Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alma On Faith

These are just a bunch of thoughts on pieces of Alma 32-33 about faith in particular. I took up a personal study of this everyday for a month or so and found a gold mine. What I share here are pieces. Please share thoughts or other scriptures that you feel add to this conversation about faith.

Faith is a choice.
Plant a seed, reap the fruits.
Seed of faith vs. Seed of doubt
Both of these are real and produce real, tangible fruits.

32:21--"And now as I said concerning faith--faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true"

32:16-22--These verses focus on the importance of just believing, which appears to be more powerful and important than we give it credit, WAY more important and powerful. However, we don't want to stop here and think this is enough, that would cut the importance of what belief ultimately should lead to.

32:27--"...awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."
*There is a very beautiful structure here where Alma is showing how incremental growth and understanding in the Gospel can work. Some just simply need to desire to believe in order for the Gospel to become active in their lives. If you try to have someone in this position reach beyond their faith, they will not grow and they won't nourish the seed. We must be patient, we must be willing to work closely with those who are at this stage (including ourselves!) and we must provide an atmosphere where they can flourish. "To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. 14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." (D&C 46:13-14) emphasis mine. There needs to be patience with all in the Gospel because we are all at different levels of belief, faith, understanding and knowledge. These are not things we can expect from anyone, but they are most certainly things to encourage in everyone. I'm a firm believer in fostering what is good, building it up, learning from mistakes, pressing forward and growing (sounds like repentance to me). These things all have a common beginning, belief in the choices that I make. We all show our beliefs by doing (or not doing) many different things (this could be characterized as faith and doubt--which are opposites). If I don't believe I can know something, I won't seek after it. This could be compared to not even trying the seed, which does NOT mean that the seed is not good or that it won't grow if you were to plant it and care for it. 
*The idea of "giv[ing] place for a portion of my words" is fantastically insightful. It is not required that one believe everything off the bat. A portion of his words, just a little bit! I have seen instances where we have judged another for not believing something, this can't be the case since we need to help everyone to increase in their desires to believe, learn, grow and have and exercise faith, no matter where they start. A portion differs for many people as well. Similar to eating food, portion sizes are different.

33:22-23
22 If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.
23 And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.

Alma clarifies that the seed they are to plant is the Son of God. Believe in Christ, believe that He is, believe that He suffered and died for your sins. This is the seed for which one needs to make room, plant and nourish until a tree of everlasting life springs up in you. This takes time and CONSTANT nourishment. You can't selectively nourish the seed, it must be taken care of in all climates of life. Sometimes it may require a little bit more nourishment depending on the weather of the day, week, month or year. Believe and then do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some Thought-Provoking LDS Podcast Episodes Part 1

I LOVE podcasts. I listen to lots of them. Megan can attest to that, as well as my dad and a really good friend. They are helpful ways for me to get my "think on". I listen to podcasts about technology and, recently health, but my favorites are, unsurprisingly, LDS related. Some are definitely worth more than others, so here are some recommendations (and explanations) out of the many I've listened to. This is first of a 2-4 part series of suggested podcasts. They are broken up by the podcast that the episodes are from with links to the specific episodes.

I will be recommending specific podcast episodes from the following podcasts over the next few weeks:

  • FairMormon--this has multiple podcasts, which include, but are not limited to the following--which are all aimed at helping us to increase our faith and understanding on a huge range of issues:
    • Frameworks
    • Articles of Faith
    • Keeping the Faith
    • Faith and Reason
    • Fair Issues
  • The Good Word--interviews with LDS authors about their books. I've listened to very few of these since I don't recognize very many of the authors, but I will recommend a couple.
  • Mormon Stories--this podcast has a few amazing episodes where faithful scholars are interviewed (often times, they are drilled more than interviewed), and many interviews with those who have left the church, been excommunicated or struggle with the church. I do not recommend all of these, but some are interesting to provide perspective. I will only be mentioning episodes that have faithful Latter-Day Saint scholars that have potential to help us deepen our faith and understanding. If you want any other recommendations, feel free to ask me in the comments or send me a message/email.
  • A Thoughtful Faith--interviews with LDS scholars usually, but not so much recently.
  • Mormon Matters--this is on the more scholarly end of the LDS podcasts.  I will be recommending some that I really enjoy and think provide some interesting perspectives on the scriptures and doctrine. I'm not a huge fan of how they handle social issues on this podcast. Every once and a while they do a good job, but not my favorite.

