A Come Follow Me Pattern

“In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become”)


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Do you often drive to work the same way? Are there restaurants you usually eat at or do you follow a similar pattern around the grocery store? It’s because we usually like patterns. They establish our understanding of “the way things are.” The scriptures are full of patterns. God and His prophets teach us the “patterns” we can follow to happiness, peace, and eternal life.

I’ve noticed an early pattern in my study of Come Follow Me.

The pattern started in John 1:12.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

But wait, aren’t we already children of God? Why does this verse talk about becoming the “sons of God”?

This is the pattern. In the early teaching of the Savior he is trying to lift our thinking from earthly and temporal things to spiritual and eternal ideas. Yes, we are all children of God in the sense that we are spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother. We can sing “I am a child of God” with power and confidence.

We are also spiritual beings and as spirits we have to choose where how we want to grow and develop. Look at the first part of verse 12, “as many as received him.” Only those that choose to receive the Savior receive the “power to become.” That is a choice we made at baptism to follow the Savior and that is repeated every time we choose to keep God’s commandments.

John wasn’t talking just about the here and now. The physical existence of God and our relationship to Him as children of God. He was talking spiritually and eternally. Lifting our thinking to a higher level.

A pattern is more than one thing.

To be a pattern, this teaching (lifting our thinking to a higher level) should be repeated. And, John repeats it frequently in his early teaching.

John 3 starts with Nicodemus coming to the Savior and being taught this same pattern.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The Savior teaches a clear principle about our need to change spiritually and uses being born as the analogy. But Nicodemus doesn’t quite get it. His thinking is still here and now. Physical and temporal. How can we possibly be born again when we are old and fully grown?

Verse 5 is the pattern. Instead of thinking here and now, physical and temporal, Jesus wants us to think spiritual and eternal. Think big. Think the length of eternity. He isn’t talking about physically being reborn, he’s talking about being born of the Spirit. A spiritual transformation that has to happen for all of us.

The pattern continues.

We aren’t don’t yet! Look at a few verses from there in John 3:14-15

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Moses was physical and temporal. He had a snake that would heal people of their physical ailments. But the Savior is more than that. He is being lifted up not to heal our physical ailments but to save us in our spiritual and eternal challenge of sin. Eternal life is the promise of verse 15. Moses gave them temporal. Jesus gives us eternal.

More of the pattern.

John 3:16 is possibly the most famous verse in all of scripture.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The final promise of this verse is the same. Everlasting life. The mission and teaching of the Savior are not just for the here and now, they are designed to save us eternally and give us everlasting life.

One more time with this pattern thing

John gives us one more example of the pattern in John 4:10-15. After asking the Samaritan woman for water, He begins to teach her—yep, you guessed it—about lifting her thinking from here and now, temporal and temporary to spiritual and eternal.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jesus is talking about spiritual and eternal things here).

The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? (She is focused on physical. How can he physically draw the water?)

Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Spiritual water, eternal life.)

 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (She is still focused on physical things. How can she get this water so she doesn’t need to come to well anymore?!)

In multiple one on one conversations with people Jesus is working to lift their thinking to a higher level. Don’t just think about here and now. Don’t just think about temporal and physical things. Focus on the eternal. Focus on the spiritual.

Eternal growth. Spiritual growth.

I wonder if the Savior came and talked to me today. Would He remind me to stop focusing so much on the here and now? The temporal and temporary? Would He show me the same pattern of lifting my thinking to a higher, spiritual way of thinking?

Is that what He might do with you?

What repentance means

Too often we think of repentance as something miserable and depressing. But God’s plan is the plan of happiness, not the plan of misery! Repentance is uplifting and ennobling. (Stephen W. Owen, “Repentance is Always Positive”)


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As a young Boy Scout our troop was going to go on a week-long backpacking trip as part of an Eagle Scout project. It was my first time packing for a campout where you had to pack all your things in. I had the idea that I needed to pack less than I would normally take on a campout, but I did a really poor job of actually cutting anything out! By the time I was done my pack was WAY too heavy for my little 12-year-old body!

