Thursday, November 17, 2011

Commandments ARE Blessings

The First law of Heaven is Obedience.  It is by obedience to the laws of God that we receive blessings from Him. 

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven
before the foundations of this world,
upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God,
it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

God gives us commandments for our benefit.  They are instructions from a loving Father in Heaven to help us have happy lives.  He also gives us agency, or the ability and opportunity to choose between good and evil.  When we obey God, we follow the influence of the Spirit and choose to conform to His will.  Obedience to the commandments brings us peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.  Obedience shows our love for God.  Disobedience brings us sorrow.

"If ye love me, keep my commandments." --John 14:15

God commands us to pray to Him.  You can pray at any time and in any setting.  The Lord has taught us to kneel and pray in the morning and in the evening, as individuals and with our families.  Our Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers.  Through daily prayer we receive divine guidance and blessings.  We should always pray sincerely.  We should also pray with “real intent,” which means we are committed to act on the
answer that we receive.

We pray with faith to our Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ (see Moses 5:8).  Because He is our Father and we are His children, He will answer our prayers.  

We begin our prayers by addressing our Father in Heaven.  We then give thanks for the blessings we have received, and ask for those blessings we need from Him.  We end a prayer "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

In prayer we speak openly and honestly with our loving Father in Heaven.  We express gratitude and thanksgiving for our blessings.  We may acknowledge our love for Him.  We also ask for help, protection, and direction according to our needs.

The scriptures are written records of God’s dealings with His children as recorded by prophets under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  We show our faith by studying, believing, and obeying God’s revealed word.  We diligently search the scriptures to understand the truth.  We feast upon them because they open the door to revelation and show us what we need to do and become.  We search the scriptures to learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from God and comes through studying and living
His word and His gospel.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward
with a steadfastness in Christ,
having a perfect brightness of hope,
and a love of God and of all men.
Wherefore, if ye shall press forward,
feasting upon the word of Christ,
and endure to the end,
behold, thus saith the Father:
Ye shall have eternal life."

Our Sabbath day behavior is a reflection of our commitment to honor and worship God.  By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we show God our willingness to keep our covenants.  Each Sabbath day we go to the Lord’s house to worship Him.  While there we partake of the sacrament to remember Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  We renew our covenants and show that we are willing to repent of our sins and mistakes.

On this day, we enjoy a rest from our labors.  As we attend Church services and worship together, we strengthen each other.  We are renewed by our association with friends and family.  Our faith is strengthened as we study the scriptures and learn more about the restored gospel.

When a community or nation grows careless in its Sabbath activities, its religious life decays and all aspects of life are negatively affected.  The blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath day holy are lost.  We should refrain from shopping on the Sabbath and participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath.

So lets say that the entire city, town, or village you live in contracted a disease.  Everyone caught this disease, accept your only child.  Your child had an anomaly in their blood that made them immune and could cure everyone else.  But to save everyone else your child would have to die.  Your child decided they would go ahead and do it to save all of their friends.  So after everyone was cured the entire city dedicated one day a week to remember the sacrifice of your child, and on this day no one was supposed to do any work of any kind.

A few weeks go by and everyone has respect for your child's sacrifice, and everyone honors the day that was set apart.  But then the next week comes and as you sit on your porch you see someone mowing their lawn.  This is against the law of observance instated for your child.  How would you react to see them working on that day, rather than just doing it the day before or the day after?  You would probably not be pleased with the way they ignored what your child had done for them.

This is how our Heavenly Father feels when we don't pay proper respect each week for the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.  Jesus Christ came and suffered for us, and has asked that we set apart one day each week to honor Him.

"And the church did meet together oft,
to fast and to pray,
and to speak one with another
concerning the welfare of their souls.
And they did meet together oft
to partake of bread and wine,
in remembrance of the Lord Jesus."

The way we show our desire to follow in God’s way is through baptism and confirmation.  When we are baptized and confirmed, we enter into a covenant that we will take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and that we will always remember Him and keep His commandments.  We also promise to stand as witnesses of God at all times and to assist those in need (see Mosiah 18:8–9).  In return, God promises the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and a remission of our sins.

Truth is a knowledge of things as they really are, were, and will be. It does not change with conditions or time. Truth is the same in every age and culture. God is the source of all truth. We can have faith in Him because we know He will teach us only truth. God wants all His children to know the truth. Therefore, He reveals the truths necessary for salvation through prophets and apostles. He reveals truth to us personally through the scriptures and personal revelation.

A prophet is called and chosen by God and is a righteous man with great faith. The Lord reveals truth to him through the Holy Ghost. He commands His prophet to teach truth to all people. Those who believe God’s words as revealed through His prophet are blessed. (see Exodus 4:16, and Hebrews 5:4)

Christ’s Church is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, who direct the Church by revelation. The Lord called Joseph Smith as the first prophet and head of this last dispensation. His successors who lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today are also prophets and apostles. The President of the Church today is a living prophet. We are to have faith in God’s chosen prophet, gain conviction of his divine calling, and follow his teachings.

We have frequent opportunities to sustain Church leaders publicly. Sustain means to support. We are to prepare ourselves so that when the prophets and apostles speak, the Holy Ghost can confirm the truths they teach, and we can then determine to follow the counsel they give us.

Those who listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles will not go astray. The teachings of living prophets provide an anchor of eternal truth in a world of shifting values and help us avoid misery and sorrow. The confusion and strife of the world will not overwhelm us, and we can enjoy the assurance of being in harmony with God’s will.

Heavenly Father gives us commandments so that we will know what to do and what to avoid in order to receive the blessings He wants to give us like joy, peace of conscience, and lasting happiness.  God revealed to Moses the Ten Commandments to guide His people. (see Exodus 20)  The Ten Commandments are:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Other 'gods' may include possessions, power, authority, or vain ambitions.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Honor thy father and thy mother.

