Tag Archives: Lamanites

#BOMTC 3 Nephi 3-5: PREPARED

Soon after the people saw the signs of Jesus Christ’s birth, they began to forget the witnesses they had received, and they hardened their hearts. Many of the Nephites and Lamanites rejected further signs and wonders and increased in wickedness. As a result, the Gadianton robbers grew so strong that Nephites and Lamanites were compelled to take up arms against them. The converted Lamanites joined with the Nephites and became known as Nephites.

Lachoneus, the chief judge of the Nephites, called on the people to repent and prepared them for battle. Because of their repentance, unity, faith in the Lord, and diligent preparations, the Nephites triumphed over the Gadianton robbers. Following their deliverance, the righteous Nephites and Lamanites acknowledged the power of God in their preservation.

 Joplin Saints Talk About Preparation

Members of the Joplin Stake share how being prepared blessed their lives and the lives of others in the wake of a devastating tornado. (3:40)

By this point in our study of the Book of Mormon you are probably seeing many similarities between our day and what was happening back then. We can definitely “LIKEN” these accounts to our life as we prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord. As the righteous Nephites and Lamanites prepared themselves physically and spiritually they received the “strength of the Lord” (3 Nephi 3:21; 4:10) to help them overcome their enemies and the wickedness that surrounded them. The video above demonstrates the importance of our physical preparation in the latter days preceding the Second Coming. The video below helps us to understand the importance of our spiritual preparation–which is even more important. It is one of my favorite talks about preparing for the Second Coming, and if you like to listen to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, then you will definitely want to review his message that was giving in 2004. Elder Oaks is indeed a Latter-day Lachoneus that is trying to help us be prepared for that which is to come.

Preparation for the Second Coming

Dallin H. Oaks

In modern revelation we have the promise that if we are prepared we need not fear (see D&C 38:30). I was introduced to that principle 60 years ago this summer when I became a Boy Scout and learned the Scout motto: “Be prepared.” Today I have felt prompted to speak of the importance of preparation for a future event of supreme importance to each of us—the Second Coming of the Lord.

The scriptures are rich in references to the Second Coming, an event eagerly awaited by the righteous and dreaded or denied by the wicked. The faithful of all ages have pondered the sequence and meaning of the many events prophesied to precede and follow this hinge point of history.

Four matters are indisputable to Latter-day Saints: (1) The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace. (2) At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. (3) No one knows the time of His coming, but (4) the faithful are taught to study the signs of it and to be prepared for it. I wish to speak about the fourth of these great realities: the signs of the Second Coming and what we should do to prepare for it.

I.
The Lord has declared, “He that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man,” signs that will be shown “in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath” (D&C 45:39–40).

The Savior taught this in the parable of the fig tree whose tender new branches give a sign of the coming of summer. “So likewise,” when the elect shall see the signs of His coming “they shall know that he is near, even at the doors” (JS—M 1:38–39; see also Matt. 24:32–33; D&C 45:37–38).

Biblical and modern prophecies give many signs of the Second Coming. These include:

1. The fulness of the gospel restored and preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.
2. False Christs and false prophets, deceiving many.
3. Wars and rumors of wars, with nation rising against nation.
4. Earthquakes in divers places.
5. Famine and pestilence.
6. An overflowing scourge, a desolating sickness covering the land.
7. Iniquity abounding.
8. The whole earth in commotion.
9. Men’s hearts failing them.
(See Matt. 24:5–15; JS—M 1:22, 28–32; D&C 45:26–33.)

In another revelation the Lord declares that some of these signs are His voice calling His people to repentance:

“Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. …

“How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, … and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!” (D&C 43:23, 25).

These signs of the Second Coming are all around us and seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. For example, the list of major earthquakes in The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 shows twice as many earthquakes in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s as in the two preceding decades (pp. 189–90). It also shows further sharp increases in the first several years of this century. The list of notable floods and tidal waves and the list of hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards worldwide show similar increases in recent years (pp. 188–89). Increases by comparison with 50 years ago can be dismissed as changes in reporting criteria, but the accelerating pattern of natural disasters in the last few decades is ominous.

