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  1. God commands us to love our enemies. He expects us to show up in his house and praise him, even when we don’t feel like it. We protest, and say we do not want to be hypocrites. So we openly hate our enemies, and we absent ourselves from church when we’re ‘not feeling it.’ The Prophet Jonah (yes, he of the whale) may be the best argument in favor of obeying God when our hearts say no. He hates his enemies, the people of Nineveh. Nevertheless, he obeys God, and goes through the city, telling them God will destroy them. They repent, and God spares the city of 100,000 for three generations. This means that nearly 300,000 people will thank Jonah, who hated them, for saving their souls!
  2. Read this great article on faith and grace, etc. It helped me in my ever ongoing quest to increase my understanding of faith and other related topics. It also addresses some of the conflicting ideas I've seen expressed here in this forum. So I thought I'd share it for discussion and enlightenment purposes. It's a bit of a read, but well worth it.
  3. This is from my most recent blog post 1 Nephi 3&4 Are God's commandments hard to follow. The main reason I am posting it here is to generate discussion here, as well as on my blog here where I posted it as well, and on this forum. So, there are three places where the discussion can take place (preferably over on my blog). Thus, these are my thoughts and interpretations. Enjoy and hopefully this generates some good wholesome thoughts and discussions Yes, this is going to be a slow process and definitely something to enjoy. I have decided to break up these posts with reading only a couple chapters at a time and providing my own reflections and insights regarding these passages that I read. And, while it has been only a couple days since my last posts, my thoughts are flooded with a variety of interesting and a variety of scenes, dialogues and mental noise. Nevertheless, I am getting back into my passions and that is writing, cooking and enjoying life as much as I possibly can. Thus, here are my thoughts on 1 Nephi 3 and 4. Are God’s Commandments a hard thing to follow? Okay, so when I started reading 1 Nephi 3, an unlikely passage jumped out at me for a couple reasons. This passage is 1 Nephi 3:5 - And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. The main reason this caught my attention was because of the Apologetic disposition I have come to understand and develop over the years. Meaning, this single passage reflects an answer to the most common criticism that Latter-day Saint Christian believers receive from those of varying Christian Faiths. This criticism centers around the nature of Sola Gratia (Salvation by Grace alone) and the LDS Doctrines on Sotierology (the study of salvation of mankind). One of the most common arguments that the Critics present is that concerning how Mormons are oppressed with a legalistic religion. How, in their interpretation and presentation, majority of those of the LDS Faith are unhappy, depressed and ever seeking fulfillment in their feeble attempts to follow strict commandments that have come down from the General Authorities. Upon further reflection of this, I to once was a supporter of Grace only salvation and that because of man’s own depravity, he could in no way save himself from his sins. It is not until recently that I have devoted some time to studying the reality and truth of such doctrines that I have discovered that, yes, because we possess a carnal nature that is driven by passions and lusts, we also have the ability to bring such passions and lusts under complete subjugation. There is evidence outside of Christianity and religion in general where there are devout and strong opinionated atheists who have a disposition of good will, charity, chastity and understand the dangers of destructive behaivors. While their disbelief in God is a prominent belief, some of them live respectable lives. This is not saying that Evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saint Christians do not live examplar lives. They do. The point here is how the misconception of the LDS Doctrines are and how the commandments of God are not that hard to follow. In fact, both Evangelical and Latter-day Saint Christians accept the very fact that being obedient and living honorable lives is the fruit of one’s faith “by their fruits ye shall know them“. The issue is not about fruits but about obedience to the commandments of God. Here, I have discovered that those who attack the LDS Faith, do so because they find that being obedient to God’s commandments is something that one can in no way accomplish. The question I ask is this: If God command’s something of His beloved children and it is something that they can in no way keep, would this then make God an unjust and unfair God? Making it more simple, would you as a parent make rules for your children that you know very well that is very hard and difficult for them to keep? Furthermore, depending on the maturity level and age of your children, would you implement rules for a 3 year old that are more for a 15 year old? This would be completely unfair, and the consequences of disobeying said rules would be completely unjust. Why is that? How is that? The fact is, those commandments of our Loving Heavenly Father are for our benefit. In making this statement, there are two prominent stories I remember from my youth. One is about walking along a beach. The sun is beating down and it is a hot summer day. Upon finding a quiet place, a young couple ignores the No Swimming sign posted. Instead, they use their agency to swim in dangerous waters. The other is a young man who has to follow the tradition of maturity in his tribe. He had to spend three days on the mountain top and after the third day, make his way back down to the tribe. Upon his descent, he came across a poisonuous snake who convinces him to carry him down. At first, the young man objects for obvious reasons. Yet, the more the snake and young man exchange words, the more the Young man decides to carry the serpent down to where it is warmer. It is not until the snake is placed on the ground that he bites the young man. “Why did you bite me when you promised you wouldn’t” cries the young man. The snakes response being: You knew I was poisonuous before you picked me up. The fact is, God’s commandments are the No Swimming signs posted. They are the protection from poison that threatens to destory our souls, integrities, families and our life. The choices we make, not only affect us, but those around us in our circle of Influence. We choose to commit crimes against the laws of the land, we must face the consequences of those actions. It is then, that when we return to 1 Nephi 3:5 that we find those who disagree with following the Commandments of God as part of the true gospel of Christ, they are saying “it is too difficult, why do it?” The answer is not because it is a hard thing to do, but