Sunday, September 26, 2021

Prepping for General Conference

 This upcoming weekend is General Conference. Listening all weekend is like drinking from a fire hydrant. Yes, you get some water, but most of it spills right past you. Here are some suggestions to help you get as much as possible from the talks. I also ask you to add your helpful hints in the comments.


Prepare Ahead of Time

What are things that can prepare you and your home for General Conference?

    1. Make sure you have food prepared prior to Conference

    2. Have your house clean. 

    3. Get rid of other possible distractions. Decide what to do with cell phones, televisions, game consoles, and other things that can entice you or your family away from listening. There's plenty of time before and in between sessions to check social media, email and voice messages.

    4. Prepare ahead of time Conference games for children. For example Conference bingo is often a hit with kids. For those too little to read, use pictures instead of words in the bingo game. Words, such as Jesus, love, prophet, Mormon, apostle, family, temple, etc., can be used. There are several available online to download.

    Another fun game is to divide a piece of paper into four sections (draw four quadrants, don't cut). Then in a quadrant of the paper, draw a picture of the person at the podium, and write down around his/her head the major themes and phrases used by the person. Each speaker gets his own quadrant. After Conference, judge which pictures are best, which themes leaped out the most.

    5. Obtain a Conference journal for each adult and older child. Explained below.

    6. Have each family member pick their spot in front of the television beforehand. If it means bringing out chairs, pillows, blankets or sleeping bags to lay on, you'll have it all set up prior to Conference, so there's no rushing around during the opening hymn and prayer. If you allow food during Conference, have each seat situated with any drinks or food, so there's no rushing to the refrigerator during talks. Make sure everyone takes a bathroom break prior to the opening hymn.    

    7. Consider fasting to get into the spirit.

    8. Invite others to watch General Conference. You can do formal invitations, or informally invite people over social media. In fact, I encourage all of my readers to invite others over social media to watch at least one session of General Conference.

During General Conference

    1. Conference journal: In the past, many of us wrote down everything we heard, as we would not see/hear Conference until the Ensign/Liahona would come out a month later. Today, it isn't necessary to write everything down. Within a couple weeks, Conference will be available again to study, hear, watch and read. Instead, as you listen to the talks, listen to the Spirit and write down what it speaks to you. What personal revelation is given to you as you listen to General Authorities share their messages? What words, sentences or stories leap out at you? What impressions do you receive? Write these things down. You'll see conference again later, however you especially want to remember the personal revelation you receive while listening. Those thoughts and feelings won't be available later, unless you write them down.

    2. Sing the hymns with the choir. 

    For those who don't want to sing, draw a picture of the choir members, and again write song phrases around their heads. Draw yourself or family member into the choir, perhaps helping to direct the choir.


After Conference

     1. In between sessions, after Conference, or during next Family Home Evening, discuss the bingo words, the pictures drawn, and the personal Conference journal notes with one another. Ask which talk was favorite for each person, which story was amazing, which goals the prophets have asked us to make over the next 6 months. Which new temples were announced? You can then look up the locations on a globe or on the internet.

    2. Schedule as a family to watch at least one Conference talk per week (every Sunday?) over the next six months. Discuss them. You'll find you won't get through all of them by doing only one per week, you may choose to do two. You can also assign Family Home Evening lessons from General Conference talks. 

    As individuals, we may look to read a Conference talk each day, or several times a week, in conjunction with reading scriptures. After all, Conference is living scripture, and can inspire and teach us as much as the canonized scriptures.

    3. Review your Conference journal notes once per month, to remind you what the Holy Ghost impressed upon your mind.

    4. Set goals from those things learned in General Conference. Write specific goals that can be measured. If you are asked to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, how many pages/chapters per day would you have to read? If you have a goal to attend the temple: what must you do to receive a temple recommend? How often would to attend, and when will you schedule each visit?

    5. Put key phrases from Conference up around the house: refrigerator, bathroom mirror, by the front door.

    6. Discuss and determine how well you were prepared for Conference, and find ways to make the next Conference even more spiritual and inspiring.

Hopefully this list (not exhaustive) will give you a beginning place to prepare for next week's Conference. If you have more ideas, please add them to the comments.



