Tag Archives: Ammon

#BOMTC Alma 26-29: My Brother’s Keeper–Caring for God’s “Peeps”

There are at least two questions that you and I should NEVER ask:

  • And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
  • And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)

First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.

Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

 

Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!

So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.

Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.

Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).

Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the April, 2016 General Conference of the Church we were invited to be our “brother’s keeper” as part of the #IWasAStranger efforts of the Church.

Here is a playlist that I created of the Church’s invitations and efforts to help us to help others.

Relevant links for #IWasAStranger efforts:

We usually will not have to look very hard for opportunities to provide “refuge from the storm”

I believe it was around this time of year, when we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, that I went on a “Father and Son” campout that taught me a difficult, but important lesson.

I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).

My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.

He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).

I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.

He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).

Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).

I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often. #BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (1)

Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.

On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.

I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.

Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.

Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.

It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…

FAIL!

There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.

SAVED!

The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.

Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

 

I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)

We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!

Dayton’s Legs

Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.

My Brother’s Keeper

Thomas S. Monson – April 1990

Parable of the Good Samaritan

A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”

Lyrics

1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.

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#BOMTC Alma 20-22: Conversion–Changing Common Creatures into Celestial Citizens

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

The purpose of the gospel is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change” (“Repentance and Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2003).

As recorded in Alma 19–20, King Lamoni experienced a change of heart, leading to the conversion of his wife and many of his people. Ammon and King Lamoni then traveled to the land of Middoni to deliver Ammon’s imprisoned brethren. On the way, they encountered Lamoni’s father, who was king over all the Lamanites. The king was astonished by the words of Lamoni and Ammon, by Ammon’s strength, and by Ammon’s love for Lamoni. His heart was softened, and he assured them that Ammon’s brethren would be released from prison. He expressed a desire to learn about the words he had heard from his son and Ammon. Because of Ammon’s testimony and example, many people felt the influence of the Holy Ghost and were taught the gospel and converted.

Aaron, one of Ammon’s brothers, attempted to teach the Amalekites and Amulonites about Jesus Christ and the Atonement, but the people rejected him. Then he preached in Middoni, where he and some of his companions were eventually imprisoned. They remained faithful during their time of adversity, and they continued their mission to share the gospel after Ammon and King Lamoni secured their release. After Lamoni’s father was prepared through the example of Ammon, he learned from Aaron about how to be “born of God” (Alma 22:15). The king learned that by repenting of his sins, he could come to know God and eventually receive eternal life. The faithfulness of Aaron and his brethren helped many Lamanites come to know God and His way of redemption.

It has been my experience that the more I EXPERIENCE the gospel, the greater VALUE I place upon it. Use the “Degrees of Discipleship” scripture-chain listed below as an illustration of this principle of change and conversion.

Degrees of Discipleship

Repentance requires CHANGE!

Repentance requires CHANGE!

4th Degree: Alma 20:9-10, 13, 16, 19, What words show the value that Lamoni’s father placed on Ammon and the gospel?

 CHANGE: Alma 20:20, Because the Lord loves us, He gives us “humbling experiences” to help us change. We must learn to rely on the Arm of the Lord and not on the arm of the flesh.

3rd Degree Disciple: Alma 20:23, Oddly enough he values his kingdom even more than his life at this point. What does a dead king do with half a kingdom anyway?

CHANGE: Alma 20:24-27, Feeling sincere love can help us become “desirous to learn” the gospel. “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

2nd Degree Disciple: Alma 22:15, As a result of Aaron’s teaching Lamoni’s father was willing to give up his kingdom for God’s Kingdom.

CHANGE: Alma 22:16-17, “Hope is a memory of the future.” Feelings of faith and hope compel us to approach the throne of grace in our utmost humility.

1st Degree Disciple: Alma 22:18, Eventually, our great desire for the “future” that God has promised the faithful becomes so great that we not only are willing to give up “the world”, but we are willing to give up “ourselves”.

So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the “sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving “away all [our] sins” in order to “know God” (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him.” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,” Ensign, May 1995. Emphasis added.)

Like Lamoni’s father, we must be willing to sacrifice ALL things to be born of God. In the Lectures on Faith, we learn the importance of sacrifice in our eternal progression:

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 69. Emphasis added.).

