be more prepared
Week 20 is scheduled for study May 8-14, 2023. We probably aren’t as ready to live with God as we might hope we are. Consider the following points that can help us be more prepared.

Day 1

Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make note of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12 – Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.

When it comes to things both spiritual and physical, missing the point appears to be a favorite pastime of humanity. Just the other day a launch took place of an experimental reusable rocket ship. The goal of the experiment was to see if their first attempt would even launch. The news reports stated clearly that anything past clearing the launch tower was just icing on the cake. This was a fully loaded multiple stage rocket, ready to go the distance, if everything worked as hoped on their first try. They knew full well that there were too many variables to hope for complete success on their first try.

The ship launched. It cleared the launch tower, which means it was a complete success of their initial desires, since that is all they were hoping would happen. Anything from this point on was just valuable information that would inform their next efforts and speed them closer to their ultimate success with their rocket. Up the rocket went, everything working flawlessly, until it came time for the first booster to disengage. At that point everything fell apart, and the rocket ended up exploding and falling into the water below. Their success and the information they gathered was a glowing triumph.

Immediately after I saw the live liftoff of this rocket, I read the single statement posted by a famous commentator that stated that their rocket lifted off, only to explode into multiple pieces. He had missed the whole point of all the work that went into making this rocket and liftoff attempt. Sometimes, this is what we do when it comes to marriage. We get so emotionally caught up in the hurt of a failed marriage, or in the behavior of the person we loved so much who turned on us and left us alone, we forget why God ordained marriage in the first place. We also may not read Christ’s comments, or the prophets’ comments about marriage and see them for what they are, but read into their messages all sorts of meanings that justify us and condemn the one who hurt us.

The principle

We often think of the privilege of coming to mortality as our grand opportunity to receive a mortal body, but this earth life is much more than about getting a body. Because we have bodies, and God needs His children to come to earth, He has given us the only opportunity most of us will ever have of knowing what it can be like to be married. In the eternities only Gods are married with posterity. No one else in all of eternity can have children and a spouse. So coming to earth meant experiencing something truly godlike, marriage.

Like everything God does, He plans it to be eternal in nature. As Jesus stated in our verses today, the only reason Moses allowed for a bill of divorcement was because of the hardness of the hearts of the children of Israel. If they were all keeping God’s commandments, as intended, the purpose of marriage was meant to be an eternal institution. Being married is an enticement to people to keep the commandments, so they can have their loving relationship with their spouse in the eternities, whether or not they have the covenant of eternal marriage in mortality. Marriage allows us to see how difficult it is to have and raise a family, and to show us first hand the joys available in family life, especially when we all keep God’s commandments.

As you reread the assignment for today’s lesson, remember that God means for marriage to be eternal in nature, which means we must be worthy of that eternal nature. Our personal obedience to God’s commandments, and our devotion to our spouse, is what creates that eternal union that the Holy Spirit can bless. Anything and everything less than this is filled with sadness that only repentance and supplication to God can repair and restore. We can possibly find joy in a different marriage, but in every instance, only obedience to God’s commandments makes that joy possible.

Day 2

Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make note of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12 – Did Jesus teach that divorce is never acceptable or that divorced people should not remarry?

As the Brethren will attest, there is more than one reason for why a marriage may be permissible to end. (Though a good leader will always tell you they can’t counsel you to terminate what is supposed to be eternal in nature. That decision is between you and God.) The principle of eternal marriage never changes. It is meant to be eternal. If it isn’t it is because of failure on one or more of the marriage participants. The fault is never God’s or the institution of marriage. The Lord is very forgiving of us, and all our faults and shortcomings. He is willing to let us try again, but the hope is always that we will have learned our lesson the first time around and will be more reliant on Him and the Spirit to help us be successful this time.

There are many reasons why marriages fail. There are far fewer reasons for why they succeed. The trick is for us to seek spiritual and emotional healing early enough in life that we are able to become longsuffering and patient with both our self and our spouse. Marriage is difficult, even under the best of circumstances. My own experiences tell me that anyone who thinks marriage is easy hasn’t gone through any serious trials in this life. Heaven help them when they do experience those trials that tear at the soul and cause doubt to arise in the soul.

