our value to God
Week 17 is scheduled for study April 18-24, 2022. We look at our value to God this week. It is as important to learn to seek help, even as we give help, and we examine God’s deep and tender feelings for us.

Day 1

Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you.”

Exodus 18:13-26 – I can help “bear the burden” of doing the Lord’s work.

Today’s lesson isn’t about helping the prophet do his job, like Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses above the battlefield with the Amalekites. This lesson asks us to look at our own efforts in our home and in our ministering assignments. It can be easy to be so fiercely independent that we forget that sometimes we could either benefit from some help, or we actually desperately need help. When we get caught up in doing what needs to be done, it can be difficult to remember to evaluate our own performance and our own needs. This is especially true of people who do things like acting as a caregiver to others.

When we look after the needs of others, their pressing needs can keep us so busy that we fail to see that we are being worn down by our service, generous though it may be. The lesson we learn from Moses in today’s lesson is that he was so busy judging all those people lined up in front of his tent that it never occurred to him that there might be another way to approach his responsibilities as the caregiver for the house of Israel. It took Jethro, his father-in-law, to point out his need to delegate some of his responsibilities to others who could be trusted.

When you have the responsibility of caring for someone, do you ever find it difficult to concede that you can’t do it all (without hurting yourself)?

Do you find it hard to ask for help, or even demand help from others who ought to be assisting in your duties? Why do you think that is? Does it have more to do with you or with them that it is so difficult to insist someone help you?

About now you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with the Lord’s work?” Good question! What is the Lord’s work? Is it just running the Church or judging the nations? Actually, the Lord’s work consists of anyone and everyone’s daily needs. The Lord’s work is bound up in helping us see that His business is each of us. I am reminded of the quote from Dickens A Christmas Carol. When Marley came to Scrooge to warn him of Scrooge’s own impending doom, one of the educational statements he made to Scrooge told him that he, Marley, had focused on the counting house business, as though that was the be all and end all of life. But, says Marley, “Mankind was my business.” That was the point in life he had missed. It wasn’t pleasure, business, sports, entertainment, or anything else. The most important “business” we have to conduct in this life is bound up in the lives of others. The Lord wants us to see to each other’s needs.

It can be easy to ignore others’ needs. Just as easily, it can be easy to ignore our own needs. We may throw ourselves into service to others, but not see until it is too late that we are in over our head and need help. So take some time and evaluate your own service. See if you are still able to be of service to others without hindering or hurting yourself in the process. Ask for help, or even demand help if needed. Being part of a family brings with it obligations. There is no need for you to shoulder all of them yourself.

And for you who are able, but aren’t actually doing much to help others around you, perhaps you should spend a few sessions on your knees talking with God about why that is, and what you can do to develop a more Christlike view of life through service. Others need you in their lives. The Lord needs you in the lives of others. You have things God has blessed you with that are meant to help those around you. Use them and be blessed.

Here are a few words of encouragement from Elder Henry B. Eyring in a talk he gave in October of 2012 Conference.

With all your differences in personal circumstances and past experiences, I can tell you something of what lies ahead for you. As you keep the faith, you will find yourself invited by the Lord often to serve someone in need when it will not seem convenient. It may appear to be an unpleasant and perhaps even impossible task. When the call comes, it may seem you are not needed or that someone else could easily give the succor.

Remember that when the Lord lets us encounter someone in distress, we honor the good Samaritan for what he did not do as much as for what he did. He did not pass by on the other side even though the beaten traveler on the road was a stranger and perhaps an enemy. He did what he could for the beaten man and then put in place a specific plan for others to do more. He did that because he understood that helping may require more than what one person can do.

Day 2

Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you.”

Exodus 19:3-6 – The Lord’s covenant people are a treasure to Him.

Can you honestly answer this question – Why would God consider those who make covenants with Him to be His “treasure”? This got me thinking about how covenants relate to God viewing those who make them to be a peculiar, or special treasure to Him.

Here is an article I wrote specifically to discuss covenants and their importance in our life. What Is a Covenant? I have written a number of other articles that also discuss this subject. You are free to look them up on the gospelstudy.us website. Just search for the word Covenant. You will find more articles than you are willing to read that have that word in them. Lol

I only know of one purpose for covenants, and that is to enable us to have God’s Spirit to help us become more like Christ, so we can return to live with our Father in Heaven. If living with God again is literally not the most important goal to a person then no covenants ever need to be made. This is why there are no covenants to qualify for the Telestial or Terrestrial kingdoms. Only the Celestial kingdom requires the use of covenants. It takes a lot of work and commitment to be changed and become like Christ. Most of God’s children won’t be willing to put forth the effort required. And some of us will make the covenants, but still not do what is required to achieve our declared goal of becoming like Christ.