II.
Another sign of the times is the gathering of the faithful (see D&C 133:4). In the early years of this last dispensation, a gathering to Zion involved various locations in the United States: to Kirtland, to Missouri, to Nauvoo, and to the tops of the mountains. Always these were gatherings to prospective temples. With the creation of stakes and the construction of temples in most nations with sizeable populations of the faithful, the current commandment is not to gather to one place but to gather in stakes in our own homelands. There the faithful can enjoy the full blessings of eternity in a house of the Lord. There, in their own homelands, they can obey the Lord’s command to enlarge the borders of His people and strengthen her stakes (see D&C 101:21; D&C 133:9, 14). In this way, the stakes of Zion are “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6).

III.
While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us.

A parable that contains an important and challenging teaching on this subject is the parable of the ten virgins. Of this parable, the Lord said, “And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins” (D&C 45:56).

Given in the 25th chapter of Matthew, this parable contrasts the circumstances of the five foolish and the five wise virgins. All ten were invited to the wedding feast, but only half of them were prepared with oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. The five who were prepared went into the marriage feast, and the door was shut. The five who had delayed their preparations came late. The door had been closed, and the Lord denied them entrance, saying, “I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). “Watch therefore,” the Savior concluded, “for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13).

The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came.

Modern revelation contains this teaching, spoken by the Lord to the early leaders of the Church:

“And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.

“For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes. …

“And … the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

“And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.

“And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (D&C 88:88–92).

IV.
Brothers and sisters, as the Book of Mormon teaches, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; … the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). Are we preparing?

In His preface to our compilation of modern revelation the Lord declares, “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh” (D&C 1:12).

The Lord also warned: “Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (D&C 133:10; see also D&C 34:6).

Always we are cautioned that we cannot know the day or the hour of His coming. In the 24th chapter of Matthew Jesus taught:

“Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

“But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matt. 24:42–43). “But would have been ready” (JS—M 1:47).

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:44; see also D&C 51:20).

What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?

If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.

We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.

V.
We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (D&C 1:35), when “all things shall be in commotion” and “men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 88:91). There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current “commotion” is spiritual.

Viewing our surroundings through the lens of faith and with an eternal perspective, we see all around us a fulfillment of the prophecy that “the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:35). Our hymn describes “the foe in countless numbers, / Marshaled in the ranks of sin” (“Hope of Israel,” Hymns, no. 259), and so it is.

Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner. The most fundamental roots and bulwarks of civilization are questioned or attacked. Nations disavow their religious heritage. Marriage and family responsibilities are discarded as impediments to personal indulgence. The movies and magazines and television that shape our attitudes are filled with stories or images that portray the children of God as predatory beasts or, at best, as trivial creations pursuing little more than personal pleasure. And too many of us accept this as entertainment.

The men and women who made epic sacrifices to combat evil regimes in the past were shaped by values that are disappearing from our public teaching. The good, the true, and the beautiful are being replaced by the no-good, the “whatever,” and the valueless fodder of personal whim. Not surprisingly, many of our youth and adults are caught up in pornography, pagan piercing of body parts, self-serving pleasure pursuits, dishonest behavior, revealing attire, foul language, and degrading sexual indulgence.

An increasing number of opinion leaders and followers deny the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and revere only the gods of secularism. Many in positions of power and influence deny the right and wrong defined by divine decree. Even among those who profess to believe in right and wrong, there are “them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20; 2 Ne. 15:20). Many also deny individual responsibility and practice dependence on others, seeking, like the foolish virgins, to live on borrowed substance and borrowed light.

All of this is grievous in the sight of our Heavenly Father, who loves all of His children and forbids every practice that keeps any from returning to His presence.

What is the state of our personal preparation for eternal life? The people of God have always been people of covenant. What is the measure of our compliance with covenants, including the sacred promises we made in the waters of baptism, in receiving the holy priesthood, and in the temples of God? Are we promisers who do not fulfill and believers who do not perform?