FairMormon Frameworks: this podcast has some of my favorite interviews! They are usually about 30-60min, but some go over.

  • FairMormon Frameworks 1a: Brad Wilcox–Changed by Grace: An interview with Brad Wilcox about some insights into the doctrine of Grace. For those who read his BYU Speech in my last blog post will really enjoy this. If you didn’t go read or listen to his talk at BYU, do it! Click here to read it.
    • This is part 2 of the same interview
  • FairMormon Frameworks 2 : Steven Harper First Vision: Steven Harper is currently working on the Joseph Smith Papers project and wrote a book about the first vision accounts, which is the focus of this interview. If you’ve ever wondered about the various first vision accounts, give this a listen.
  • FairMormon Frameworks 4: Brian Hales Polygamy: If you have any struggles with polygamy, this may be a podcast for you. Brian Hales is interviewed about polygamy and many issues that people have with it. He only provides short and quick responses due to the interview format but there are links to his website. I’ve read and listened to oodles of his stuff. In my opinion, Brian Hales is a champ.
  • FairMormon Frameworks 9: Richard Bushman – Helping Those in Doubt: A really great interview about helping those who struggle with perceived issues in the church. I think Richard Bushman has a very good perspective on how faith and reason work together.
  • FairMormon Frameworks 10: Terryl Givens Crucible of Doubt: Another great podcast on dealing with doubts and choosing faith. Terryl Givens is very articulate. This page has links to a few articles and books he has written as well that I highly recommend.
  • FairMormon Frameworks 11: Brant Gardner Gift and Power: To be honest, this is one of favorites! Brant Gardner talks about the translation of the Book of Mormon and the “magical” side that critics like to throw. I’ve read his book “The Gift and Power” and loved it! I don’t always agree with him on some of his conclusions, but I think he is one of the funnest scholars to listen to talk about the Book of Mormon translation and Book of Mormon lands. Highly recommended.

There are more on the FairMormon Frameworks page that are great, but these are ones I love and that have increased my faith as I seek to learn by study and also by faith. Please comment and let me know what you think of these suggestions! If you have any questions, also please ask them in the comments!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Some of My Favorite BYU Speeches

I have listened and read many speeches/talks given at BYU over the years and want to recommend a few of my favorites. Many of them I revisited multiple times. This is far from exhaustive (if you have time, listen to all of the Hugh Nibley talks on BYU Speeches or all of the Elder Holland ones! I haven't even done that yet...I have a tendency to repeat ones that I really like...), but these are ones that have resonated with me for years and I think about them quite often--they have just stuck with me. Many of these were given when Elder Holland, Elder Oaks and Elder Bednar were not Apostles yet, so they probably had more time to speak there, but I wish they still gave talks like this on a more regular basis!

Just click on the title of the talk and it will take you to that talks page on speeches.byu.edu (basically, I did all the work for you because I think these talks are worth your time!).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: I have to say, if you think Elder Holland is passionate when he speaks in conference, some of these speeches are much more passionate and straight from the heart. I love listening to these!
--For Times of Trouble--Oh man, this has one of my favorite Elder Holland quotes of all time:
"If there is one lament I cannot abide—and I hear it from adults as well as students—it is the poor, pitiful, withered cry, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” If you want to talk about discouragement, that phrase is one that discourages me. Though not a swearing man, I am always sorely tempted to try my hand when I hear that. Please spare me your speeches about “That’s just the way I am.”"
He is so open, so honest and just gives it straight in this talk.

