I realize I haven't posted for awhile - school and performances have dominated my life for the past month or so. I have gathered a lot of thoughts and look forward to putting them down here soon. Until then, here is a video I thought went right along with the season. Enjoy!

According the the dictionary, grace is "favor or good will". Its origins come from the latin word "grātia" which means favor, kindness, or esteem. When we receive the Grace of God, He directs His favor and good will toward us.

The restored gospel teaches us even more about grace. Elder Faust taught that "the Savior’s grace is activated in our lives through the Atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us". The Atonement is the ultimate symbol of Christ's Grace as it saves all of mankind, and exalts those who choose to live righteously.

Others have stressed grace as an action word. In other words, grace is not something that happened, but is happening to us. Elder Bednar called grace a "strengthening and enabling power". He also said that "the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity".

If we actively seek out God's grace in our lives He favors us by strengthening us and showing us good favor. He also opens our eyes to new ways of being good. This active seeking of ways to be righteous goes right in the face of those who would have us be only as obedient as "is necessary". Those who get as close to the line as they can without falling over it. We are taught that we can unlock real power if we proactively seek out opportunities to be righteous and obedient.

The Bible Dictionary defines grace as a "divine means of help or strength given through the bounteous mercy of Jesus Christ".

So how do we take part in this good favor and strengthening from the Lord? Besides obedience, according to the Apostle Paul "we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (emphasis added).

What is most interesting to me about what Paul teaches is that in order to receive the active form of grace that we so crave we must have confidence and faith that it is already there. We are blessed for our rejoicing with more of the same, and we also receive the abundance that comes with it.

Certainly every gift we have is a representation of God's Grace. With more gratitude, obedience, hope, and faith the Lord will show us even further evidences of His love, and maybe allow us to be tools of showing His Grace to others.

Just to share - here is a fun video of Il Divo singing "Amazing Grace" CLICK HERE

In searching for scriptures on prosperity I am no longer surprised by how often I find the process of gaining abundance to be a very proactive one on our part. The multitude of blessings the Lord has in store for us are all in our reach, we just have to actively seek them and work for them. Of course, even more wonderful is the fact that the process of working toward them is such a joyful one.

Early on in the restored church I am sure Joseph Smith must have struggled with teaching the Saints to not wait for his instruction but to receive their own revelation and act on it. (Incidentally, the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches its membership to actively seek inspiration from Heavenly Father and act on it shows the trust its leadership has in its members and the power of Spirit. Otherwise who knows which direction we would all be headed!)

In Doctrine and Covenants 58, Joseph hints to this frustration, and also tries to motivate the Saints:

Vs. 26: "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."

Not only do we put undue pressure on our leadership, we cut ourselves off if we wait to be told everything.

Vs. 27 & 28: "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."

What does it mean to be anxiously engaged? How can we be proactive about bringing to pass much righteousness? If you have any thoughts, please share.

President Monson gave a wonderful talk in which he quoted D&C 58, and then went on to talk about why people decide to partake in the miracles that come from making changes and following the Savior. He says the reason for the changes are:

"First, men have been shown their eternal possibilities and have made the decision to achieve them. They cannot really long rest content with mediocrity once excellence is within their reach.

"Second, other men and women and, yes, young people have followed the admonition of the Savior and have loved their neighbors as themselves and helped to bring their neighbors’ dreams to fulfillment and their ambitions to realization.

"The catalyst in this process has been the principle of love."

In order to be anxiously engaged we must 1) seek a vision of our eternal possibilities, and 2) love our neighbors. I love this idea of bringing our "neighbors' dreams to fulfillment and their ambitions to realization." In other words, when someone you love wants something, want it for them even more then they do.

If we love others and send our focus outward we will be anxiously engaged.

Psalms 1 describes the fate of the ungodly vs. a person whose "delight is in the law (also translated as teaching, direction) of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night" (verse 2).

One of the first principles I was taught on my mission before I left for the field was the idea that we gain real power when we change our focus from how close we can get to the line, to actively finding more ways to be obedient. David teaches us here that to delight in the teachings of the Lord is to consider them day and night, and find ways in which we can celebrate His laws in our lives.

When we do this, the blessing is that "we shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (verse 3).

When searching the scriptures we can all find ways to be more obedient, and be more confident in following Heavenly Father. The payoff for doing so is prosperity in all that we do.

Just a quick thought:

D&C 64:33-34

"Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that is great.

"Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."

This was a time when the Saints were making preparations to go to Missouri from Ohio, and Joseph was instructing them who was going to be able to enjoy the blessings of Zion. When we give our mind and heart to the Lord, wonderful things happen.

