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#BOMTC Day 60, June 5~Helaman 6-7 or Pages 381-386: Cup Up? Fill Up!

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

As you have studied the book of Helaman, you have seen that the Nephites made choices that led the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from their lives, while the Lamanites made choices that invited the Spirit to increase in their lives.

Because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51). Following their missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. Unfortunately, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them. Mormon recorded that the Lord withdrew His Spirit from the Nephites and began to pour out His Spirit on the Lamanites (see Helaman 6:35–36).

influence of the Spirit

When Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. After the people gathered to hear Nephi praying upon the tower in his garden, He used the opportunity to teach them (see Helaman 7:12–29). He warned them of the consequences of their decisions and emphasized that if they refused to repent of their sins, they would lose the Lord’s protection and the blessings of eternal life.

In Joel 2:28-29, the Lord promises that in the last days He would “will pour out [His] spirit upon all flesh”.

For illustrative purposes, let’s liken ourselves to a cup. A cup can be placed in a few different positions. You can place it with the opening facing up, sideways, or upside down. My position as a cup is determined by my attitude and actions. Now, if the Lord is going to “pour out” His Spirit upon me, then I want to be “cup up” (like the Lamanites in these chapters) with a good attitude and righteous actions. Sometimes my attitude and actions may be bad (like the Nephites in these chapters), in which case I am “cup down”–not a very good position if the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. Sometimes I may not be doing anything bad, but I am not necessarily doing anything good either (see D&C 58:26-28), in which case I could liken myself to “cup sideways”–also not very conducive to receiving an out-“pouring” of the Spirit of God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our attitude and actions can cause us to withdraw from the Holy Spirit:

“The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

“Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit….

“We should also endeavor to discern when we ‘withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord [cup down], that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved’ (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006).

I invite you to read/listen to/watch Elder Bednar’s entire conference talk so that you can assure yourself that you are living like the righteous Lamanites (“cup up”) in these chapters. His message, along with these chapters, can help you identify what you need to do to be “CUP UP” so that you can “FILL UP” on the Spirit of the Lord.

That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us

Today, I speak by way of reminder and admonition tothose of us who are members of The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints. I pray for and invite the HolyGhost to now assist me and you as we learn together.

Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins “is theintroductory ordinance of the gospel” of Jesus Christand must be preceded by faith in the Savior and bysincere and complete repentance. “Baptism in water must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to becomplete” (see Bible Dictionary, “Baptism,” 618). As theSavior taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born ofwater and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into thekingdom of God” (John 3:5). My message this afternoonfocuses on the baptism of the Spirit and the blessingsthat flow from the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The Ordinance of and Covenant Associated with Baptism

As each of us was baptized, we entered into a solemncovenant with our Heavenly Father. A covenant is anagreement between God and His children upon theearth, and it is important to understand that Goddetermines the conditions of all gospel covenants. Youand I do not decide the nature or elements of acovenant. Rather, exercising our moral agency, weaccept the terms and requirements of a covenant asour Eternal Father has established them (see BibleDictionary, “Covenant,” 651).

The saving ordinance of baptism must be administeredby one who has proper authority from God. Thefundamental conditions of the covenant into which weentered in the waters of baptism are these: wewitnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselvesthe name of Jesus Christ, that we would alwaysremember Him, and that we would keep Hiscommandments. The promised blessing for honoringthis covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to bewith us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism bywater leads to the authorized opportunity for theconstant companionship of the third member of theGodhead.

Confirmation and the Baptism of the Spirit

Following our baptism, each of us had hands placedupon our head by those with priesthood authority andwas confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christof Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferredupon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive theHoly Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strivefor the baptism of the Spirit.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “You might as wellbaptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view ofthe remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost.Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good fornothing without the other half—that is, the baptism ofthe Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499). We werebaptized by immersion in water for the remission ofsins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in theSpirit of the Lord, “and then cometh a remission of yoursins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17).

As we gain experience with the Holy Ghost, we learnthat the intensity with which we feel the Spirit’sinfluence is not always the same. Strong, dramaticspiritual impressions do not come to us frequently.Even as we strive to be faithful and obedient, theresimply are times when the direction, assurance, andpeace of the Spirit are not readily recognizable in ourlives. In fact, the Book of Mormon describes faithfulLamanites who “were baptized with fire and with theHoly Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Ne. 9:20).