Are we following the Lord’s command, “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly”? (D&C 87:8). What are those “holy places”? Surely they include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept. Surely they include a home where children are treasured and parents are respected. Surely the holy places include our posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions and callings faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.

As the Savior taught in His prophecy of the Second Coming, blessed is the “faithful and wise servant” who is attending to his duty when the Lord comes (see Matt. 24:45–46). As the prophet Nephi taught of that day, “The righteous need not fear” (1 Ne. 22:17; see also 1 Ne. 14:14; D&C 133:44). And modern revelation promises that “the Lord shall have power over his saints” (D&C 1:36).

We are surrounded by challenges on all sides (see 2 Cor. 4:8–9). But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

“Wherefore,” the Savior tells us, “be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly” (D&C 33:17–18).

I testify of Jesus Christ. I testify that He shall come, as He has promised. And I pray that we will be prepared to meet Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

#BOMTC Day 65, June 10~3 Nephi 3-5 or Pages 411-416 3 Nephi 5~13

3 Nephi 5:13

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#BOMTC Helaman 1-3: The Beginning of the End

The events in the book of Helaman begin at about 52 B.C. At this point in our reading we have about 30% still left in the Book of Mormon, but as Mormon points out, the secret combinations that were being organized at that time would lead to the eventual overthrow of Nephite nation (Hel. 2:13-14).

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (“The Savior’s Visit to America“, Ensign, May 1987). One of the major points emphasized in this book is the evil caused by secret combinations.

Satan LOVES secrets! Many times we keep something a secret in an effort to save ourselves in some way.  But secrets do not save us; they enslave us! We become a slave to a secret. We would do well to understand what Mormon teaches us about secret combinations so that we can recognize modern-day secret combinations and do everything in our power to combat them–especially the secret combinations that we may produce in our own lives.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations in our day:

“The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. … Among their purposes are to ‘murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ (Helaman 6:23).

“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. …

“The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the ‘author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations (Helaman 6:30). … His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations (see 2 Nephi 9:9). To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us… to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe.

“… [We can] ‘stand as witnesses of God’ by [1] setting an example, [2] keeping Church standards, and [3] sharing our testimony with those around us (see Mosiah 18:9)” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997).

Bro Simon Bonus:

My “current favorite” verses from the Book of Mormon come from Helaman 3:27–30. Mormon often used the phrases “thus we may see,” “thus we see,” and “we see” to point out truths he wanted us to learn. In Helaman 3:27–30 these phrases are used a number of times. What message do you think Mormon wants you to take away from these verses?

27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

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#BOMTC Alma 62-63: “All These Things Were Done”

Captain Moroni brought a portion of his army to  Zarahemla to help Pahoran overthrow the king-men—Nephite dissenters who wanted to establish a king and enter into an alliance with the Lamanites. Moroni and Pahoran united their forces and received help from other Nephite armies to drive the Lamanites out of the land. During this time many Lamanites repented and joined the people of Ammon. After 14 years of war, the Nephites again had peace in the land, allowing Helaman and his brethren to focus on building up the Church.

After Helaman died (see Alma 62:52), his brother Shiblon took possession of the sacred records. Before he died, Shiblon gave Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, charge of the sacred records. Helaman preserved the records that were already written and began keeping the record that would become the book of Helaman. Captain Moroni died, and his son Moronihah led an army that drove back another Lamanite attack. Many Nephites, led by a man named Hagoth, traveled by ship to lands northward and were never heard from again.

F.Y.I., Alma 63:4–10

Hagoth and his descendants

Where have Latter-day prophets said that Hagoth’s people settled?