Monday, September 20, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 106-108

 Come Follow Me: D&C 106-108


D&C 106

This is a revelation to Warren Cowdery, Oliver's brother. Warren joined the Church in 1834, and became presiding officer of the Freedom branch. Later, he would move to Kirtland, where he would assist his brother Oliver in printing the Messenger and Advocate newspaper, later becoming its editor. He would become disaffected from the Church, due to the failure of the Kirtland Safety bank. Along with Warren Parish, he would start a Latter Day Saint church, using the Kirtland temple after Joseph and the faithful saints moved to Missouri. This church would fracture after a few months. Warren would live the rest of his life in Kirtland.

"And again, verily I say unto you, there was joy in heaven when my servant Warren bowed to my scepter, and separated himself from the crafts of men;

"Therefore, blessed is my servant Warren, for I will have mercy on him; and, notwithstanding the vanity of his heart, I will lift him up inasmuch as he will humble himself before me.

"And I will give him grace and assurance wherewith he may stand; and if he continue to be a faithful witness and a light unto the church I have prepared a crown for him in the mansions of my Father. Even so. Amen." (vs 6-8)

Here, the Lord warns Warren of his weaknesses: vanity being a key issue. It is interesting to see how people could be so very diligent for a few years, only to fall away at the first sign of problems. Joseph Smith was a flawed man. Still, he was the person God chose to be prophet. 

And it is today. Do we end up questioning prophets because they sometimes make mistakes or fail us? Do we question bishops and stake presidents for the same reason? Are we so vain that we look down upon them, rather than pray for them and sustain them in times of duress (ours or theirs). 

Recently, many members (liberal and conservative) are grousing about statements made by Pres Nelson, Pres Oaks, Elder Holland and others regarding immigration, vaccines, BYU staying faithful to the gospel, conspiracies, location of the Book of Mormon, and many other issues.

Others I've seen are using nuance on what it means to "follow the Prophet" and claiming that personal revelation can be more important than prophetic authority. I've learned that while there are many important concepts taught by the Church, including agency, personal revelation and freedom, nothing is more important than submitting one's agency and personal will to the Lord by following priesthood leaders.

I wonder if the chaos in the world is leading the membership of the Church to a crossroads: do we follow the prophet, or follow our own worldview (whether liberal or conservative or other)? What do we do with our own vanity and pride? Do we bow ourselves to God's scepter, or not?

D&C 107

Along with a few other revelations, this is one of the major sections on priesthood. It includes a series of revelations, given as early as 1831 and updated in 1835 to include additional information on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 

We learn there are two priesthoods, the Melchizedek and Aaronic. The higher priesthood is actually the Holy Priesthood after the Son of Man, but renamed to reduce the usage of the Lord's sacred name.

We also learn that only descendants of Aaron have a right to be a bishop as their inheritance. However, holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood can serve in any spiritual or temporal position, which is why we have high priests in the MP as bishops today. This also explains how the Nephites were able to build temples and offer sacrifices in their day: using the Melchizedek Priesthood's authority.

Mentioned again in D&C 107 are the keys held by each priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the spiritual keys and the right to the mysteries of Godliness. We receive the members of the Godhead into our lives (constant companionship of the Holy Ghost). In other words, one can see God through this priesthood power.

The Aaronic Priesthood has the outward ordinances of repentance and baptism. It also has the keys to the ministering of angels. In this powerful gift, we can ask for angels to assist us in our lives, but also in the lives of others. Imagine our personal missionary work, family history research, or daily activities strengthened and enhanced by angels! Angels can help in converting others to the gospel, strengthen them in times of struggle, testifying of the truth, and performing miracles. I've even known of unseen powers help people find  needed employment.

The Quorums of the Twelve Apostles and Seventy are also discussed. The Twelve are special witnesses of Jesus Christ in all the world. They are to testify of the resurrected Christ. The Seventy are an "especial" witness. Scripture does not explain the difference. Perhaps the main difference between a "special" witness and an "especial" witness is the letter "e."

