Week 26 is scheduled for study June 20-26, 2022. This week we examine revelation, discernment, the importance of the temple covenants, and the worship of false gods.

Day 1

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

2 Samuel 5:17-25 – The Lord can give me direction.

The manual makes reference to a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott given in Conference in 2012 about receiving inspiration and revelation. I would like to use his talk as the basis for my comments here.

Inspiration vs. revelation

Elder Scott defines the difference between inspiration and revelation in this way.

The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective, for the purpose of this message, it is inspiration.

I have felt the need to read and reread this quote a number of times to make sure I am not missing something. When the communication from the Spirit is “crisp and clear and essential” you can call it revelation. In other words, what you need to know is spelled out for you in an unmistakable way. You know it is direct communication from God to you. In other places such communication is referred to as a sudden infusion of light and knowledge. In other words, you suddenly understand something you didn’t a moment before.

Such communication doesn’t have to be in words. Sometimes our revelations come in lessons learned through a dream or through a realization. Suddenly everything regarding a matter becomes very clear. Sometimes we see with our spiritual eyes in a new way that we haven’t comprehended before. The key here appears to be that the communication is clean and clear in what we are being taught.

Inspiration, on the other hand is not so clear cut. We may be feeling led in a particular direction without knowing ahead of time why or for what purpose. Most of us are more familiar with inspiration than revelation, because we are led by inspiration in our every day lives. Through inspiration we might be led to stop by someone’s home, not knowing why we should, just that we should. We might feel a desire to perform a particular act of kindness for no particular reason, or that we should keep our mouth shut at a particular moment in a discussion when we have a lot we would like to say. Inspiration can come in so many ways and in so many instances that it would be all but impossible to list all the possibilities.

The importance of asking

Here are Elder Scott’s remarks about the need for us to ask for revelation.

One of the great lessons that each of us needs to learn is to ask. Why does the Lord want us to pray to Him and to ask? Because that is how revelation is received.

There are a number of reasons why we don’t ask God for direct revelation. We may feel unworthy. We might be afraid of what we might receive in the way of communication. At times we feel like it is inappropriate to “bother” the Lord with our “petty” concerns. There may be a thousand reasons or excuses for us backing out of an opportunity to receive direct communication from God. Are any of them really valid? Is there any place you can think of in the scriptures where the Lord tells us that we can only ask of Him under specific conditions? What about this – are there any scriptures that tell us not to approach God unless we are spotless before Him first? I don’t know of any scriptures that make such demands of us. All I can think of are the scriptures that tell us to ask and knock and it will be opened to us.

One of the mistakes some of us make in the Lord’s Church is to fall for the lie that we should not question anything in the gospel, as though questioning is grounds for a disciplinary council. I have seen some members chide others for questioning doctrines they don’t understand. But how are they to come to an understanding if they don’t ask the questions? It is in the act of challenging the Lord to fulfill His promises to teach us of His ways that we exercise faith in His commandments and demonstrate hope in His gospel’s promises that we can come to know the riches of eternity. Questions are a vital part of coming to understand the plan of salvation in all its aspects. God welcomes any and all questions. And we should remember that what we preach to the world is that God speaks to His children. This is what the whole promise of the Book of Mormon is about. Why would it be okay to question God about the Book of Mormon, but not about any of the aspects of our life that are vital to our spiritual growth?

We probably all remember the passages in the Book of Mormon where the prophet goes to the Lord and asks where the armies of the Nephites should go to meet the armies of the Lamanites in order to save their people. Did you notice that David did the same thing with his battles with the Philistines? In the first example of David approaching the Lord (2 Samuel 5:19) the Lord told him to go fight the Philistines and He would deliver them into his hands. In the second instance (2 Samuel 5:23-24), David was told not to approach them directly, but to circle around them and hide near the mulberry trees. When they heard the wind through the trees that was the time for them to strike the Philistines, and the Lord would deliver them into David’s hands.

The lesson today tells us clearly to ask, but just as importantly to ask with an expectation that God will answer us. How He does that will be different from time to time and based on your needs. But the Lord always tells us that He will answer sincere questions and those asked in faith. So you have a right to expect an answer, however it might come.

Day 2

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

2 Samuel 11; 12:1-14 – I should always be on guard against sin.

As I tried to address today’s topic, what came to my mind were lessons I should learn and take away from David’s experiences that lost him his salvation.