  • To Saints in New Zealand, President Joseph F. Smith said, “You brothers and sisters from New Zealand, I want you to know that you are from the people of Hagoth” (quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3 [1991], 329).
  • In the dedicatory prayer for the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, President David O. McKay said, “We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper” (“Dedicatory Prayer Delivered by Pres. McKay at New Zealand Temple,” Church News, May 10, 1958, 2).
  • President Spencer W. Kimball said: “It is reasonable to conclude that Hagoth and his associates were about nineteen centuries on the islands, from about 55 B.C. to 1854 before the gospel began to reach them. They had lost all the plain and precious things which the Savior brought to the earth, for they were likely on the islands when the Christ was born in Jerusalem” (Temple View Area Conference Report, February 1976, 3; quoted in Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, 329).

Another interesting article on this can be found at: Robert E. Parsons, “Hagoth and the Polynesians,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, eds. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), 249–262.

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#BOMTC Alma 59-61: “But It Mattereth Not”

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 principles 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.

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#BOMTC Alma 56-58: Modern-day Stripling Warriors

The young men that we refer to as “Stripling Warriors” were the sons of the converted Lamanites known as Ammonites (the People of Ammon, or the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) who became warriors under the prophet Helaman’s military charge (Alma 53:16-22; see also #BOMTC Alma 53-55,  Follow the Prophet!).

As pointed out in my previous post, we may give Helaman and these young men more physical credit than we do spiritual credit. The word “stripling” means, “a young man”. The only other attributes that are really mentioned about these young men are all of a spiritual nature. Their prophet/captain Helaman considered them worthy to be called his sons (See Alma 56:10), their mothers had taught them not to doubt the Lord’s ability to deliver them (See Alma 56:47), and they defeated the Lamanites and were preserved by their faith such that none were slain (See Alma 56:52–54, 56Alma 57:26).

These scriptures teach us that the young men had never fought in battle before but that they had not entered into the same covenant as their parents to not fight in war. If the Nephites considered them to be under the age of accountability, then that covenant would probably have excluded children under age eight (See D&C 68:25).

Some suppose that Helaman’s “stripling” warriors may have been about 20 years old because that was the minimum age for Israelite soldiers according to the Law of Moses (see Numbers 1:3).  According to the timetable of the book of Alma and an article in the Ensign, These “stripling warriors” could have ranged in age from twenty (using the law of Moses as the standard for the time) to about twenty-two (those who could have been about seven years old when the oath was taken by their parents) in the twenty-sixth year of the judges. Three years later, sixty young men joined Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors (see Alma 57:6), perhaps having reached the age for military service. By the time that Helaman wrote his epistle to Moroni (see Alma 56:1), it seems possible that his youngest soldiers perhaps were age twenty-one, and his eldest, twenty-six.

Regardless of their age or stature, there is much that can be learned from the faith of these fine young men that is relevant to our lives today. Perhaps one of the most common “likenings” for this story is with today’s missionaries–sometimes referred to as “God’s Army”. Elder M. Russell Ballard gave what has become a landmark talk called, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries“. I invite you to watch/listen/read it and see if there is something that stands out to you that can help you in life’s battles.

In one of the most powerful and instructive stories from the Book of Mormon, the people of Ammon had covenanted never again to take up weapons for the shedding of blood. But “when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions … which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country” (Alma 53:13). Helaman and his brethren persuaded them to honor their covenant with the Lord.

The scriptural account doesn’t tell us who first pointed out that their sons had not made the same covenant their parents had made. I like to think that it was one of the young men who suggested the possibility that he and his peers be allowed to “take up arms, and [call] themselves Nephites.

“And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives” (Alma 53:16–17).

This was an extraordinary task for a group of 2,000 young men, but they were extraordinary young men. According to the scriptural record: “They were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.

“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20–21).

The rest of the story tells how these young men fought valiantly against the much older and much more experienced Lamanite army. According to their leader, Helaman, “They … fought as if with the strength of God; … and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war” (Alma 56:56).

Imagine that! These inexperienced young men were so spiritually and physically prepared, and so powerful, that they frightened their foes into surrendering! Although all 2,000 of the young men were wounded in battle at one time or another, not one was killed (see Alma 57:25). Again quoting Helaman, “And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power” (Alma 57:26).