My point in the previous paragraph is to point out that covenant making and keeping is a very self-selective process. Those who make the covenants with God to keep His commandments are the children of God who are willing to openly declare their intentions of returning to live with Him for eternity. That’s what makes covenant makers and keepers so special in God’s eyes. These are His children who want most to come home to Him.

Day 3

Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you.”

Exodus 19:10-11, 17 – Sacred experiences require preparation.

Do you remember the last time you needed to deliver some bad news to someone? Did you just blurt it out, or did you prepare them for the news by having them sit down (always a bad sign), or worked your way into the subject so it didn’t come as a shock? Just as it helps to prepare for bad news, making yourself ready for making covenants or having a special and sacred experience is also important. There is something to be said for setting up the mind and heart to be receptive to what is coming. This might be the reason the Church has a missionary prep class and a temple prep class. Building expectations and giving a base knowledge level helps people accept what they come to experience more readily.

What can we do to have our own sacred experience as we read the scriptures or as we approach the Lord in prayer for a special answer?

Are there specific questions that need to be answered? When someone asks you to answer a question, but they never actually get around to asking something you can answer, it makes it difficult for anyone to walk away from that conversation feeling satisfied. This may take some time to think through what it is you want answered. And the tricky part is that sometimes when we go to the Lord seeking the answer to a specific question, He may tell us through the Spirit that we are considering the wrong question. So be prepared to change your question if you feel so prompted, for the new question is the one God wants to answer for your own good.

The more we have studied, in our mind or on paper, the issues we are facing, the better prepared we will be when we approach the Lord with our questions. Many times it is in the process of seeking wisdom to know what to ask that the Lord inspires us to see things in a different way, to change our original question, or even to approach Him about something altogether different. I know I have had times when I went into this process troubled about one thing then a sense of peace replaces my concern about that issue, only to have my attention completely focused on a more important topic. And that was all before I ever got on my knees. It was because I was preparing and seeking direction in my desire to find answers.

Is your heart right? Being ready for personal revelation has a lot to do with the state of our heart. Afterall, the purpose of seeking the Lord’s direction is that you are stating that your intent is to follow that direction when you get it. Is your heart prepared for what might be said or revealed? A heart that is humbled and ready to be taught is more likely to get answers to prayer than one that is still fighting the Lord on other issues. Part of our preparation can be to ask for the Lord’s grace to soften our heart so we are ready to make the changes we might be prompted are necessary to make.

Acknowledge that your question might not be your greatest need. We can get very focused in this life on immediate desires or needs. For a time that immediate concern may be all we can see or think about. When we go to the Lord seeking resolution or solutions to concerns about what we are focused on, He may feel that there is something that needs to be done first or instead of what we are focused on. You may get answers that appear to have nothing to do with what you asked for or about. This doesn’t mean He hasn’t answered your prayers. He has just given you what you needed most right now. We need to take what we are given and treat it with the same reverence and respect we would treat the answer we were originally seeking. Always remember that His ways are not our ways. We do what we can, but always acknowledge that whatever He gives us is what is most important right now.

Often the answers we receive that seem to have nothing to do with why we originally went to the Lord are either the answers that we needed to eventually solve our current problem, or may have nothing to do with the current problem at all. I know I have had times when the answers or impressions I received blessed my life, and what I originally went to the Lord about just sort of faded into unimportance. Eventually, I couldn’t even remember what I originally went to the Lord about in the first place.

Perspective is important. How you look at an issue in your life makes a big difference in how you approach solving problems around that issue. As you study and prepare to take something to the Lord, recognize that what you may need is not the answer you are seeking, but a change in how you see the problem and the whole situation surrounding the problem. The Spirit has a wonderful way of changing our heart and helping us see things in a different light.

At one point in my marriage I was concerned about how I felt about my wife. After much thought and consideration I asked the Lord to change my heart so I didn’t feel towards her the way I was right then. Day after day, and week after week I prayed for this change of heart. I had no idea how this whole change of heart thing worked. I was putting faith in what I had been taught that God could do such a thing. I was hoping it would happen for me. One day as my wife and I were talking, she did what had bothered me so much before and I suddenly realized that it no longer bothered me. My heart had changed and I hadn’t even realized it was happening.

What are you looking for? When we go to the Lord, we may feel we need a certain kind of answer. We may think we need to receive a word by word set of directions as to what to do next. We may just want a sense of peace. It is important to remember that the Lord has many, many ways of answering us. Fortunately, most of them come with either a sense of peace or that famous burning in our bosom the Doctrine and Covenants talks about. How can our answers come? The answers we seek may come from a random encounter with a stranger, a neighbor, family member, or during a ministering effort. We may have an idea pop into our head that leads us in the right direction. A sense of urgency to do a particular thing may also follow our requests for guidance.