In fact, this is what President Boyd K. Packer once told to Elder Ronald A. Rasband. Continuing, Pres Packer explained,

“The difference between especial and special is in the spelling, and it really does not mean anything more than that. To be a special witness of the name of Christ means that you have that witness and that authority that is unfailing, and it will be with you everywhere in the world.” ( )

The First Presidency, Quorum of 12, and Seventy are three quorums "equal in authority." If something happened to two of these groups, the third group would have the authority to reorganize the other two quorums. Note that only the President of the Church holds all of the keys actively. While he lives, no person nor quorum can pretend to a power or authority greater than he has.

In other words, if an apostle or seventy were to try and start their own Church, they would not have the keys of authority to do so. This is why Denver Snuffer, the polygamy clans, and others do not have the approval from God to set up their own churches. They may have been ordained to priesthood, but they do not hold the keys nor authority to be prophets of God.

There is also a Patriarchal Priesthood as a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It was passed down from father to son, beginning with Adam. The section explains that Adam gathered his righteous children together at Adam-Ondi-Ahman and prophesied of the last days. Jesus Christ appeared to them and blessed Adam.

The Lord said to Adam,

"And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever." (vs 55)
As with Abraham and others, Adam is promised to be father of many nations. But if Adam was the first person born on earth, why would this statement need to be said? As I ponder scripture, especially the Creation stories (there are several in LDS theology), I have come to believe that Adam was not the first humanoid born on earth. However, he is the first humanoid born with the promise and understanding of the fullness of the gospel. Prior to him, there was no one with the promises of priesthood and saving ordinances. There were none who were taught about Christ and the atonement. He was the first man of those who are righteous.

And, as Adam, Abraham and others have received the promise to be rulers over nations, so too can we receive this same promise through following Christ and living righteously.

"Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.

"He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen." (vs 99-100)

Herein are important concepts for all those who serve God with priesthood power and authority, which includes men and women. Diligence and learning.

In this time of Covid, it has been easy to become slothful in our duty to God. A year away from Sunday meetings and temple worship can be tempting to drift back into the ease of worldliness. However, for some, it was a time to rededicate themselves and families to home-centered church. Now is the time to pick up our scriptures again. Daily prayers. Family Home Evening and Council. Service in the Church.

And we must be learning our duty. What is our duty? Well, first it is whatever responsibilities we have in the priesthood/church and in our own families. Second, it is to learn all that is necessary to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. What is it that they know? Music, art, science, math, engineering, botany, and a whole lot more.

Our lives should be filled with learning, so that we are better able to give of ourselves to God and others. Else, how can we become rulers over many nations, if we do not know all there is to know about teaching and ruling a people? Of course, this all starts in the family and grows out to include others in our circle of influence.

D&C 108

Lyman Royal Sherman joined the Church in 1832 and moved the next year to Kirtland. He was a member of Zion's camp. He eagerly followed the Prophet Joseph and obeyed the commandments given him. In 1835, he was called to be the president of the Seventy, and was a member of the Kirtland high council. Later, he would be called into the Quorum of the Twelve, but would die in Missouri before he was informed or ordained to the calling.

In this revelation, Lyman was uncertain his standing before the Lord, feeling he had not been diligent in his calling. Because he chose to repent and seek the Lord's guidance through Joseph Smith, he was forgiven and blessed. Unlike Warren Cowdery, Lyman would stand firmly with the prophet through the trials of the Kirtland Safety Society bank, being chased out of Kirtland by apostates, and then endure the trials of Missouri. He is a great example of faithfulness and diligence until the end.








Thursday, September 16, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 102-105

 Come Follow Me: D&C 102-105


D&C 102

This section deals with the organization of the first stake high council in Kirtland, Ohio. It is a pattern that is still used, and it works very well. It also has become a pattern for use with the Council of Twelve Apostles, its section added about a year later to this revelation, when the Quorum of Twelve were first organized (Feb 1835).

In handling issues, such as Church Membership Councils (formerly known as Disciplinary Councils), there must always be at least seven of the high council present, and five other high priests may be brought in to fill the quorum. They take numbered lots (1-12), and are seated according to their number. Evens on side of the table, odds on the other. One group represents the Church, while the other group ensures the fairness of the proceedings for the individual brought before the council. Depending on the severity and complexity of the case, a certain number will be allowed to ask questions and openly discuss issues. 

