My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the tag “God”

What I’m Expecting from General Conference

God the Father by Cima da  Conegliano.

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c 1515.

When people ask me what my favorite holiday is I always say Christmas, because y’know, it’s Christmas and it’s awesome, but then I always tell them it is followed by April General Conference and October General Conference. No lie. Members of the Church and nonmember alike get the same answer. This often leads to coworkers and friends asking if we actually celebrate these conferences in a liturgical calendar, which of course we don’t, “But,” I say, “we get to hear from living prophets of God, and that’s pretty awesome to me.”

Needless to say I’m “the religious guy” at work because of such answers, with many of my coworkers calling me a minister.

This evokes a lot of laughter from me.

But as the sun creeped over the horizon this morning and woke me up in our small apartment here in Mountain Brook, Alabama, I knew today would be a historic and memorable day. And it really does feel like Christmas morning. Not because there is a huge set of ornaments set up here in our home (unless you count the church paintings and the temple statues), but because it really is festive in the air for me! Today I will get to hear the word of the Lord from His mouthpieces. Imperfect men delivering a perfect message. There will be no physical gifts today, but instead there will be eternal gifts that will bless me and my family now and throughout the eternities. How could I not be excited for that?

I used to look forward to General Conference excited to hear the “next big thing”, the latest “revelation”, and monumental announcements. When President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund I remember sitting in my small chapel with my brethren in Jasper, Alabama and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Awesome sauce.” When President Hinckley announced in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting (not conference, but close enough) that missionaries would now be “teaching by the Spirit” I remember sitting back in that pew in the Bessemer Alabama Stake Center and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Cool beans.” And every time there are temples announced, from Rome, Italy to Cedar City, Utah I’ve sat back and thought to myself, “Yep folks. That’s some mighty fine revelation there. Jesus rocks.” However, in recent years as I’ve matured and grown spiritually I’ve come to realize that the “big” announcements at General Conference aren’t where most of the revelations from the Lord come. The true revelation comes in pondering and applying the simplest of words spoken over that pulpit in each talk.

When Julie B. Beck gave her “Mothers that Know” talk, I knew exactly the kind of wife I wanted. And I have been so blessed to find her.

When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave his talk “Come What May and Love It” I knew he was speaking directly to me.

When President Uchtdorf gave the talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” I knew it was just for me.

When Elder Holland has given pretty much any talk I’ve known it was given directly to me. And so it has been with every talk each and every conference, from Elder Whiting’s “Temple Standard” to Elder Soares’ “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart”, they have all been just for me. As I’ve listened to them, watched them again, played them on my Gospel Library App while driving, and pondered them in the hours of the night I’ve come to find that every single General Conference talk has been applicable to me and amplified my spiritual life.

Of course I have my favorite speakers. But even the most random of Seventy who speaks on Sunday afternoon has prepared the words the Lord has inspired him to give.

Since I was a teenager I have always imagined the Lord attending General Conference casually, unseen of course, but close by as the Brethren and Sisters speak. It is His conference after all (as Elder Hales reminded us so beautifully just six months ago). He is there, and He will be with us today.

This General Conference I am expecting a lot. I’ve put in a tall order for the guidance I’ll be needing for the next six months. This will be my first General Conference as a husband to my dear and sweet wife. It is my first General Conference as an expecting father. And recently I was called to a calling which will require far more time, commitment, and resources from me than I currently feel I have. This General Conference I will be listening with a new ear and a new heart, and looking for things not just for myself, but for my family and for those I am called to minister to. In short, I’m expecting a lot this weekend. And I know I will not be let down.

I imagine God sits and looks down on us rather lovingly during these weekends. A few million of His children gathering to try and listen to His voice. There, from celestial glory, I imagine His perspective is eternal and the love He wishes to convey is unending. Perhaps His arms are even outstretched to show His affection for us. If only we could hear Him more closely perhaps we could always see Him like this, as our Father trying to help us get back home.

This weekend we will hear His voice and the voice of His Son.

It’s better than Christmastime here in the Way Household!

 

If you would like to join in and enjoy General Conference live this weekend or re-watch it at a future date you can do so by clicking here.

We Don’t Even Own a Pornograph

The phonograph, first invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was the first electronic device to deliver modern entertainment and media into homes.