The tricky thing about learning to deal with the Spirit and the revelation He gives us, is that we have to become very self-aware. His answers may come in so many different ways that we need to learn to recognize when thoughts pop into our heads that we recognize aren’t from us. Think of Him as being a guest in our mind, our home. If we invite Him in frequently enough, we come to recognize when He is speaking to us, whether through emotions, thoughts, or desires. We just need to make sure He is always a welcome guest.

The key The key to all these methods of preparing for communion with God is to keep our self open to whatever comes. What helps us be prepared for these moments of communication comes in the form of keeping the commandments, reading our scriptures daily, praying often, and serving others in any way we are capable of doing so. Communication with God is not something that happens lightly or frivolously. Remember that when Joseph Smith had his first vision, it was preceded by regular scripture study, prayer (silent at that time of his life), and keeping the commandments. His heart was softened by his lifestyle, and he was deliberately exercising in the promise of James the Apostle that if he asked God, God would tell him what he wanted to know. This pattern works for us in the same way. We won’t usually have the grand type of answer Joseph received, but this is the same pattern that all of us need to put into place if we expect profitable communion with the Divine.

Day 4

Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you.”

Exodus 20 – God is merciful.

Let’s take a step back from today’s topic and build a quick foundation so you know where I am coming from in addressing this lesson. Knowing why God does what He does is no different than wanting to know why someone we know does what they do. When we don’t know why someone does what they do, it is easy to misread their intentions, and hence, their actions. It can be easy to misinterpret someone’s intentions when we don’t really know why they are acting the way they are.

How many people, not understanding why the Lord gives us commandments, feel that commandments are restrictive or punitive in nature? Afterall, we could have so much fun in life if He wasn’t telling us we can’t to this and we can’t do that. He’s no fun at all! First off, God is not about having fun. He is all about finding lasting happiness. We, the children, are all too often focused on the fun. So focused in fact that we miss the weightier matters like joy and happiness that last for eternity. Fun is fleeting, which fits our mortal nature, which is also fleeting.

God’s reason behind all that He does with us and for us is to teach us and entice us to become like Him. This is why He gave us the Savior, as an example of what is possible if we apply ourselves. In order for us to become like Christ, and hence like our Father, we need to learn to live the same kind of life God lives, which is a life of happiness and filled with peace. There is only one way for us to learn to be like our Father, and that is to live the way He lives. To make that possible, God tells us that we must learn to live by the laws that produce the best opportunities to be happy. These laws He calls commandments. Every commandment has blessings attached, and without living the commandments we can’t experience the joys that come from the life that experiences the result of those laws being honored.

Once we start living His commandments, He introduces covenants, which is an even higher form of the laws of happiness. The laws associated with covenants allow for God’s Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to directly teach us and help change our heart and disposition so that we eventually lose our desires to do evil. This opens the door to even greater happiness and joy. How happy do you think that makes our Father?

Can you think of anything in the whole gospel plan we call the plan of happiness, or the plan of salvation, that hasn’t been instituted and given to us for our own happiness? All that God does is to help us and encourage us to become like Him, so we can experience the same degree of joy He does all the time. This is God’s mercy. This is why He is so quick to forgive, so quick to give us chance, after chance, after chance to repent and try again to make the changes that will result in our own happiness and joy. This is why He offers us grace, the enabling power that makes the changes to our mortal selves possible. It is through this process of change that we live in a fallen world, but live according to a celestial law. This is the covenant path we hear so much about.

Day 5

Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you.”

Exodus 20:1-7 – It is important to put the Lord first in my life.

I will not put onto you my own failings in following the title of today’s lesson. Intellectually, as I ponder the verses given for today’s study, I see that I am probably guilty of not putting the Lord first in my life. Yet, though I feel like I am doing as much good as I can with the resources and abilities that I have, there is a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I still don’t quite understand what it means to really put God first in all things in my life.

Putting God first

I mentioned earlier this week that perspective makes a huge difference in how we approach and how we understand things. If I was to tell you that you were to put me first in your life, you might think, “Wow, how arrogant and self centered!” You would be right. I fear that too many times I look at God’s commandment to put Him first in my life in the same way.

We know that God is not arrogant, nor self centered. So why would He command us to put Him first in all of our desires, aspirations, practices, and priorities in life? That is a pretty all consuming focus for us to shoot for. Does the Lord get anything out of us focusing on Him in all things? What’s in it for Him?