The weight of it was a real problem. There was one leader that was convinced I would not survive the 3.5-mile hike with that pack on my back. We tried to take some things out that I wouldn’t need and, in the end, he decided that the only way it was going to work was for him to carry my pack for me. (He wasn’t staying, just walking up the path, helping us get set up and leaving, so he didn’t have his own pack.)

I’ve thought about that a lot since then. Someone lifting the weight off of my shoulders that I couldn’t carry myself. I needed it then. I need that more now. Now I need the weight of sin and grief lifted off by the Savior.

God lifts off the weight

David knew about the strength that came from feeling that weight come off His shoulders. He said in Psalms 32:

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

There is a peace and “blessed”-ness in giving up our sins to God. In choosing to open up to Him, let Him in our lives and allow Him to take our sins away from us. David had learned about trying to hide his sins. He had tried to cover up things himself…and it got a lot worse! (Study the story of Bathsheba and Uriah)

In verse 5 he was taking a different path! In verse 5 he had learned that repentance is the best way to get to blessed! He decided to not hide from God but to confess and receive the blessed forgiveness God is anxious to give us.

God wants to forgive you.

John reminded us that God is anxiously waiting to forgive us in 1 John 1:

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Isaiah taught the same principle in Isaiah 1:

18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

And in our modern day the Lord promised us in D&C 58:

42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

There is no reason to keep walking up the path of your life with the pack on your back that is too heavy. There is no need to keep struggling when there is eternal love, grace, kindness, and compassion waiting to help you lift the pack you are carrying.

There is so much hope in the words of Elder Own in October 2017 conference that I quoted at the beginning. Here is more of what he said,

“We can try to change our behavior on our own, but only the Savior can remove our stains and lift our burdens, enabling us to pursue the path of obedience with confidence and strength. The joy of repentance is more than the joy of living a decent life. It’s the joy of forgiveness, of being clean again, and of drawing closer to God. Once you’ve experienced that joy, no lesser substitute will do.” (Stephen W. Owen, “Repentance is Always Positive”)

This week, take off the pack and hand it to Jesus. Let him carry the pain and the hurt. He’s already paid the price and is anxious to take that pack off your back and carry it for you.

Feel that happiness and relief today.

God wants to be in your circle

Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn) So, who are these people in your life?

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As you know, cell phone plans haven’t always been as wonderful as they are now. I had a plan at one time where I got unlimited calling to 5 people. I had to select my “circle” of 5 people and I could call them with unlimited minutes. You had to be very smart in who you put in those 5 slots because all the other calls cost you the few minutes that you had on your calling program.

The marketing slogan for this plan was, “Who is in your circle?” We have to answer the same thing today.

The Savior taught how close He wants His relationship with us to be in John 17.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

God wants to be in your circle!

The plan for God is to be very close to you. Part of why he wants this close relationship is taught in the next verse in John 17

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Jesus points out two reasons He wants to be close to you. The first is that this is the process by which we are made perfect. Moroni taught us in Moroni 10,

Come unto Christ and be perfected in him…by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ… ye become holy, without spot.

It is only through coming closer to Christ that we can become perfect.

The second reason Christ wants to be in your life is so that we can know that God “hast loved [us], as [God] hast loved [Christ].”

I find that so amazing! God wants to be in your life so that you know you are loved. The God of the whole universe wants you to know that you are loved. If you aren’t feeling that today, remember that God is waiting anxiously to get into your life and help you feel that you are loved.

In addition to loving and helping us grow to perfection God taught us another aspect of Him being in our lives in D&C 68:6

Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.

Those are key words: will stand by you. God wants to be with you, to be in your circle because He knows that He can be there to support you like no one else can. He can help you through whatever you are facing. He is our Rock and our Support.

