Faith leads to humility, humility leads to love, love leads to happiness – Yoda (opposite)

Scripture Recommendation

For my master’s thesis I researched automatic recommendation of verses of scripture given a paragraph. My wife and I have been using this to aid our study of the Come, Follow Me program (this year about the New Testament), by seeing what Book of Mormon scriptures relate. Starting this week I’m sharing these recommendations publicly. Let me know what you think! First I’ll show five recommendations for the lesson introduction, then I’ll show 1 or 2 recommendations for each of the sections, where the sections are specified by the scripture reference. Let me know if you’d like recommendations based on something else or other books of scripture (e.g. the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants).

April 29–May 5. John 7–10: ‘I Am the Good Shepherd’

Lesson material from this link:
https://www.lds.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-new-testament-2019/17?lang=eng

Query: Although Jesus Christ came to bring “peace [and] good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), there was “a division among the people because of him” (John 7:43). People who witnessed the same events came to very different conclusions about who Jesus was. Some concluded, “He is a good man,” while others said, “He deceiveth the people” (John 7:12). When He healed a blind man on the Sabbath, some insisted, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day,” while others asked, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” (John 9:16). Yet despite all the confusion, those who searched for truth recognized the power in His words, for “never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). When the Jews asked Jesus to “tell us plainly” whether he was the Christ, He revealed a principle that can help us distinguish truth from error: “My sheep hear my voice,” He said, “and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Recommendations:

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37675: Moroni 10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and 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.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37583: Moroni 7:16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
  3. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 31429: 1 Nephi 13:40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
  4. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 34748: Alma 38:9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.
  5. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 31973: 2 Nephi 9:44 O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood.

John 7:14–17

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37676: Moroni 10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 34482: Alma 30:41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?

John 8:2–11

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37572: Moroni 7:5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37109: Mormon 9:37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

John 8:58–59

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 32434: 2 Nephi 29:13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 31412: 1 Nephi 13:23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

John 9

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33740: Alma 5:46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 31785: 2 Nephi 3:4 For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.

John 10:16

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 36475: 3 Nephi 15:21 And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33731: Alma 5:37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

John 7:24

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33713: Alma 5:19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37150: Ether 1:41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.

John 8:31–36

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 36005: Helaman 14:30 And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 35673: Helaman 5:11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

John 9

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33976: Alma 13:4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 37194: Ether 3:17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.

John 10:1–18, 27–29

  1. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33732: Alma 5:38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.
  2. Volume: The Book of Mormon
    Verse 33731: Alma 5:37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

Following the Prophet

In response to the following post about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Rescinded Policy

I appreciate your honest thoughts. I believe that many feel similarly about this issue. I think you ask a lot of good questions and have done well to seek answers as you have. This is a fairly improv post and I’d like to hear your thoughts.
If I can share my own answers to some these questions, here are a few thoughts. None of these is a good answer on its own, but for me provides some context that helps me sort out these types of questions. And as always, I hope I don’t imply that I think you don’t know these things already.

Perspective

One, Satan is always encouraging people to see things about the Church from the worst perspective he’s able to get them to see from, instead of remembering that God sees things from beginning to end. To us, what happens in our mortal life, including being able to receive certain blessings or ordinances, can feel like everything. To God, what really matters is eternity, and we don’t understand all the eternal consequences of things. The earlier change gave me an opportunity to reflect on this principle, among other things, and discuss this with my wife. Also, there are ways in which the earlier policy can help those involved; it seems like most negative consequencies were the way people thought about it, not the actual carrying out of the policy. My point in saying this isn’t to say that it was for the best, but to put things into perspective.