--Remember Lot's Wife--This talk discusses the need to look forward, move on, repent and leave the past in the past. Don't dig it up. There is some great counsel for husbands and wives that applies to all of our relationships.

--"Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence"--Elder Holland relates the stories of Joseph Smith's first vision and of Moses talking with God from Moses 1. He focuses on the attacks of the adversary in these events and how we are not to "cast..away [our] confidence" just because we are in dark times but to remember the spiritual experiences that we have had. Doubts will come, but remember.

--The Inconvenient Messiah--I've listened to this one countless times. Elder Holland walks through the Savior's temptations and applies them directly to our lives and gives counsel on overcoming these difficulties. I always feel his love and concern for each one of us as I listen to this talk and reflect on much of the counsel.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
--Revelation--Just a solid, Elder Oaks style talk (roman numerals and all!) about revelation that reminds us of our part to make decisions for ourselves without being told what can of food we should take off the grocery store shelf.

Elder David A. Bednar:
--In the Strength of the Lord--Before reading/listening to this talk years ago for the first time, I had never thought much about the phrase "in the strength of the Lord", which is only used two or three times in the entire Book of Mormon. Elder Bednar helps us to gain a greater appreciation for going forth in our daily lives "in the strength of the Lord".

--Quick to Observe--Great talk about spiritual gifts that we may overlook but are just as real and poignant in our day to day lives.

--A Reservoir of Living Water--one of the best talks about studying the scriptures that I've ever heard and read. There is a story that Elder Bednar shares about him studying the gathering of Israel for a talk (or something) that I think about almost every week that reminds me that I need to be involved when studying the scriptures and be creative--I don't just need to be "conventional" about it. Listen/read it and you'll see what I mean.

Brad Wilcox
--His Grace is Sufficient--Hands down my FAVORITE talk on grace never given in General Conference! If you aren't familiar with Brad Wilcox, he was the most sought after 6th grade teacher at an elementary school when BYU caught wind of his abilities to really reach the students and inspire them. Long story short, he teaches at BYU now and is a powerful youth speaker and then hit it out of the park with this talk that has helped me to better understand the Savior's grace.

Terryl Givens
--Lightning from Heaven--one of my favorite talks about Joseph Smith and his impact in the world of religion. Terryl Givens is one of my current favorite LDS authors. He is very eloquent and is obsessed with the restoration of what he terms "dialogic" revelation--the concept of us talking with God personally to receive guidance. Good stuff.

Hugh W. Nibley: I love listening to Nibley. I read his stuff very often, but listening to him is WAY more fun! Highly recommended. Actually only one of these is available to read anyway, you have to listen to the others.
--Leaders and Managers--What's the difference between a leader and a manger? Why does it matter? How does it relate to the Gospel? Read or listen for some great Nibley wit and wisdom! This is one I'll be listening to this week :-)
--How to Write and Anti-Mormon Book--My sister Becky and I found this gem years ago. It is quite sarcastic, satirical and biting. Becky and I love it. If you want to listen to Nibley rant about anti-mormon literature, this will provide some interesting insight as well as humor. I have read (and run across) anti-mormon literature every once and a while as I study something and this talk set a baseline for me while I was young about how to consider other peoples motives, desires, sources, conclusions, etc...Some people think Nibley crossed a line here and was too sarcastic. Maybe he did, but I have to tell you, my feelings after reading that stuff almost requires humor and sarcasm out of sheer frustration sometimes. So, I still love this talk.
--Exaltation and Eternal Life--This talk is one of my favorite Nibley talks/articles/speeches of all time! He strings together a bunch of quotes from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (mostly) and discusses the transient nature of this life and what really matters. Listen to it!

Once again, these are only SOME of the talks I really enjoy. I can list others if people show an interest in these. Please comment if you listen to one and like it or even if you dislike it.