reconciled to God
Week 14 is scheduled for study April 1-7, 2024. To be reconciled to God means more than just repenting. We must repent repeatedly, serve others, and seek for purifying changes.

Day 1

Jacob 1:6-8, 15-19; 2:1-11 – I have an “errand from the Lord.”

We all have been given assignments from the Lord to work in His kingdom for the welfare of others. These assignments are our personal errand from the Lord. The question becomes, “Are we seeking to magnify our callings or are we just existing within them?”

As I understand the process of magnifying a calling, it isn’t something we do directly. The Lord does the magnifying, but only as we seek His help in doing all that we can to be the best that we can. Note that it isn’t the calling that gets magnified or enlarged, but the person who is seeking the Lord’s help in fulfilling the responsibilities of a calling or covenant made. The manual uses the sentence, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord Qualifies.”

In reading the referred materials for this lesson it occurred to me that if I feel fully qualified for a calling, even one I have done before then there is little opportunity for growth. Growth happens when we are stretched and made to struggle. Even if I have had a particular calling before, if I am not looking for ways to do it better than last time then there is nothing to help me grow in my calling. Without growth we stagnate and become bored and less effective.

The attitude with which we approach our calling, no matter what it is or how many times we may have filled that calling in the past – our attitude makes or breaks us. In today’s reading did you note how intently Jacob approaches his responsibility to teach the people the right way, so they don’t spiritually fall to the temptations that are beginning to grip some of them? He openly acknowledges to the people that his efforts on their behalf affects not only their salvation, but his own. I can’t think of a calling in the church that is any different from Jacob’s, in that everything we do affects not only us, but someone else as well.

For the rest of today’s material I would beg your indulgence. I want to let President Thomas S. Monson talk about one of his favorite subjects, service. It is through service that we accomplish the process of magnifying our calling, any calling, which in turn magnifies us and God. It just occurred to me that the process of me turning to God in my efforts to do my best in His service unites the two of us. After all, as I seek His glory by doing good, He glorifies me by helping me grow and expand my spiritual abilities.

All of these quotes come from the Teachings of the Prophets manual for Thomas S. Monson.

One evening, at a late hour, my telephone rang. I heard a voice say, “Bishop Monson, this is the hospital calling. Kathleen McKee, a member of your congregation, has just passed away. Our records reveal that she had no next of kin, but your name is listed as the one to be notified in the event of her death. Could you come to the hospital right away?”

Upon arriving there, I was presented with a sealed envelope which contained a key to the modest apartment in which Kathleen McKee had lived. A childless widow seventy-three years of age, she had enjoyed few of life’s luxuries and possessed scarcely sufficient of its necessities. In the twilight of her life, she had become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being a quiet and reserved person, she revealed little about her life.

That same night I entered her tidy basement apartment, turned the light switch, and in a moment discovered a letter written ever so meticulously in Kathleen McKee’s own hand. It rested face up on a small table and read:

“Bishop Monson,

“I think I shall not return from the hospital. In the dresser drawer is a small insurance policy which will cover funeral expenses. The furniture may be given to my neighbors.

“In the kitchen are my three precious canaries. Two of them are beautiful, yellow-gold in color and perfectly marked. On their cages I have noted the names of friends to whom they are to be given. In the third cage is ‘Billie.’ He is my favorite. Billie looks a bit scrubby, and his yellow hue is marred by gray on his wings. Will you and your family make a home for him? He isn’t the prettiest, but his song is the best.”

In the days that followed, I learned much more about Kathleen McKee. She had befriended many neighbors in need. She had given cheer and comfort almost daily to a cripple who lived down the street. Indeed, she had brightened each life she touched. Kathleen McKee was much like “Billie,” her prized yellow canary with gray on its wings. She was not blessed with beauty, gifted with poise, nor honored by posterity. Yet her song helped others to more willingly bear their burdens and more ably shoulder their tasks. …

The world is filled with yellow canaries with gray on their wings. The pity is that so precious few of them have learned to sing. Perhaps the clear notes of proper example have not sounded in their ears or found lodgment in their hearts.

Some are young people who don’t know who they are, what they can be, or even what they want to be. They are afraid, but they don’t know of what. They are angry, but they don’t know at whom. They are rejected, and they don’t know why. All they want is to be somebody.

Others are stooped with age, burdened with care, or filled with doubt—living lives far below the level of their capacities. …

To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility. You ask, “How might we achieve these goals?” I answer, “By getting a true perspective of who we really are!” We are sons and daughters of a living God in whose image we have been created. Think of that truth: “Created in the image of God.” We cannot sincerely hold this conviction without experiencing a profound new sense of strength and power, even the strength to live the commandments of God and the power to resist the temptations of Satan. …

The Redeemer chose imperfect men to teach the way to perfection. He did so [when He was on the earth]. He does so now—even yellow canaries with gray on their wings.

He calls you and me to serve him here below and sets us to the tasks he would have us fulfill. Our commitment is to be total.

