Week 23 is scheduled for study May 31-June 6, 2021. Don’t be fooled by this week’s lessons. The scriptures may look like there is a lot of correction taking place, but there is also a whole lot of hope being offered as well.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 60; 62 – The Lord is pleased when I open my mouth to share the gospel.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that when we study the scriptures, “testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).

Sharing the gospel of Christ with others can be intimidating, frightening, and down right scary. But why do we feel this way about something we are supposed to be so happy about? This is quite the contradiction between our feelings and our stated beliefs. It is true that the Lord, in these two sections, is telling the missionaries where to go and what to do. But he is also telling them about their calling and how to find strength in that calling as a mouthpiece for the Lord to the people they meet.

In the following section I have written the Lord’s encouragement to the missionaries, as well as their promises to help them be courageous in their calling.

Encouraging words

Doctrine and Covenants 60

But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.

Have you ever considered the New Testament parable of the talents and its relationship to missionary work? A talent in the parable is worth a lot of money, so it represents something that is precious and of great value to us. More than once in these sections of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord  refers to their calling as a missionary as them having received a talent, something precious. Like the third servant in the New Testament parable who hid his talent because of fear, the Lord is not well pleased with this kind of behavior.

The question we need to ask ourselves is what is the talent given to missionaries? Remember that we are all missionaries. Some are set apart to specifically do that work and that work alone, but there is a reason why the Church uses terms like “Every member a missionary,” and “Member missionary work.” Missionary work is built into the covenant of baptism, so no one is exempt. What was the Lord complaining about? Wasn’t it that they refused to open their mouths and say something?

Here is the question of the day: What is the talent, or precious gift, we are each given at baptism that directly affects our ability to do missionary work? Ponder that for a bit and see what you come up with. I have my own ideas, but this is something you need to determine on your own.

And let the residue take their journey from St. Louis, two by two, and preach the word, not in haste, among the congregations of the wicked, until they return to the churches from whence they came.

And all this for the good of the churches; for this intent have I sent them.

When the Lord sends us out to do missionary work, in any form, in my opinion, it benefits more than just the person to whom we speak to about the Church. He specifically tells the Church here that the missionaries are sent forth for “the good of the churches from whence they came.” Have you noticed any blessings in your ward or branch that weren’t there when no missionaries were serving from that unit? There is something that happens in a ward when missionaries are actively serving, whether at home or abroad. If you have noticed this difference in level of blessings, how would you describe it to someone else? And did you notice that it was for these blessings the Lord sent forth the missionaries in the first place? He specifically says, “for this intent have I sent them.”

Verses 8 and 9 bring up a great point. The Lord doesn’t send us out to do missionary work to benefit Himself, but us. Does it really matter where the missionary work takes place? Is the introduction of the gospel into the life of a stranger any more powerful than the reintroduction of the gospel into the life of someone who has strayed off the covenant path? Are the blessings any different for the stranger than they are for the person coming back into full activity in the church? Is there any difference in blessings between a stranger and a family member coming unto Christ?

Doctrine and Covenants 62

Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.

There are several places in the scriptures that openly state that bearing one’s testimony, serving others, etc. all result in the forgiveness of sin. Isn’t that something we all seek after? Why do you think some of us have such a difficult time with the concept that missionary work, in any form, is a joyful endeavor? Too often we let our fear of other’s possible opinions of us stand in the way of us declaring the news of the gospel that is supposed to bring us such joy. We need to remember that it is the opinion of us the Lord forms that is what is important, not the opinion of our neighbor. As long as our neighbor is more real to us than the Lord is, we will probably have difficulties talking about the gospel. Remember, we are not supposed to rehearse some preprinted and memorized speech about what the gospel is. Our job is to convey to our neighbor the joys of experiencing the gospel of Christ in our life. There is a big difference between how these two messages are delivered. The second one usually unfolds naturally in conversation and during opportunities of service.

And then you may return to bear record, yea, even altogether, or two by two, as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto me; only be faithful, and declare glad tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, or among the congregations of the wicked.

I beg the forgiveness for all funeral directors out there for this next statement. We are not tax collectors or undertakers, both of whom are notoriously associated with unpleasantness, so why do we shrink when asked to “declare glad tidings”? The gospel is literally the “good news” of Christ. We aren’t afraid to share our experience about a restaurant we have enjoyed, a movie we have seen, or a company who treated us well. What is it that makes something infinitely more important also infinitely more difficult to talk about? There is a mistake in our thinking. Can you identify it?