because it is a commandment we must follow. And this brings us to the very next passage that reflects the inherint blessings and how a Loving Heavenly Father has promised those of us who choose to follow after the commandments of God: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. {1 Nephi, 3:7} Do we honestly believe that? For me, and for those of us who are struggling to make a return back to the LDS Faith find it very difficult. Some of us (like myself) tend to fall in the trap of murmuring. Why should I go back there, it is hard, the things that are required are difficult. It is when we think upon these things that we begin to stir up doubt. Doubt stirs up fear, and fear stirs up anxiety and worrysome. What I need to do, what we all need to do is to realize that when we are called to do something, God is not just going to leave us to our own devices (tell a 10 year old that he is in charge of dinner and then leave for an hour and see what happens), but that he will guide us, direct us and give us strength in accomplishing that which he has commanded us to do.What this means is this: we are truly saved after all that we have and are able to do. Meaning, when we acknowledge Heavenly Father and his will in and for our lives, we give him the controls and we sit in the passenger seat and he will have the road already mapped out for us to follow. This brings strength and hope to those who doubt, are discourged and bewildered at the commandments of a Loving Heavenly Father. It is simple words to those of us who are struggling to return from our own apostasy and find restoration in Truth and light. It is for those of us who have tried on our own merits to accomplish things and felt the sting of failure and find ourselves at our wits end. It is for those Christian Critics who like to murmur and claim that the commandments of God are too difficult to follow because we simply can’t follow them and therefore the only way we can be assured of our salvation is merely trusting in Jesus. It is one thing to trust in someone, it is a whole different idea to not only trust, but walk in that trust and building a deeper trust one with another. And, just as Nephi says, “Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 3:16). This brings me to one of my most cherished passages of Scripture. That is Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. {Romans 12:1-2, KJV - LDS Edition} Another version of the above text is from the New American Standard Bible version - Thompson Chain Reference study bible: I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. What is very simplistic of this thought, this idea and interpretation (from my own perspective) is that when we are obedient to the commandments of God, we are actually worshipping Heavenly Father by our actions. Thus, it is not enough (and the very reason we read in scripture) that men honor God with their mouths, but their heart is so far removed from him. In other words, the statement actions speak louder than words is very scripturally inspired. Now, I am not saying that Heavenly Father declared “Listen people, your actions speak louder than words. Don’t tell me you love me, show me you love me.”However, the reality of this is very true in practicality. When a husband says to his wife, I love you, is verbal expressions. Yet, if that said husband said to his wife, I love you, but then does nothing to show how much he loves, adores and appreciates her, then his words are mute and without effect. It is only when he shows by his very actions that he is devoted to her, respects her and loves her. Thus, going back to the heart of this discussion, any person who says that the LDS Christian believer is wrong in believing that it is, not only, our duty to be obedient to the commandments of God, but that we must live according to those commandments and abide by the principles of the Gospel. Not because we are trying to earn our salvation and prove that we are worthy of God’s praise, but that because it is our spiritual devotion to show our Heavenly Father that we love and respect him through our obedience. In doing so, he has promised to prepare a way for us to accomplish that which he has commanded us. What does this all mean then? Essentially, this all means that any thing we are doing in our lives that are not appropriate (and yes, I am strongly speaking to myself here as well) or in compliance with the commandments of God, we must forsake them, seek forgiveness, make restitution where possible and needed and turn our lives back to Heavenly Father and follow after his will and divine counsel. Personally, whether I disagree with it or not, for me this is to comply with the Word of Wisdom. Yes, I still smoke. Not as much as I used to. In fact, two years ago, I was so dependent upon cigarettes that I would smoke approximately 2.5 packs a day. When out of cigarettes, I would wander around town until I could bum a few cigarettes. I would even go so far as to do what the homeless call “snipe” for cigarettes. Basically, I would pull out cigarettes from outside ashtrays, take them home, remove the tobacco and role them up to smoke them. Drinking Coffee was one of my biggest vices (up there with smoking cigarettes). It is not until these past couple years that I have decreased my coffee intake. I went from drinking Coffee almost all day every day and nothing else, to drinking maybe 1 to 2 cups a day. Not only has my intake of coffee lessened, I am actually not as anxious as I used to be, staying up at all odd hours of the night, sometimes not even sleeping for days on end. Healthy eating and weight loss. One of the things I have begun over the last couple years is develop a more healthy appetite. While I am cooking, there are alot of things that I am not cooking, or eating as I used to. Integrating more fruits and vegetables in my diet. Eating less portioned meals than large meals. Challenging myself to quit eating alot of food in one setting or over time. The other thing, and my fiance is asking me to do, is to decrease my intake of Soda. Why do all these things? Because I am in my late thirties, there is diabetes in my family and I am overweight as it is. The more I focus on changing my unhealthy habits to more healthy habits will help my later on in life. Also, because it is commanded of us to take care of our bodies, physically, mentally and spiritually. All in all, the reflection of 1 Nephi 3, for me anyway, is realizing that the counsel and commandments of a Loving Heavenly father are not that hard to follow. And, when we come to him and willing to humble ourselves in obedience, the promise is that Heavenly Father will make a way for us to accomplish that which he has commanded us to do. This is for any area of our lives where we find the challenge of. Any area of our lives where we may have slacked in our callings and duties. This is definitely one passage I am marking to contemplate more fully on. Your thoughts, comments and suggestions are definitely welcomed here.