Week 34 is scheduled for study August 17-23, 2020. How is Christ our rock? What makes him our stone upon which all else in our lives gets built? This week we learn about how pride separates us from him, how yielding our hearts to him changes us, and how we all have evidences of God’s love and presence in our lives.

Day 1

Helaman 1-6 – Pride separates me from the Spirit and strength of the Lord.

The principles in this outline can help guide your study of Helaman 1-6, but don’t let them limit you. The Holy Ghost will guide you to the truths you need to learn.

Since this day’s lesson is talking about pride in the church, I thought I would talk for a moment about pride in our modern-day church. Now I know there are some reading this who don’t believe we could possibly have a problem with pride in the church today, so I will give you an example from several decades ago. But first, here are the verses the manual suggests we look at – Helaman 3:33-34.

33 And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—

34 And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.

Note that according to Mormon’s description there are actually two churches at play. They are all members of the same organization, but there are those who are more members in name only, while there are also members who are members “of the church of God.” These are members who are true to their covenants and seek to humbly follow the prophets and the Spirit in their lives. The other members are members of the group, but sometimes feel they know better than their leaders. When the leader speaks, and it goes against their social or political views, they rebel against the counsel they are given and follow the world, feeling the whole time like they are doing what they should be doing, because obviously the prophet doesn’t know what he is talking about.

My example. Many years ago the prophet stood in general conference and told the women of the church they needed to be home to raise their children if there was any way for them to be there. I think the term he used was they needed to be at the “crossroads” of their children’s lives so their children made wise choices. The fallout of his talk was instant and full of wrath.

Members who were making personal sacrifices that allowed them to have at least one parent home to raise their children felt vindicated for all their efforts to have a two parent family set up to raise their children. But those who could have one person stay home to raise the children, but weren’t willing to go without the income that second job provided, were furious with the prophet.

I was living on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City at the time. The next week in priesthood meeting I was shocked to hear the sentiments being expressed by my brothers in the gospel. They referred to the prophet as a “dottering old fool”, as someone who was “completely out of touch” with modern society, and a number of other very unflattering accusations. The point here is that they felt they knew better than the prophet, and they weren’t going to let anyone tell them to do something that was so seemingly impossible and ridiculous as doing whatever it took to have at least one parent available to raise their own children. The atmosphere in the room was heated and anything but filled with the Spirit.

There were those in the room who could not possibly live on only one of their current incomes. Two parents both working was a necessity for them. They mourned for their lack of ability to follow the counsel of the prophet, because their hearts were true to his counsel, even though they couldn’t do what he told us to do, because of their current circumstances. They recognized that they were obedient to his counsel in the spirit, even if they couldn’t physically do what he told them was best. The others however, publicly berated the prophet for “attacking” their lifestyle, and accused him of being “out of touch with reality.” These were those people whose pride prevented them from belonging to what Mormon calls the “church of God.”

Is there pride in the church? Yes. Always has been. Always will be, until the great weeding process takes place where those who let their pride rule them are caused by circumstances to leave the church of their own volition. Those who rely each day on the Spirit, and actively seek to honor their covenants, and listen carefully to the leaders the Lord has given us, are those who will be able to do the hard things in this life in order to obey the commandments they receive. These are they whom the Lord will protect and reward, even though they will suffer while in the world. These are like the saints in the early days of the church who followed the Brethren and supported the programs of the church without complaint or accusation. These were, and are, the humble followers of Christ.

This was just one example of how a single proclamation from a prophet can divide the members of the church into camps. Those who follow the prophet are, and will be, mocked and ridiculed by those who refuse to follow the prophet for whatever reason. It has happened in the past, and it will happen again in the future.

How else can there be pride in the church?

Be sure to reread Helaman 4:11-13, just three verses. These verses also talk of pride in the church. They specifically talk about the pride in the church of the Nephites, but the same thing applies to us as well. It is important to note here that we are talking about all of us who profess to belong to the church of God. Mormon points out in the record that the church members were wicked in very specific ways.