The influence of the Holy Ghost is described in thescriptures as “a still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12; see also 3Ne. 11:3) and a “voice of perfect mildness” (Hel. 5:30).Thus, the Spirit of the Lord usually communicates withus in ways that are quiet, delicate, and subtle.

Withdrawing Ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord

In our individual study and classroom instruction, werepeatedly emphasize the importance of recognizingthe inspiration and promptings we receive from theSpirit of the Lord. And such an approach is correct anduseful. We should seek diligently to recognize andrespond to promptings as they come to us. However,an important aspect of baptism by the Spirit mayfrequently be overlooked in our spiritual development.

We should also endeavor to discern when we “withdraw[ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may haveno place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we]may be blessed, prospered, and preserved” (Mosiah2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that wemay always have His Spirit to be with us, we shouldattend to and learn from the choices and influencesthat separate us from the Holy Spirit.

The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear,or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we shouldstop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. Ifthat which is intended to entertain, for example,alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly thattype of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spiritcannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest,then clearly such things are not for us. Because weestrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage inactivities we know we should shun, then such thingsdefinitely are not for us.

I recognize we are fallen men and women living in amortal world and that we might not have the presenceof the Holy Ghost with us every second of every minuteof every hour of every day. However, the Holy Ghostcan tarry with us much, if not most, of the time—andcertainly the Spirit can be with us more than it is notwith us. As we become ever more immersed in theSpirit of the Lord, we should strive to recognizeimpressions when they come and the influences orevents that cause us to withdraw ourselves from theHoly Ghost.

Taking “the Holy Spirit for [our] guide” (D&C 45:57) ispossible and is essential for our spiritual growth andsurvival in an increasingly wicked world. Sometimes asLatter-day Saints we talk and act as though recognizingthe influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is the rare orexceptional event. We should remember, however, thatthe covenant promise is that we may always have HisSpirit to be with us. This supernal blessing applies toevery single member of the Church who has beenbaptized, confirmed, and instructed to “receive the HolyGhost.”

The Liahona as a Type and Shadow for Our Day

In our day the Book of Mormon is the primary source towhich we should turn for help in learning how to invitethe constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Thedescription in the Book of Mormon of the Liahona, thedirector or compass used by Lehi and his family in theirjourney in the wilderness, specifically was included inthe record as a type and a shadow for our day and asan essential lesson about what we should do to enjoythe blessings of the Holy Ghost.

As we strive to align our attitudes and actions withrighteousness, then the Holy Ghost becomes for ustoday what the Liahona was for Lehi and his family intheir day. The very factors that caused the Liahona towork for Lehi will likewise invite the Holy Ghost into ourlives. And the very factors that caused the Liahona notto work anciently will likewise cause us to withdrawourselves from the Holy Ghost today.

The Liahona: Purposes and Principles

As we study and ponder the purposes of the Liahonaand the principles by which it operated, I testify that wewill receive inspiration suited to our individual andfamily circumstances and needs. We can and will beblessed with ongoing direction from the Holy Ghost.

The Liahona was prepared by the Lord and given toLehi and his family after they left Jerusalem and weretraveling in the wilderness (see Alma 37:38; D&C 17:1).This compass or director pointed the way that Lehi andhis caravan should go (see 1 Ne. 16:10), even “a straightcourse to the promised land” (Alma 37:44). The pointersin the Liahona operated “according to the faith anddiligence and heed” (1 Ne. 16:28) of the travelers andfailed to work when family members were contentious,rude, slothful, or forgetful (see 1 Ne. 18:12, 21; Alma37:41, 43).

The compass also provided a means whereby Lehi andhis family could obtain greater “understandingconcerning the ways of the Lord” (1 Ne. 16:29). Thus,the primary purposes of the Liahona were to provideboth direction and instruction during a long anddemanding journey. The director was a physicalinstrument that served as an outward indicator of theirinner spiritual standing before God. It worked accordingto the principles of faith and diligence.

Just as Lehi was blessed in ancient times, each of us inthis day has been given a spiritual compass that candirect and instruct us during our mortal journey. TheHoly Ghost was conferred upon you and me as wecame out of the world and into the Savior’s Churchthrough baptism and confirmation. By the authority ofthe holy priesthood we were confirmed as members ofthe Church and admonished to seek for the constantcompanionship of “the Spirit of truth; whom the worldcannot receive, because it seeth him not, neitherknoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth withyou, and shall be in you” (John 14:17).