Priesthood Keys

Second, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding priesthood keys; I feel like this is worth more discussion. Church leaders with priesthood keys make decisions or policies using those keys, often requiring adapting to individual people and circumstances. This is all independent of eternal truths and doctrine (as in, those with priesthood keys can’t change eternal truths), though certain things done under the direction of priesthood keys have eternal consequences, like baptism. God helps us grow by giving us autonomy and teaching us to be self reliant, especially spiritually. Hence, He works through people and helps them learn to make decisions on their own, with His guidance. Sometimes they make mistakes. This applies to all priesthood leaders. Fortunately, with the President of the Church, we have a guarantee that he won’t lead us astray. God defines what that means, so this is a matter of trusting God, but I would define leading us astray as teaching us to do something for which we would be sinning to follow or for which God would condemn us. What it means for us is that God will always be pleased with us for following the prophet. God is also pleased with us for following the direction of priesthood keys used by local leaders, even when the direction isn’t perfect or we don’t understand it; however, in the case of local leaders it is less likely that the priesthood holder will die if he makes a serious mistake. If we have a serious concern we can go to their respective priesthood leader, up until the Prestident of the Church; this is one reason why it’s critical that the President leads the Church righteously and why we have the guarantee that he won’t lead the Church astray. It’s up to God to condemn them.
https://youtu.be/gYwNHYxgpbE?t=36315 (President Eyring)

Focus

Third, the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ is about focus. Latter-day prophets help us know what to focus on currently. President Eyring suggested yesterday that we focus on the good in priesthood leaders. Do we seek, ponder on, and share the good in those we sustain?
https://youtu.be/gYwNHYxgpbE?t=36209

The gospel is to help individual people progress eternally and inherit eternal life. The Church is an organized way to accomplish those purposes, but the real question is, what are the most righteous thoughts and actions for me to have, and how can I focus on that? Following this principle will lead us to serve others with love. If we all did this, I believe many of the people who desperately need help and understanding would be helped. Anger for one leads to anger for another; it’s a habit.

Christ

Fourth, Christ does heal the wounds and make up for everything. The Church and its leaders don’t; the role of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help others receive healing from Christ. But not all things will be healed or made right until the next life.

It’s part of the plan that faith is hard. Also, as Christ referred to, it’s easier to follow past prophets than current ones that seek to help us with our current problems. Many people left when Christ said we must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. Cannibalism is hard to understand. Eating was a very serious issue, I’m sure personal to many people; maybe some people in this time and area starved to death, yet Christ reprimanded people for following him for physical food. I trust Christ knew what He was doing, because of other experiences I’ve had that have led me to trust Him.

Applying Trust

Different people have very different ways of thinking about things, and I like to learn from these different perspectives. But disagreements are why it’s so helpful to have a voice we can trust in. Even when we disagree and many feel hurt by their words, we need only know by the Holy Ghost that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true to trust in the prophet today.

Hope, the Atonement, and Math

At a recent stake conference, someone said that we’re apparently not teaching the Atonement of Jesus Christ well enough in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because many people have come to him in interviews feeling like they’ve lost hope because of a mistake or sin they’ve made. Don’t give up because you’ve sinned. Christ sacrificed himself for us so that we can be forgiven and have hope of eternal life.

Guilt

If you feel like you have a long list of sins you’ve committed or are regularly committing, you’re probably right. If you don’t, you probably do too. I feel that way, and people I love feel that way, but who’s to say how our particular sins and amount of sinning compares to anyone else, and how that defines our overall righteousness, our talents, and our hope of eternal life?

The atonement of Jesus Christ (Christ’s paying for our sins and reconciling us with God) is infinite (Alma 34:10-15). Analogous to the fact that we can use infinity in mathematical proofs and speak truth, perhaps we can illustrate the atonement’s effect in our lives this way:

Our guilt = (Our sins – the application of Christ’s infinite forgiveness) =  0

I’m using 0 here instead of negative infinity because Christ is applying (if we allow him to) whatever portion we need of his infinite forgiveness to be forgiven of our sins. Note that the answer is still 0 if we multiply this many times:

Our guilt = (Our sins – the application of Christ’s infinite forgiveness) x number of times we’re forgiven =  0

We apply the atonement and are clean from our guilt as we sincerely repent by committing to be obedient to God and to seek his forgiveness (see The Divine Gift of Repentance or this summary). The weekly sacrament in a sense completes our repentance as we renew our covenants to keep the commandments of God and invite the Holy Ghost to sanctify and purify us. Our guilt goes back to 0.