As the Lord reminded Joseph Smith,

Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122:9)

God wants to be with you so you feel His love. He wants to be with you so you can be supported as God stands by you. And don’t worry, He’s not going anywhere. God will be with you forever and ever.

Spend this week making sure that God is in your circle. Make sure you are as close to Him as you can get. Live your life to be one with the Savior, feel His forever love and support.

How pride hurts progress

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“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Will Within”)

 Looking back, I am quite embarrassed to admit that as a 19-year-old just about to go on my mission I thought I had pretty much conquered all the trials and challenges God could throw at me. I remember thinking that when I left on my mission I was in the best spiritual condition of my life and I was certain that there wasn’t anything that could possibly come in my life that I couldn’t handle—nearly perfectly.

I had no idea! I could never have imagined the stretching and growing I would need to still experience. My fear now is that 20 years from now I will look back at this time and shake my head in wonder at all the stretching and growing I still have to go through!

The key is that growth can never stop. As soon as it does, pride sets in and then we are in real spiritual trouble.

There is an interesting set of verses in Alma that show the difference between those that grow and those that get stopped in pride.

Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.

Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;

Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death. (Alma 4:12-14)

When you look at the end of these verses you see that the second group was “filled with great joy.” I want that! A deeper study of these verses tells us how to get it.

Those that had this joy continued to serve others and grow in service no matter how small. The scriptures don’t say that they did some big, earthshattering act of service and then stopped. Rather they did small things consistently over time.

Can we learn from that pattern?

Are we hoping that some big act from our past will keep us emotionally satisfied and happy well into the future? Are we waiting for some big event before we start to serve or reach out to someone? If so, we are missing the lesson on how we find true joy.

The excitement of a single big event wears off. Even the joy that came from something as significant as a mission can’t sustain us for the rest of our lives if we don’t continue to feed our souls with more experiences that bring similar joy.

On the other hand, those that were lifted up in pride seemed to think that maybe they had done enough. They turned their backs on the poor and wouldn’t give anything to those in need. They seemed to have lost sight of the fact that service we have done yesterday won’t sustain us long into the future. To continue to experience joy, we must keep feeding our souls with the actions that bring us spiritual fulfillment.

Nothing big, just small acts of service, done consistently over time.

Paul taught the same thing when he wrote late in his life to the Philippians. He said:

This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded. (Philippians 3:13-15)

No matter if we have great things in our past or terrible, the way to perfection (according to Paul) and joy (according to Alma) is to look forward.

Looking forward in faith. Looking forward in hope and service to others. Small acts of service done consistently over time move us forward to perfection and joy.

Let’s all look forward this week. Press forward as Saints of God in our love and service to others.

I know about Abraham Lincoln. I want to KNOW God.

Jesus Christ taught many truths that explain Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness and your place in it. I’ll focus on [one] of these to help you understand your identity as a child of God and know your purpose in life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) (C. Scott Grow, “And This Is Life Eternal” April 2017)

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As a little bit of a history buff I was thrilled when my son said he was doing his 4th grade biography report on Abraham Lincoln—the greatest American president ever! Oh, the things we could talk about! Gettysburg Address, the Civil War, his assassination, his political failures before becoming president, the emancipation proclamation, and on and on. (Maybe you even sense from my writing how excited I became about this project!). Yes, it is true, I’ve read multiple books on Abraham Lincoln. I know a lot about him.

But it would be ridiculous for anyone to say I know Abraham Lincoln.

And this poses a bit of an interesting question. I know so much about President Lincoln because I have studied about him. And I’ve read a lot about the Savior too…but do I know the Savior, or do I just know about the Savior?

Why this matters

This differentiation is important. When offering the Intercessory Prayer the Savior taught,

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Note the words the Savior used. He said, “know thee.” That implies a more personal interaction with God than just knowing facts about where the Savior was born, where he died, and stories he taught. It means to actually know Him the same way we would say we know our friends and family.

