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.