  • Their pride stemmed from being affluent – what he called rich as to the things of this world – “exceeding riches.” The people had lost their sense of dependency on the Lord. They felt they no longer needed the Lord. This kind of pride may not manifest itself in actual declarations of independence from God, but when it happens, we act like we don’t need God for our blessings, we don’t need God to help us in our decision making opportunities. We just leave Him out of these important aspects of our lives. We begin to feel and act entitled to certain blessings, like they are rights that we deserve, instead of like the blessings His mercy bestows upon us for our obedience to His commandments.
  • They oppressed the poor. It is important to distinguish what Mormon means by this statement. He clarifies himself in the following words of the verse – they withheld their food from the hungry, they did not clothe the naked, they actually hit their more humble/poor fellow saints on the cheeks, they mocked that which was sacred, and denied the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. He continues on with other behaviors that condemned the saints, such as committing murders, lying, stealing, committing adultery, and rising up in great contentions, and deserting over into the camp of their enemies. It seems to me that those who deserted to the Lamanites didn’t do it over just someone telling them they needed to repent. Normally their desertion was over political differences. They frequently felt they could get political revenge or power by joining the Lamanites.
    It is important that we recognize that we don’t have to be guilty of all of these things to be guilty of the spirit of rebellion in these people. It is pride that causes such behaviors to be among us, whether we participate in all of them or only one of them. Pride, putting ourselves in opposition to God’s will, is what causes all these sins.
  • Boasting – taking credit for all their own successes in life. They believed that they were superior to the Lamanites, and this was the reason they almost always won the wars against them. The problem with this reasoning, is that once we believe we are better than someone else, the Lord withdraws His blessings of protection from us and we are left no better off than those we have come to feel we are better than.

Please don’t think of this list of problems as what must happen in order to drive away the Spirit from among us. Anytime we find ourselves feeling put upon by the commandments, inconvenienced by the statements of the Brethren, because we feel they are unjust or made in ignorance, we are pitting ourselves against the Lord and His servants. This is all about basic attitudes, not about what the sin is. Until humility and gratitude hold full sway in our hearts, we need to repent. Pride kills the Spirit. It drives Him away. It truly does separate us from God’s influence in our lives.

Day 2

Helaman 3:24-35 – I can be sanctified as I yield my heart to God.

The principles in this outline can help guide your study of Helaman 1-6, but don’t let them limit you. The Holy Ghost will guide you to the truths you need to learn.

Somewhere I either read or had the following thought occur to me, I can’t remember where it came from. But the point was made that God accepts us instantly, and without reservation or punishment when we turn to Him and seek His forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what we have done. We can be the most traitorous of sinners against His light and truths. Yet when we turn to Christ and ask for help to be forgiven for our sins there is no retribution, retaliation, no lectures on how wayward we have been, no shame put upon us for our errors in judgment, just acceptance and love.

Does this process of being forgiven for our sins mean there is no acknowledgment of our own spiritual stupidity? No, of course not. If we weren’t aware of the danger we had put ourselves into by our choices we wouldn’t be afraid to do it again. The realization that we have placed ourselves in danger by choosing a road other than that set before us by Christ opens our eyes to how perilously we have behaved, and how close we came to damning ourselves. At the very least, we should recognize how disappointing our behavior must have been to our loving Father and our Savior.

It is rare that any of us have just a one-time experience that changes our heart so completely that we never again have any desire to sin, that we never again fall into any of Satan’s traps. We all make mistakes. The difference is seen in how we behave once we are made aware of our mistakes. Do we cling to our old behaviors and attitudes or do we immediately seek to improve and adopt new attitudes that will bring us into, and keep us in, compliance with God’s commandments?

In this passage of the Book of Mormon many of the members of the church enjoyed peace and prosperity as faithful members of the Lord’s church for a few years. But that all changed when opportunities for wealth, prestige, social advancement and recognition, etc. presented themselves. Those who had not kept themselves sufficiently humble, recognizing their own spiritual fragility, fell into the temptations that led to feelings of being better than their fellow members. They began to think of themselves as superior, treating others with disdain and contempt.

This new treatment from their fellow Saints caused great sorrow to those who remained humble. Instead of joining them in their new attitudes of superiority and contempt, these true members of God’s church turned to the Lord for strength. They humbled themselves even more, relying on the mercies of Christ’s atoning sacrifice to help them be forgiving of the behavior and mistreatment they were receiving at the hands of their fellow members. They remained tolerant of others as Christ was tolerant of them. It is precisely because they were willing to turn to the Savior for comfort and strength, not relying on their own feelings and urges, that they were described by Mormon as becoming “firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ.”

How did they go to the Savior to receive this strength? They “did fast and pray oft.” This led to greater and greater humility, and more and more closeness to the Spirit. Closeness to the Spirit is what opens the gates to allow us on the path to greater happiness and joy. Have you noticed that those who leave the church or find fault with church leaders almost always are those who have stopped praying and fasting as they should? They lose touch with the Spirit who is there to guide them and give them answers. This is why praying and fasting is so important. The combination of prayer and fasting is our anchor in the storms of life. They keep us close to God.