As we each press forward along the pathway of life, wereceive direction from the Holy Ghost just as Lehi wasdirected through the Liahona. “For behold, again I sayunto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receivethe Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what yeshould do” (2 Ne. 32:5).

The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as theLiahona did for Lehi and his family, according to ourfaith and diligence and heed.

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shallthy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, andthy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness andtruth” (D&C 121:45–46).

And the Holy Ghost provides for us today the meanswhereby we can receive, “by small and simple things”(Alma 37:6), increased understanding about the ways ofthe Lord: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teachyou all things, and bring all things to yourremembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John14:26).

The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless uswith direction, instruction, and spiritual protectionduring our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghostinto our lives through meaningful personal and familyprayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent andexacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring ofcovenants, and through virtue, humility, and service.And we steadfastly should avoid things that areimmodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us towithdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost.

We also invite the ongoing companionship of the HolyGhost as we worthily partake of the sacrament eachSabbath day: “And that thou mayest more fully keepthyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to thehouse of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon myholy day” (D&C 59:9).

Through the ordinance of the sacrament we renew ourbaptismal covenant and can receive and retain aremission of our sins (see Mosiah 4:12, 26). In addition,we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise thatwe may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we thenstrive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from theworld, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit ofthe Lord can always dwell.

In February of 1847 the Prophet Joseph Smith appearedto Brigham Young in a dream or vision. President Youngasked the Prophet if he had a message for theBrethren. The Prophet Joseph replied: “Tell the peopleto be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spiritof the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful andnot turn away the small still voice; it will teach themwhat to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of thekingdom” (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church:Brigham Young [1997], 41; emphasis added). Of all thetruths the Prophet Joseph might have taught BrighamYoung on that sacred occasion, he emphasized theimportance of obtaining and keeping the Spirit of theLord.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of the livingreality of God the Eternal Father and of His Son, JesusChrist, and of the Holy Ghost. May each of us so livethat we may always have His Spirit to be with us andthereby qualify for the blessings of direction,instruction, and protection that are essential in theselatter days. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 56, June 1~Alma 59-61 or Pages 357-362: “But It Mattereth Not”

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Choose Not to Be Offended

“During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran ‘by the way of condemnation’ (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, ‘Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart’ (Alma 61:2, 9) (Elder David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them“, Ensign, Nov. 2006. Emphasis added.).

WOW!!! If only we could have, “but it mattereth not,” attitudes in such situations. How many misunderstandings, grudges, conflicts, offenses, etc. could be avoided with a simple, “but it mattereth not“?

I invite you to ponder some profound preaching from Elder David A. Bednar on this matter of “but it mattereth not”. The weird thing about his message is that you will have to make sure that you are not be offended by it. He is very tactful, but also very direct. ENJOY!!!

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”

This afternoon I pray that the Holy Ghost will assist me and you as we review together important gospel principles.

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together. Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward. We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home. We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home. We indicated that we missed and needed them—and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel. And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this: “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I made hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different. Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday School that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

“No one in this branch greeted or reached out to me. I felt like an outsider. I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this branch.”

“I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me. I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.”

Many other causes of offense were cited—from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth. But the recurring theme was: “I was offended by …”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

Choose Not to Be Offended

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

Thomas B. Marsh, the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, elected to take offense over an issue as inconsequential as milk strippings (see Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). Brigham Young, on the other hand, was severely and publicly rebuked by the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he chose not to take offense (see Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown—Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16).

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. Thomas B. Marsh allowed himself to be acted upon, and the eventual results were apostasy and misery. Brigham Young was an agent who exercised his agency and acted in accordance with correct principles, and he became a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

A Latter-Day Learning Laboratory

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that the Savior established His Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Please note the use of the active word perfecting. As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not “a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of “perfecting the Saints.”

Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the “clinical material” (see “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. A visiting teacher learns her duty as she serves and loves her Relief Society sisters. An inexperienced teacher learns valuable lessons as he teaches both supportive and inattentive learners and thereby becomes a more effective teacher. And a new bishop learns how to be a bishop through inspiration and by working with ward members who wholeheartedly sustain him, even while recognizing his human frailties.

Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

Two Invitations

I conclude my message with two invitations.

Invitation #1

I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. …

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–44, 46–48).

Interestingly, the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect” is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense. Clearly, the rigorous requirements that lead to the perfecting of the Saints include assignments that test and challenge us. If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood.

Invitation #2

Many of the individuals and families who most need to hear this message about choosing not to be offended are probably not participating with us in conference today. I suspect all of us are acquainted with members who are staying away from church because they have chosen to take offense—and who would be blessed by coming back.

Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us? Perhaps you could share a copy of this talk with her or him, or you may prefer to discuss the principles we have reviewed today. And please remember that such a request should be conveyed lovingly and in meekness—and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride.

As we respond to this invitation with faith in the Savior, I testify and promise that doors will open, our mouths will be filled, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of eternal truth, and the fire of testimony will be rekindled.

As His servant, I echo the words of the Master when He declared, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (John 16:1). I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior and of His power to help us avoid and overcome offense. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

ON “ABOUT” THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. David Whitmer arrived, met Joseph Smith for the first time, and satisfied himself of the Prophet’s divine inspiration. Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved into the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where Joseph resumed translation of the Book of Mormon.

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#BOMTC Day 60, June 5~Helaman 6-7 or Pages 381-386: Cup Up? Fill Up!

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

As you have studied the book of Helaman, you have seen that the Nephites made choices that led the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from their lives, while the Lamanites made choices that invited the Spirit to increase in their lives.

Because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51). Following their missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. Unfortunately, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them. Mormon recorded that the Lord withdrew His Spirit from the Nephites and began to pour out His Spirit on the Lamanites (see Helaman 6:35–36).

influence of the Spirit

When Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. After the people gathered to hear Nephi praying upon the tower in his garden, He used the opportunity to teach them (see Helaman 7:12–29). He warned them of the consequences of their decisions and emphasized that if they refused to repent of their sins, they would lose the Lord’s protection and the blessings of eternal life.

In Joel 2:28-29, the Lord promises that in the last days He would “will pour out [His] spirit upon all flesh”.

For illustrative purposes, let’s liken ourselves to a cup. A cup can be placed in a few different positions. You can place it with the opening facing up, sideways, or upside down. My position as a cup is determined by my attitude and actions. Now, if the Lord is going to “pour out” His Spirit upon me, then I want to be “cup up” (like the Lamanites in these chapters) with a good attitude and righteous actions. Sometimes my attitude and actions may be bad (like the Nephites in these chapters), in which case I am “cup down”–not a very good position if the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. Sometimes I may not be doing anything bad, but I am not necessarily doing anything good either (see D&C 58:26-28), in which case I could liken myself to “cup sideways”–also not very conducive to receiving an out-“pouring” of the Spirit of God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our attitude and actions can cause us to withdraw from the Holy Spirit:

“The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

“Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit….

“We should also endeavor to discern when we ‘withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord [cup down], that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved’ (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006).

I invite you to read/listen to/watch Elder Bednar’s entire conference talk so that you can assure yourself that you are living like the righteous Lamanites (“cup up”) in these chapters. His message, along with these chapters, can help you identify what you need to do to be “CUP UP” so that you can “FILL UP” on the Spirit of the Lord.

That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us

Today, I speak by way of reminder and admonition tothose of us who are members of The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints. I pray for and invite the HolyGhost to now assist me and you as we learn together.

Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins “is theintroductory ordinance of the gospel” of Jesus Christand must be preceded by faith in the Savior and bysincere and complete repentance. “Baptism in water must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to becomplete” (see Bible Dictionary, “Baptism,” 618). As theSavior taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born ofwater and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into thekingdom of God” (John 3:5). My message this afternoonfocuses on the baptism of the Spirit and the blessingsthat flow from the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The Ordinance of and Covenant Associated with Baptism

As each of us was baptized, we entered into a solemncovenant with our Heavenly Father. A covenant is anagreement between God and His children upon theearth, and it is important to understand that Goddetermines the conditions of all gospel covenants. Youand I do not decide the nature or elements of acovenant. Rather, exercising our moral agency, weaccept the terms and requirements of a covenant asour Eternal Father has established them (see BibleDictionary, “Covenant,” 651).

The saving ordinance of baptism must be administeredby one who has proper authority from God. Thefundamental conditions of the covenant into which weentered in the waters of baptism are these: wewitnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselvesthe name of Jesus Christ, that we would alwaysremember Him, and that we would keep Hiscommandments. The promised blessing for honoringthis covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to bewith us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism bywater leads to the authorized opportunity for theconstant companionship of the third member of theGodhead.