God does not need our attention on Him to survive, to feel loved, to thrive, or be happy. This is where a change of perspective comes into play. We are the ones who need Him in order for us to survive, feel loved, to thrive, and be happy. We need to be able to completely focus all that we do in life on Him in order to return home one day. When we let any other earthly priority or love come before our focus on God, we run the risk of not being able to return to Him.

Just to remind and review, God is perfectly happy and well established as the ruler of the universe. It was He who offered us the opportunity to advance from being Intelligences to gaining spirit bodies. It was He who offered us the opportunity to then go on to gain a mortal body, the next step in gaining a resurrected and glorified body like He possesses and enjoys. Only those who possess the highest form of a resurrected body can have glory added upon them forever and ever. I repeat, He does not need us. We need Him. He is the only one who knows how to get us where we have professed we want to go.

While we are in mortality, our testing period, Satan does everything in his power to distract us and prevent us from seeing or giving priority to God and His commandments. Each time he is successful in getting us off track, he takes us just a little further away from that which will make us happiest in the eternities. I have spoken before about the sense of urgency Satan has given our time in mortality. We fear that if we don’t establish ourselves with position, wealth, power, influence, comfort, or an ample amount of fun that we will have wasted our time here in mortality. Mortals fear death, because we can’t see beyond it. We have forgotten that we are as eternal in nature as God, our Father.

It is our Father in Heaven who sent us to earth to prove our willingness to be obedient in all things. It is He who gave us a Savior to pay for the sins and mistakes we commit, so we can repent and one day walk back into His presence to live with Him forever. So yes, our whole focus in this life should be centered around our real priorities, that of becoming more like Christ, so we can become a celestial, and a holy person. Our character needs to be refined through service and the exercising of faith in that which we claim we believe.

Being jealous

To us, the word jealous is a very negative word. It is difficult for me, if not for most people, to see, think, or hear the word jealous or jealousy applied to anyone, especially God, and not have an adverse reaction to it. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. It evokes images of anger, rage, fits, and suspicion – all negative. This is not a good look on God.

This is where I need to rethink my view of the word jealousy when it comes to God. The Hebrew meaning of our word jealousy means to have deep and sensitive feelings. This is nothing like the meaning for the word we were raised with. We never hear anyone refer to someone being jealous of something or someone as meaning their exceedingly tender feelings have been hurt. We always put a negative spin on it. That is just how we have been raised to think of the word.

Why would the Lord be so sensitive? Why such deep feelings for His children? Duh, because He loves us with a perfect love. His whole plan of salvation was put into place with the express purpose of offering us the opportunity of becoming like Him. He is offering us the opportunity to each become gods in our own right, to rule and reign in supreme power in the universe from all eternity to all eternity. I’m sure sensitive doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of His love and desire for us to find the happiness that is His.

Our focus

I don’t really know how to put God first in my life. I have so many distractions, so many selfish habits. It is difficult to decide or see where my real loves lie. When I find something that I recognize is taking priority in my life over my love for God, I can work on it and with the Spirit’s help start to overcome that deficit in my life. But I keep finding things that get in my way of really putting God’s will before my own. I suspect I am not alone in this problem, though I am not in a position to point any fingers. I know that learning to put our Father in Heaven first in our life is learned in large measure by learning to serve and live our life as He lives His. His is a life of service to us. If we want to become like Him we must learn to serve others with just as much selflessness as He exhibits. It will be our demonstrated love for others that, in the end, shows Him that we have come to understand Him and want to be like Him.

FHE/Personal Study

Improving Personal Study – Find a time that works for you.

This is simple. Each of us is different. Some of us are morning people, we think more clearly in the morning, and generally get our best work done early on in the day. Others of us take a while to get going, so we are more afternoon people, and that is when you will see our best work. Then there are the night owls, those who would just as soon sleep all day and be up and doing all night.

Telling someone that there is one time of the day to study the gospel unfairly assumes that we are all alike. The title for today’s thought is that we each need to find a time that works best for our habits, personality, and situation. Some of us can read for hours and stay focused, while others of us can only read for short bursts before our mind wanders off. The key to studying the scriptures is to find the time and the way that is consistent, expected, and works best for our own style of learning.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning the gospel of Christ. So don’t worry how the Brethren do their studies, or how your spouse or friends do their studies. You figure out what works best for you then do it consistently. And remember that what works this year may need to be altered next year if circumstances change. And if there is one thing I have learned in this life it is that circumstances always change. So be flexible, and learn to see when a change is needed to keep up with your learning. Always be thinking about how the gospel can apply in your life right now, and your study time will be more profitable.

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OT17-2022 – All That the Lord Hath Spoken We Will Do

Week 17