Reclaimed

Elder Shayne M. Bowen teaches: “The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you.”

Just as a garbage dump can be turned into a beautiful park, a life of sin can be cleansed and changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

It Is Never Too Late

Message given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the Saturday Afternoon Session of General Conference on March 31, 2012

Lifting Burdens: The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Apostles of Jesus Christ testify of the Savior’s power to heal, change, and purify us through His Atonement.

 Member Message: Repentance

This is a member-made non-official Mormon Message.

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#BOMTC Alma 17-19: M.T.C. = MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS

Try filling in the blanks in the following quote using the words: MEMBER and MISSIONARY (I listed the words in alphabetical order so that you won’t try and do that “Princess Bride” thing where the guy tries to figure out which cup has the poison… No cheaters!).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Asking every member to be a ___________ is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a ___________.”

So, what do ya think?

I know what we typically hear, and that may be why you chose what you did. Or perhaps as you thought about it you realized what Elder Holland is really getting at. The easiest way to figure out the correct answer is to “do the math!

What do I mean by, “do the math”? Well, what I mean is, with roughly 70,000 missionaries serving currently and a world population of 7 Billion +, each missionary would have responsibility for sharing the gospel with ~100,000 people. Not very good odds.

Now if we use the same world population and use the members of the church (7,000,000,000/15,000,000) we get a ratio of ~467 people for each member of the church to influence. Now those odds are pretty good! Especially when you take social media into account.

Sharing Your Beliefs

“Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. . . . Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!” . . .

“With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard . . . around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.” — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Ensign, May 2011, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” Emphasis added)

Inviting All to Come unto Christ: Sharing the Gospel

When Junior, a young man in a small Florida branch, decided he didn’t want to be alone in his belief in Christ, he invited a friend. One friend joined, then another, and another….

Click here to read more about the young men in Immokalee, Florida

You may be thinking that you are right on your guess now, but we are not done yet (well, we are with the math…). Here is Elder Holland’s quote in context:

“A young returned missionary sister from Hong Kong told me recently that when she and her companion asked an investigator if she believed in God, the woman replied, ‘I didn’t until I met a member of your church and observed how she lived.’ What exemplary missionary work! Asking every member to be a MISSIONARY is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a MEMBER! Thank you for living the gospel.” (“‘Witnesses unto Me’,” Ensign, May 2001, emphasis added.)

youths reading Joseph Smith pamphlet

Now, why on earth would Elder Holland say something like that when it seems to contradict what has been taught previously and is emphasized currently with the Hasten the Work initiative?

We know what it means to be a MEMBER MISSIONARY. “Member missionary” sounds great (and the challenge has been extended frequently and recently by prophets of God), but one of the primary problems is the psychology behind the phraseology.  There is a lot of “baggage” and responsibility that comes with the word “missionary”. This can be very intimidating for members–especially those who may have never served a full-time mission. But if we ask every member to be a MEMBER, well, that doesn’t sound hard at all–no extra baggage, no added responsibility–we are just asking a member to do what they should already be doing.

RMN, Catch the Wave (9)

So, what does it mean to be a MEMBER MEMBER. Well, Elder Holland said that one way we do it is by simply “living the gospel.” Perhaps one of the best places to look for information on how to be a MEMBER MEMBER that is “living the gospel” is to study Mosiah 18:7-11. Think about it, isn’t that exactly what Ammon did? He didn’t start out in typical “missionary mode”. What did he do? He did exactly what any member of the church could and should do. He wasn’t able to be a MISSIONARY until he fulfilled his responsibility as a MEMBER first.

Ammon Defends the Flocks of King Lamoni

All of this is why I refer to Alma 17-19 as the M.T.C. Not because it stands for Missionary Training Center in this case, but rather MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS. Ammon is the perfect model for how a good MEMBER MEMBER can make all the difference in the world by just “LIVING THE GOSPEL.” As you read Alma 19 you will be able to see the Ripple Effect of ONE MEMBER MEMBER easily affecting hundreds of other people.

ripples diagram

rock in water

You can do that, right? You can be a “lively member” of the church (see D&C 92:2) each and every day. You can influence the lives of many more than 467 people in a short matter of time by just living up to the covenants you made at baptism. You don’t need a badge on your shirt because you already wear His name on your heart! Think of what Ammon did in Alma 17-19, then liken it to your own station in life, and GO BE A MEMBER MEMBER!