Day 3

Helaman 5:14-52 – My faith is strengthened by “the greatness of the evidences [I have] received.”

The principles in this outline can help guide your study of Helaman 1-6, but don’t let them limit you. The Holy Ghost will guide you to the truths you need to learn.

Evidences of God’s love and presence in our lives is almost always one of the first things we forget when we start to stray from the covenant path. Go far enough down that forbidden path and we begin to wonder how we ever believed in the church at all. The evidences are so important. We need to keep them in mind always.

Before I went on my mission I approached my mother and told her I just didn’t know how I could go out there and tell everyone the church was true when I hadn’t had a Joseph Smith experience or an Alma experience that had changed my heart and soul. She said, “Could I ever convince you the church isn’t true?” My immediate answer came without hesitation – “Never!” We then had a discussion of how that could be possible without having had the one-time, all encompassing experience I thought I had to have in order to truly believe the gospel I had been taught. Her point was that I had received thousands of little evidences throughout my life. How many times had my heart warmed within me as I read a passage of scripture? How did I feel during General Conference and heard the testimonies of the leaders of the Church? How many prayers had been answered? How often had my soul been calmed and received reassuring comfort in times of distress? When I started to think about all of these areas of my experience, even though I was only 19 years old, I couldn’t deny that I had indeed received many witnesses to the truthfulness of the gospel I had been raised with.

This is the mistake we too often fall for. We start to think we need one current all defining experience today before we will be willing or able to believe in Christ and His church tomorrow. What we have forgotten is that He has been giving us witnesses through the testimony of the scriptures, the prophets, our fellow Saints, the Spirit, our friends and family members, and others, all along. Why are we so often willing to discount all those evidences of the truth? I believe we will be held just as accountable for the sum total of all those little evidences as we will be for any big evidences the Lord sees fit to give us. All of the evidences of the truth that make their way into our lives are delivered by the Spirit and are testaments to our souls of the truthfulness of the gospel we have been taught.

FHE/Scripture Study

Helaman 5:29-33 – The voice of God

I don’t deliberately wish you any ill. But I hope I am not totally alone in my assertion that whatever I am given by God, I am too soon questioning if it is good enough. Maybe I am the only one who does this. I certainly hope so. When I read about people’s experiences with the Spirit, and they tell of hearing voices or seeing beings of light, my heart aches for such experiences. What I am guilty of is not acknowledging and appreciating the experiences I have been given. And I am sure that if I don’t repent I will be held accountable for my lack of humility and lack of gratitude for all the wonderful blessings I have received at God’s hand during this life.

When I read the title of this study lesson I thought, “Have I heard the voice of God?” I know I haven’t heard my Father’s voice, but then He rarely speaks directly to His children, for He has given charge of us to our Savior. And I can’t honestly say I have directly heard His voice either. So how do I hear the “voice” of God?

Do you ever consider all the ways God has to communicate with us? Is any one of them more effective than all the others? I don’t think so. He uses what is useful and will work in the moment. Nothing wrong with that. I used to think that when God spoke it would be a big, commanding tone that made the ground shake beneath me. Yet if you have ever had your mother, in a moment of sorrow at your behavior, whisper, “I’m so disappointed in you.” Then you may have had your world rocked without a single tremor being felt beneath you.

God has many ways for us to “hear” His voice. Most of them are quiet and gentle in nature. You can feel a sense of calm. You get peace where a moment ago you felt agitation, fear, or dispair. His tone can come as a feeling of guilt for something you know you should not have done, or it can come as a sense of accomplishment when you acted on your better instincts and blessed the life of someone in an unexpected way, no matter how small the act of kindness. Sometimes we do hear words in our head, and we might wonder where they came from, but we can’t argue with how they made us feel. Often we feel an emotional connection to what is being said or done that causes a warmth throughout our body that brings us comfort and assurance, or possibly tears of gratitude.

The point here is that the voice of God can come to us in many, many ways. We shouldn’t decide that we have to hear it in only one way. If we do, we will find ourselves most likely disappointed by the result. When we do find that the Lord “speaks” to us in a particular fashion more often than not, be grateful you have discovered how He speaks to you, personally. It isn’t always the same for everyone. Some see visions, some have dreams, others feel impressions, while others hear an actual voice. Others have heightened intuition about spiritual things. These are all gifts. Let’s be aware of what they are and how they work. And above all, let’s be grateful that God has a way of speaking to every one of us in His own special way that we can recognize is unique to us.

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BoM Week 34

(Helaman 1-6)