After the full discussion, the presidency retires briefly to pray about the case. They return with a decision, which must then be accepted unanimously by the council. If not, the discussion continues.

 While no council involving humans can be perfect, from my experience with several of these councils, I've found how diligent they tend to be in rendering a fair decision, guided by the Holy Ghost. 

D&C 103

 The call for Zion's Camp is made by the Lord. The saints have been cast out of Jackson County, Missouri. They are now scattered in other counties north, including Clay and Ray counties. Many are destitute and without homes. All of their wealth is in the homes they've fled from.

The Lord calls for 500 men in the army, though smaller groups may be acceptable. He also calls upon the saints to send money to finance the camp.

As it is, the Lord again explains (and will explain again) the two reasons for the tribulation. First, the saints in Jackson County were being disobedient to the commandments given them. Second, the Lord allows the wicked to accomplish their evil works, so that they may be judged in the long run.

Imagine your own feelings to see some saints or other innocent people as refugees. Today, there are millions of refugees in the world, driven from their homes because of war, religion, and natural disasters. What would you be willing to do to help them? 

We'll discuss more on Zion's camp.


D&C 104

The United Order/Firm was failing, because several members were not doing their part. They were not imparting of their wealth. In the United Order, God demands whatever is necessary. The CFM lesson includes a video of John Tanner, a wealthy man who joined the Church. He gave and gave and gave of his wealth, until he was in poverty. Then, he served a mission and considered it a privilege.

This is not how most members were dealing with their temporal and spiritual gifts and blessings.

"But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

"For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

"Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." (vs 16-18)

While the Church today is based financially on tithes/offerings and not consecration, we still promise in the temple to consecrate our time, gifts, and material possessions to the Lord. While all pay ten percent for tithes, how much do we give for fast offerings and humanitarian efforts? How much do we give to missionary work? How much do we give for other wonderful charities? 

And not just moneys, but also our time and effort. Do we freely give of these?

So how much extra should we give? Someone once asked C.S. Lewis (author of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) how much one should give. He pondered this, then answered, "until it begins to hurt."

While any donation makes a difference in the lives of others, only a real sacrifice can make a difference in our lives. How can God exalt the poor and make the rich low, if the rich refuse to be humbled financially? This does not mean giving up all their moneys, as did John Tanner. It does mean, are we living in extreme comfort, while others struggle? Do we really need a 5000 square foot home, swimming pool, and BMW?  These are issues each individual must make with the Lord.

The day will come when such sacrifice will be required, as in a redeemed Zion there will be no poor nor rich. All will be equal, or they will not dwell in Zion.

The second concept in this section is that we do not own anything. We are but stewards of the Lord's riches. If we are stewards, we will then be interviewed one day and asked what did we do with our stewardship. Do we bury our talent, or use it to make more talents?

In this instance, does it mean making more money with the moneys we have? Or does it mean increasing the spiritual growth of ourselves and of Zion? If God gives me wealth and I hold onto it all and expand my own personal empire, am I doing the work for Zion? If I use the wealth as a stewardship, and use it to bless others, benefiting the poor and needy - isn't this the way of consecration?

Joseph Smith becomes an example for us in this. As president of the Church, one could envision him using tithes to pay for a comfortable life for his family. Instead, Joseph often went into debt for the Church. One winter, he chopped firewood for others, in order to buy food for his family. When he established a store in Nauvoo, it didn't make a profit, because Joseph was constantly lending and giving to others in need, rather than obtaining a nice living for his family.

"And all moneys that you receive in your stewardships, by improving upon the properties which I have appointed unto you, in houses, or in lands, or in cattle, or in all things save it be the holy and sacred writings, which I have reserved unto myself for holy and sacred purposes, shall be cast into the treasury as fast as you receive moneys, by hundreds, or by fifties, or by twenties, or by tens, or by fives.

"Or in other words, if any man among you obtain five dollars let him cast them into the treasury; or if he obtain ten, or twenty, or fifty, or an hundred, let him do likewise;

"And let not any among you say that it is his own; for it shall not be called his, nor any part of it." (vs 68-70)

Today, the treasury is the bishop's storehouse. Gives one pause to consider just how far we are from living the law of consecration.