Confirmation and the Baptism of the Spirit

Following our baptism, each of us had hands placedupon our head by those with priesthood authority andwas confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christof Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferredupon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive theHoly Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strivefor the baptism of the Spirit.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “You might as wellbaptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view ofthe remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost.Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good fornothing without the other half—that is, the baptism ofthe Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499). We werebaptized by immersion in water for the remission ofsins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in theSpirit of the Lord, “and then cometh a remission of yoursins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17).

As we gain experience with the Holy Ghost, we learnthat the intensity with which we feel the Spirit’sinfluence is not always the same. Strong, dramaticspiritual impressions do not come to us frequently.Even as we strive to be faithful and obedient, theresimply are times when the direction, assurance, andpeace of the Spirit are not readily recognizable in ourlives. In fact, the Book of Mormon describes faithfulLamanites who “were baptized with fire and with theHoly Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Ne. 9:20).

The influence of the Holy Ghost is described in thescriptures as “a still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12; see also 3Ne. 11:3) and a “voice of perfect mildness” (Hel. 5:30).Thus, the Spirit of the Lord usually communicates withus in ways that are quiet, delicate, and subtle.

Withdrawing Ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord

In our individual study and classroom instruction, werepeatedly emphasize the importance of recognizingthe inspiration and promptings we receive from theSpirit of the Lord. And such an approach is correct anduseful. We should seek diligently to recognize andrespond to promptings as they come to us. However,an important aspect of baptism by the Spirit mayfrequently be overlooked in our spiritual development.

We should also endeavor to discern when we “withdraw[ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may haveno place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we]may be blessed, prospered, and preserved” (Mosiah2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that wemay always have His Spirit to be with us, we shouldattend to and learn from the choices and influencesthat separate us from the Holy Spirit.

The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear,or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we shouldstop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. Ifthat which is intended to entertain, for example,alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly thattype of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spiritcannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest,then clearly such things are not for us. Because weestrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage inactivities we know we should shun, then such thingsdefinitely are not for us.

I recognize we are fallen men and women living in amortal world and that we might not have the presenceof the Holy Ghost with us every second of every minuteof every hour of every day. However, the Holy Ghostcan tarry with us much, if not most, of the time—andcertainly the Spirit can be with us more than it is notwith us. As we become ever more immersed in theSpirit of the Lord, we should strive to recognizeimpressions when they come and the influences orevents that cause us to withdraw ourselves from theHoly Ghost.

Taking “the Holy Spirit for [our] guide” (D&C 45:57) ispossible and is essential for our spiritual growth andsurvival in an increasingly wicked world. Sometimes asLatter-day Saints we talk and act as though recognizingthe influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is the rare orexceptional event. We should remember, however, thatthe covenant promise is that we may always have HisSpirit to be with us. This supernal blessing applies toevery single member of the Church who has beenbaptized, confirmed, and instructed to “receive the HolyGhost.”

The Liahona as a Type and Shadow for Our Day

In our day the Book of Mormon is the primary source towhich we should turn for help in learning how to invitethe constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Thedescription in the Book of Mormon of the Liahona, thedirector or compass used by Lehi and his family in theirjourney in the wilderness, specifically was included inthe record as a type and a shadow for our day and asan essential lesson about what we should do to enjoythe blessings of the Holy Ghost.

As we strive to align our attitudes and actions withrighteousness, then the Holy Ghost becomes for ustoday what the Liahona was for Lehi and his family intheir day. The very factors that caused the Liahona towork for Lehi will likewise invite the Holy Ghost into ourlives. And the very factors that caused the Liahona notto work anciently will likewise cause us to withdrawourselves from the Holy Ghost today.

The Liahona: Purposes and Principles

As we study and ponder the purposes of the Liahonaand the principles by which it operated, I testify that wewill receive inspiration suited to our individual andfamily circumstances and needs. We can and will beblessed with ongoing direction from the Holy Ghost.

The Liahona was prepared by the Lord and given toLehi and his family after they left Jerusalem and weretraveling in the wilderness (see Alma 37:38; D&C 17:1).This compass or director pointed the way that Lehi andhis caravan should go (see 1 Ne. 16:10), even “a straightcourse to the promised land” (Alma 37:44). The pointersin the Liahona operated “according to the faith anddiligence and heed” (1 Ne. 16:28) of the travelers andfailed to work when family members were contentious,rude, slothful, or forgetful (see 1 Ne. 18:12, 21; Alma37:41, 43).