Guilt-Chart

The Savior Jesus Christ is necessary in this process:
“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.”
“We all have to ‘come to ourselves’—usually more than once—and choose the path that leads back home. It’s a choice we make daily, throughout our lives.” (Stephen W. Owen, Repentance is Always Positive)

Eternal Progress

But then what are the negative consequences of sin? There is another formula, here put in the simplest form:

Our eternal progress = our current progress + our actions

I would expand “our actions” to (time * (our righteous actions – our guilt)). We could also us “our experiences” instead of “time”, or multiply time by our experiences:

Our eternal progress = our current progress + (time * (our righteous actions – our guilt))

Guilt-Progress-Chart

Guilt hinders, or subtracts from, our eternal progress and our ability to do good. By freeing ourselves of guilt, we accelerate our progress.

Mormon speaks of guilt’s hindrance to our ability to do good:

Moroni 7:6-7
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

An article on Church Discipline by Mormon Newsroom clearly defined how sin and repentance affects the process of eternal progression:
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that men and women are placed on earth to learn, grow and become better by following Jesus Christ. In the Church, this process is described as “eternal progression.” Central to that process is freedom of choice, which shapes who we are. Inevitably, as we make choices, we also make mistakes. Most of life’s mistakes are easily overcome through simple, sincere repentance, a process common to nearly all religious people.

For all sins, large and small, it is the sacrifice and suffering, mercy and grace — or Atonement — of Jesus Christ that makes repentance possible. Church discipline is designed to help an individual more fully apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ, be cleansed of their sins and move forward in their eternal progression.” (emphasis added; see the first five paragraphs of this article)

Now note the use of “time” in this formula. Time is always moving forward, and how we use this time defines our eternal progress. As Alma expressed, “there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.” Our formula is defined as a linear formula, where the y-intercept, or starting point, is always our current progress, time is the x-axis, and the slope or rate of change is determined by (our righteous actions – our guilt).

To explain what I mean by “our current progress”, I expand this to (our character + our talents + our knowledge):

Our eternal progress = (our character + our talents + our knowledge) + (time * our righteous actions – our guilt)

These three things are only intended as a summary, but with a scriptural basis. Our character (see References), our talents (spiritual gifts, skills and abilities; see Matt 25:14-30), and our knowledge (and wisdom; see Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19) are updated incrementally as we go along having experiences and making choices. The exact nature of or representative formula for these updates is beyond the scope of this post (but perhaps could be thought of as updating neural networks).

Grace

The main point of this post, however, is that we can continuously and repetitively repent and be free from guilt, and consequently that the enabling power of Christ (grace) allows us to continue to progress and do good works despite our mistakes.

“It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (Bible Dictionary: Grace)

Consider, how is the Atonement enabling you to do good or be better?
“Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and … striving to become better.”

I close with these words from Elder Richard G. Scott:
“If you have determined to live righteously, don’t become discouraged. Life may seem difficult now, but hold on tightly to that iron rod of truth. You are making better progress than you realize. Your struggles are defining character, discipline, and confidence in the promises of your Father in Heaven and the Savior as you consistently obey Their commandments. May the Holy Ghost prompt you to always make decisions that fortify your character and yield much joy and happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

If you are interested in eternal progress or another topic I mentioned in this post, I recommend the following references organized by topic, which I found very insightful.

References

Math:

See this link for the Spreadsheet that created the guilt and progress graphs. The only manually entered data were the values for guilt.

This more complex chart describes the formula in more detail:
Guilt, Progress, Light of Christ, Good Choices, Change

In this formula, the light of Christ is directly dependent on guilt. I see guilt here as darkness, as a direct result of sin, in contrast to the light of Christ. For each variable, 100 represents the maximum and 0 represents the minimum, except for change (which can be negative).

Progress would be better labeled as “level of perfection”, where 100 represents wholeness and being perfect. This is why progress increases changes slowly over time. In reality, it’s probably even slower, because it may take thousands of years, if not millions of years, to achieve perfection.

Independent variables:

  • Time: Starts at 0, in days.
    • In the spreadsheet, each row represents a week (we partake of the sacrament every week).
    • The assumption is that this whole formula is after reaching the age of accountability.
  • Guilt: Manually entered numbers representing the gravity of our sinful state (darkness).