How do we do that?

While there are many ways to come to know the Savior I will only focus on one idea.

King Benjamin taught us one of the most impactful ways we can come to know the Savior:

13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen. (Mosiah 5:13,15)

King Benjamin was reminding his people that to move from knowing about the Savior to knowing the Savior they needed to find ways to serve. Earlier he had already taught them that, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17).

Reading our scriptures and praying are important steps in coming to know the Savior. And it is when we get out and serve others that we come to know the Savior by trying to act the way he acted. This opens our hearts to feel a closeness with the Savior that can’t come in any other way.

I’ll never really know Abraham Lincoln or any of the historical figures that I study, but through service to others I can come to know the Savior and feel Him close to me.

That path is open to me this week as I see those around me that are in need.

Happiness Depends on What You Focus On

“The ultimate Latter-day Saint priorities are twofold: First, we seek to understand our relationship to God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Second, we seek to understand our relationship to our family members and to secure those relationships by the ordinances of the temple and by keeping the covenants we make in that holy place.” Dallin H. Oaks


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There is no more repeated instruction in sports than to keep our eye on the ball! From t-ball to high school baseball I have heard it. From golf to tennis to soccer I have heard the same instruction from coaches. It seems like this instruction is so important and consistent because if we lose sight of the ball nothing else that we do after that seems to have any impact. Running fast doesn’t matter if you don’t hit or catch the ball. It is the #1 priority in all of sports.

Could there be such a simple priority for us in our lives?

Philippians 3:7-8 has a unique perspective on this. Paul wrote, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” The things that used to be important to Paul (gain) lost significance (counted loss) compared to his service to Christ.

Paul goes on to say, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Nothing was as important to Paul as the “knowledge of Christ Jesus.” He compared everything else in his life to dung.

I don’t think I’m there yet. I don’t think I have quite prioritized service to the Savior and coming to know Christ that importantly in my life. There are times I think I prioritize other things.

We all grow in this.

In Section 93:41-48 of the Doctrine and Covenants all 3 members of the 1st Presidency were given almost identical council. Starting with Frederick G. Williams,

“And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house.”

Then it was Sydney Rigdon,

“I say unto my servant Sidney Rigdon, that in some things he hath not kept the commandments concerning his children; therefore, first set in order thy house.”

And even Joseph Smith,

“And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.—You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord; Your family must needs repent and forsake some things, and give more earnest heed unto your sayings, or be removed out of their place.”

Here was the Prophet and 1st Presidency working hard in Kirtland to get the Church up and running and the instruction they received from the Lord as to keep their eyes on the ball.

Their families were most important. Not even the establishment of the Church was more important. Running the Church didn’t matter if they lost their families.

The President Oaks quote that I started with outlines both the teachings of Paul and the lesson from the D&C. Our first priority is our relationship with God (Paul called everything else dung) and second are the relationships in our families.

In simple terms the Lord taught us in Matthew 6:33

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Stripping down our lives to these two important pursuits is the beginning of happiness. When we place the proper emphasis on the right things, things that are less important fade away and we can find the peace, joy and happiness that come from close relationships with God and family.

The things don’t matter. The things that won’t be there 10 years from now don’t matter. They won’t make you happy. The small irritations and distractions will fade away. Think of the things you were possibly distracted or focused on 10 years ago. Are they still critical and important now?

In the end, prioritizing God and our families is the path to peace because it reduces stress over unimportant things. Then we have our eye on the ball and can confidently move toward God together with our families.

Christmas lessons from Mary for every day of the year.

“By word and deed, Mary, the mother of Jesus, teaches devoted followers of her son about the significant virtues of a true disciple.” Susan Easton Black

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Each of the main characters in the story of the 1st Christmas have something important to teach us about our own desires and how we can best serve God. The lessons we can learn from Mary are particularly powerful. Let’s look at a few things we can learn from her.