President Monson in a Christmas fireside said:

"As we undertake our personal search for Jesus, aided and guided by the principle of prayer, it is fundamental that we have a clear concept of him whom we seek. The shepherds of old sought Jesus the child. But we seek Jesus the Christ, our Older Brother, our Mediator with the Father, our Redeemer, the Author of our salvation; he who was in the beginning with the Father; he who took upon himself the sins of the world and so willingly died that we might forever live. This is the Jesus whom we seek.

"And when we find him, will we be prepared as were the wise men of old to provide gifts from our many treasures? They presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are not the gifts Jesus asks of us. From the treasure of our hearts Jesus asks that we give of ourselves: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34.)

In this marvelous dispensation of the fulness of times, our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved."

Have a great day and wonderful weekend!

In Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants the saints are in Jackson County, Missouri. As they strive to build Zion Joseph Smith gives them a vision for what that special place can become, and how it will become that way.

First, Joseph says that for those who are obedient to the gospel "shall receive for their reward good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength". And that's not all - "they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time" (D&C 59:3-4). Isn't that interesting that from obedience we receive more commandments? In other words, when we follow instructions we get more!

Next, Joseph Smith goes on to give what look a lot like the Ten Commandments, but they are modified just a bit. They are as follows:

  1. "Love the Lord thy God with all they heart, with all they might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him" vs. 5
  2. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" - and lumped together with that one - "thou shalt not steal, neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it" vs. 6
  3. "Thank the Lord thy God in all things" vs. 7
  4. "Offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit" vs. 8
  5. "Go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day" and "on this, the Lord's day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord" vs. 9,12
  6. "Thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times" vs. 11
  7. "Do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance" vs. 15
Remember that this is the Higher Law. These are the commandments that give us so much more than just obeying the original Ten Commandments.

After laying out these requirements, Joseph Smith describes the blessings that are attached, the first embodying all of the rest. In verse 16 he says that "the fulness of the earth is yours". What does that mean? We get:
  1. "beasts of the field"
  2. "fowls of the air"
  3. "that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth"
  4. "the herb"
  5. "good things which come from the earth"
Then he goes into the many uses of these things - "whether for food or raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards".

Joseph Smith goes on to say that all of the things on this earth have been created by the Lord for our benefit, not just to fulfill our basic needs of clothing and food, but "both to please the eye and to gladden the heart". Not only are the essentials met, but as obedient servants of God we also have our lives enriched.

Let us all strive to create Zion-like homes. The promised blessings are just too good to pass up.

In my institute class this week we talked about the Liahona and all of its many metaphors for us today. As a refresher - the Liahona was a small curiously crafted compass-like device that not only led Lehi and his family through the wilderness, but also gave them specific instructions. However, it only worked when they were righteous and listened to their leaders.

We all have our own Liahona in the Gift of the Holy Ghost. If we are righteous it guides us to follow the prophet, and leads us on course to our own prosperity.

Alma gave counsel using the Liahona as a metaphor. First, he said "counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good". He then goes on to teach when that counsel should take place - "when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God..." (Alma 37:37).

Staying close to the Lord through prayer keeps us in tune with the Holy Spirit, which then guides us in the correct path, just like the Liahona. Later in the chapter he continues with "it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land" (Alma 37:44).

Eternal bliss sounds pretty good to me.

Another verse that caught my attention was verse 43: "for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things that are spiritual" (emphasis added). In other words, the instructions they received from ball were temporal instructions, and at times they paid no heed to them (maybe that is why they floated around the wilderness for over 8 years?).

At times either the prophet, or the spirit, or as is always the case - both, will give us instructions that may seem illogical. However, we are taught here that if we follow those instructions we will prosper. If we can get over ourselves and follow the gifts we have been given, especially when we do not understand them, we will excel in every way.

Jacob Chapter 2 from the Book of Mormon is frequently quoted in General Conference. This is probably because of Jacob's statement in the beginning of he chapter where he declares that he is going to discuss some things that are difficult to hear, but he has to preach to the people in order to not be responsible for their ignorance. He then goes into a very powerful sermon about the Law of Chastity.

In the midst of all of his strict "admonishing" Jacob gives us a few clues that lead us beyond just getting the basics and to the heart of spiritual and temporal prosperity. One of these statements in particular tells us exactly what to do if we want prosperity for ourselves and our families.

First, verse 18 - "But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God". Of course, this is a life-long pursuit which will offer up varying degrees of success for each of us. However, each of us has the opportunity to see this as a set of priorities - put God and His kingdom first. Then a very specific set of instructions and blessings follow:

Verse 19 - "And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted (emphasis added).