Patience in our own marriage is important, but patience with others who have undergone trials and have lost their marriages is just as important. There are few things quite so debilitating as to have he or she whom we love the most declare we are no longer worthy of their love. The last thing any of us needs is to have our neighbors insinuating or declaring that we must be the problem in the marriage.

Whether we are the problem or not is not the issue. We need love and support at that time of suffering. There is time for healing after the marriage has ended. During its death is not the time for others to be pointing fingers of distain or accusation. Love is the healing salve here, the balm of Gilead. It is what will heal the soul. If we think that is what we would most like at such a trying time as the end of a marriage, so too should we be willing to offer that same love to others who are experiencing the pain of a marriage gone awry.

What Jesus taught about marriage was different in his day than what the Jews had been given by Moses. What the prophets today teach about marriage is different than what was given by our forefathers before the Restoration of Christ’s gospel. The only way to have a happy marriage has never changed, keep the commandments. The only thing that breaks up a marriage is when one or more of the partners doesn’t keep the commandments and turn to the Lord in all things.

Day 3

Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make note of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23 – If I ask the Lord, He will teach me what I need to do to inherit eternal life.

It may just be me, but in my mind the rich young man’s heart was always on his wealth. His life was so comfortable that he never really had to choose between keeping the commandments and making a living. His living was always assured. When Jesus challenged him with the commandment to go and sell off his wealth and give the money to the poor, suddenly this young man saw for himself that he loved his wealth more than the commandments. No matter what he thought he wanted when it came to gaining eternal life, it still wasn’t worth losing his wealth over it. He was still thinking that all of life happened within the confines of birth and death. He had failed to recognize that the span between birth and death is only a tiny drop of experience in an endless sea of possibilities that goes on forever. This is what makes his story so tainted with sorrow.

Yes, the Lord will tell us what we need to do next to move closer to eternal life. He tells us this because He loves us. But it may not be anything lifechanging at the moment, but just the next step. My mother ask the Lord what she could do for Him, promising Him that she would do anything He asked. He sent her a young single mother with many children who needed to join the Church and grow in the gospel. This project lasted more than 10 years, and changed everyone’s lives. The next time she asked, “What lack I yet” His answer was to back off on the gas pedal when she drove.

My mother was known for her lead foot when she drove a car. For her to learn to keep within the speed limit was a major thing for her. It may seem to many to be a small thing, but it was a trial of her faith. It also took years for her to learn to always be “more” obedient to the laws of the road. That trial also showed us that the Lord is concerned with all aspects of our lives, not just the major commandments. Though the commandments are the same for all, the path home to God is different for each person. We each need to be asking for the Lord to personally teach us how to find our own path back home. As we follow the Spirit, He will show us the way.

Day 4

Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make note of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

Matthew 20:1-16 – Everyone can receive the blessings of eternal life, no matter when they accept the gospel.

Following are two articles I wrote in past years. Both of them address the title of today’s lesson, but from completely different perspectives. They are both worthy of your attention and consideration.

Who Counts as Family?

Mapping the Plan of Salvation in Mortality

We are all tempted, like the first laborers, thinking that when we have spent the whole day working in the sun that we deserve more than those who came only an hour before dinner time. But the truth doesn’t change. Those who were hired early in the day agreed to a set price. They were happy with that price, for that meant their family would eat that night. They worked all day long with this comforting knowledge in the back of their mind. From that hour until the last hour of the hiring, everyone who got hired didn’t worry about how much money they would make. They were just glad to have the work so they would be able to have something to feed their family. They felt having the work was more important than how much the pay was.

To the owner of the vineyard, each person was of equal value in his eyes. Whether they started early in the day or came in the last hour of the day, he valued their work equally. Legally, he could pay them what he wanted, except for those with whom he had agreed on a price at the beginning of the day. Everyone else left their pay up to his discretion. Why? Probably because after the initial hiring, everyone else had to sit around worrying whether or not someone would take them on. They all knew that for every hour that passed they were less and less likely to have anything to feed their family that night. Their gratitude for work, any work, prevented them from being prideful about how much money they were offered for their services. They were just grateful to have any work at all.