Brethren, today we are fighting a battle that in many ways is more perilous, more fraught with danger than the battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Our enemy is cunning and resourceful. We fight against Lucifer, the father of all lies, the enemy of all that is good and right and holy. Truly we live in a time of which Paul prophesied, when “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

“… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:2–5).

Does this sound familiar, brethren? To me it sounds like a night of prime-time television.

These are “perilous times.” We battle literally for the souls of men. The enemy is unforgiving and relentless. He is taking eternal prisoners at an alarming rate. And he shows no sign of letting up.

While we are profoundly grateful for the many members of the Church who are doing great things in the battle for truth and right, I must honestly tell you it still is not enough. We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.

What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity” and who are “true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5).

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to begin right now—tonight—to be fully and completely worthy. Resolve and commit to yourselves and to God that from this moment forward you will strive diligently to keep your hearts, hands, and minds pure and unsullied from any kind of moral transgression. Resolve to avoid pornography as you would avoid the most insidious disease, for that is precisely what it is. Resolve to completely abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Resolve to be honest. Resolve to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the land in which you live. Resolve that from this night forward you will never defile your body or use language that is vulgar and unbecoming to a bearer of the priesthood.

And that is not all we expect of you, my young brethren. We expect you to have an understanding and a solid testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We expect you to work hard. We expect you to be covenant makers and covenant keepers. We expect you to be missionaries to match our glorious message.

Now these are high standards. We understand that, but we do not apologize for them. They reflect the Lord’s standards for you to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to enter the temple, to serve as missionaries, and to be righteous husbands and fathers. There’s nothing new in them, nothing you haven’t heard before. But tonight we call upon you, our young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, to rise up, to measure up, and to be fully prepared to serve the Lord.

Many of you are already on this track, and we commend you for your worthiness and determination. For those of you who are not, let tonight be the beginning of your preparation process. If you find yourself wanting in worthiness, resolve to make the appropriate changes—beginning right now. If you think you need to talk to your father and your bishop about any sins you may have committed, don’t wait; do it now. They will help you to repent and change so you can take your place as a member of the greatest generation of missionaries.

Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the “repent and go” missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they’re 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant by doing such simple things as:

• Developing a meaningful prayer relationship with your Heavenly Father.

• Keeping the Sabbath day holy.

• Working and putting part of your earnings in a savings account.

• Paying a full and honest tithing.

• Limiting the amount of time spent playing computer games. How many kills you can make in a minute with a computer game will have zero effect on your capacity to be a good missionary.

• Giving the Lord more of your time by studying the scriptures and gaining an understanding of the marvelous message of the Restoration that we have for the world.

• Serving others and sharing your testimony with them.

Now, fathers, you have a vital role in this preparation process. We know that the most profound influence on helping young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, marriage, and fatherhood is the family. If your sons understand the basic doctrines required to become a faithful father, they will surely be ready to serve as a full-time missionary. Unfortunately, far too many fathers abdicate this eternal responsibility. You may assume that the bishop and the seminary, Sunday School, and Young Men teachers and leaders are in a better position to motivate and inspire your sons than you are. That simply is not the case. While ecclesiastical leaders are important to your son’s priesthood and missionary preparation, the Church exists as a resource to you. It is not a substitute for your inspired teaching, guidance, and correction.

Consequently, if we are “raising the bar” for your sons to serve as missionaries, that means we are also “raising the bar” for you. If we expect more of them, that means we expect more of you and your wife as well. Remember, Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors were faithful because “they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21)—and that instruction came in their homes.

Some fathers don’t think they have the right to ask worthiness questions of their children. They think that is the purview of the bishop alone. Fathers, not only do you have the right to know the worthiness of your children, you have the responsibility. It is your duty to know how your children are doing with regards to their spiritual well-being and progression. You need to monitor carefully the issues and concerns they share with you. Ask specific questions of your children regarding their worthiness, and refuse to settle for anything less than specific answers.