Sharing Gospel Happiness

A priest finds out his friend has been hospitalized with cancer. His testimony and Christlike example lead her to a knowledge of the truth.

QLC, Pin One On Your Heart

 What the Apostles Say About Sharing the Gospel Online

Why You Should be Part of the Mormon Conversation Online

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#BOMTC Mosiah 18-21: Count the Ripples!

It is difficult to determine the effect that one person can have, but with time the results can be seen. You may never know how the decisions you make will affect others. Abinadi may have died without knowing if anyone believed his teachings, but Alma was converted because of Abinadi’s efforts, and he and his descendants had a great influence on the Nephites for many generations.

President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the following example:

“You don’t know how much good you can do; you can’t foresee the results of the effort you put in. Years ago, President Charles A. Callis, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, but who previously was president of the Southern States Mission for twenty-five years, told me this story. He said that he had a missionary in the southern [United States] who came in to get his release at the conclusion of his mission. His mission president said to him, ‘Have you had a good mission?’

“He said, ‘No.’

“‘How is that?’

“‘Well, I haven’t had any results from my work. I have wasted my time and my father’s money. It’s been a waste of time.’

“Brother Callis said, ‘Haven’t you baptized anyone?’

“He said, ‘I baptized only one person during the two years that I have been here. That was a twelve-year-old boy up in the back hollows of Tennessee.’

“He went home with a sense of failure. Brother Callis said, ‘I decided to follow that boy who had been baptized. I wanted to know what became of him. …

“… ‘I followed him through the years. He became the Sunday School Superintendent, and he eventually became the branch president. He married. He moved off the little tenant farm on which he and his parents before him had lived and got a piece of ground of his own and made it fruitful. He became the district president. He sold that piece of ground in Tennessee and moved to Idaho and bought a farm along the Snake River and prospered there. His children grew. They went on missions. They came home. They had children of their own who went on missions.’

“Brother Callis continued, ‘I’ve just spent a week up in Idaho looking up every member of that family that I could find and talking to them about their missionary service. I discovered that, as the result of the baptism of that one little boy in the back hollows of Tennessee by a missionary who thought he had failed, more than 1,100 people have come into the Church.’

“You never can foretell the consequences of your work, my beloved brethren and sisters, when you serve as missionaries” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 360–61). (Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Manual, Lesson 18: God Himself Shall Redeem His People)

Now, why would Elder Callis be so concerned about ONE boy from Tennessee? Well, if you don’t know about Elder Callis, the following story may help you understand his concern:

“Many years ago an elder who served a mission in the British Isles said at the end of his labors, ‘I think my mission has been a failure. I have labored all my days as a missionary here and I have only baptized one dirty little Irish kid. That is all I baptized.’

“Years later, after his return to his home in Montana, he had a visitor come to his home who asked, ‘Are you the elder who served a mission in the British Isles in 1873?’

“‘Yes.’

“Then the man went on, ‘And do you remember having said that you thought your mission was a failure because you had only baptized one dirty little Irish kid?’

“He said, ‘Yes.’

“The visitor put out his hand and said, ‘I would like to shake hands with you. My name is Charles A. Callis, of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am that dirty little Irish kid that you baptized on your mission.’” (President James E. Faust, “Them that Honour Me I will Hounour”, Ensign, May 2001; See also, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 602–3.)

Abinadi before King Noah

The story of Abinadi (see Mosiah 11–18) is an example of how doing what’s right, even when it’s hard, can affect many lives for good. When Abinadi chose to be the one, his choice led Alma to be the one as well—the only one of King Noah’s priests to accept the gospel, which influenced an entire nation.

Track the RIPPLE EFFECT that Abinadi had:

Abinadi: Abinadi’s testimony to wicked King Noah cost him his life (see Mosiah 17:20), but changed the life of one of the king’s priests, Alma the Elder (see Mosiah 18:1), who at the time was “a young man” (Mosiah 17:2).