Mary is Called

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

What we learn

Mary seemed to be minding her own business when her call to follow Christ came. And with it came immediate challenges. She had the challenge of facing Joseph and what must have been the overwhelming concerns about being the mother of Jesus.

Matched to the challenges, she also received heavenly help along the way. Joseph was visited by an angel and she had his support. The first challenge was overcome with help from God.

From then on, her scripture story is one of struggle and set back. She had to travel to Bethlehem. I wonder if she ever thought that this call to be taxed was incredibly bad timing and maybe God could have helped by delaying it or choosing to have Jesus born a few months later.

After getting to Bethlehem, she then had to give birth in a manger. I wonder if she ever wondered why God didn’t prepare a better situation for the birth of the Savior.

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the family had to move to Egypt because of the threats imposed by Herod. I wonder if she ever thought that this seemed unfair and questioned why God would let this happen to them.

Remarkably, there is no scriptural record of any of this thinking or complaining. For Mary, the call to follow Christ was one of challenge, hardship and setback. But there is no evidence that she murmured, complained, or doubted.

The call for us to follow Christ will have some of the same challenges! Inconvenient timing, like Mary faced traveling to pay taxes right when she was about to give birth. Inconvenient disappointments in our lives, like Mary faced when they couldn’t find room in the inn. Inconvenient and unfair circumstances brought about by others, like when Mary had to move her family because of Herod.

The question is not if these things will come when we are called to follow Christ, they will. Even the earthly mother of Jesus was not exempted from the struggles and challenges that come in this life. We shouldn’t be surprised or lose faith when we face similar challenges.

The question is not if these things will come. The question is, can we have the faith of Mary? Can we move with faith when things are inconvenient, disappointing, and unfair? Can we take the story of Christmas and learn the lesson that following Christ will bring us joy and peace? And also test us as we grow to be more like Him?

Joy, peace, testing, disappointing, happiness, pain, rest, sanctuary, unfair. They all bundle together. They did for Mary and they do for us. And at the pinnacle moment there is the Light. The Star that shines the way for each of us. There is the Savior standing and calling to us. There is the hope and triumph.

Thank you, Mary, for setting the example.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the Light.

And thanks to each of us as we strive to live that example and share that Light.

Merry Christmas.

Courage when you need it. What the scriptures say that can help me!

Decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right. (Thomas S. Monson, Be Strong and of a Good Courage, April 2014)

There are so many scriptural examples of courage and it is so inspiring. Except that I don’t consider myself a courageous person. I think I stress about what other people might think of me. I think I get lazy and procrastinate some things that I know I should courageously do. I don’t courageously minister as well as I should.

But, there are a few scriptures that help inspire me. There are a few stories that help me dig deep and be the best and most courageous version of myself. It’s what I rely on every month when I’m convincing myself to reach out to the families that I minister to that haven’t been to Church in years. I hope they help you too!

Scripture #1: Turn to God

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

The first step in building our courage is turning our faith to God. Interestingly, both faith and fear are feelings of an expectation of an outcome based on unseen factors. When we have faith, we have a positive expectation based on things we haven’t seen yet. When we are afraid, we simply have negative expectations based on things we haven’t seen yet.

When we are afraid of the dark, it is an expectation of something negative coming out of what we can’t see. To overcome this we have to move our beliefs toward God with the understanding that no matter what happens, it will turn out to be good when we are with God.

God will sustain you. Whatever he allows you to get in. He will help you get through.

And then the battle in my head goes on. “That is so much easier to say than to do!” And I agree with myself and remind myself one of the pinnacle stories of faith from the Book of Mormon.

Scripture #2: Real Courage

Alma and Amulek were in a very bad spot. The people in Ammonihah were not happy with them. In fact they had tied them up and started a fire. Then they took all the people that had recently been converted to Christ and threw them in the fire.