Behold, I, the Lord, have brought you together that the promise might be fulfilled, that the faithful among you should be preserved and rejoice together in the land of Missouri. I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie.

Read verse 6 again. Did you notice that the Lord is giving us one of the purposes of missionary work? He has brought us together. Whether into wards or branches, we wouldn’t have been brought together except through missionary work, either this year or in years past. And why has He brought us together? He says it is so we can “be preserved and rejoice together in the land.” True, I cut off that sentence before the end, but can you really claim my statement isn’t true if we aren’t all also living in Missouri, USA? The purpose is the same, coming together builds Zion, a place of refuge for God’s people. That Zion can be built any place where there is more than one Saint to be gathered together. The Lord ends this verse by reminding us that what He has said is a promise, and God cannot lie.

Behold, the kingdom is yours. And behold, and lo, I am with the faithful always. Even so. Amen.

Two promises here. The kingdom is ours when we do God’s work, and he is “with the faithful always.” Isn’t one of our greatest fears about missionary work that of being left alone with no support or backup? The Lord never abandons His people. Abandoning, and not supporting his own is what we say of Satan. Christ is always faithful, as well as with the faithful always.

These are just the promises and encouraging evidences I have found from these two sections. Did you find others I missed? It is true that the Lord did some chastising in these sections, as well as some instructing of what still needed to be done. But what marvelous blessing are also given to those who are willing to open their mouths and talk about what brings them joy!

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 61:5-6; 14-18 – Are all waters cursed by the Lord?

I am skipping this day’s lesson. I think what is said in the manual is sufficient.

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 61-62 – The Lord is all powerful and can preserve me.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that when we study the scriptures, “testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).

Let’s focus on the last few verses of section 61.

36 And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheerlittle children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;

37 And inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours.

38 Gird up your loins and be watchful and be sober, looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, for he cometh in an hour you think not.

39 Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or in death. Even so. Amen.

In the first lesson for this week, we reviewed words of encouragement from the Lord to those called to do missionary work as full-time missionaries. We also noted that the same words apply to the rest of us who have been baptised, for all of us have made the same covenants and commitments to the Lord to stand in for Him in all things, and all places, and at all times.

In the verses immediately above I found at least five evidences of the Lord’s blessings and promises to us. I am especially happy about the last one – “whether in life or in death.” On the surface that may not sound so appealing, but look at the perspective that gives rise to such a statement. We don’t have to be alive in mortality when the Second Coming takes place. We will all be there for that grand reentry of our Savior when he comes to take his place as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Remember what President Nelson has been saying for years now about the work proceeding on “both sides of the veil.” Since we are eternal beings, the only question we need to be entertaining is which side of the veil will I be on when the Savior comes again? Whether I am on this side or the other I will still witness the Second Coming. Wouldn’t it be great to be on the other side of the veil and get to come with Him when he comes? What great company to be in. Think of all the prophets of past dispensations, apostles, righteous men and women of all times who will accompany Him at His return.

The point is that we will be alive, either here or on the other side of the veil. Either way we will get to participate in the Second Coming event. The only question is this – Will I have lived my life such that I will be worthy to participate in such a glorious event, or will I have to stand on the side and watch because I feared man more than God when I was in mortality? The Lord can and does preserve His people, and that includes each and every one of us who have made covenants with Him. All blessings promised to the faithful will be delivered, whether here or on the other side of the veil. Where it happens doesn’t really matter.

Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 62 – The Lord wants me to make some decisions “as seemeth [me] good.”

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that when we study the scriptures, “testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).

Today’s lesson is a confluence, or meeting together of several doctrines that cause people to trip up in their understanding of the gospel. The first doctrine is that of moral agency. And the principles we need to understand here is that we haven’t been given our agency to make moral decisions as a matter of lip service to that end, but truly, so that the decisions we make will follow us into the eternities. The Lord expects us to use our agency to choose good from evil, right from wrong, best from better, and wiser from more foolish. We will be held accountable for these choices.

The second doctrine we need to look at is that of God’s omniscience. Many find it difficult to understand how the Lord can know what decision we will make without either making us make that decision or influencing us to make that decision. This line of thinking is seriously flawed on many levels. If God cannot know something without forcing it to come to pass then He is personally responsible for everything that happens, and we are off the hook, for the laws of God cannot punish the innocent. And if it is God’s fault we made a bad choice then He is the one His own laws must punish.