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (5)

Alma the Elder: Alma helped bring into the Church about 450 of King Noah’s people (see Mosiah 18:35). They joined the Nephites at Zarahemla, where Alma became the high priest of the Church and baptized many more (see Mosiah 25:18). His son was Alma the Younger (see Mosiah 27:14).

Alma the Younger: Alma was the Nephites’ first chief judge and high priest of the Church (see Mosiah 29:42). He helped convert more than 3,500 people and converted many more during later missions to Nephite cities. Alma’s sons served missions as well. His oldest son was Helaman.

#BOMTC Day 31, May 7~Mosiah 18-21 or Pages 182-188 (10)

Helaman, Son of Alma: Helaman kept the records and was one of the high priests of the Church (see Alma 46:6). At about 73 B.C. and again about 54 B.C., he reestablished the Church after years of war (see Alma 45:22Alma 62:46). He led the 2,000 stripling warriors. His son was also named Helaman.

Helaman, Son of Helaman: Helaman kept the records of the people as well. He became chief judge of the Nephites. During his righteous rule, “tens of thousands” joined the Church (Hel. 3:26). He had two righteous sons, Nephi and Lehi.

#BOMTC Day 31, May 7~Mosiah 18-21 or Pages 182-188 (9)

Nephi and Lehi, Sons of Helaman: Nephi was chief judge before leaving to preach the gospel with Lehi. These brothers were such powerful missionaries that most of the Lamanites were converted to the gospel (see Hel. 5:50). Nephi turned the records over to his son, Nephi.

Nephi, Son of Nephi: Nephi became a great prophet. He taught and baptized many in the wicked days before Christ’s coming, even raising his brother from the dead (see 3 Ne. 7:15–26). He was chosen as one of Christ’s 12 disciples when the Savior appeared (see 3 Ne. 12:1). The disciples helped convert all the Nephites and Lamanites after Christ’s coming (see 4 Ne. 1:2).

Abinadi’s teachings and example affected countless lives over the years, from Alma the Elder to Nephi, the disciple of Christ. These men didn’t just affect the lives of their converts. Those people likely affected others, including their own children and their children’s children, who also affected others. You never know how many people will be affected by what you choose to do. So make sure you choose the right. (see Count the Ripples, New Era, Feb. 2005)

young woman in a crowd

Will you be the one? Are you the one? The one who refuses to participate in gossip? The one who stands up for the Church? The one who chooses the right—whatever the circumstances—even when nobody else does? (Be the One, New Era, May 2013)

Make Waves

What kind of waves will you make?

In a general conference address, Elder Harold G. Hillam shared the following two RIPPLE EFFECT stories:

When we see the effect one person can have . . . , it perhaps is no wonder that the Lord reminded us, “Remember the worth of souls.”

One of the talks that has had an everlasting impression on me is one given in a Saturday evening session of a stake conference years ago. The talk was given by a young mother. Here’s what she said: “I have been doing the genealogy of my great-grandfather. He and his large family of sons and daughters were members of the Church.

“My great-grandfather,” she said, “left church one Sunday with his family, and they never returned—no indication why.”

She then said, “In my research, I have found that my great-grandfather has over 1,000 descendants.”

And then she said, and this is the part I have not been able to forget, “Of those 1,000 descendants, I am the only one active in the Church today.”

As she said these words, I found myself thinking, “Is it only 1,000, or could it be more?”

The answer is apparent. The spiritual influence that family might have had on their neighbors and friends did not happen. None of his sons nor any of his daughters served as missionaries, and those they would have touched with their testimonies were not baptized, and those who were not baptized did not go on missions. Yes, there are probably many thousands who are not in the Church today, and not in this very meeting, because of that great-grandfather’s decision.

As I heard her talk I found myself thinking, “What a tragedy! Perhaps if I had been there at that time, I could have said something to the father, to the family, to the priesthood leaders that might have helped to prevent such a calamity to their family and to so many in the future generations that would follow.”

Well, that opportunity of the past is lost. But we can now look to the present and to the future. I would say to those who find themselves in the same position as that great-grandfather: Would you consider what you might be doing to your family and to all those who come after you? Would you ponder the effects of your thoughts and your actions?