I can’t think of many more heart wrenching experiences in the scriptures. This was Amulek’s home town. He must have known everyone that was thrown in the fire and everyone that was doing the throwing. The emotional and spiritual must have been overwhelming.

Amulek’s first thought was to stop it.

He said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. (Alma 14:10)

Alma had a clear testimony that if we are committed to Christ, it doesn’t matter what happens to us, we are victorious.

But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory. (Alma 14:11)

They had won the eternal battle. Alma knew it. But would he have that same courage when it came time for him to experience pain because of his testimony? (Spoiler alert: YES! He never faltered!)

Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.

 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. (Alma 14:12-13)

Alma was confident that no matter what the will of the Lord was, he would face it with faith and courage.

But, Alma and Amulek weren’t thrown in the fire. Instead they were put in prison where they were beaten, starved, bitten, and spit on. And their consistent response was one of faith in the promise that God would “sustain thee.”

And it came to pass that Alma and Amulek answered him nothing. (Alma 14:17, 18, and 19)

I don’t really think that is how I would have handled it. I think I would have had a few things to say to the people who had just killed all my friends and were now hitting me.

But Alma and Amulek didn’t fear what was being done to them or what these people could do. They had positive expectations of how things would turn out, even though they hadn’t seen them yet. In fact, everything they had seen would seem to indicate that things would go very badly for them.

After they had “suffered for many days” (Alma 14:23) the miracle happened.

The earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain, so that they fell to the earth.

And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ. (Alma 14:27-28)

I remember that story and I remind myself that if I call my inactive ministering family, nothing that bad is going to happen. If I move with courage in my calling or in my responsibilities at home, or if I have to be bold and courageous in inviting someone to come closer to Christ, it won’t end up as badly as it did for Alma and Amulek.

I will move this week with confidence and courage that there will be positive outcomes even though I haven’t seen them yet. You interested in joining me? Email me and tell me what courageous steps you are going to take this week!

Does God have a plan for you? These scriptures help answer it!

We are children of Almighty God. He is our Father, He loves us, and He has a plan for us. We are not here in this life just to waste our time, grow old, and die. God wants us to grow and achieve our potential. (Elder Carlos A. Godoy, The Lord Has a Plan for Us! October 2014)

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Given the way my life has gone, I sometimes do find myself wondering if God really does have a plan for me. My life was going along so well, I couldn’t believe it! I had the greatest childhood ever! I went to college, got hired to teach seminary full time and started a family. Everything was like a cute family movie. Right up until it wasn’t! 😊 Within one year my dad passed away, I lost my job (I had made a career change from teaching seminary), and then I was hit by the reality of divorce. If God had a plan…this was it?

Luckily, I found some scriptures that helped.

Scripture #1: We will win!

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)

This is a powerful verse of winning and conquering. And when it is tied with another verse from Paul it gave me some of the strength I needed.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 17)

I had to realize that part of God’s plan was being troubled, perplexed, persecuted, and cast down. Paul used the words “light affliction” to describe it. (We might not always agree with the word “light” when we think of our afflictions, but I think Paul was making a point!).

What I was going through was not evidence of the lack of a plan, it was the plan in its actual fulfillment. God’s plan is that we come to earth and experience all these things, turn to Christ and still “do all things.”

The pain is evidence of the plan because of the healing that follows.+

Scripture #2: Even if I can’t see it now.

Nephi experienced something else that raised my hope and faith.

When Nephi was writing on 2 sets of plates, he wasn’t exactly sure why.

Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. (1 Nephi 9:5)

He didn’t know what was going on with God’s plan…and this was Nephi! Here is what he did know.

But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. (1 Nephi 9:6)

While he did not know all the parts of God’s plan, he did know that the Lord knew all things and has all power to fulfill that plan. This gave me hope. If someone like Nephi (who knew so much) still didn’t know all the details of God’s plan for him, but he could still move with faith, I could do.

