Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spiritual and Temporal Self Reliance

In 2 Nephi 2:17 and 27, the prophet Lehi gave the following teaching to his son Jacob:
17 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Or as Canadian business leader, Claude Hamilton states:
When you take the easy way out, life will get harder. But if you take the hard way out,  life will get easier. 
There has been a battle that has raged since before time. Not necessarily a battle of good versus evil, but a battle of agency versus control. The very first battle recorded in scripture is that of Lucifer offering to remove our agency so that everyone would be saved. No one would make a mistake, no one would suffer. Sounds enticing, but to remove agency, to take control away from us is to put us in bondage and captivity.

Satan continues this same battle for control in today's world, although he now seeks to take our agency so that we would not return to live with Father. As I have pondered the bonds that the devil seeks to put upon us, they seem to come in four areas: Habitual, Spiritual, Financial and Potential

Habitual bonds range from addictive substances and activities to small things that have crept into our routine. At the least these habits crowd out the important things for those of lesser importance. While some are harmless is small doses, we need to keep our guard up not to let them become entrenched and leave no room for the important things in our lives. Things like TV, movie watching, sports, games (including, but not limited to video games), shopping, traveling and pleasure reading are fun diversions, but if not kept in check can leave little room for what we know we should do.

Spiritual bonds are those that keep us from having the full measure of the Spirit in our lives. Any time we disobey the commandments, we distance ourselves from the Spirit. As we lose the ability to receive inspiration we find our decisions lead to more bonds, in an ever downward spiral.

We have been warned many times of the bondage of debt. However this, like the other bonds, can weasel it's way into our lives. There is a series of cartoon videos based on the scriptures. Each video is pretty expensive, and there are a lot of them. Years ago I signed up to receive one video a month, at around $40 each, until we had the entire set. The way it was set up was as a debt, that you could not cancel until you had purchased the entire set. So every month for years we had this $40 payment. I can't tell you how much I look forward to this small, draining payment leaving our budget this March.

Potential bondage deals with what we do with ourselves. Society pays us for the value we add to it. The more valuable we can make our contribution to society, the more society can reward us. L. Tom Perry said:
Education has, of necessity, become a lifelong pursuit. We must, in our scheduling of time, allot sufficient time to educate ourselves for now and for the future.
It may not be practical to get a formal education, especially with the continual rise in the cost and the usual mounting debt that it accompanies. However, you can access a vast store of education through many resources which can improve your value to society. Free of charge you have access to your local library. There are tremendous educational resources available on the internet (however, use caution in choosing sources for the information).

President Harry Truman was considered one of the least educated presidents by some, and yet by others he was considered the most educated. One thing he was proud of was the fact that he had read every book in the Independence Library.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:78-80,118 it states:
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; 
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— 
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
We are commanded to learn the gospel as well as natural science, history and politics. And to do this, we are commanded to seek out of the best books.

These four areas all intertwine. Often people do not evaluate how they improve their potential and obtain mountains of education debt (which cannot be wiped out). Others seek to offset their lack of improving their potential by purchasing items on credit, starting a downward spiral of finances that forces them to spend their time chasing the dollar so they can pay their debt instead of setting aside some resources and time to improve their value to society. Some waste their time, money and potential chasing after addictive substances to "escape" only to find that the only true escape from the trials we face are in seeking the Spirit more abundantly in our lives.

Imagine that each day we are given 24 Gold Coins. Turns out the medium of exchange is Silver, so we exchange 8 of our Gold Coins for 8 Silver Coins to buy the things we need. Then imagine that we can buy luxuries with pennies, so we exchange 3 Silver Coins for 3 Pennies. Each day we are given 24 hours. Time is the most precious resources as we cannot make more of it. Our time on earth is fixed. Many of us trade 8 hours for money that we use to buy the necessities. How much we get for that time depends on how much potential we realize and how much we have invested in ourselves, or, how much value we can add to society. Then with a portion of our money we get into debt, essentially selling future hours we have not even worked yet to buy something we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like.

How do we escape the downward spiral of the Spiritual, Habitual, Financial and Potential bonds? Let me illustrate with a story. There was a small town in the old west. Unlike my hometown, as children grew up they wanted to raise their families in that same small town. As the town grew, the outgrew the small valley they were in. Not to far away was a much larger valley that could support their town for generations. The only problem was, there was not water in that valley. So they built a canal from a river some distance up in the mountains down to the valley. Since the survival of the town depended on this canal, the town hired a ditch rider to ensure the canal was in good repair.