  1. There is nothing unusual or problematic about the temptation David had regarding Bath-sheba. He was minding his own business in his own house when he saw something that he was not meant to see. Thus far everything is innocent.
  2. Instead of doing whatever was required for him to get rid of her image in his head, he dwelt on what he saw. Because he entertained her image in his head, no doubt over and over again, he became obsessed with her and desired her beyond what was reasonable. Up to this point no sin had been committed physically, though he had already committed sin with her in his heart.
  3. Now is when the real sin starts to unveil itself – he acted on his impulses. As king he called her to come into him. We don’t know how complicit Bath-sheba was in this sin of adultery, but she didn’t deny him. Now David is an adulterer. That didn’t take long, did it? This reminds of me of the saying about the chocolate that so many of us crave so often – “A moment on the lips, an eternity on the hips.” Most sins actually take far less time to actually commit than we have given them living space in our own minds.
  4. When Bath-sheba told David she was with child, David had a choice. He could own up to what he had done or try to hide his sin. He chose to try to hide his sin. Now that he has broken such a major commandment he is feeling like he must do whatever it takes to hide his behavior from the light of day. Because Uriah, Bath-sheba’s husband was off to war, of course Uriah would question who the father was, so David tried to get Uriah to go home to lie with his wife so Uriah wouldn’t suspect his wife’s treachery. But Uriah was a truly faithful servant to the king and wouldn’t go home for such a luxury as being with his wife when the rest of the troops weren’t allowed the same privilege.
  5. Escalation of sin – David, now desperate decided that the only way to solve the problem was to make Uriah a casualty of war. There was no shortage of wars, so he sent Uriah with a letter to his own general instructing the general to put Uriah in the forefront of the battle then abandon him so he would die. I suppose David thought this would take care of the “problem” without David being personally responsible for directly killing the man he had wronged. But the general compounded David’s guilt. Instead of just abandoning Uriah, the general sent the whole company right to the city gates where he knew they would all be slaughtered. This is one of those cases where David wasn’t directly responsible for just one death, but because of his sin he was responsible for many needless deaths.

Those who answer to us, sometimes in their efforts to be good servants or helpers can actually compound our sins. If David hadn’t tried to hide his sin of adultery by committing murder, all those other families wouldn’t have lost their sons, fathers, and brothers in that particular war.

David eventually repented of his sins. The Lord said of him to his son, Solomon that David was a righteous man who walked uprightly before God. But the sins David had committed, willingly and deliberately, in murdering those innocent men, lost him his right to eternal life. No matter how much the Lord loves us, and He loves us all very much, He cannot go against His own laws to save us if we choose to commit sin. David didn’t commit the unpardonable sin, but he did lose his right to eternal life by deliberately committing murder to hide his other sin.

David is each of us when it comes to how sins can creep into our life when we least expect it. His problem was entertaining the sin, the possibilities of committing the sin, and the hoped for pleasures of that sin. If he had gotten control of his thoughts, none of the rest of the story would have or could have happened.

Day 3

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

1 Kings 3:1-15 – The gift of discernment helps me distinguish between right and wrong.

Elder David R. Bednar gave a talk about being “Quick to Observe.” I recommend reading this talk several times to let what he says sink in.

As Elder Bednar describes and uses the ability to be quick to observe, observing is used in two ways.

As used in the scriptures, the word observe has two primary uses. One use denotes “to look” or “to see” or “to notice”—as we learn in Isaiah 42:20: “Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not” (emphasis added).

The second use of the word observe suggests “to obey” or “to keep”—as is evident in the Doctrine and Covenants: “But blessed are they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment, for they shall obtain mercy” (D&C 54:6; emphasis added).

This provides us with an interesting contradiction using the same word. Using both definitions, I can be quick to notice or recognize something as a commandment or as counsel from God, but slow to put it into action in my life. I can also be slow to recognize, but once I recognize it I am quick to obey the commandment or counsel. What Elder Bednar is urging us to develop in our personal life is the ability to quickly see or recognize good counsel then just as quickly put it into action in our life. When we are quick in both senses of the phrase “quick to observe” then we will have spiritual blessing available to us that aren’t there when we are quick in one way but slow in the other way. Here is an example of Elder Bednar’s wife being quick in both senses of being quick to observe.

Before attending her sacrament meetings, Sister Bednar frequently prays for the spiritual eyes to see those who have a need. Often as she observes the brothers and sisters and children in the congregation, she will feel a spiritual nudge to visit with or make a phone call to a particular person. And when Sister Bednar receives such an impression, she promptly responds and obeys. It often is the case that as soon as the “amen” is spoken in the benediction, she will talk with a teenager or hug a sister or, upon returning home, immediately pick up the phone and make a call. As long as I have known Sister Bednar, people have marveled at her capacity to discern and respond to their needs. Often they will ask her, “How did you know?” The spiritual gift of being quick to observe has enabled her to see and to act promptly and has been a great blessing in the lives of many people.

So now we understand what it means to be quick to observe. But what does it matter in the long run?

Simply stated, being quick to observe is an antecedent [that which comes before] to and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and for me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark.