My testimony is that if we seek to do good and put the kingdom of God first, and if we actively seek to do good and give to others, the blessings flow in so rapidly we cannot possibly give them away fast enough. As long as you feel a genuine need to serve others and bless their lives, your life will also be blessed beyond imagination.

In 2nd Nephi chapter 4, Nephi records the final council of his father Lehi just before he dies. The majority of this last council is to Lehi's oldest son Laman and Laman's family, pleading with them to obey, because if they would keep the Lord's commandments they would "prosper in the land".

Shortly after that Lehi dies, and Nephi - now the prophet - goes on to "write the things of [his] soul" on the plates. This section of chapter 4 (starting in verse 15) is worth many ponderous readings. I compare this to chapter 2 or "Nephi's Psalm" in terms of how Nephi pours out his soul to us, the readers the of Book of Mormon.

Nephi feels humble and weak in the eyes of his Heavenly Father, but also amazed by the blessings the Lord has sent him:

Vs 20 - "My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep."

Vs 21 - "He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh."

Vs 24 - "And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angles came down and ministered upon me."

I think it is interesting that he stresses prayer during the day - not just the normal morning & night prayers, but the constant ones that happen all day.

He then goes on to rejoice in further blessings and curse himself for his imperfections. He pleads with the Lord for redemption and deliverance. Then he closes this powerful chapter with a key to prosperity:

Vs. 34 - "O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."

And then what we get for following that counsel:

Vs. 35 - "Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss;"

Let us all strive to be righteous, and have confidence that the Lord will answer our prayers by giving liberally to us.

(By the way, the poster above can be found in print at the following website - CLICK HERE. Don't worry - I don't get anything for posting that link, I just want to give credit to the artist - Steve Nethercott)

I love Peter's "First Presidency Letters". They are so inspiring, and full of counsel as to how to recognize prosperity, then expand it. Here is the entire chapter - again, simple yet incredibly profound. Read it slowly and find the keys to abundance:

(remember: red=commandments, blue=blessings)

1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, (an increase in the knowledge of God means more peace and blessings!)

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (knowledge of God & righteousness means resistance to the worldly and temporary)

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

(remember in seminary how we were always asked to find and write down lists? the previous three verses are a great one. what sticks out the most to me:
1) this list moves from a starting point to the end goal that will lead us to a knowledge of God and all of the blessings previously listed, and
2) the beginners focus inward, the more advanced focus on others - in other words, to get closer to God and a knowledge of Him, we MUST have charity)

8 For nor if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (can this actually be a goal?)

11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;

14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

(in other words, Peter knows he is dying soon - these are the things he wants the saints to remember most. here comes the pep-talk!)

16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (in other words - remember how you felt when you were converted or when you first felt the Spirit, or heard His voice? remembering that leads to instant motivation)

19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

There IS a truth, and it leads us to grace, peace, and prosperity in this life and the life to come.

Endurance always seems to be a big issue when it comes to gaining prosperity. I am sure we all have experience starting new goals with optimism and enthusiasm only to fall short when things start to get a little hard to continue.

In my experience, I fall short because I lose the vision as to why I started.

The scriptures I read today made me think of this process. Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian saints in a time of much persecution, when I am sure it was probably not very popular to be a member of the church. Endurance was a struggle for everyone. To these saints Paul gives the following advice:

"For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal. 6:8)

Here we are taught that by following the Spirit our focus will lead us to eternal benefits. Paul goes on:

"And let us not be weary in well doing:"

Here is the struggle - the weariness that breaks down our endurance. But then Paul reminds them of what will keep them going:

"...for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (emphasis added)

At some point we all had to be converted, but to what? If we have an "eye single to the Glory of God" we have a goal - one that can fill us with sustaining hope. If we truly have a vision of what comes from doing good - staying with our families forever, joy with our friends and loved-ones forever, eternal progression, living with our Heavenly Father forever, and on and on... - then we have the strength we need to endure the suddenly little things we have to put up with.

What do we do to remind yourself every day of that goal? What do we see or hear every day in our homes and in our surroundings? Take an inventory of the first things you think about every day and the last things at night - are you focused on what you can potentially harvest from all of your work.

I have a statement that I write at the beginning of each year that I read/recite to myself every morning that keeps me focused. I also created a desktop wallpaper for my computer that combines elements that I want to incorporate into my life (if any of you want to know how to do this let me know, it's really easy.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions for keeping yourself focused on the goal.