Dependent variables:

  • Light of Christ: 100 – Guilt.
    • Christ is always willing to fill us with light if we make room for it.
    • This also represents receiving the Holy Ghost or closeness with the Spirit.
    • The light of Christ enables us to do good.
  • Progress: Arbitrarily starts at 1.
    • Progress represents our level of perfection.
  • Good Choices: Progress + Light of Christ.
    • Our current level of perfection and the light of Christ both enable us to do more good.
    • The light of Christ is based on our current guilt or repentance and is much more variable than our level of perfection.
  • Change: Good Choices Currently – Good Choices Last Time
    • How much better did we do this week?
    • Change is used to calculate Progress
  • Formula for progress:
    • Progress = Progress Last Time + Time * …
      • If change is positive:
        • (Good Choices / 100) * (Change / 100) + (Light of Christ / 100)
      • else:
        • (1 – Guilt / 100) * (Change / 100) + (-Guilt / 100)
    • In other words, what matters is that change is positive!
 
 

Grace:

Elder David A. Bednar, In the Strength of the Lord

Bible Dictionary, Grace
The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by His atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.

Jacob 4:6-7
“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things” (Jacob 4:6–7).

Eternal Progression:

President Brigham Young
“The principle of increase, of exaltation, of adding to that we already possess, is the grand moving principle and cause of the actions of the children of men.”
“Human beings are expected by their Creator to be actively employed in doing good every day of their lives, either in improving their own mental and physical condition or that of their neighbors (DBY, 88).”

Church Discipline by Mormon Newsroom (see first five paragraphs)

D&C 93:13,20
13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

Repentance and Guilt:

The Divine Gift of Repentance

Summary of The Divine Gift of Repentance

Stephen W. Owen, Repentance is Always Positive
“I testify that the Savior Jesus Christ worked out a perfect Atonement and gave us the gift of repentance—our path back to a perfect brightness of hope and a winning life.”
“As Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained: “Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life. … Only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance … points us to freedom, confidence, and peace.” My message to all—especially to the youth—is that repentance is always positive.”
“When we speak of repentance, we aren’t just talking about self-improvement efforts. True repentance is more than that—it is inspired by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His power to forgive our sins. As Elder Dale G. Renlund has taught us, “Without the Redeemer, … repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification.” 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.”
“We all have to “come to ourselves”—usually more than once—and choose the path that leads back home. It’s a choice we make daily, throughout our lives.”
“Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and … striving to become better.”
“Consider the example of Enos. He had his own “coming to himself” moment, and after his “guilt was swept away,” his heart turned immediately to the welfare of others.”

Each week, she conducted a self-evaluation during the sacrament. She recalled mistakes she had made, and she committed to be better the next week. She was grateful to be able to make things right and be made clean. Looking back on the experience, she said, “I was acting on the repentance part of the Atonement.”

One Sunday after her self-evaluation, she began to feel gloomy and pessimistic. She could see that she was making the same errors over and over again, week to week. But then she had a distinct impression that she was neglecting a big part of the Atonement—Christ’s enabling power. She was forgetting all the times the Savior helped her be who she needed to be and serve beyond her own capacity.

Moroni 7:6-11
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.

Experience:

Romans 5:3-4
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope.

D&C 122:7
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

Stephen W. Owen, I Have a Work for Thee
Make use of adversity. Our trials help us discover and prepare for the work Heavenly Father has for us. Alma explained, “After much tribulation, the Lord … made me an instrument in his hands” (Mosiah 23:10).8 Like the Savior, whose atoning sacrifice enables Him to succor us (see Alma 7:11–12), we can use knowledge gained from difficult experiences to lift, strengthen, and bless others.

Character:

Elder Richard G. Scott, The Transforming Power of Faith and Character We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day. Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming.
Neither Satan nor any other power can destroy or undermine your growing character. Only you could do that through disobedience.
Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life.
The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to benefit from exercising the power of faith.
President Hugh B. Brown said: “Man cannot live without faith, because in life’s adventure the central problem is character-building—which is not a product of logic, but of faith in ideals and sacrificial devotion to them”
We exercise faith by doing. Joseph Smith said that “faith [is] the principle of action and of power”
Your faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His commandments will strengthen your character. Your character is a measure of what you are becoming. It is the evidence of how well you are using your time on earth in this period of mortal probation.
If you have determined to live righteously, don’t become discouraged. Life may seem difficult now, but hold on tightly to that iron rod of truth. You are making better progress than you realize. Your struggles are defining character, discipline, and confidence in the promises of your Father in Heaven and the Savior as you consistently obey Their commandments. May the Holy Ghost prompt you to always make decisions that fortify your character and yield much joy and happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Talents:

Matt 25:14-30
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Stephen W. Owen, I Have a Work for Thee

D&C 46:8-12
11 … to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

Knowledge:

President Brigham Young
He gives a little to his humble followers today, and if they improve upon it, tomorrow he will give them a little more, and the next day a little more. He does not add to that which they do not improve upon, but they are required to continually improve upon the knowledge they already possess, and thus obtain a store of wisdom.

Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”

This is an incredible analogy and I’m impressed by the thoroughness of the study, interpretation of the story, and application to the lives of many people. I can’t say I don’t believe in possession, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a mental illness— obviously he did. Perhaps that’s why the devils chose him. It’s also apparent that people misunderstood him and treated him very poorly. Satan’s followers seek to influence us, and so does the Spirit and Christ’s followers. The man of the tombs was chosen by devils but he was also chosen by Christ to be a witness of the reality of the Savior. Satan wants us to think that we are inherently evil, a problem to society, worthless, and unfixable, and if we seek to convince others that this is the case for them, or for ourselves, then we are doing Satan’s work. Christ wants us to know that we are good with Christ’s help, not just in the future but now; that we can be an instrument in his hands to do much good; that we are God’s children; and that we have a divine nature that we can always return to. Those who have the most potential to influence God’s children for good are perhaps those who receive the most attention by the devil: Joseph Smith, for example, who felt overcome by Satan’s power before the First Vision. I think that bipolar disease is greatly analogous, at least in name, to the opposition inherent in the gospel: good and evil, Christ and Satan, joy and sadness; see 2 Nephi 2 and Alma 36, with an understanding that pain doesn’t necessarily mean sin or unworthiness (remember who experienced the most pain). Regardless of our righteousness, we experience opposition, and we are in a struggle, but we need not fear, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Despite our mistakes, we can choose Christ.

It's me, Tori C.

On my mission, I was struggling with (what was later diagnosed as) Bipolar disorder.

This is what a missionary with Bipolar looks like, apparently.

I had always struggled with mental health, and I thought I knew what to expect when I got on my mission. Before I even submitted my papers I had to make a list of all my depressive triggers with my counselor before she would sign my psychological evaluation form. We worked together for months–I had a written plan of how to handle feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, desires to self-harm, the whole nine yards! I was prepared!

But, even with all those “tools” in my “toolbox” I really struggled. I tried everything in my power I could to combat it. I was incredibly obsessive with my obedience. Phrases like “an obedient missionary, is a happy missionary” ATE at my soul. If I was even a second…

View original post 1,740 more words

One thing I like about the Church is that it preaches the ideal, and recently I was pondering about why that is. I think that “the world” sometimes lowers expectations and how standards are defined (and people in the Church may be tempted to do so too) because of the “reality” of what’s reasonable or what most people actually do, and to not scare people away from even trying (which is something to consider, and I’ll explain). However, it may be blasphemous for the Church to represent God’s standards as any less than they are. And more importantly, the Church provides the ideal standard so that those sincerely seeking truth may know how to improve themselves and their lives. Because of “hard” standards some may be discouraged from even trying, or feel that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict, but all such thoughts come from Satan and a misunderstanding of how the gospel works.

 

Discouraged from trying

God sees our hearts, and forgives our sins, if we sincerely seek to keep his commandments and repent. Every effort counts and shows we care. Sincerely choosing limits for what we consider acceptable is much better than not having any limits. The goal is perfection, yet we know that we can’t be perfect in everything in this life, which is okay, because of Christ and repentance. At least we know what we can do to work toward the goal of perfection.

The Church does take steps to help people not be discouraged. Missionaries aren’t advised to teach all commandments and sins to avoid in the first lesson. We seek to focus on the essentials. The essential aspects of the gospel are the everlasting love of our Heavenly Father and Christ, who enables us to return to Him.

 

Feeling that the rules are unreasonable or unnecessarily strict

The standards exist, whether we follow them or not. What the world, most people, even the school or government, considers acceptable may very well not be acceptable by God’s standards. The commandments are for our benefit, and will help us find true happiness. Following the commandments grudgingly impedes our happiness. Loving God itself is a commandment, and such love would cause us to love to keep his commandments, do His will, and become like Him. We are seeking to become gods, and that is not something we can attain unless we eventually reach the highest standard.