This same principle, that we are all equal in the sight of God, helps us understand why some of us are born into His church and enjoy a lifetime of His blessings, while others don’t receive the opportunity for those blessings until later in life. Some don’t get baptized until they are in their 90’s! They have still made the covenants and repented of their sins, so are worthy of any and all of God’s blessings. We should all be grateful they found the gospel and accepted it, no matter when in life they discovered it.

Day 5

Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make note of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

Luke 18:9-14 – I should trust God’s mercy, not my own righteousness.

In this story, as told by Jesus, the Pharisee justified his own righteousness, because of his behaviors, his works. The reason Jesus said the Pharisee would not be justified before God was because the Pharisee was making excuses for why he was a better person than someone else, like that Publican (tax collector for Rome) over there. There was a man who was truly a sinner, because he worked for the enemy and didn’t perform all the duties towards God that the Pharisee did. For the Pharisee it was all about the outward appearances of righteousness.

The Publican, on the other hand, could not bring himself to even look up towards heaven, considering himself unworthy of God seeing him in his sinful state. The Publican in this story was truly humble and penitent, not because of his work, but because of his sins. The Publican saw himself for what he was, unworthy of God’s blessings. And he wanted those blessings more than anything. The Pharisee assumed that because he did certain things each week that he was better than the sinners around him. This arrogance is what condemned him in the eyes of God, for the Pharisee never admitted that he had need to repent.

From our readings this week, I am guessing our rich young man fell in between these two. He had performed all the things that would earn him the Lord’s approbation, yet his heart was not in doing good, but looking good. When asked to shed himself of his worldly comforts to follow Jesus, his heart sorrowed, for he loved his comforts more than he loved God.

It is our attitude toward our behavior and sins that the Lord weighs in the scales of justice and mercy. Those who are weighed and found wanting, because of their lack of humility are those who receive justice for their behavior. Those who exhibit penitence and humility are they who are given mercy, for they already see that they have great need of the Lord’s goodness to save themselves.

FHE/Personal Study

Matthew 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45 – Chief

This is an easy concept to understand mentally, but most difficult to understand in our heart. Do you really think God is such a scary person that the universe trembles with intimidation when He passes by? Do you think that the elements of the universe obey Him out of fear, as we define it? That is the worldly notion of power that is difficult to shed. We fear others because of their power, and how they use that power. But God is obeyed out of love for Him, because He loves and serves more than anyone else. And God says He will exalt only those who learn to serve as Jesus serves.

Remember that the celestial kingdom is full of servers, those who care more for the wellbeing of others than they care for themselves. This is why we have ministering in the Church. The whole point of calling it church service, and serving in a calling, is to emphasize to us that we serve – that is what we do, and how we are. Everything we do is meant to help us learn to think of others before we think of ourselves. The City of Zion has no poor among them only because every last inhabitant of that city would rather give up their own bed and meal than let someone else go without. We are commanded over and over again to feed the hungry, care for the poor, the widows, the fatherless, etc. Why? Because if we want to learn to be celestial in nature we must first learn to care as those who are celestial care.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-46 describes the character of God and all those who are worthy of living with Him.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Did you note that God’s power and influence in the universe flows to him “without compulsory means” forever and ever? This is the kind of person Jesus was trying to teach people to become.

The original apostles had never been exposed to this kind of thinking before. It was very foreign to them. Down through history the selfishness and self centeredness of Israel was constantly being condemned by God. That is all they had ever seen. So they wanted to be great in Christ’s kingdom (which isn’t bad), but their definition of great was still a very worldly one. With great patience Jesus taught them, one lesson at a time, what it means to be great in the sight of God. Is it any wonder that part of the service Jesus rendered his Apostles was to wash their feet, an act reserved for servants?

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NT20-2023 – What Lack I Yet

Week 20