Much like faith precedes the miracle, much like baptism by water comes before the baptism by fire, much like gospel milk should be digested before gospel meat, much like clean hands can lead to a pure heart, and much like the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are necessary before a person can receive the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, so being quick to observe is a prerequisite to and a preparation for the gift of discernment. We can hope to obtain that supernal [supernal things are traits that belong to heavenly beings] gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction only if we are quick to observe—if we both look and obey.

Emphasis added

The reason I strongly recommend reading this whole talk is that I am only presenting small parts here, but there is a lot of good information to be had in the rest of the talk. Here is one last quote, this one is from President Stephen L. Richards.

President Stephen L Richards (1879–1959), who served as a counselor to President David O. McKay, has provided additional instruction about the nature and blessings of discernment:

“First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate … between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them. …

“… Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. … We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.”

Our first inclination may be to focus on the detection of hidden evil. As important as this is, I would like to also emphasize that the gift of discernment also reveals to us the hidden good in people, including the hidden good within ourselves. The constant here is that discernment is a revelatory ability that reveals that which is hidden, either good or evil, but this ability is based on our ability to first be quick to observe. Being able to discern means that God will show us the truth about something. We can easily fool our self or others, and can just as easily be fooled by others. The gift of discernment will help us see people, philosophies, and situations for what they really are. What a gift to be able to discover the truth in a given situation. And all of this depends on our ability to be quick to observe in our life, both quick to recognize and acknowledge a commandment or good counsel, and just as quick to put it to use in our life.

Day 4

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

1 Kings 8:12-61 – The temple is the house of the Lord.

In today’s reading, as well as the recounting of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer of the temple he built, there is one overriding principle that jumps out at me over and over again.

As Solomon is praying the dedicatory prayer, he is listing all the ways in which Israel, and the individuals who make up Israel can betray God’s covenants and abandon God in all His goodness towards them. At the end of each item on his long list of ways we can and often do violate our covenant relationship with God, he pleads with the Lord to forgive us and bring us back into His good graces.

If God was just any other person, what do you think the odds would be that He would be willing to continue to accept Israel after the umpteenth time they violated their promises to Him and turned away from Him and worshiped other gods? It is small wonder the prophets refer to our covenant relationship with Christ as a faithful husband who has married an adulteress wife. Just as the adulteress wife doesn’t appreciate what she has in her faithful husband, so too are we clueless as to what we have our hands on when we violate our covenants and go after the teachings of any other source. Yet for all this, the Lord has promised that He will never break His covenant with us. He will always be faithful. Why? Because He covenanted to do so, and He is constant and ever faithful to that which He promises, no matter how we behave.

When we go to the temple, we are participating in the vicarious covenants being performed for the welfare of others who haven’t made those covenants yet. This act of performing those covenants we made previously should serve to remind us that God is always faithful to us. Are we being faithful in return? The more often we return to serve others in the temple, the more accustomed to being in a celestial place we become. With time and exposure to this sacred environment we come to cherish and yearn to spend more and more time away from the chaos of the world in the peace that pervades God’s house. This is an outward expression to us of the peace God can give us within our own hearts. And that peace we can carry with us wherever we go in this world of sin. It sustains us and strengthens our ability to obey and be happy.

FHE/Personal Study

1 Kings 11:9-11 – Other gods

God’s complaint against Solomon was that he had turned his heart to other gods. Have you considered what gods with a small g are? Are they not just manmade substitutes for the commandments and purposes of the Lord? Does it really matter to God which substitution we make in our life? Does He prefer one substitute over another? I don’t think so.

A false god can be based on an image made by man that can be worshiped and served. It can be a philosophy, political or intellectual that disagrees with what God has commanded. A false god can be a desire to play over a desire to serve others. It can be our devotion to social advancement through our job or through politics. A false god can be putting the obtaining of money or power, prestige or popularity over the commandments of God. What we put in place of God doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have put something before our devotion to He who created the universe and who has covenanted with us to lead us back into His presence.

We really don’t have to be bowing down to a carved image to be worshiping a false god. ANYTHING in our life that is placed before our devotion and obedience to God is considered to be a false god, for it is where our heart, our desires are placed. Another way to look at the worship of false gods is to look at where our priorities lie. Do I choose to miss going to church because I have given a sporting event, shopping, camping, hiking, a BBQ or anything else a higher priority than being in Sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament we have been commanded to take each week? Am I working on my camper or fifth wheel instead of fulfilling my calling in the ward or branch? Do I spend my time hiding so I can commit secret sin out of the sight of my family members? All of these things are gods to us if this is where our heart’s desires are.

Just as we are able to tell by how we act if we are faithful to our relationships with others, so too can we judge accurately if we are faithful to God. One of the best ways to tell if we have wandered off course is to determine within our self if we are making excuses for doing things we know better than to do. Excuses are red flags that we have already wandered into forbidden territory.

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OT26-2022 – Thy Kingdom Shall Be Established For Ever

Week 26