… I would like to tell you of a stake conference I was assigned to attend. It was a reorganization; the stake president and his counselors would be released, and a new presidency would be called. The stake president was young and had served wonderfully for almost 10 years. He was a spiritual giant, but he was also an administrative giant. In my personal interview with him, he told me how he had delegated much of the responsibility for the stake functions to his counselors and to the high council and had thus freed himself to interview those who needed encouragement. Individuals and couples were invited to come to his office. There he got to know them, counseled with them, and invited them to do better, to put their lives in order, and to receive the blessings available to those who follow the Lord. He helped them by putting them in the care of a capable leader, a teacher who helped them to understand the beauties of the doctrine. Then he told me that in these interviews he would often ask if they would like a blessing. “I have placed my hands on the heads of many members of the stake,” he said.

The next day in the general session of the stake conference, I doubt I have ever seen so many tears—not because they felt the president should not be released, but for the deep love of a young stake president who had blessed their lives. I felt prompted to ask, “How many of you have had the hands of the president on your heads?” I was amazed at the number of people who raised their hands. I thought to myself at the time, “How many of these people will bless the name of this great man, not only now but throughout the eternities?” Yes, these will be the great-grandfathers who will, because of this loving leader, leave a legacy of generations of thousands who will call him blessed.

When we see the effect one person can have on the lives of so many, it perhaps is no wonder that the Lord reminded us, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). (The Worth of Souls“, Ensign, May 2005)

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (10)

This chart shows the lineage of Alma and approximate life spans of him and his descendants mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Alma’s conversion while listening to Abinadi (see Mosiah 18:1) and Alma’s baptism at the Waters of Mormon (see Mosiah 18:14) were important events for himself and for the Nephite civilization. Not only were Alma’s descendants able to receive the blessings of the gospel, but for over four hundred years many of them were key prophets and principal keepers of the plates of Nephi who in turn spread the gospel to the general population. (View PDF)

A final story, shared by Ryan Squire, will probably suffice for illustrating our point today. His grandfather believe that on his mission he had never brought anyone into the Church. Here is the rest of the story:

I served in the São Paulo Brazil Mission. While I was there, I met an elderly Japanese couple who served in various capacities in the mission. Brother and Sister Tsuya were well known for two things. First was the haircuts Brother Tsuya would give the missionaries.

The other thing the Tsuyas were known for was their incredible love and mission spirit. They spoke no Portuguese and spoke English with a thick accent. But they would take a box of copies of the Book of Mormon they bought with their own money to the fruit fair on the street each week and would always come back empty-handed. Their spirit was incredibly powerful.

One transfer day I had the chance to talk to Brother Tsuya. I found out that he had joined the Church in Hawaii. I told him that my grandfather had served a mission in Hawaii and was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Brother Tsuya was very surprised and said he had joined the Church then but didn’t remember an Elder Squire. I told him that it was my mom’s father, Elder Thurgood, who had served in Hawaii.

Brother Tsuya almost fell out of his chair and yelled out “Elder Thurgood is your grandpa?” He related the story of their meeting. He said while he was eating a meal in the Hawaiian community style, he was being inappropriate and was taking the Lord’s name in vain among other things. A missionary, my grandfather, had spoken up and asked him to stop. Brother Tsuya said he took the name of the Lord in vain again. He said that my grandpa had come over to him, hit him on the shoulder, and lectured him about how little he knew about life, how he wasn’t as smart as he thought, how he needed to quit smoking and do a bunch of things differently or he wouldn’t ever amount to anything.

Brother Tsuya told me that when he went home that night, he knew my grandpa was right. He thought about it and decided he wanted to make some changes. He ran into two similarly dressed missionaries a couple of weeks later and listened to the discussions with a sincere desire to change. Brother Tsuya gave much of the credit for his decision to listen to the missionaries to my grandpa.

I quickly wrote home telling my family I had huge news and that Grandpa Thurgood needed to be there when I made my telephone call at Christmas. When I called home, I finally told him that I had met somebody he brought into the Church. I will always remember how quiet he became as he said, “Ryan, you are mistaken. I never brought anybody into the Church on my mission.”

I asked him if he remembered hitting a smart-aleck Japanese kid at dinner in Hawaii and then lecturing him on how much he needed to change his life. He became instantly curious and said that he did remember the incident well. He was transferred away shortly after that and hadn’t heard more.