(Sorry for being offline for a couple of weeks - moving from Tallahassee to LA has kept me busy. It's good to be back!)

I am constantly amazed by how the meaning of each of Jesus' parables seems to expand each time I reread them. This morning I read John 10:1-18 in which Christ teaches a parable about the difference between those who enter the "sheepfold" by "the door" or by "some other way". Those who enter "not by the door" are called "thieves and robbers".

When the disciples do not understand, Jesus teaches that He is the door, and those who teach another doctrine other than the truth are thieves and robbers. Each is trying to lead the sheep somewhere, but the destinations are very different.

The thieves enter to "steal", "kill", and "destroy". This makes me think of all of the ways we can be enticed away from the true path of happiness. It has become harder to recognize these thieves as they are often disguised with such good ideas as tolerance and acceptance. We take Christ out of everything just to make sure and not offend, not requiring "tolerance" of non-Christians, just of those who believe.

Another way we can be deceived is by many programs built to enhance and improve our lives partially based on truth, yet not centered on the gospel. These resources can be sincerely life-enhancing, but still not complete. They often teach us to focus on our own needs, not on the needs of others.

In a recent talk by Dieter Uchtdorf he address this issue (by the way, I LOVE this talk - for the entire thing CLICK HERE):

"President Lorenzo Snow expressed... 'When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.'

"In today’s world of pop psychology, junk TV, and feel-good self-help manuals, this advice may seem counter-intuitive. We are sometimes told that the answer to our ills is to look inward, to indulge ourselves, to spend first and pay later, and to satisfy our own desires even at the expense of those around us. While there are times when it is prudent to look first to our own needs, in the long run it doesn’t lead to lasting happiness."

In these verses from John, Christ teaches "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (vs.10), "I am the good shepherd" (vs.14), and "there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (vs.16). By following the teachings of Jesus we are lead to truly lasting abundance and prosperity.

Just a few thoughts as we all prepare for August's fast....

In Isaiah chapter 58 the Lord counsels us on the true law of the fast. He condemns those who only fast to make themselves seem more righteous and others more uncomfortable. Though it may not be popular in the church to do that anymore, the Lord's other piece of counsel is certainly applicable to everyone.

Isaiah teaches that the fast chosen by Heavenly Father is one that makes our "voice to be heard on high". This makes me wonder how many times my fast consists of simply doing without food.

The other commandment dealing with the fast is that we use it as an opportunity to "deal [our] bread to the hungry", clothe the naked, and help the poor. This we do by donating fast offerings. Let us remember the story of the widow's mite, in which she was blessed because she gave of her living, not just of her abundance.

Fast Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to offer ourselves up to the Lord and communion with Him, and to give ourselves in service. We lose sight of our own needs and take care of others. The ultimate miracle of obeying the true law of the fast is the amount of blessings we (and those we serve) receive, many of which are outlined in this chapter:

-"thy light shall break forth like the morning"
-great health
-righteousness (which of course leads to a whole extra set of blessings)
-glory of the Lord upon us
-our prayers will be answered
-Heavenly guidance
-our souls satisfied in drought
-our "bones made fat"
-we will be like a "watered garden whose waters fail not"

And to those we bless with our fast offerings and prayers:

-they "shall build the old waste places"
-"raise up the foundations"

I take that to mean that together we will raise ourselves and societies up as we all take each others' example and constantly give to on another. (Let me know if your interpretation is different - look at Isaiah 58:12).

I remember how miraculous my fasting was while I served my mission, and looking back I can learn a few lessons from how I fasted. 1) I never fasted for myself - only for those we were teaching or others who needed special blessings, and 2) I knew that my fast would be answered with miracles. That is not to say we should never fast for our own needs, but the more we focus on the needs of others, the more our needs are provided for.

Let's all make this Fast Sunday the first of many in which we seek to really bless the lives of others - miracles happen!

Matthew 6:24-34

The Lord commands us in the Doctrine & Covenants that we are to "prepare every needful thing" - in other words, to focus on the things that matter most in terms of our salvation.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

Jesus taught about priorities when He said, ‘Seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (JST, Matt. 6:38, in Matt. 6:33, footnote a). ‘Seek … first to build up the kingdom of God’ means to assign first priority to God and to His work. The work of God is to bring to pass the eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39), and all that this entails in the birth, nurturing, teaching, and sealing of our Heavenly Father’s children. Everything else is lower in priority” (“Focus and Priorities,” Liahona, July 2001, 100–101).