D&C 105

Zion's Camp was a failure. Or was it?

Rather than raising an army of 500, just over 200 men gathered to serve in the militia to restore the Missouri saints back to their homes in Jackson County, Missouri. Beyond that, the Lord notes several other reasons why He disbanded the Camp prior to reaching the city of Independence.

"Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.

"But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

"And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

"And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself." (vs 2-5)

Zion, the pure in heart, can only be built upon the Celestial Law. God's power and miracles work dependent upon faith and righteousness of the people. Having destroyed the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, the Lord had the power to wipe out the Church's enemies in Missouri. He didn't.

Those who were called saints, for the most part, were not. They were not living the law of consecration. They were boastful and proud. The often mistreated and looked down upon the old Missouri settlers. Their sights were focused on themselves and getting gain (free land provided by the Church), rather than lifting one another up. There were rich and poor among them. There were Danites, a secret group of saints, who sought to use intimidation and force to push back at the Missouri settlers.

So, where are we today? While we have a small foothold in Independence, Missouri, it is not a stronghold of Zion. We have a visitor's center. The center city of Zion has yet to be established. The Lord still waits for us to become the Pure in Heart. He waits for us to live consecrated lives, to no longer view our stewardships as personal possessions. He awaits our turning fully to Him, filled with charity, willing to sacrifice all on the altar of Zion. While the Church has over 16 million members, we still are not spiritually strong enough to return to Jackson County and forever establish His Zion.

The sins weren't just among the members in Missouri:

"But I speak concerning my churches abroad—there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys.

"Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion." (vs 8-9)

The Lord requested 500 men for Zion's Camp. Only 200 answered the call. The Lord asked for funds to fully finance the militia. Many members did not give, causing the Camp to have insufficient food, supplies, and weapons. They expected God to miraculously wipe out all their enemies, build new homes and plant their crops for them. As with the ancient Jews, whom Jesus fed bread and fishes, they followed Christ because he fed them for free - they weren't interested in taking up his cross, or partake of His flesh and blood. And so they departed from him.

So it was with the Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, New York and other areas at this time. They wanted the blessings of the gospel without the sacrifices necessary to build Zion and to exalt the saints. Are we like this today? Again, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to live the celestial law necessary to build and establish Zion?

The Lord explained that Zion's redemption would have to wait until "mine elders are endowed with power from on high." This would partially occur at the Kirtland Temple, as it contained the initiatory ordinances that we now have in modern temples. The full endowment would have to wait for Nauvoo. 

We cannot become pure in heart, Zion, without temples to endow us with greater spiritual power. The covenants of sacrifice, obedience, and consecration are a necessary part of this preparation. Why are we building so many temples right now? In part to provide saving ordinances to the living and dead. However, they are also necessary to train the saints into a new way of thinking. The more often members attend the temple and turn their focus away from the world and towards God's work, the better prepared for the day when some of us are called to return to Independence.

Meanwhile, we can prepare for the center city of Zion, by building up our stakes. Our stakes are just as much a part of Zion as Jackson County is. However, as with the city of Zion, our stakes will prosper only to the point that the saints become Saints.

There are tough, personal questions that we get from the Doctrine and Covenants. The D&C continually returns us to temples, Zion, and preparing a people for the 2nd Coming of Christ. We have to honestly ask ourselves the tough questions which the Doctrine and Covenants keeps posing to us. Are we living a celestial law? Are we pure in heart? Are we rich? If so, are we abasing ourselves, so that the poor are lifted? 

As for the youth, President Nelson has invited them to join Christ's battalion. They are to prepare themselves to be the new Zion's Camp. It is very possible that many of us and our youth will be involved in returning to Independence and building the city of Zion. It's also true that we are currently building our stakes of Zion right now, which also requires an army of righteous men and women, boys and girls, who will fill the temples, serve missions, and make their own home a holy place in Zion.

Are we preparing now for that day?









Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 98-101

 Come Follow Me: D&C 98-101

D&C 98

This revelation was given for the saints in Missouri, who were going through severe persecutions.