I told him that two weeks later that boy had decided to listen to the discussions because of what you said to him that night. He had later married in the temple in Hawaii. He had served in various callings in the Church and blessed many, many lives. He served as a mission president in Japan for three years. He also served as president of the MTC in Japan. He had served multiple missions with his wife.

My Grandpa Thurgood was in tears and couldn’t talk to me after that. He had spent over 50 years thinking his mission hadn’t made a difference to anybody. When the Tsuyas completed their mission in Brazil, my grandpa and his wife went to the temple with them and had a tearful reunion.

My grandfather’s experience reminded me of Abinadi, my favorite Book of Mormon prophet. Abinadi had come before the wicked priests of King Noah and shared the gospel with great power and authority. He testified boldly and was burned to death because of what he taught. The only fruit he had the chance to see was one of the priests, whose name he may not have even known, who asked the king to let Abinadi go and then was chased out of the court. That priest (Alma the Elder) then became a great prophet himself.

We never know the effect our testimony will have on those around us. How could my grandpa have known the difference his testimony at dinner would have on a young man?

We learn that it is not ours to judge those around us when sharing the gospel. It is so easy to look at others and assume they are not interested in the gospel. We think the soil is rocky and that nothing would grow if we tried. Our responsibility is to cast seeds. We are called to share. We are called to invite. We are called to include. The gospel is a gospel of repentance, a gospel of change. In Christ is the power to change. Christ has the power to heal. There is nothing so exquisitely sweet as seeing a soul come unto Christ.

Because of the seed my grandfather planted, Brother Tsuya was baptized, married in the temple, and served as a mission president. He blessed many lives. (Not a Single Baptism, New Era, Feb. 2011)

You can print this up as an easy glue-in for future reference

You can print this up as an easy glue-in for future reference. Click here for original.

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#BOMTC Mosiah 8-10: Fact or Fiction

After the servant leadership and stirring words of King Benjamin, his son, Mosiah, begins his reign. One of the first things that King Mosiah does is to  send a search party after a group of Nephites who had left many years earlier and were never heard from again. They had desired to inherit the land of Nephi, the land of their father’s inheritance. When they are located, we learn that they have their own records that they kept since their departure and that they have also found 24 ancient plates with writing in a language that they don’t understand.

What stood out to me in these chapters, is that this whole experience occurred because two individuals choose to believe stories that are not correct.  This led to many lives being lost over the course of three generations.

A simple model illustrates how we make this same mistake on a regular basis, and it helps us to discover what to do to avoid such mistakes.  It is best to write this model down before I explain it. Here it is:

Observe –> Story –> Emotions –> Actions.