Patricia Holland, former first counselor in the Young Women general presidency adds this story:

On a beautifully clear and bright day, I sat overlooking the Sea of Galilee. I opened my Bible and turned to the account in Luke of Martha, a woman like me ‘troubled about many things.’ But instead of the words printed on the page before me, I thought I saw with my mind and heard with my heart these words: ‘Pat, Pat, thou [art] careful and troubled about many things.’ Then the power of pure and personal revelation took hold of me as I read, ‘But one thing, [only one thing] is truly needful.’ (See Luke 10:38–42.) …
Spirit to spirit, our loving Father in heaven seemed to be whispering to me, ‘You don’t have to worry over so many things. The one thing that is needful—the only thing that is truly needful—is to keep your eyes toward my Son.’
‘Learn of me,’ he seemed to say, ‘and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.’ (D&C 19:23.)” (“ ‘But One Thing Is Truly Needful,’ ” Tambuli, Mar. 1988, 35).

By simplifying our lives and focusing on becoming more like the Savior, we put the Lord in a position where He can more than provide for our needs.

In Matthew 6:24 the Lord teaches us that we cannot serve God and mammon "an Aramaic word for riches". By focusing on only building wealth we actually limit our wealth potential.

As the chapter continues Jesus teaches us how Heavenly Father feeds and clothes all of the beasts of the fields, and then says "are ye not much better than they?" All it takes is faith, and to seek "first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

May we all work harder today to make the Lord our focus.

I have decided that whenever I come across a simple or understandable principle in Isaiah I really pay attention, as it is obvious in those sections that he really wants us to get it. So today's thought is just that - simple, yet profound:

Isaiah 1:18 - If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land

One of my favorite passages of scripture, with such simple steps to having all that you need and more:

Proverbs 3

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.

For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy path.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

It shall be health to thy navel, and morrow to thy bones.

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Give to others, and pay your tithing, and you will have more than you know what to do with. Have a great weekend!

Psalm 112:

Praise ye the Lord, Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.

A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.

He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

In a recent Elder's Quorum lesson the missionaries taught us how Elder Holland taught them to study the scriptures. The have a two-colored pencil (a tip on each side), and search the scriptures for commandments which they mark in one color (red), and the promised blessings for obeying those commandments in another color (blue).

I have marked the above passage according to this system, and we learn the following:

Commandments -
  1. fear the Lord
  2. delight in the commandments
  3. be upright
  4. gracious
  5. full of compassion
  6. righteous
  7. show favor
  8. lend
  9. let discretion guide your actions
  10. not moved - steadfast
  11. remember
  12. not afraid of evil tidings or the wicked
  13. heart is established (confident in obedience)
  14. "disperses" wealth - gives to the poor
  15. endure
Blessings -
  1. children and further progeny will be "mighty", "upright", and "blessed"
  2. wealth and riches
  3. ability to "endure forever"
  4. be a "light in the darkness"
  5. the wicked's desires will fail
In many cases the commandments and blessings overlap, as one of the blessings to obeying these types of commandments is that it gets easier and easier to endure and continue obeying.

Further evidence - giving and righteousness lead to our own personal prosperity.

Today's post is simple, and yet so many times it is in simple principles that we find the most important truths.

2 Chronicles 20:20 - "...Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper."

This is a concept that I was blessed to have taught to me by my parents starting at a very young age, and I believe it with all of my heart. My father often taught using a talk by Ezra Taft Benson which I believe, if heeded, will lead to safety, happiness, and prosperity.

I decided to post the talk in its entirety here. Enjoy!

ELDER Ezra Taft Benson
February 26, 1980

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am honored to be in your presence today. You students are a part of a choice young generation--a generation which might well witness the return of our Lord. Not only is the Church growing in numbers today, it is growing in faithfulness and, even more important, our young generation, as a group, is even more faithful than the older generation. God has reserved you for the eleventh hour--the great and dreadful day of the Lord. It will be your responsibility not only to help bear off the kingdom of God triumphantly but to save your own soul and strive to save those of your family and to honor the principles of our inspired constitution.

To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead I am going to give you today several facets of a grand key which, if you will honor them, will crown you with God's glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan's fury. Soon we will be honoring our prophet on his eighty-fifth birthday. As a Church we sing the song, "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet." Here then is the grand key: follow the prophet. And here now are fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

In section 132, verse 7, of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord speaks of the Prophet--the President--and says: "There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom his power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred." Then in section 21, verses 4-6, the Lord states:

      Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

      For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

      For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

Did you hear what the Lord said about the words of the prophet? We are to "give heed unto all his words"--as if from the Lord's "own mouth."

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

      I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtiand in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: "You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them."