In the first verses the Lord is commending them for their faithfulness and prayers, promising to fulfill all their prayers. Yet, we see that not all those promises were fulfilled in the way we would expect. Many prayed to keep their homes in Jackson County and to build Zion. Often, the straightest path to the Celestial Kingdom and Zion is a crooked dirt road, or sometimes just a direction in which to blaze one's own trail. These saints would gain Zion, but it would be in a stake elsewhere. Some would receive their promised blessings after this life.

In verse three, we learn that all of our afflictions are for our good and God's glory. For this reason, in verse one, the Lord encourages us to give thanks in "all things." It is an interesting concept that we see pop up occasionally in scripture. It isn't a call to solely be grateful for our blessings and good fortune, but also for the trials, pains, and tribulations. How easy it is to complain when things are tough. How hard it is to give thanks for those struggles. 

We can see the importance of having an eternal perspective, when it comes to both good times and heavy trials. We look forward to eternal life with hope, which is an "anchor to the soul" (Ether 12), and helps us make it through the difficult times. We struggle with modern trials: Covid pandemic, wild fires, hurricanes, flooding, climate change, failed wars, etc. Yet, consider the struggles of the early saints:

Driven from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to the Great Basin (then, part of Mexico). They suffered from cholera, malaria, and a wide variety of diseases. Abject poverty followed them from place to place. Joseph Smith, the Prophet, had to provide food for his family one winter by chopping wood for others. 

Are our trials as terrible as they possibly could be? Today, people struggle with war, pestilence, earthquakes, Civil War, terrorism, government tyranny, and slavery - far beyond anything that Westerners experience. The severity of our trials is often in the eye of the beholder.

Struggling with the side effects from chemotherapy as he fought leukemia, Elder Neal Maxwell noted that his struggles brought a "sharper focus" to his life, allowing him to see which things were truly important, and which were not. He learned, for example, that hair is not as important as he once thought.

 How would our lives improve if we were to give thanks in all things?

We further read in this section:

"And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

"Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

"And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

"I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

"Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn." (vs 5-9)

In these verses, we find some of the earliest statements of the Lord regarding the United States Constitution. While an imperfect document, when combined with the Declaration of Independence, we get a grand framework for ever expanding freedom for man and womankind. 

This is the law of the land AND the Lord. We learn that anything more or less than the preservation of rights and privileges comes from evil. God makes us free (as explained in the Declaration of Independence), and the Constitution was designed to protect and expand those freedoms (via amendments). 

This should open up discussion and consideration for each of us. Is our federal government focused on its key purpose, as approved by the Lord? Or has it gone beyond its true purpose?  Consider the Afghanistan war: initially it occurred because of a major terrorist attack. We went into Afghanistan and basically defeated the enemy. Then we stayed for 2 decades without real objectives. These actions expanded into Iraq, Syria, Yemen and northern Africa (Arab Spring). Where is the Constitutional objective that protects our freedom?

Since 9/11/2001, the government has increased the deficit by $24 trillion. It now sits at $28.4 trillion. Current plans from government could increase it by another $6.5 trillion this year. How much of this increases and protects freedom?

What evil will eventually occur if the nation continues spending trillions of dollars on entitlements, which increases taxes (a form of servitude to government), increases indebtedness (a form of servitude), or devalues the dollar via inflation (again, a form of servitude)? What occurs when the money runs out?

Venezuela was one of the riches nations on earth 20 years ago. Having more oil than Saudi Arabia, they were able to fund many things for the nation. Under big government programs, the government bankrupted the nation. Where the Venezuelan bolivar (their currency) at one time was 10 to the American dollar, it now requires over 4 million bolivars to equal one US dollar. Freedoms have been lost in Venezuela, as people struggle just to eat and survive, while the government continues to force its evil policies on the people.

Today, we see that Republicans fear Pres Biden, while Democrats feared Pres Trump. Could it be that we have such fear today because we've made the presidency and Congress too powerful? When they take the oath to sustain and defend the Constitution, is it according to the Lord's program or their own agenda? When we ask government to do things, is it to affirm and expand freedom, or to force our own will upon others?

Finally, if the government is not focused on maintaining and increasing freedoms, as the Lord desires, then we may know the wicked are ruling.