Too often our bishops have to instruct youth to talk to their parents about problems they are having. That procedure should actually flow the other direction. Parents should be so intimately aware of what is going on in their children’s lives that they know about the problems before the bishop does. They should be counseling with their children and going with them to their bishops if that becomes necessary for complete repentance. As divinely appointed judges in Israel, the bishop and the stake president determine worthiness and resolve concerns on behalf of the Church; but, fathers, you have an eternal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your children. Please assume your rightful place as counselor, adviser, and priesthood leader in preparing your sons to bear the Melchizedek Priesthood and to serve as missionaries.

Now, a word to you bishops. I realize there are many young men who don’t have a faithful father in their home. In these cases, use the resources of the Church to see that these Aaronic Priesthood holders are taught by Melchizedek Priesthood brethren who can help them to prepare for their future priesthood service. Upon you bishops and you stake presidents rests the responsibility to recommend only those young men and women whom you judge to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to face today’s realities of missionary work. Brethren, judge wisely and remember: not every young man needs to be called to serve away from his home; some may best serve under your direction as ward missionaries.

To those of you who are currently serving as full-time missionaries, we thank you for your service. Tonight is a good time for each of you to take a close look at your performance; and if you are not measuring up, your mission president will help you make the necessary changes to be an effective, dedicated servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, to those of you who have already served, please remember that you were released from your missions but not from the Church. You spent two years as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. We expect you to always look and act like one of His disciples. Look the part. Act the part. Don’t follow worldly trends and fashions. You are better than that. If you have slipped, then do what is necessary to regain your spiritual balance. The rules for happiness and success after your mission are pretty much the same as they were during your mission: pray hard, work hard, and be obedient. Get busy now and find your eternal companion to enjoy life with. Serve the Lord together, and raise up the next great generation.

My brethren, I have spoken plainly tonight. I hope you can feel the love and the concern that emanates from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders as we ask you to prepare now to join us in taking the blessings of the restored gospel to all the people on the earth. Each one of you is precious, and we want you to be successful and secure in the battle for the souls of our Heavenly Father’s children. May God bless you with the courage to be “true at all times” (Alma 53:20) and with the vision to realize who you are and what the Lord has for you to do, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Here is a fun little activity called, “An interview with Helaman and his Stripling Warriors,” that some people have used for Sharing Time and Family Home Evening.

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#BOMTC Alma 51-52: “A Little Kingdom I Possess”

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
Of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts,
On all my will and deeds.

How can I learn to rule myself,
To be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life’s way?
How can I tune my little heart,
To sweetly sing all day?

Dear Father, help me with the love
That castest out my fear!
Teach me to lean on Thee and feel
That thou art very near.
That no temptation is unseen,
No childish grief too small,
Since Thou, with patience infinite,
Dost soothe and comfort all.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be Thou my Guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command.

-Louisa M. Al­cott, cir­ca 1846

Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said:

As the forces [of sin] around us increase in intensity, whatever spiritual strength was once sufficient will not be enough. And whatever growth in spiritual strength we once thought was possible, greater growth will be made available to us. Both the need for spiritual strength and the opportunity to acquire it will increase at rates which we underestimate at our peril” (“Always,” Ensign, Oct. 1999).

The Nephites built fortifications that gave them strength in a time of great difficulty. Mormon described Teancum’s stand against the Lamanites using such words as defend, fortify, secure, and strengthen (Alma 52:5-10). We can follow their example by building our spiritual strength now so that we will have the strength we need in a time of difficulty. Spiritual strength is built most effectively by consistent, daily efforts.

President James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:

Satan’s efforts can be thwarted by all who come unto Christ by obedience to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel. The humble followers of the divine Master need not be deceived by the devil if they will be honest and true to their fellow men and women, go to the house of the Lord, receive the sacrament worthily, observe the Sabbath day, pay their tithes and offerings, offer contrite prayers, engage in the Lord’s work, and follow those who preside over them” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 34–36).