Now I will try to briefly explain the model so that you can recognize how it works in your life. As we observe something through our senses, we take in filtered information and begin to process it. As we organize and process what we observe we begin to tell ourselves a story to make sense of what we observed. If we are not careful in our observations, we cause ourselves to create a story based on limited or false information.  The stories we tell ourselves create emotions. Our emotions can cause us to take certain actions. This is one reason why when one watches a movie it can cause terror or tears even though they know it is “just a movie” and the people are “just acting”. One can tell themselves over and over that its “just a movie” and still act/respond in a way that they don’t want/expect.
This process is a constant in our lives, and can both help us and hurt us.  We must have the facts/truth for this model to help us. Without the truth we tell ourselves the wrong story, which creates the wrong emotions, which lead to the wrong actions, and eventually the wrong ending. So we have to be VERY careful about the stories we tell ourselves. And since this all originates with the observations we make, we must be EVEN MORE CAREFUL to evaluate the validity of our observations to determine the truth (D&C 93:24). We must be “quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2), and careful to make “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). This is just one of many reasons that we need the Gift of the Holy Ghost to help us discern between truth and error each day (Jacob 4:13Moroni 10:5; see also Judgment). We need to slow down our “story” making process and evaluate our “observations” to make sure that they are correct and based in truth, otherwise we may become “overzealous” (Mosiah 7:21; 9:3) and make decisions that lead to tragedy.
Reflect on your life and how this process works. Can you remember a time when you were hurt because of limited or false observations?  Can you remember a time when you averted the wrong actions because  you took time to get all the information and make the correct observation of the situation or person?
When you understand this process you may understand these pages in the book of Mosiah with more clarity and discover a very important principle to help you avoid similar mistakes–even mistakes that could affect several generations. I will give you some verses that describe how Zeniff and King Laman were both hurt by this process. I will also share some verses that show how Zeniff averted making another bad mistake simply by taking enough time to make the proper observation.
Here are the verses that illustrate what limited/false observations can do: Mosiah 9:1-10; 10:12-18. It is well worth the time to study these verses with this model in mind. We constantly make bad choices for the same reasons.
Mosiah 7:6-14 is a great illustration of the importance of taking enough time and caution to make sure that your observations are based on TRUTH.  The Truth will cause you to create the correct story, which can lead to the appropriate emotions, which can then help you to choose the right  (CTR) actions/response. Right observations lead to creating right stories. Wrong observations lead to creating wrong stories. Choosing the right story leads to choosing the right actions, and choosing the right actions leads to the right ending!
To help you create the correct “story” of the next few readings (Mosiah 7-24), I will include some illustrations provided by the Church Educational System for you to “observe”.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (3)
Sometime after King Mosiah I (the father of King Benjamin) arrived in Zarahemla, a group of people wanted to go back to the land of Nephi. The first group that went failed because of contention (see Omni 1:27–28). A second group, led by Zeniff, succeeded in establishing a settlement in the land of Lehi-Nephi (see Omni 1:29–30Mosiah 7:9, 21). About 50 years later, King Mosiah II sent a group under the leadership of Ammon to find out what happened to Zeniff’s people (see Mosiah 7:1–6).
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (4)
It is helpful to remember that Mosiah 1–8 is Mormon’s abridgment of the record of Mosiah and contains the story of the Nephites in Zarahemla until the reign of Mosiah IIMosiah 9–22 is taken from the record of Zeniff and tells the story of the Nephites who left Zarahemla at the time of Mosiah I and followed Zeniff back to the land of Lehi-Nephi.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (5)
In Mosiah 7–9 we read that Mosiah II sent an expedition, led by Ammon, to find out what happened to Zeniff’s colony, which had left Zarahemla over 50 years earlier. Ammon found Zeniff’s grandson, King Limhi, and his people in bondage to the Lamanites. In Mosiah 21, we read about the coming of Ammon and his men from Limhi’s point of view.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (6)
  1. After Lehi’s death, the Lord commanded the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman. The Nephites settled in a land that they called the land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:5–8). The land was later also known as “the land of Lehi-Nephi” (Mosiah 7:1).
  2. About 400 years later the Nephites were led by a king named Mosiah. The Lord commanded Mosiah to flee from the land of Nephi with “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord.” Mosiah and his people discovered a group of people called the people of Zarahemla. The two groups of people united and called themselves Nephites. Mosiah was appointed to be their king (Omni 1:12–19).
  3. A group of Nephites left the land of Zarahemla to regain part of the land of Nephi (Omni 1:27). They obtained land there under the leadership of a man named Zeniff, who became their king (Mosiah 9:1–7).
  4. About 79 years later King Mosiah II, the grandson of the first King Mosiah, “was desirous to know concerning the people who went to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi.” He permitted a man named Ammon to lead an expedition for this purpose (note that this Ammon was not the son of Mosiah who later preached the gospel among the Lamanites). Ammon and his brethren found King Limhi and his people. Limhi was Zeniff’s grandson (Mosiah 7:1–11).
A less technical, but just as informational map can be found here: Mosiah map (from The Red Headed Hostess).
Want to know more? Check out these great links!

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#BOMTC Mosiah 5-7: Becoming the Children of Christ

For being such a short chapter, Mosiah 5 hits on some pretty essential and deep doctrines. King Benjamin speaks of being born again (born of God), adoption, and becoming children of Christ (See Romans 8 for more from the Apostle Paul on this).