Did you notice that Kathleen McKee was not called to serve those other people? She was magnifying her baptismal covenant to represent Christ in all that she did and wherever she went. President Monson then ends a story of his own experience of helping a family with this statement.

There is no feeling to surpass that feeling which engulfs us when we recognize that we have been on the Lord’s errand and He has allowed us to help fulfill His purposes.

Magnifying our calling

What follows is a collection of quotes from President Monson in the the next section in the Teachings of the Prophets manual.

Do we remember the words of President John Taylor: “If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty”? There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. The blessings of eternity await you. Yours is the privilege to be not spectators but participants.

What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable … , to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it. … And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.

Should there be anyone who feels he is too weak to change the onward and downward course of his life, or should there be those who fail to resolve to do better because of that greatest of fears, the fear of failure, there is no more comforting assurance to be had than the words of the Lord: “My grace,” said He, “is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” [Ether 12:27].

Through humble prayer, diligent preparation, and faithful service, we can succeed in our sacred callings.

May we ever remember the truth, “Who honors God, God honors” [see 1 Samuel 2:30].

This final quote is what it means to “Think Celestial.”

Day 2

Jacob 2:12-21 – “Let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!”

Since we are talking about pride, a condition that exists in abundance, whether in or out of our bodies, I’ll talk about my own perceptions of it as a human condition. You may perceive it in other ways than I do, but hopefully you will get my point.

13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.

The Nephites weren’t impoverished people. Jacob tells them plainly that God had already blessed them that they “have obtained many riches.” Yet something happens when we get more than our neighbor. We begin to feel good about ourselves, like we are more clever or harder working, or even that we are in some way better that life has been so good for us. We look at those who are still struggling the way we used to, and we feel like we have “arrived.”

But for all the perks and abilities that having money and opportunity provide us, there is this niggling voice in the back of our head that tells us to be careful, because life, being what it is, is fickle. Today we are fine, but it might all be stripped away tomorrow. It is easy to become stingy because of things like this. We hoard what we have and don’t share. We begin to feel superior to our neighbor, because we made some good choices and they are still poorer and less prosperous.

When we have money along with that usually comes opportunity, influence, privilege, and exclusivity. It becomes easier and easier to want to be around those who are as prosperous as we are. Being around the poor is so depressing. It is genuinely difficult to watch the really poor struggle for daily survival. It becomes far easier just to not associate with them. When we do this we begin to separate their lives from our own. Somehow our life is more important than theirs, our wants more necessary than theirs, and we begin to lose compassion for what they have to go through each and every day of their lives. We may have been in their shoes once, but it is amazing how time, distance, and prosperity can make us forget what it felt like to be truly desperately poor.

Unfortunately, once these things take root in our mind and heart, it can become almost a sport to put a dig in here or there to those who don’t have what we have. After all, if they had worked as hard as you, if they had the same work ethic or good luck, they too might have been where you are now. They must be lazier people. Sloth is probably their motivator, and they don’t love their children like we do.

Like I said, I don’t know how you view what happens to people when they get money and position. I have been truly dirt poor, but never filthy rich. But I have gone from the lowest of low to middle class, and I have not liked what I saw in the changes of my behavior toward those who were still poor. I was ashamed of myself.

Jacob is trying to help them remember that our worldly status is temporary, either on the one hand or the other. No matter how much or how little we possess when we die, we leave it all behind and have nothing but who we have become as a person when we cross the veil into eternity. That state of being should be our biggest concern in life. What kind of woman or man am I becoming? How am I treating my eternal brothers and sisters in the here and now? Knowing that money is as temporary as the outside temperature, how much good am I doing each day with what I have? I found that when I was the most poor I was more generous of spirit than when I had the most money. Shameful. I had to get to where I literally had nothing to lose in order to discover that I genuinely enjoy helping other people. The possession of money and things tries to rob me of that joy.

Eventually, I learned that I can only combat selfishness and pride by being all the more generous. The difficulty I have now is knowing when to not give so I don’t hurt myself or my family. Wisdom is not easy for me in this department. I enjoy giving too much.

I suggest you reread Jacob’s speech in the verses listed for today’s lesson again. Think about how you act towards others when you have more than someone else. Are you generous to a fault or do you feel uncomfortable around people who are less affluent than you? Why do you think you are uncomfortable? Would Christ share your feelings or would you be embarrassed for him to know what they are? This is a great self-reflection exercise.

Day 3

Jacob 2:22-35; 3:10-12 – God delights in chastity.

I have read these verses all my life, but until now I haven’t stopped to really try to think through why chastity is such a big deal to God. He puts up with a lot from His children, so why does chastity hold such a big place in His heart? This is my thinking on the subject.

One of the perks of gaining a mortal body is that for the first time in eternity we are able to procreate. For most people mortality will also be the last time they have the privilege of being able to produce offspring. Parenting is reserved in the eternities for the Gods alone. If you aren’t sealed to a spouse eternally, having children will never be an option. The ability to have children is perhaps the most guarded and sacred privilege in all of existence. Only the most trustworthy and pure souls are allowed to rear children in the eternities. All others must be servants to those so trusted.