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Thou shalt not covet.

These Ten Commandments are still effective today.  It will never be acceptable to go lie, cheat, and steal just because you wanted to.  To kill someone is the worst sin possible other than denying the Holy Ghost. 

God delights in chastity and hates sexual sin.  Chastity includes strict abstinence from sexual relations before marriage and complete fidelity and loyalty to one’s spouse after marriage.  Those who live the law of chastity enjoy the strength that comes from self-control.  They enjoy confidence and trust in their family relationships.  They can enjoy more fully the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives.  Those who break this law are subject to a lasting sense of shame and guilt that burdens their lives.

Chastity requires faithfulness in thought and action. We must keep our thoughts clean and be modest in our dress, speech, and actions. We must avoid pornography in any form.  We should treat the God-given procreative power and our bodies as sacred.  Those who have committed sexual sin can repent and be forgiven.


"And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

Be not ye therefore partakers with them."

The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a law of health called the Word of Wisdom. This law teaches us what foods and substances we should and should not use to maintain the health of our bodies and to keep us free from evil influences. The Lord promises blessings of health, strength, protection against evil, and greater receptiveness to spiritual truths. 

Remember that our bodies are sacred. We should treat them with respect and reverence.  The Word of Wisdom teaches that we are to eat healthy foods. It teaches very specifically that we are to avoid harmful substances, including alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee. We must also avoid harmful drugs in any form. People who obey the Word of Wisdom are more receptive to spiritual truths.  Go to Doctrine and Covenants 89, to read the 'Word of Wisdom'.

One of the great blessings of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the privilege of contributing to the growth of the kingdom of God through paying tithing.  Tithing is an ancient, divine law.  For example, the Old Testament prophet Abraham paid tithes of all he possessed (see Alma 13:15).

To those who pay tithing, the Lord promises that He will “open . . . the windows of heaven, and pour . . . out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). These blessings may be temporal or spiritual, but they will come to those who obey this divine law.

Tithing means one-tenth, and the Lord has commanded us to give a tenth of our increase, which is understood to mean income, that we may be blessed. The law of tithing gives us the opportunity to help build His kingdom. Our tithes are holy to the Lord, and we honor Him by paying tithing. God promises to abundantly bless those who pay an honest tithe.  Those who do not pay tithing rob God (see Malachi 3:8). They keep for themselves something that rightfully belongs to Him. We should seek first the kingdom of God, and tithing is an important way of doing that. Paying tithing is an expression of our faith. It is an outward sign of our belief in God and His work.

Tithing funds are used to support the ongoing activities of the Church, such as building and maintaining temples and meetinghouses, carrying the gospel to all the world, conducting temple and family history work, youth programs, and many other worldwide activities. Tithing does not pay local Church leaders, they serve without receiving payment of any kind.
Local Church leaders send the tithing received each week directly to Church headquarters. A council comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric determines specific ways to use the sacred tithing funds.

Great blessings are available to those who obey God’s commandment to fast. Fasting means going without food and drink for a period of time. Usually the first Sunday of each month is set aside as a special day to fast for two consecutive meals, pray, and bear testimony. Fasting and prayer go together. When we fast and pray with faith, we are more receptive to receiving answers to our prayers and blessings from the Lord. He promises us that He will guide us continually. We should fast and pray for specific purposes. Fasting is private and spiritual, and we should not draw attention to the fact that we are fasting.

Pure religion includes caring for the poor. We are to help them meet their physical and spiritual needs. When we fast, we donate money to the Church for the care of the poor and the needy. We call this a fast offering. We give at least the amount of money we save by fasting for two meals. However, we need not limit our contribution to the cost of two meals. We are encouraged to be as generous as our means allow. By caring for the poor, we help fulfill our baptismal covenants and retain a remission of our sins.

Behold, I testify unto you
that I do know that these things
whereof I have spoken
 are true.
And how do ye suppose
that I know of their surety?
Behold, I say unto you
they are made known unto me
by the Holy Spirit of God.
Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days
that I might know these things of myself.
And now I do know of myself
that they are true;
for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit;
and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

Latter-day Saints everywhere believe in obeying the laws of the country in which they live. Members of the Church are counseled to be good citizens, to participate in civil government and the political process, and to render community service. They do so, however, as concerned citizens, not as representatives of the Church.

Unlimited everything is actually not beneficial.  If there wasn't a speed limit, there would be more problems on the road.  If there was nothing declared wrong with hitting people, we would have a lot of bruised and broken people walking around.  With every law there must be a punishment, because what is the point of saying you can't do something if nothing happens when you do it?

"And when we obtain any blessing from God,
it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."
-- Doctrine and Covenants 130:21

So by obedience we obtain blessings, and by disobedience we receive punishment.  Sir Isaac Newton 'discovered' that, "For every action the is an equal and opposite reaction."  So any punishment enforced by law must be in opposition of what we did wrong, and equal to the crime.

In order to obey all of the laws of the land we must develop patience.  If we are too anxious to do whatever we want we usually end up getting into mischief.  But if we wait for the next paycheck, we won't be stealing something from the store.  If we are patient we won't be speeding down the highway as fast as possible.  If we are patient we won't be upset when the movie, concert, or party we are attending starts late.

"As parents, we know how unwise it would be to indulge our children’s every desire.
But children are not the only ones who spoil when showered with immediate gratification.
Our Heavenly Father knows what good parents come to understand over time:
if children are ever going to mature and reach their potential,
they must learn to wait."
-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
(Continue in Patience, April 2010)

Sometimes it can be very difficult to remain patient and obey the law.

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