The compass also provided a means whereby Lehi andhis family could obtain greater “understandingconcerning the ways of the Lord” (1 Ne. 16:29). Thus,the primary purposes of the Liahona were to provideboth direction and instruction during a long anddemanding journey. The director was a physicalinstrument that served as an outward indicator of theirinner spiritual standing before God. It worked accordingto the principles of faith and diligence.

Just as Lehi was blessed in ancient times, each of us inthis day has been given a spiritual compass that candirect and instruct us during our mortal journey. TheHoly Ghost was conferred upon you and me as wecame out of the world and into the Savior’s Churchthrough baptism and confirmation. By the authority ofthe holy priesthood we were confirmed as members ofthe Church and admonished to seek for the constantcompanionship of “the Spirit of truth; whom the worldcannot receive, because it seeth him not, neitherknoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth withyou, and shall be in you” (John 14:17).

As we each press forward along the pathway of life, wereceive direction from the Holy Ghost just as Lehi wasdirected through the Liahona. “For behold, again I sayunto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receivethe Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what yeshould do” (2 Ne. 32:5).

The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as theLiahona did for Lehi and his family, according to ourfaith and diligence and heed.

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shallthy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, andthy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness andtruth” (D&C 121:45–46).

And the Holy Ghost provides for us today the meanswhereby we can receive, “by small and simple things”(Alma 37:6), increased understanding about the ways ofthe Lord: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teachyou all things, and bring all things to yourremembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John14:26).

The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless uswith direction, instruction, and spiritual protectionduring our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghostinto our lives through meaningful personal and familyprayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent andexacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring ofcovenants, and through virtue, humility, and service.And we steadfastly should avoid things that areimmodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us towithdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost.

We also invite the ongoing companionship of the HolyGhost as we worthily partake of the sacrament eachSabbath day: “And that thou mayest more fully keepthyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to thehouse of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon myholy day” (D&C 59:9).

Through the ordinance of the sacrament we renew ourbaptismal covenant and can receive and retain aremission of our sins (see Mosiah 4:12, 26). In addition,we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise thatwe may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we thenstrive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from theworld, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit ofthe Lord can always dwell.

In February of 1847 the Prophet Joseph Smith appearedto Brigham Young in a dream or vision. President Youngasked the Prophet if he had a message for theBrethren. The Prophet Joseph replied: “Tell the peopleto be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spiritof the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful andnot turn away the small still voice; it will teach themwhat to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of thekingdom” (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church:Brigham Young [1997], 41; emphasis added). Of all thetruths the Prophet Joseph might have taught BrighamYoung on that sacred occasion, he emphasized theimportance of obtaining and keeping the Spirit of theLord.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of the livingreality of God the Eternal Father and of His Son, JesusChrist, and of the Holy Ghost. May each of us so livethat we may always have His Spirit to be with us andthereby qualify for the blessings of direction,instruction, and protection that are essential in theselatter days. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 56, June 1~Alma 59-61 or Pages 357-362: “But It Mattereth Not”

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Choose Not to Be Offended

“During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran ‘by the way of condemnation’ (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, ‘Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart’ (Alma 61:2, 9) (Elder David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them“, Ensign, Nov. 2006. Emphasis added.).

WOW!!! If only we could have, “but it mattereth not,” attitudes in such situations. How many misunderstandings, grudges, conflicts, offenses, etc. could be avoided with a simple, “but it mattereth not“? I invite you to ponder some profound preaching from Elder David A. Bednar on this matter of “but it mattereth not”. The weird thing about his message is that you will have to make sure that you are not be offended by it. He is very tactful, but also very direct. ENJOY!!!

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”

This afternoon I pray that the Holy Ghost will assist me and you as we review together important gospel principles.

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together. Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward. We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home. We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home. We indicated that we missed and needed them—and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel. And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this: “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I made hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different. Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday School that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

“No one in this branch greeted or reached out to me. I felt like an outsider. I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this branch.”

“I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me. I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.”

Many other causes of offense were cited—from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth. But the recurring theme was: “I was offended by …”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

Choose Not to Be Offended

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

Thomas B. Marsh, the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, elected to take offense over an issue as inconsequential as milk strippings (see Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). Brigham Young, on the other hand, was severely and publicly rebuked by the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he chose not to take offense (see Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown—Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16).

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. Thomas B. Marsh allowed himself to be acted upon, and the eventual results were apostasy and misery. Brigham Young was an agent who exercised his agency and acted in accordance with correct principles, and he became a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

A Latter-Day Learning Laboratory

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that the Savior established His Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Please note the use of the active word perfecting. As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not “a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of “perfecting the Saints.”

Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the “clinical material” (see “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. A visiting teacher learns her duty as she serves and loves her Relief Society sisters. An inexperienced teacher learns valuable lessons as he teaches both supportive and inattentive learners and thereby becomes a more effective teacher. And a new bishop learns how to be a bishop through inspiration and by working with ward members who wholeheartedly sustain him, even while recognizing his human frailties.

Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

Two Invitations

I conclude my message with two invitations.

Invitation #1

I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. …

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–44, 46–48).

Interestingly, the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect” is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense. Clearly, the rigorous requirements that lead to the perfecting of the Saints include assignments that test and challenge us. If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood.

Invitation #2

Many of the individuals and families who most need to hear this message about choosing not to be offended are probably not participating with us in conference today. I suspect all of us are acquainted with members who are staying away from church because they have chosen to take offense—and who would be blessed by coming back.

Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us? Perhaps you could share a copy of this talk with her or him, or you may prefer to discuss the principles we have reviewed today. And please remember that such a request should be conveyed lovingly and in meekness—and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride.

As we respond to this invitation with faith in the Savior, I testify and promise that doors will open, our mouths will be filled, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of eternal truth, and the fire of testimony will be rekindled.

As His servant, I echo the words of the Master when He declared, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (John 16:1). I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior and of His power to help us avoid and overcome offense. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

ON “ABOUT” THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. David Whitmer arrived, met Joseph Smith for the first time, and satisfied himself of the Prophet’s divine inspiration. Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved into the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where Joseph resumed translation of the Book of Mormon.

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#BOMTC Day 60, June 5~Helaman 6-7 or Pages 381-386: Cup Up? Fill Up!

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

As you have studied the book of Helaman, you have seen that the Nephites made choices that led the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from their lives, while the Lamanites made choices that invited the Spirit to increase in their lives.

Because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51). Following their missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. Unfortunately, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them. Mormon recorded that the Lord withdrew His Spirit from the Nephites and began to pour out His Spirit on the Lamanites (see Helaman 6:35–36).

influence of the Spirit

When Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. After the people gathered to hear Nephi praying upon the tower in his garden, He used the opportunity to teach them (see Helaman 7:12–29). He warned them of the consequences of their decisions and emphasized that if they refused to repent of their sins, they would lose the Lord’s protection and the blessings of eternal life.

In Joel 2:28-29, the Lord promises that in the last days He would “will pour out [His] spirit upon all flesh”.

For illustrative purposes, let’s liken ourselves to a cup. A cup can be placed in a few different positions. You can place it with the opening facing up, sideways, or upside down. My position as a cup is determined by my attitude and actions. Now, if the Lord is going to “pour out” His Spirit upon me, then I want to be “cup up” (like the Lamanites in these chapters) with a good attitude and righteous actions. Sometimes my attitude and actions may be bad (like the Nephites in these chapters), in which case I am “cup down”–not a very good position if the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. Sometimes I may not be doing anything bad, but I am not necessarily doing anything good either (see D&C 58:26-28), in which case I could liken myself to “cup sideways”–also not very conducive to receiving an out-“pouring” of the Spirit of God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our attitude and actions can cause us to withdraw from the Holy Spirit:

“The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

“Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit….

“We should also endeavor to discern when we ‘withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord [cup down], that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved’ (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006).

I invite you to read/listen to/watch Elder Bednar’s entire conference talk so that you can assure yourself that you are living like the righteous Lamanites (“cup up”) in these chapters. His message, along with these chapters, can help you identify what you need to do to be “CUP UP” so that you can “FILL UP” on the Spirit of the Lord.

That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us

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#BOMTC Day 56, June 1~Alma 59-61 or Pages 357-362: “But It Mattereth Not”

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9) (Elder David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them“, Ensign, Nov. 2006. Emphasis added.).

WOW!!! If only we could have, “but it mattereth not,” attitudes in such situations. How many misunderstandings, grudges, conflicts, offenses, etc. could be avoided with a simple, “but it mattereth not“? I invite you to ponder some profound preaching from Elder David A. Bednar on this matter of “but it mattereth not”. The weird thing about his message is that you will have to make sure that you are not be offended by it. He is very tactful, but also very direct. ENJOY!!!

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”

This afternoon I pray that the Holy Ghost will assist me and you as we review together important gospel principles.