If Church leader’s teachings or standards were to be lenient on sin, it would be more confusing, and it would be harder to trust such standards.

 

What do I do?

There are other factors that may come into play when deciding whether something is appropriate or not (such as media). The Spirit helps us distinguish and know what is edifying to us. By the Spirit, I don’t mean only a feeling of right or wrong (for example, feeling “uncomfortable” watching something). I also mean pondering and sincerely thinking things out in our mind, which the Spirit helps us to do. Consider, what is my motive for watching what I’m watching, reading what I’m reading, listening to what I’m listening to, etc.? Is it edifying?

Should everything that we do always be edifying? I believe so. Recreation and entertainment, since it is recommended by God, can be and should be edifying. Education should be edifying. Work should be edifying. Spending time with our family should be edifying. Our motives in all of these activities can be edifying.

Some things are good but not best, or not the best for the current situation or time. By the time we become perfect after this life, we’ll have gotten in the habit of choosing what’s best. The sooner, the better; now is best.

I think that when we are completely willing to do anything, forsake anything, and discipline ourselves in anyway, in order to follow God, is when we have truly turned our hearts over to God. It is when the Spirit can reach the center of our beings, and when we can feel true joy in the presence of God.

There comes a point where one must decide whether to simply be “okay” at keeping the commandments, or follow the “mostly righteous” crowd, or whether to go all the way in, and give oneself, without reservation, to God. If one gives oneself to God, “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:46).

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). Society has been given great power though technology, and with that power comes the responsibility to use technology well. Responsibility has been defined as ”the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management” (“responsibility”). Technology can be used to influence others for good, to educate, and to improve lives. As technologies become available, we have the responsibility to do what is within our power to use technology for good purposes.

Technology and beneficial human inventions are gifts from God, and as such are to be used for His purposes. President Brigham Young of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints described this idea: “Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan” (qtd. in Bednar). Because we received the discoveries and inventions we enjoy from God, we are responsible to him for our use of them. Those of us with these discoveries, then, have a responsibility to use science and art, including computer technology, to do God’s work and to influence others for good, in order to redeem the earth from the power of sin.

Technology’s great capacity to accomplish good or evil implies a great responsibility to use technology for good, and to avoid the evil. President David O. McKay expressed it this way: “Discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. … This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities” (qtd. in Bednar). It is mankind’s duty to consider and act on the possibilities of technology to the best of their ability. As far as discoveries or technology have power to do good, and as God’s gifts of technology come upon us, we have a responsibility to use these gifts to benefit mankind and to fulfill God’s purposes.

Included in the responsibility to use technology well is the responsibility to discover the best ways to use technology. A guide for “promoting responsible and ethical digital citizens” published by Education World includes this charge:

There’s always a purpose for technology use. Think of how, when, why, and for what purpose you’re using it. Think of ways to be creative and innovative. Think about communicating and collaborating with others globally to learn about another country. Think about how much students can learn via the Internet. Think of using it to prepare today’s learners to be successful citizens of the 21st century. Think of all the possibilities. (McGilvery)

As it is within our power to think of the possibilities of technology, we have a responsibility to seek out these possibilities and then to act on them. We can influence others. We can learn. We can create. These types of possibilities when used for good are in align with God’s desire for “the ultimate triumph of truth and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin” (qtd. in Bednar), as we encourage righteousness, learn truth, and create tools to accomplish God’s work. These possibilities for technology have been given us in this age, and consequently we are responsible to discover ethical possibilities and bring them to fruition as far as we are able.

Family history is one way in which we can responsibly use technology. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (qtd. in Nelson). And as Elder Nelson said, “New technology makes it easier than ever to fulfill that responsibility” (Nelson). As technology increases our capacity to do family history, our responsibility to do family history increases accordingly.