      When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, "Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God." Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: "There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now," said he, "when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books." That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: "Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth." [in Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18-19)

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

The living prophet has the power of TNT. By that I mean "Todays News Today." God's revelations to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore, the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore, the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each week in the Church Section of the Deseret News, and any words of the prophet contained each month in our Church magazines. Our marching orders for each six months are found in the general conference addresses, which are printed in the Ensign magazine.

I am so grateful that the current conference report is studied as part of one of your religion classes--the course entitied "Teachings of the Living Prophets," number 333. May I commend that class to you, and suggest that you get a copy of the class manual at your bookstore, whether you're able to take the class or not. The manual is entitled "Living Prophets for a Living Church."

Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

President Wilford Woodruff stated: "I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God." (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213.)

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him:

      I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home....Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray." [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. How much earthly schooling did Joseph Smith have? Yet he gave revelations on all kinds of subjects. We haven't yet had a prophet who earned a doctorate in any subject, but as someone said, "A prophet may not have his Ph.D. but he certainly has his LDS." We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet, and you'll be blessed and time will vindicate you.

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture.

Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel, but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, "Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you" (D&C 21:4).

And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states: "Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed".

Said Brigham Young, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture" (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot], 13:95).

Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

"Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear," complained Nephi's brethren. But Nephi answered by saying, "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center" (1 Nephi 16:1, 3). Or, to put it in another prophet's words, "Hit pigeons flutter."

Said President Harold B. Lee:

      You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life.... Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow.... Let's keep our eye on the President of the Church. [in Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153)

But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. "Even in the Church," said President Kimball, "many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday's prophets and mentally stone the living ones" (Instructor, 95:257).

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.

How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.

Said President Marion G. Romney, "It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets." And then he gives this illustration:

      One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, "Why did you come to America?" "I am here because a prophet of God told me to come." "Who was the prophet;" I continued. "Wilford Woodruff." "Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?" "Yes, I do." "Do you believe that President Joseph F. Smith was a prophet of God?" "Yes, sir."

      Then came the sixty-four dollar question. "Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?" His answer, "I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old age assistance."

      Now I tell you that a man in his position is on the way to apostasy. He is forfeiting his chances for eternal life. So is everyone who cannot follow the living Prophet of God." [in Conference Report, April 1953, p. 125]

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning. There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and the reasoning of men--between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire" (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 2, p. 173).

Would it seem reasonable to an eye doctor to be told to heal a blind man by spitting in the dirt, making clay, and applying it to the man's eyes and then telling him to wash in a contaminated pool? Yet this is precisely the course that Jesus took with one man, and he was healed. (See John 9:6-7.) Does it seem reasonable to cure leprosy by telling a man to wash seven times in a particular river? Yet this is precisely what the prophet Elisha told a leper to do, and he was healed. (See 2 Kings 5.)

      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8,9]

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter--temporal or spiritual.

Said Brigham Young:

      Some of the leading men in Kirtland were much opposed to Joseph the Prophet, meddling with temporal affairs... .

      In a public meeting of the Saints, I said, "Ye Elders of Israel.... will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?" Not one of them could do it....

      I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be. [Journal of Discourses, 10:363-364]

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

When a people are righteous they want the best to lead them in government. Alma was the head of the Church and of the government in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was mayor of Nauvoo, and Brigham Young was governor of Utah. Isaiah was deeply involved in giving counsel on political matters and of his words the Lord Himself said, "Great are the words of Isaiah" (3 Nephi 23:1). Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them; otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion--speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.

In the Book of Mormon we read:

      O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

      But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

      And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches--yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. [2 Nephi 9:28,29,42]

Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words, but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn't exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out.

As we come closer to the Lord's second coming, you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them.

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the First Presidency as "the highest council of the Church" (107:80) and says, "whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those....the First Presidency, whom I have sent" (112:20).

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

President Harold B. Lee relates this incident from Church history:

The story is told in the early days of the Church--particularly, I think, at Kirtland--where some of the leading brethren in the presiding councils of the Church met secretly and tried to scheme as to how they could get rid of the Prophet Joseph's leadership. They made the mistake of inviting Brigham Young to one of these secret meetings. He rebuked them, after he had heard the purpose of their meeting. This is part of what he said: "You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell." [In Conference Report, April 1963, p. 81]

In a general conference of the Church President N. Eldon Tanner stated:

The Prophet spoke out clearly on Friday moming, telling us what our responsibilities are... .

      A man said to me after that, "You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn't right, and it doesn't appeal to them, then that's different." He said, "Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn't want."