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together. Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward. We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home. We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home. We indicated that we missed and needed them—and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel. And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this: “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I made hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different. Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday School that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

“No one in this branch greeted or reached out to me. I felt like an outsider. I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this branch.”

“I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me. I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.”

Many other causes of offense were cited—from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth. But the recurring theme was: “I was offended by …”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

Choose Not to Be Offended

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

Thomas B. Marsh, the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, elected to take offense over an issue as inconsequential as milk strippings (see Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). Brigham Young, on the other hand, was severely and publicly rebuked by the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he chose not to take offense (see Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown—Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16).

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. Thomas B. Marsh allowed himself to be acted upon, and the eventual results were apostasy and misery. Brigham Young was an agent who exercised his agency and acted in accordance with correct principles, and he became a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

A Latter-Day Learning Laboratory

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that the Savior established His Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Please note the use of the active word perfecting. As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not “a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of “perfecting the Saints.”

Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the “clinical material” (see “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. A visiting teacher learns her duty as she serves and loves her Relief Society sisters. An inexperienced teacher learns valuable lessons as he teaches both supportive and inattentive learners and thereby becomes a more effective teacher. And a new bishop learns how to be a bishop through inspiration and by working with ward members who wholeheartedly sustain him, even while recognizing his human frailties.

Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

Two Invitations

I conclude my message with two invitations.

Invitation #1

I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. …

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–44, 46–48).

Interestingly, the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect” is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense. Clearly, the rigorous requirements that lead to the perfecting of the Saints include assignments that test and challenge us. If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood.

Invitation #2

Many of the individuals and families who most need to hear this message about choosing not to be offended are probably not participating with us in conference today. I suspect all of us are acquainted with members who are staying away from church because they have chosen to take offense—and who would be blessed by coming back.

Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us? Perhaps you could share a copy of this talk with her or him, or you may prefer to discuss the principles we have reviewed today. And please remember that such a request should be conveyed lovingly and in meekness—and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride.

As we respond to this invitation with faith in the Savior, I testify and promise that doors will open, our mouths will be filled, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of eternal truth, and the fire of testimony will be rekindled.

As His servant, I echo the words of the Master when He declared, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (John 16:1). I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior and of His power to help us avoid and overcome offense. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

ON “ABOUT” THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. David Whitmer arrived, met Joseph Smith for the first time, and satisfied himself of the Prophet’s divine inspiration. Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved into the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where Joseph resumed translation of the Book of Mormon.

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#BOMTC Day 60, June 5~Helaman 6-7 or Pages 381-386: Cup Up? Fill Up!

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

Click graphic to read Helaman 6-7

As you have studied the book of Helaman, you have seen that the Nephites made choices that led the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from their lives, while the Lamanites made choices that invited the Spirit to increase in their lives. Because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51). Following their missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. Unfortunately, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them. Mormon recorded that the Lord withdrew His Spirit from the Nephites and began to pour out His Spirit on the Lamanites (see Helaman 6:35–36). When Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. After the people gathered to hear Nephi praying upon the tower in his garden, He used the opportunity to teach them (see Helaman 7:12–29). He warned them of the consequences of their decisions and emphasized that if they refused to repent of their sins, they would lose the Lord’s protection and the blessings of eternal life.

influence of the Spirit

In Joel 2:28-29, the Lord promises that in the last days He would “will pour out [His] spirit upon all flesh”.

For illustrative purposes, let’s liken ourselves to a cup. A cup can be placed in a few different positions. You can place it facing up, sideways, or upside down. My position is determined by my attitude and actions. Now if the Lord is going to “pour out” His Spirit upon me then I want to be “cup up” (like the Lamanites in these chapters) with a good attitude and righteous actions. Sometimes my attitude and actions may be bad (like the Nephites in these chapters), in which case I am “cup down”–not a very good position if the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. Sometimes I may not be doing anything bad, but I am not necessarily doing anything good either (see D&C 58:26-28), in which case I could liken myself to “cup sideways”–also not very conducive to receiving an out-“pouring” of the Spirit of God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our attitude and actions can cause us to withdraw from the Holy Spirit:

“The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

“Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit….

“We should also endeavor to discern when we ‘withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord [cup down], that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved’ (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006).

I invite you to read/listen to/watch Elder Bednar’s entire conference talk so that you can assure yourself that you are living like the righteous Lamanites [“cup up”] in these chapters. His message, along with these chapters, can help you identify what you need to do to be “CUP UP” so that you can “FILL UP!” on the Spirit of the Lord.

That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us


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