CS Lewis, There Is No Neutral Ground

“Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. [That is because] there is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” – C.S. Lewis

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#BOMTC Alma 46-47: STANDards Help Us WithSTAND Evil

Helaman and Captain Moroni became the Nephites spiritual and military leaders, respectively. Some people who were angry with Helaman and his brethren chose to leave the Church and follow a wicked man named Amalickiah, who wanted to be king. Amalickiah selfishly pursued his unrighteous desires to become king using tactics that resembled those of Satan.  To help defend the liberty of the people, Moroni, who was the chief captain of the Nephite armies, tore his coat and used a piece of it to make a “Title of Liberty” to rally the people in defense of liberty (see Alma 46:10-36). Captain Moroni used Title of Liberty as a STANDard (see Alma 46:36) to help his people to be faithful to God and withSTAND evil during those perilous times. The Nephites who joined with Captain Moroni captured the army of Amalickiah. However, Amalickiah and a few others escaped and joined the Lamanites.

Amalackiah used many deceptive tactics to become king of the Lamanites so that he could lead the Lamanite army to war against the Nephites. His desire was to bring the Nephites into bondage and become their king. Amalackiah joined the Lamanites. The king of the Lamanites desired to go to battle against the Nephites, but many of his people were afraid. The king asked Amalackiah to force the fearful Lamanites to join the battle. Amalickiah marched to the mountain hideout where the deserters had fled. However, he did not want to help the king of the Lamanites. He sought to become the leader of the deserters by tricking Lehonti, their leader, into coming down off his mountain refuge. Amalickiah intended to kill Lehonti with poison after he came down (see Alma 47:10–19). As Amalickiah did with Lehonti, Satan seeks to destroy us and entices us “by degrees” to “come down” and lower our STANDards.


Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that people today may try to destroy our faith and testimony by tempting us to leave our places of spiritual safety and come into the devil’s territory:

Elder Robert D. Hales

“In the Book of Mormon, we read about Lehonti and his men camped upon a mount. The traitorous Amalickiah urged Lehonti to ‘come down’ and meet him in the valley. But when Lehonti left the high ground, he was poisoned ‘by degrees’ until he died, and his army fell into Amalickiah’s hands (see Alma 47). By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. … It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign, Nov. 2008).

Come Forth

We each have Captain Moroni’s and Amalickiah’s in our lives. The Captain Moroni’s show us that STANDing with our STANDards will help us to enjoy “liberty”. The Amalickiah’s in our lives seek to overthrow us by persistently persuading us to “come down” from our STANDards so that they can destroy us by “degrees”.

“In all ages prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—this is a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number of priesthood holders on the earth.

“Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?

“Great battles can make great heroes and heroines. We will never have a better opportunity to be valiant in a more crucial cause than in the battle we face today and in the immediate future. Some of the greatest battles we will face will be fought within the silent chambers of our own souls. David’s battles in the field against the foe were not as critical as David’s battles in the palace against a lustful eye.

“Each of us has his or her own battlefield. The tactics which the enemy will use against us will vary from time to time. He will seek to exploit our weak spots, so we must be alert to the devil’s devious designs—the subtle sins and clever compromises as well as the obvious offenses.

“We must remember that the devil seeks to make all men miserable like unto himself. We must also remember that the Lord loves us and seeks for us the fulness of joy which He enjoys. We must choose whom we will serve.

“Christ lived on earth and was subject to all manner of temptation, but He won every battle. He is the most successful warrior that ever walked the earth, and He wants to help us win every battle, be it personal or public. When we fall short, His atonement will compensate for us on condition of our repentance.

“Jesus knows His kingdom will triumph, and He wants us to triumph with it. He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against us and the kingdom. He knows our weaknesses and He knows our strengths. By personal revelation, we may discover some of our strengths through careful and prayerful study of our patriarchal blessing. In prayer we can ask Him to reveal to us our weaknesses so that we can amend our lives” (President Ezra Taft Benson“In His Steps”, Ensign, Sept. 1988).

#BOMTC Day 51, May 27~Alma 46-47 or Pages 322-328 I Am Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most. (Text of the talk)

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