      I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not to follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep. [In Conference Report, October 1966, p. 98]

"Look to the Presidency and receive instruction," said the Prophet Joseph Smith (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], p. 161). But Almon Babbitt didn't, and in the Doctrine and Covenants section 124, verse 84, the Lord states:

      And with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church.

In conclusion, let us summarize this grand key, these "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet," for our salvation hangs on them.

      First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

      Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

      Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

      Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

      Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

      Sixth: The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture.

      Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

      Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning.

      Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

      Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

      Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

      Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

      Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.

      Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

I testify that these fourteen fundamentals in following the living prophet are true. if we want to know how well we stand with the Lord, then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain. How closely do our lives harmonize with the words of the Lord's anointed--the living prophet, the President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency?

May God bless us all to look to the prophet and the presidency in the critical and crucial days ahead, is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is amazing how much our lives are effected simply by our outlook on life, and not by some cruel hand of fate. In the case of prosperity and abundance we can either have a scarcity or abundance mentality, and then we reap what we sow.

In D&C 104 the Lord outlines the regulations that apply to the United Order, an organization assembled to help the poor and needy. This entire section is well worth reading and pondering in terms of our discussion, and I would like to highlight a few verses:

First of all, the members of the United Order are held to a stricter standard, and then promised that "inasmuch as those whom I commanded [are] faithful they should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings" (vs. 2). The more we serve those in need the more exponential the amount of blessings that return to us become.

For those who have riches it is their job to "exalt" the poor and make themselves humble or low (vs. 16). It is in this spirit of constant gratitude, humility, service, and giving that the Lord can guide us to the blessings He has in store.

Finally, vs. 17 has a wonderful truth: "for the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare" (emphasis added). For many there is a subconscious (or at times conscious) roadblock that keeps them from achieving monetary and other prosperity related goals due to a false belief that the tank is drying up. No matter how much wealth is hoarded by the greedy (rich or not) there is always much more than enough for everyone to enjoy if we will take it.

The church's welfare program is a wonderful example of this kind of humble service in action. Due to our aggressive program of helping those in need (and for a multitude of other reasons) the church prospers.

The church does not horde its wealth, they use it to build temples and chapels, expand the missionary program, give funds for education to those who cannot afford it, educate third-world countries in agricultural techniques, give relief in disasters, and much more. If we do the same, the blessings will be the same.

Have a wonderfully abundant day!

2 Corinthians 8 has a lot of great advice as to what to do with your abundance in order to live an abundant life yourself (some of which I understand - some of which I would love some other input).

Of particular interest to me were two verses:

Vs. 14 - "But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality."

This has hints of the Law of Consecration, and also of the principle that by giving to others it all seems to come back even more aggressively.

and vs. 15 - "...He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."

Going back to a concept discussed before - by hording wealth we lose it, always being in a state of need and fear over who is going to take it away. By giving of our abundance not only do we live more prosperous lives in a financial sense, we also develop the friendships and relationships that lead to true prosperity.

I recently read a great biography about Walt Disney, a man who had many faults but also did a lot of things right (sounds like the majority of us). Disney claimed that he never really wanted a lot of money for himself - a fact which can be evidenced by looking at the conditions under which he lived - comfortable but never extravagant. He said he just wanted more money to keep funding projects, putting it all into his company, which he really felt was doing a great service to the world.

Let us use our resources for good. John Wesley, a prominent member of the Methodist movement, when asked about money said, "Get all you can. Give all you can."

Jesus was once approached by a student who asked Him to divide up the inheritance that had been left to the student between him and his brother. Christ's response to Him is to beware of covetousness - "for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth".

It seems counter-intuitive in a blog about prosperity to quote scripture about not living in your possessions, but that is precisely one of the principles that leads us to true prosperity. One who covets can never feel gratitude. By coveting "stuff" we create a permanent feeling of starvation - never satisfied, always feeling the need to have more - the things the Lord has blessed us with are not enough.

When we turn off the desire to covet and shift it to an "attitude of gratitude" we realize the great abundance we already enjoy, and, we get more. Instead of living a life of constant deficit and unfulfilled need we live in our own prosperity.

The Savior goes on to teach a parable about a rich man whose fields yield "plentifully" - so much that he doesn't have room to contain it all. He decides to tear down his barn and build bigger storage buildings to store his goods - and then have the ability to "take [his] ease, eat, drink, and be merry".

The next verse is striking: "But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?" He goes on to say that this is the state of one who "is not rich toward God".

I am confident that the life of one who is grateful, working to lay up "treasures in heaven" is a life full of happiness, joy, interesting and fulfilling relationships, and prosperity.