A recent article by The Daily Universe describes how new family history YouTube videos and other technologies aid in family history work. These videos provide students with easy opportunities to learn how to do family history work, leaving them with less excuse to not work on their family history (McBride). Family history technology also significantly improves the efficiency of family history work. Jill Crandall, professor of family history, notes the significant gains technology creates for family history: “The technology helps us find things faster. We will have microfilm for many years to come, and we will always need to travel to record [those] that have not been imaged, but the volume of what needs to be done is significantly reduced by new technology” (McBride). The efficiency and ease that technology adds to family history encourages participation, as one student described: “Seeing the technology we have, we are able to do things that weren’t there before, and that’s what got me motivated to do it … Because this is the Lord’s work, I know there will be progression and technology will continue to grow” (McBride). Technology can be used not only to increase efficiency but to teach and to encourage people to do good. Because available technology creates these possibilities for family history, which affects generations past, present, and future for good, using technology for family history is an ethical endeavor for which we are responsible.

Another example of the ethical possibilities and responsibilities of technology is bringing the Internet and information to less-developed countries. Still less than 50% of the world’s population have access to the Internet, though the United Nations and Facebook are striving to increase the availability of internet in less-developed countries (Collins). Providing people in less-developed countries with access to the Internet will give them access to information that they can use to improve their living conditions and to make more informed, ethical decisions (“Transforming Our World”). For similar reasons, translation technology also has the potential to benefit society, as the non-profit translation organization Translators Without Borders expressed: “There is a huge need for people in poor countries to be able to access global knowledge in their own language” (Glass). Translators Without Borders uses technology, including a web-based translator workspace, to carry out translations (Glass). Our ability to use technology to improve the lives of people all over the world means we are responsible for doing so, as far as it is within our power and control.

Influencing others for good, learning truth, doing family history work, and providing information to the poor in less-developed countries to improve their lives are ethical ways to use technology. Not only are they ethical possibilities, but they are responsibilities that we owe to God for the gifts of inventions and technology that He has given us. How we should fulfill these responsibilities depends on our ability to do fulfill them. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent” (Mosiah 4:27). Let us be diligent in determining and acting on the best ways we can use technology to perform God’s purposes and to benefit mankind.

Written for CS 404, a Computer Science Ethics class at BYU.

Works Cited

Bednar, David A., Elder. “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood.” To Sweep the Earth as With a

Flood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Collins, Katie. “Zuckerberg Aims to Boost Internet Backbone in Developing World.” CNET. CNET,

22 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Glass, Jamie. “Welocalize Increases Support for Translators Without Borders.” Marketwired.

Marketwired L.P., 6 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Luke 12:48.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-Day Saints. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

McBride, Madison. “YouTube Videos Make Family History Classes Easy for Students.” The Daily

Universe. The Daily Universe – Brigham Young University, 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

McGilvery, Christopher. “Promoting Responsible and Ethical Digital Citizens.” Education World:

Help Kids Become Responsible Digital Citizens. Education World, 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“Mosiah 4:28.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-Day Saints. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Nelson, Russell M., Elder. “Generations Linked in Love.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day

Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Apr. 2010. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

“responsibility”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 07. Web. Apr. 2016.

“Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Sustainable

Development Knowledge Platform. Division for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA, 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.

Why Cantr II?

As today Cantr celebrates it’s 5000th day, I wanted to describe what makes this text-based game what it is, and why I still play it after 11 years.

It’s the only game I keep up with anymore. I don’t watch shows, watch movies, or play video games except for social reasons (unless it’s something like a new Star Wars movie), and rarely if that. What makes this different?

I stayed because of what I gain from it, in knowledge and experience. You write stories and create societies with other people, according to physical limits set by the game. All of the game’s history and objects are created by our own characters. By interacting with others in this way and leading towns for many years, I gained valuable leadership experience and gained new perspectives. It’s like I’ve lived many lives (and I have some of the oldest characters in the game). Also, in this game, death is permanent.

As it’s also available in 16 languages (and characters of all languages exist in the same world), it’s a nice way to learn languages, and there are also many opportunities for volunteer translators to gain real translation experience. The game is completely run by volunteers.

In my case, as I’ve helped in Cantr staff, I’ve gained experience in Internet marketing, translation, and programming. I’m currently the chair of the Public Relations Department, over the Cantr Forum, wiki, IRCWebzine, languages, marketing, and social media accounts.

Why not give it a try? Let me know if you have questions!

Cantr_5000