Monday, March 9, 2009

Scripture Study 03.08.09

I was reading in the Joseph Smith manual from Chapter 29 for my study today. I must say I was very much impressed by this particular chapter. Joseph often has some rather powerful statements quoted in this book, but sometimes I feel like the book tries too hard to throw together a bunch of random quotes that don't necessarily have the best flow or logical sense. The older editions of The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series haven't struck me as having this kind of flaw as much as this particular one. However, today's lesson was beautifully sculpted as far as the true gems of quotes that were found therein.

The lesson is entitled "Living with Others in Peace and Harmony". Early a story is recounted by Lucy Mack Smith in which she tells of a mob who came to attack Joseph. Joseph very simply reasons with the men and they were overly taken with him. I found this quote from one of those gentlemen (which is recounted by Mrs. Smith so take that as you will) to be rather humorous, it reads, "This is the last time you will ever catch me coming to kill Joe Smith or the Mormons either." This man certainly had a drastic change of heart, but it's interesting to hear his almost callousness toward the idea of causing harm to Joseph or the Mormons. Joseph's powerful spirit and righteous ways helped to reform these men quite promptly.

Early in the lesson we read about becoming peacemakers and the blessings of peacemakers. Joseph states:
"If the nation, a single State, community, or family ought to be grateful for anything, it is peace.

"Peace, lovely child of heaven!–peace like light from the same great parent, gratifies, animates, and happifies the just and the unjust, and is the very essence of happiness below, and bliss above."
That really spoke so powerfully to me. First, Joseph develops this idea that peace is one of the foremost gifts that we should be thankful for. I suppose when we really think about it, this is no major surprise for peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. With peace we are able to find joy and happiness and receive answers to our prayers. Peace is what will always see us through and it is one of the chief blessings the Savior has promised us. Second, Joseph mentions the idea of peace being the key to happiness on this earth and bliss in the eternities. I suppose this really is so true in that peace is what will always bring us joy. When we find that peace in our lives always, we shall always be happy and find the love of our Savior throughout our lives.

Joseph also developed strongly the idea of lifting each other up. Far too often we are so critical of each other. I think we really need to learn the idea of just learning to look past the small things. I think one of the happiest realizations in my life is coming to the recognition that everything we do in life is so insignificant compared to what really matters. So what if somebody says something a little harmful to you? It really is no big deal, you will be laughing about it someday. A girl breaks your heart? Probably won't be the last and it makes for a great story. We're all trying hard to do the right thing in this life. I think there are few people that are actively pursuing the destruction of others. Sure a moment of weakness might invade and they just might do something intentionally harmful, but I think typically their character is still rather kind, they still want to attempt to do what is right. You'll make mistakes yourself. Be quick to overlook the mistakes and flaws of others. Joseph states:
"We [hope that our brethren will be careful of one another's feelings, and walk in love, honoring one another more than themselves, as is required by the Lord."

"The man who willeth to do well, we should extol his virtues and speak not of his faults behind his back."

"Now, in this world mankind are naturally selfish, ambitious and striving to excel one above another; yet some are willing to build up others as well as themselves."
Joseph recognized that we do in fact have some severe weakness, but how precious are we for recognizing the strength and blessings others really are in our lives. We all have an influence upon one another, we should learn to look past our differences and buoy each other up. We can make such a profound difference in the lives of others by simply saying a kind word or expressing appreciation. I've often spoken with my mother about how much the little words of "Please" and "Thank You" really can go such a long way. I think my mother every opportunity I have for being such a wonderful person and setting such a good example for me.

The chapter concludes on a semi-random note, but it does tie into the idea of building up others and maintaining peace with those around us. The freedom of belief as stated in the 11th Article of Faith is a crucial gift that all mankind should be able to enjoy. So often here in America we insist upon such rights for people, but we seek to deny others of such things. We belittle and berate them for believing differently. Joseph celebrated the opinions of others. I think it is wise we attempt to do the same. I think we so often assume others are entirely wrong and simply tear others down for their opinions. However, again this is a matter of it not necessarily being as big of a deal as we make it. Opinions enable us to look at the picture from so many different angles. Nobody on the face of this earth comprehends all things, so there are valuable things to be learned from all. Our Heavenly Father can help us to see from different angles and so we must trust that He can give this gift to all. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not have a monopoly on truth. That being said, I do believe a more complete fulness of truth can be found in the teachings of this Church. However, I believe every Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew and any other religion on the face of this earth has some valuable lessons that they can teach me. I hope they do teach me, I hope I get to learn from them. And I celebrate them for the sake of practicing their religion. Joseph stated, "Our religion is between us and our God. Their religion is between them and their God." I believe God will judge us relative to the light and knowledge we receive in this life. Therefore, I believe we will all be accountable for our faith, whatever it may be. Sure, some eternal standards always will come into account, but so much of it is determined by us doing the best with what we have. While I do believe I belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ, I do not have all light and knowledge and cannot possibly hope to accomplish everything that would make me perfect. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ require of me to do the best with what I have and to seek to grow what I have some more. I seek to do that day in and day out and I feel I will be rewarded for that. I like Joseph, celebrate our differences of opinion and thought and am happy that we all can learn so much in this life and grow closer to our Father in Heaven.

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