With that said, what makes me think that God’s opinion of one’s personal purity would change just because we are here in mortality? Does our personal purity mean any less just because we are now mortal? If anything our personal purity is more important now than it was before in the premortal world, for now we are capable of having children. We couldn’t have them without a physical body. And in the future eternities no one with a body will be able to have children except those who reside with God in the Celestial kingdom as gods themselves.

It would be hypocritical for God to offer us a pass on moral purity in mortality while holding all of eternity accountable outside of mortality. As the most precious of all abilities in the eternities, parenthood represents the eternal progression of the Gods. Without children and eternal offspring a God’s glory reaches a limit. We glorify God by duplicating His goodness and teaching our children to do so as well. We add to His glory in this way. When we make sexuality cheap and use it as a play thing to satisfy our own lusts (in other words, when we are selfish about it) we demonstrate all too clearly that we don’t deserve to have the privilege of parenthood in the eternities.

Day 4

Jacob 4 – I can be reconciled to God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Forgive my simplistic thinking, but I read the title of today’s lesson and thought, “But there is no reconciliation possible without Christ.” That is, after all, the whole point of God giving us a Redeemer. Without that Redeemer there is no way for us to be forgiven of our sins and return home to God. Without a Redeemer there can be no resurrection, no eternal body, only life without God as servants to Satan forever.

Repentance is the vehicle Christ’s atoning sacrifice provides us that enables us to be reconciled with God for breaking His laws. The atonement isn’t just about seeking forgiveness, but about seeking to be changed so that we no longer need to be forgiven for what we have done. Without that change we just keep repeating our same mistakes. Without baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, received through covenant by one who holds the proper authority from God to administer that covenant, repentance doesn’t lead to the changes we need to become like Christ. That is the point of the covenants, they are meant to change us in ways that those who don’t make covenants can never hope to experience.

Day 5

Jacob 4:8-18 – I can avoid spiritual blindness by focusing on the Savior.

Quentin L. Cook stated the following in his article in the Ensign magazine from 2003.

Today there is a tendency among some of us to “look beyond the mark” rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rules over doctrine. Avoiding these behaviors will help us avoid the theological blindness and stumbling that Jacob described.

There are two main principles at play in this subject of spiritual blindness.

  1. God gives us what we want. That can be a scary thought. If we are seeking that which is good for us this is great news, for we are sure to find it. But if we are unsatisfied with the simplicity of God’s truth, desiring the mystical, the philosophical, the complex, or anything else, then that is what God will grant us, for we have shown that we are not really interested in the truth as He has presented it to us. This is one way to be spiritually blind.
  2. Keep the gospel simple. God does not intend for His message to be difficult and hard to comprehend or perform. Everything He has given us is easy to understand, but only if we seek to be enlightened by the Spirit, for all spiritual things must be revealed to us through His Spirit. Without the Holy Ghost it simply isn’t possible for us to understand spiritual things. So as long as we are willing to seek for understanding through the spirit of revelation the gospel can be comprehended and lived by anyone. Yes, there will be struggles getting the Spirit in our lives and in getting answers to our prayers, but nothing in the gospel of Christ is outside of our reach. We just have to be willing to do what God says in order to obtain His promises.

Look at the talks given by the Apostles of Christ. None of them, even those of the most intellectually gifted among them are beyond our ability to comprehend, if we are willing to be humble and ask God to open our hearts to receive their truths. And most of the talks are so openly simple that the truths are self evident. It is only when we don’t curb our desire for the sensational or mysterious that we misinterpret and misunderstand what they teach. That is on us, not them.

So many, for example, have problems with how to minister to others. Great debates rage on the Internet over how best to do it. Some claim that only the Holy Ghost can tell us what we should do, and that without Him anything we do is wickedness. Poppycock! Ministering is the act of being kind to another person. That’s it! Be kind. Be attentive. Be inclusive. Don’t judge. That is all God is asking of us. To elevate ministering to a hidden art form is to be deliberately spiritually blind in order to excuse ourselves from having to minister. Showing forth the kindness we receive from Christ is what ministering is all about. This is its core. Keep it simple and you can’t go wrong.

Personal Study

When He taught, the Savior used comparisons to everyday life.

Just as ministering is meant to be simple to understand and simple to do, so too are the teachings from God and His prophets. President Thomas S. Monson was renowned for his stories of compassion and kindness. If you have a more aeronautical bent then the talks from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf are the ones for you. Each apostle has his own way of sharing the principles he wishes to share with us, and all of them are couched in everyday experiences we can relate to.

This tells me that when I teach the gospel I need to relate what I am teaching to how I feel, what I have personally experienced in life, or at least in someone else’s life that I can relate to. I have said this before and I’ll say it again. If you are not experiencing anything that you can use to relate to the gospel then you aren’t doing enough service. Almost every story given by the Brethren and other leaders are born from personal experiences obtained through service to others. Get out there and get involved in the lives of other people! That is where the gospel comes alive!

Click the link below to

print a PDF copy of the article.

BoM14-2024 – Be Reconciled unto God