Did you notice how many times the word NAME appeared in Mosiah 5? 12 times in 8 verses is a pretty obvious clue as to the intent of King Benjamin’s message. So, to answer Juliet’s question, “What’s in a name?”, the gospel answer is, “EVERYTHING!” The following is an excerpt from one of my favorite essays that helps me to understand the significance of King Benjamin’s teachings about the importance taking and keeping of the “name” of Christ. If you read this before your sacrament meeting, I hope that it will help the ordinance to be a bit more meaningful for you today:

“We Who Owe Everything to a Name”

He wasn’t of particularly august origins. His natural father was a local from a town north of Rome, so he really didn’t have any great connections. He had met Caesar once. Caesar had obviously been impressed about some qualities that he saw in the young man for he adopted him as his son in the will and made him his chief heir. Now, I should point out that in Roman eyes the legal adoption of a person gave that person every claim not just to the property and patrimony of the adopting party, but also to the heritage, the political connections, the name, the dignitas, everything else that came with the adoption. The Romans really made no serious distinction between a natural and an adopted son. It wasn’t considered like the adopted son was an imposter or some kind of a late claimant. He was simply considered as if he had been born of the adopting party. And so Gaius Octavius, at that time, when he became adopted, took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Historians refer to him as Octavian, but he called himself Caesar, son of Caesar, and that name made all the difference. The men who had been loyal to Caesar flocked to him. Slowly his power grew. Inevitably Mark Anthony and Octavian clashed, fought, and Anthony was beaten. Octavian became Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome, the man who ordered the census that took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Fascinating! It was Cicero who recorded Mark Anthony’s comment on their fates. Octavian was “that boy, who owes everything to a name!” The phrase reverberated in my mind and heart. Didn’t I owe everything to a name? Hadn’t my father given me the good life I had by making me his, by adopting me? It was later that I discovered the Apostle Paul’s use of the term adoption in reference to our relationship with Christ. The word adopt or adoption does not appear in the Old Testament, with its kinship obligations to orphans, nor is it found in the Book of Mormon, whose laws and social customs were derivative of Mosaic Law. But Paul understood the implications of being an heir by adoption. He, though a Jew, was a Roman citizen in a Roman world. And he used the implications of Roman law to explain to the gentiles the inheritance they might receive through the gospel’s new covenant in Christ’s blood. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15)… It is Christ who makes us his heirs. He becomes our father, as King Benjamin explains: “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; . . . ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7). (Lynda Mackey Wilson, “We Who Owe Everything to a Name“, BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (2008))

Chiasm in Mosiah 5:10–12

This chiasm from Mosiah 5:10-12, discovered by John W. Welch in 1967, “successfully builds to its climax and intensifies its final exhortation against transgression by the striking introduction of these carefully chosen and intentionally reiterated terms.” Since the initial discovery of this chiasm, Welch and other scholars have extensively analyzed the presence of chiasmus and other Hebrew poetic structures in the Book of Mormon, including their important roles in communicating textual meanings as well as their significance for locating the book’s cultural and literary historicity.

Want to know more? Check this out:

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#BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279: My Brother’s Keeper–Caring for God’s “Peeps”

#BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (2)

Click graphic to read Alma 26-29

Before we get going today, I have two quick questions for you. The first one is multiple choice, the other is open comment. Once you answer the multiple choice question below, you will be able to leave your comment on the results page after you press the “vote” button (There will be a “comments” link at the bottom of the results). The question that I would like to get your comment about is this:

What have you noticed about the Book of Mormon by studying it at this pace?

Thank you!

Now, there are at least two quick questions that I should NEVER ask you:

  • And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
  • And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)

First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.

Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

 

Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!

So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.

Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.

Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).

Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the most recent General Conference of the Church we were invited to be our “brother’s keeper” as part of the #IWasAStranger efforts of the Church.

Here is a playlist that I created of the Church’s invitations and efforts to help us to help others.

Relevant links for #IWasAStranger efforts:

We usually will not have to look very hard for opportunities to provide “refuge from the storm”

I believe it was around this time of year, when we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, that I went on a “Father and Son” campout that taught me a difficult, but important lesson.

I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).

My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.

He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).

I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.

He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).

Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).

I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often. #BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (1)

Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.

On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.

I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.

Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.

Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.

It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…

FAIL!

There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.

SAVED!

The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.

Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

 

I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)

We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!

Dayton’s Legs

Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.

My Brother’s Keeper

Thomas S. Monson – April 1990

Parable of the Good Samaritan

A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”

Lyrics

1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.

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