the distance between myself and those I serve.
  • My next door neighbor might be a refugee.

If you want to be inspired, listen to this talk by Patrick Kearon.

If you want some ideas of how you can help, visit this page, and scroll down to the “Getting Involved” heading.

If you have ideas of how I can help refugees, post them in the comments.

Why worry?

I just heard someone say they stopped worrying years ago. What a great idea!

What is worrying? My own definition would go something like this: It is thinking about or dwelling on potential negative outcomes. Or, it is fearing something that might happen in the future.

What does worrying accomplish? Nothing

That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for and prepare for the future, but it does mean that we should stop visualizing negative outcomes. Not only does worrying make the present moment less enjoyable, the possible negative outcomes become even more likely to occur.

For example, Think of a sports team that constantly worries about how good the other team is, and how bad it would be to lose. How does that impact the outcomes?
So, as the wise Bob Marley once said, “Don’t worry ’bout a thing”. Even though every little thing may not be all right, worrying isn’t going to help us at all.