Every day the ditch rider would ride the narrow trail along the canal from the town up to the source at the river. He would patch up the canal where needed and even anticipate future problems and prepare the canal to avoid a disruption in the water flow. One such problem was the increase in water flow from storms. The ditch rider and his two sons would take 8 hour shifts in the barn loft looking for storms. When signs of a storm were seen, the ditch rider would go to the source and place a small dam in the canal to prevent the rushing water from destroying the canal, and then after the storm passed, he would remove the dam and allow the water to continue to flow to the town.

A reporter from back east was studying the city governments of the west and was particularly interested in this town, and it's government position of ditch rider. He set up camp just outside town, at the base of the mountain where the canal came in. That night the ditch rider's son woke up the ditch rider to alert him to an oncoming storm. Rain had already started to fall and the wind pulled at the ditch riders coat as he raced along the narrow, and now muddy, trail along the canal to the river. The reporter saw the ditch rider as he attempted to secure the flaps of his tent. He gave little thought to the crazy horse rider as listened to the wind howl against his tent, other than to question his sanity.

The next morning the air was calm. The reporter stepped out of his tent just in time to see the tired, wet ditch rider slowly ride down the trail. The reporter asked the ditch rider if he was the rider he had seen the night before during the storm. When the ditch rider confirmed his suspicion, the reported asked him if he was crazy to ride on such a narrow, muddy trail at such a speed during the storm. The ditch rider responded that it was trivial, as he and his horse rode that trail every day. They new every twist and turn, every rise and fall.

Another example along the same lines is the story of the 10 virgins. Remember that the 10 virgins do not represent the populace at large, but those of the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 25:1-13 it states:
1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
In the book "Faith Preceds the Miracle," Spencer W. Kimball states:
Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.
So how do we avoid the Spiritual, Habitual, Financial and Potential bonds? We ride the trail daily to the source. It is the small, seemingly insignificant daily habits we form by our persistence in doing those small actions. We don't add them all at once. Just as Jesus grew line upon line and precept upon precept, we make small commitments to improve ourselves daily until those daily actions become habits. Then we can take on another small improvement.

The church has two "All is Safely Gathered In" pamphlets (food storage and finances) as well as a booklet entitled "One for the Money." You can get these from the Ward clerk. These small pamphlets give valuable ideas on where to start adding small habits to work towards to prevent us from falling into bondage. They include:
  • Avoid Debt
  • Budget
  • Work towards 3 month food storage and then 1 year's
  • 72 Emergency kit
  • Water storage
  • Financial Reserve
  • Teach your family these principles
  • Be properly insured
N Eldon Tanner stated:
Nothing seems so certain as the unexpected in our lives. With rising medical costs, health insurance is the only way most families can meet serious accident, illness, or maternity costs, particularly those for premature births. Life insurance provides income continuation when the provider prematurely dies. Every family should make provision for proper health and life insurance.
The last, and most important principle in preventing our bondage is best illustrated in a story of another small western town. This town was at the foot of the rockies in the 1860's or 1870's. They also were completely dependent on water, but didn't have a canal, their sole source was the rain. One year a terrible drought hit. The towns people came to realize that if it did not rain within a week, the town would have to be abandoned. The set aside a day of fasting and worship. The drove their horses and wagons with everything they owned and hitched them up outside the town hall (which was also their church and schoolhouse). If there was no rain, they would be leaving the town hall that day never to return.

Once in the hall they sang hymns. Each member stood up and shared. Some shared deeply spiritual, faith filled messages. Some shared practical messages. This went on until lunch when the all filed out of the hall to feel a breeze (remember, no A/C) and water the horses. Afterwards they returned to the hall to continue singing hymns and sharing their thoughts.

Then in late afternoon they heard a clap of thunder, followed by the sound of rain striking the roof. They poured out through the double doors to enjoy the heaven sent rain. They cheered danced in the rain. Then in all the commotion the noticed the people in the middle of the crowd were silent. As the crowd parted one girl was seen in the middle with an umbrella.

This girl knew the result of faith. She had ridden the narrow path to the source of that faith many times. When everyone else was preparing to abandon the town in case their prayers were not answered, this girl grabbed her umbrella so she would be prepared when their prayers were answered.

May we add to our lives the small, but important things that we already know we should be doing. Do them until they become habits that crowd out the unimportant and insignificant. Take the small steps daily to become who Father intends you to be. And be prepared for the miracle He will perform in your life.

Note: This was taken from notes used for a message delivered in church on December 29, 2013. While the scriptural references, quotes and general structure are the same as the message delivered that day, the flavor was very much different. I have tried to remember how it was different and cannot recall. I guess you better not miss church.

Both the story of the Ditch Rider and the Umbrella girl were stories shared in a speech given by Oliver DeMille.

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