Luke 12: 13-24

In Mark 12:41-44 we read the brief account of the widow's mite in which Jesus differentiates between two different kinds of giving. He put Himself by the treasury and watched as people donated their money, followed shortly by the widow who essentially puts everything she had into the box.

Then, Christ calls together His disciples and teaches them that the more wealthy patrons only "cast in of their abundance" while she donated "all of her living". This comparison counsels us how we should give.

It is easy to give of our surplus - and sometimes we may even make ourselves feel good by giving a lot of that surplus. I do not suggest those donations do not bring blessings, but the widow gives more and gets more because she gives from her living expenses.

In the last general conference Elder Eyring spoke about a young man who when still young, newly married, and poor gave of his meager earnings to assist another family in financial stress. He goes on to say (maybe even in passing) that this young family went on to enjoy more prosperity than they knew what to do with.

The Lord has a way of giving to those who give the most. He knows that by giving to those who sacrifice they will spread the wealth among those even less fortunate. Usually when we are poor our inclination is to horde and keep all of our gains, when the Lord teaches us that this is precisely the time to develop a habit of sacrificing and giving.

In my life, I can trace my most abundant and prosperous periods to those times when I gave and sacrificed the most to help others. I know it works!

In Matthew 13 Christ teaches such a wonderful principle when it comes to the concept of prosperity and abundance in his Parable of the Sower. In vs. 12 Jesus says "for whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath".

Previously I understood receiving to be a passive principle - I sit around and wait for things to come. If I like it, I take it - if not, I ignore it or let it go. These scriptures teach us that receiving is something we have to be proactive about.

It is also in these verses that we learn why Jesus teaches in parables - to give us the opportunity to receive. In other words, the Savior teaches in ways that make us search for the answers, and then choose what to do with them. The process of receiving and finding truths is an essential truth in and of itself.

In the parable of the sower a man plants seeds and they fall into four different places, and also explains later what each of these places represent:

  1. Some fall by the way side, which represents those who are taught correct principles and don't understand them. This teaches us that not only is receiving something we have to be active about - so is understanding. If we don't "get it", it's our job to study it out until we do.
  2. Others fall in stony places - someone receives the word with joy, "yet hath he not root in himself". This reminds me of yesterday's post - maybe this represents those without "good treasures" in their hearts. I know this happens to me sometimes - I hear or see a principle at work that moves me or testifies of its truthfulness, I feel great for that moment, but I don't actually allow it to change my behavior.
  3. Some seeds grow and are choked by thorns, or in other words, the word grows yet is destroyed or at least stunted by the deceitfulness of the world. This makes me think of the phrase "philosophies of men mingled with scripture", or perhaps the allowing of current self-help fads to dictate our study of the gospel and not vice versa.
  4. Finally, some fall onto good ground, and in this case Christ teaches us exactly what this means. Here He also explains what it means to receive: we 1) hear the word, 2) understand it, then 3) make it grow to the the point that it bears fruit, or becomes internally motivated action. The Savior also states that different people will provide varying amounts of fruit, and that doesn't seem to be a problem at all.
This process is a continual one, and here in these verses are a couple of tips as to how to be more effective in our receiving. First, we are told to be humble, not among those who have their ears "dull of hearing, and their eyes have closed". We are also taught to "understand with [our] heart". Sometimes the logical veil cannot comprehend the deeper truths that only our heart can understand.

May we all seek out good seeds and make them grow...

(by the way, the painting in this post is a favorite of mine by Pieter Bruegel entitled "The Parable of the Sower")

One of the most fundamental principles of prosperity is the more we give the more we receive. Christ is the perfect example of how to give and never want. In Matthew 12 he demonstrates how his disciples are much more important than other sacred principles of the Gospel - in this case, the Sabbath. His disciples pick corn and eat it, and he heals and casts out devils, all on the Sabbath. The pharisees criticize him for this action, but his example is clear.

He also teaches a concept that many self-help books seem to miss: that in order to truly interact effectively with others you have to become the best person you can. It is not enough to learn extravagant words and manipulation techniques - your heart must be kind and sincere. Christ uses the phrase "good treasures of the heart" in vs. 35, and in verse 34 teaches: "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh".

We rely on others for all of our success - the boss that pays your paycheck, your family members who support you, your teachers, etc. our progress depends upon how we treat others and how we are treated. Let us evaluate what kinds of treasures we have in our hearts by becoming more kind, receptive, and sincere. Then as we strive to put others first and serve with all of our hearts blessings will be poured upon us.