And speaking of Nephi I wonder if at any point when he was tied up on the boat, or getting beaten up by his brothers, or tied up and being left for dead in the wilderness, or starving and making his own bow, or arguing with his brothers over the boat, or a hundred other difficult things that happened to him, I wonder if he ever had a little doubt of God’s plan?

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! (2 Nephi 2:26, 27, 33)

For Nephi, the pain was part of the plan. It was designed to bring him to Christ and feel the strength to do all things.

Because as Nephi said, “Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.” (1 Nephi 22:31)

These verses have really helped remind me that God does have a plan for me. A plan that does include pain and discomfort and also love, healing, kindness and grace. I hope they help you find that too.

2 Scriptures for When Satan is Lying To You

Understand, my young friends, that there is only one way to win the war against Satan, and that is to win it in the same way it was won in the beginning: faith, testimony, and consecration on oneself to the Lord and His work. (James J. Hamula, Winning the War against Evil, October 2008)

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We are in a state of conflict. And the best tool that the adversary to our peace has is lies. From the beginning Satan has used lies, deception, and trickery to lure us off the path. In the vision of the Tree of Life, Lehi saw it as a midst of darkness. Try to hide and blur us from seeing the tree—the Love of God.

And he is doing that now to all of us. He wins when we lose sight of who we are, of who God is, and how we can get to His love. And in our day, the way he tries to accomplish this is to lie to all of us.

What can we do when Satan’s lies are trying to pull us away from God?

Scripture #1: The Power I Get with God

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13)

One of the most common lies that we are told is the “You Can’t” lie. It was told to Moses, Enoch, and Jeremiah in their calls to be a prophet. It was told to Peter. It was told to Joseph and Emma Smith. And it has been told to you.

If Satan can get you to believe you can’t do something, he usually wins. Because then we don’t try. Or we try without our full effort and faith. And let’s be honest, many of the things we have been asked to do, we can’t do on our own. And this is where the lie becomes the most damaging.

Satan wants you to believe you can’t because then he knows you won’t reach out for help. He knows you won’t strengthen your faith and your relationship with God as you overcome challenges and trials. It will be so much easier to convince you that you can’t do something the next time.

That midst of darkness of “can’t” comes over us and instead of reaching up in prayer and forward in faith we tend to turn inward on ourselves.

But that is not God’s plan! When Moses started to doubt himself the Lord gave him a simple answer:

“And he said, Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12)

It was almost the same as he told Jeremiah

“Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8)

It was what Paul was telling the Philippians. The truth we must know is that God is with us. And with His power we can do anything.

It’s one of the powerful lessons on the 1st Vision. Joseph by himself was in real trouble and about to succumb to the darkness. By ourselves we can’t do it. But God has not left us by ourselves. He gradually descends with His light and power into all our lives. He is there to strengthen each of us.

Shout out “I can do all things through Christ” the next time you feel that lie that you can’t!

Scripture #2: God is with you

“I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

The second lie is that you are alone. Satan wants you to believe that you are by yourself and that you won’t get the help you need from God or others.

That is not true!

The scriptures are the record of God’s love and interaction with His children. And the scriptures tell the story repeatedly of God being there, no matter what.

God was there for the Children of Israel even when they complained.

God was there for Enos even though he had not fully kept the commandments.

God was there for Alma the Younger even though he was fighting against the Church.

God was there for the Lamanites that Ammon taught even though they had been wicked for generations.

God was there for Peter even when he had betrayed him.

God was there for Paul even though he had fought against the Church.

God was there for Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdry even though they made mistakes.

God is there for you! Satan will want you to believe you have complained too much, sinned too much, made too many mistakes, or are in too deep to get the help you need.

This is a lie.

The next time you start to feel that lie, shout out, “God is on my right hand and on my left!”

God is there to support you. He sends His angels to bear you up. Because God loves you.