I'm not going into details on what this may mean, because it will mean different things to each of us, depending on whether one is liberal, moderate, conservative, or on one of the fringes. My personal view is, there are important things government can do, as the Lord pointed out. Beyond this, we should consider strongly on whether such things should be done by government.

"Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

"And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God." (vs 10-11)

We need to seek out honest and wise people. Perfect? No, no such thing. But they need to be honest and wise. We don't vote for people just because they say the things we like to hear. We seek out honest and wise people, who will protect freedoms. We uphold "good men and wise men." A sign of a nation falling into wickedness is that the people elect evil people, who promise them stuff (bribes) and flatter them.

We do not need government to establish endless laws to restrict us. God calls upon us to live righteous lives, to forsake all evil. With such a guide, there is no need for a litany of laws by government to protect us from ourselves. When government commands us in every little thing, it has replaced God and forcibly taken away agency. Tyrants justify their police states as maintaining the peace. Is there a reason for police? Yes. Do we need to have soldiers on every street corner? Only when government has led us to evil.

Speaking of government, the Lord then explains his laws of going to war. This applies to individuals, families, and government. We are to be peacemakers, forgiving the first, second and third offense. After the fourth offense, we are then free to attack back. Yet, we are also required to give our enemies an opportunity to repent and change. 

Do we rush too quickly to war? 

This Constitution is not just for Americans:

"According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles." (D&C 101:77)
This Constitution is for "all flesh" or all people. God's law of freedom belongs to all people. All flesh does not just mean white men. It includes women, people of color, old and young alike.

Such is a law for anyone wishing to dwell in Zion. Vengeance is the Lord's. We are commanded to forgive, even "seventy times seven."

D&C 98

John Murdock was a widower. His children were living among various members in Kirtland, while he served a mission. One would think he would be given the opportunity to raise his own children. Instead, the Lord had another purpose. John was a powerful missionary, and was promised great gifts of the Spirit as he taught the gospel. 

Instead of raising his children, he was to prepare to have them go to Missouri, and then retrn to preaching the gospel for a "few years."

God requires sacrifice, even sometimes of little children. Why? Because eternal salvation of all mankind is the most important thing of all. I know many who wish a life of fun and leisure, and some find that life. However, eternal glory goes far beyond that. Charity, the love of Christ, causes us to have a different set of priorities.

D&C 101

Counsel given to saints in Missouri. They had been thrust out of Jackson County, into neighboring counties. The state of Missouri actually created Clay county as a separate county specifically for Latter-d)ay Saints to gather. Still, persecutions continued.

The Lord begins by explaining why they were suffering: their disobedience to His laws and commandments. Such ranged from those gathering to Missouri without permission, to many refusing to live the law of consecration, to many who bragged to the Missouri settlers that they were going to take over the area. Among the saints, some formed a secret group called the Danites. These were an enforcement group that reeked havoc on non-Mormons, seeking revenge for atrocities done. The Church history volume "Saints," briefly mentions Danites, but does not go into any detail on their wicked actions. We do not know just how much Joseph Smith knew about this group and their secret actions. 

We do see from the Lord's teaching, 

"They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.

"In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.

"Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. -I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy." (vs 7-9)

We potentially live in such a day today. As Latter-day Saints are slow to hearken unto God, we may assume that we are open to such persecutions and trials as well. We receive counsel from living prophets and apostles, and we often see members bristling on-line. Recently, members have been angry over prophetic teachings on immigration, racism, BYU's spiritual responsibility, LGBTQIA+, vaccinations, etc. This isn't an issue or right/left or conservative/liberal. It is an issue of following and sustaining God's oracles. 

What happens as we approach the last days before the 2nd Coming, when the Lord requires through his prophet, not just tithing, but consecration? Not just Word of Wisdom, but keeping our bodies and spirits clean? To bury our weapons of war and let God fight our battles? To have us embrace the Proclamation on the Family? To give up our video games and social media? To give up our big cars, houses, and vacations, and begin living modestly? To raise our children in love and righteousness? To keep the temples open and busy 24 hours a day? To leave one's children for a "few years" and preach the gospel?

Zion and a Zion people cannot be created in any other way. We must "stand in holy places." We can only do that if we are holy.