Think of knowledge, vs. causation in this way. You have a friend you know really well. You are out shopping and see the very thing you know they have always wanted, but couldn’t get for themself. You buy it for your friend. Now you tell me, will your friend accept your gift or will your friend scream and yell and throw you out of the house? Did your knowledge of your friend’s personality and likes influence their decision or was their reaction to the offer you gave them all on their shoulders? Just because you knew what they would choose or how they would react, the final choice of behavior was all up to them, not you. God knows us better than we can know ourselves. He may know how we will react and what choice we will make, but we can’t be held accountable for our behavior unless He gives us the opportunity to choose for our self. And this life is all about being accountable for our choices.

The third piece in this puzzle comes from our all too frequently wanting to be told what to do before we take a step in any direction. We are paralyzed by fear we will make a wrong choice. We forget, or don’t understand, that choice is what this life is all about. The whole point of the atoning sacrifice Christ made for us is to allow us to make choices for which we can turn to him and repent. Repentance allows us to make mistakes and still move on, because repenting brings forgiveness for our mistakes.

Put them together

The Lord says several times in the verses in this week’s lessons that in some cases it doesn’t matter which choice we make, for they are not moral choices that would necessarily affect our eternal standing before Him. Go ahead and put on those purple socks. Wear them with your orange plaid outfit. Go wild. It doesn’t affect your eternal standing before God. Yes, God knows what you will choose. But He lets us make the choice because it is good for our growth and development to learn to make wise choices on our own. Perhaps someday you won’t feel so pressed to wear outlandish outfits, but for now, knock yourself out.

The principles that govern God’s knowledge, our agency, and our need to learn to make choices and move forward without constant fear of mistakes, is a key part of learning to live this part of our existence with confidence. Remember, if we do make a mistake, and we always do at some point, the Savior’s atonement is there for us to allow us to repent so our mistake doesn’t hold us back in our progression. If anything, repenting propels us forward in our development, for it requires the exercise of faith in our Savior.

So go forth. Serve. Make choices and do what you feel is right at the time. Use what wisdom you already have, and we all have some wisdom, to make the best choice with what you have around you. Do all these things for the purpose of serving God and His children, and you will be blessed beyond measure.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 61:36 – I’m single, so how can Christ be in the midst of just me?

Let’s look at both verses 36 and 37.

36 And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheerlittle children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;

37 And inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours.

Here is a question of logic for you. Can Christ be in the midst of several people who are together, but not be with you as a single person? Isn’t Christ’s presence in your life based on your personal desires and prayers, not the desires and the prayers of some “collective”?

Here is some food for thought, whether you are single or married. It comes from the Webster’s 1828 dictionary.

The phrase, in the midst often signifies involved in, surrounded or overwhelmed by, or in the thickest part, or in the depths of; as in the midst of afflictions, troubles or cares; in the midst of our contemplations; in the midst of the battle; in the midst of pagan darkness and error; in the midst of gospel light; in the midst of the ocean; in the midst of civil dissensions.

Cannot Christ be with me in the midst of my life, even if I am alone most of the time? (I hope you answered yes to that question.) And in what ways can Christ be in the midst of my life? Do you counsel with God to seek for direction? Do you seek God for comfort and solace when you are down? What about when you search the scriptures? Aren’t you trying to get a better understanding of Christ and his divine role in your personal life and affairs? Aren’t we all seeking to personally feel connected to the Son of God as our Savior and Redeemer? Doesn’t our repenting process require us to exercise faith in him and for us to seek to understand him and his ways? These are all ways to bring Christ into our life, into our personal “midst.”

Inviting Christ to be in my midst, I believe, must begin with personal invitations to have him present in my own life. Only then can I expect him to be in the midst of a collective of God’s children. Being single is just a social state we might currently be in. But we need never be alone, for Christ has offered countless times to come and dwell with us through the Holy Spirit. He has promised to answer us when we call for help, fill our souls when we feel empty and alone, and to lead us to joy. These are all personal things we can find and achieve without another living human. Yes, the journey can be richer with a companion or a family to join us, but for all of us it must, in the end, be a matter of personal choices and decisions. So don’t let being single slow you down in your spiritual progress. There is still much you need to do that only you can do.

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All Flesh Is in Mine Hands

Week 23