This evening I spent a long time on the phone with a dear friend. Although we have not seen one another in years, we speak often on the phone and reminisce about times past.

Tonight as we were talking I could tell that my friend was struggling. His usual jovial demeanor had been replaced by a sullen sounding monotone of answers as I tried to stir up our conversation. “How’s life?” I asked.  Life was “okay”. “Did you watch the news on Tuesday night?” I prodded. He and his wife were rather sad about the results of this week’s elections. “Boy it’s getting cold here,” I had remarked. The weather where he lives is also chilly. “Excited for the NBA season to be starting?” Neither of us are expecting much out of the Utah Jazz this year.

Then, after a few minutes of idle chit chat he said out of nowhere, “I’m addicted to pornography Stan, and I don’t know how to quit.”

So much for being at a lack of things to talk about.

As a missionary I had learned that silence can be key in important conversations; so I sat on my end of the phone without offering a reaction, although if my friend had been here in person he would have seen the tears building in my eyes as I could hear him struggle to find his next words. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, I finally asked, “Are you okay?”

And the floodgates opened. Both for my friend as he began to speak, and for myself as I wept over hearing of his struggles.

As we talked about pornography, its evils, its captive grab on much of society, and the way in which it so easily enters into our lives, I was surprised that my good friend had succumbed and allowed it to have a barbed wire grasp upon his soul.

As we talked it became evident that he does know how to “quit”, so to speak, but that its harder than anything he has ever done in his life. Most importantly, he recognizes his problem. Equally as important, his loving wife and priesthood leader know of his “thorn in [the] flesh”, and they are working together with the Lord to tackle his addiction head on.

My friend described how it all really started with one single night of television. His wife was out with some gals from their ward. He was home studying. He grew bored and turned on the television to relax from the math equations that were pressing his mind. As he was flipping through the cacophony of choices which he could see on the channel list before him, he could see the choices which were obviously inappropriate. He decided on a popular cable drama because so many people he worked with had mentioned how good it was. Although he noticed instantly that the language wasn’t exactly clean, “What could it hurt?” he had thought, and he kept watching. He enjoyed the show. The characters were engaging, the story line was compelling, and it was not only dramatic but also comedic. A perfect show to watch.

The next week when his wife went out with her friends again he decided to take a load off from studying and to watch the show for a second time.  As he settled comfortably on his sofa to watch the show he noticed the language was the same as the week before, but “it was okay” because it was just so entertaining. “Why doesn’t everyone watch this?” he’d said to himself. But when a blatant sex scene came onto the screen five minutes into the show he knew he probably shouldn’t be watching, and he flipped the television off and went back to studying.

Interestingly, that week my friend noticed a real internal conflict with himself. He wanted to watch this show. It was funny. It was interesting. It was popular. He liked it. But he also didn’t like that he’d been a witness to such a crude indecency on basic cable during early evening viewing hours. He knew it was wrong. The few seconds of flesh mingled with flesh he’d seen on his flatscreen had caused the Spirit to leave him that night. And he’d noticed that he couldn’t even concentrate on studying without inappropriate thoughts coming into his mind.

The third week in a row, as his wife went out with friends to leave him alone to study, he said he felt literally as if he were in a war. On the battlefield of his living room he sat prepared to conquer college algebra. On the coffee table were his weapons of war, a calculator and some graphing paper. And on the wall at the other end of his small apartment living room, the television. He knew he shouldn’t watch the show. He studied his book. He looked up and saw the black screen of silence facing him. Inviting him. “It was one simple sex scene,” he heard a voice keep saying within him. “It will be okay,” it continued. Then another voice opposing the first one, “You can’t afford to lose the Spirit. Your wife needs you to be clean.” The argument continued in his head and as he knelt down to pray for strength over something that seemed so simple, another thought came into his mind. Smooth as silk it seemed to say, “If you just watch the show all this struggle will go away.”

Without thinking my friend grabbed the remote, while steel kneeling at his coffee table, and turned on the television. He rapidly punched the numbers into the remote and the screen flashed. Instantly he saw it. As if perfectly timed by an evil director from the sidelines of life, my friend had tuned in at precisely the moment another sex scene was beginning. But this time, willfully drowning out the noises in his head, he watched.

That was three years ago. He says that every day has been a struggle since then.

Tonight as we talked about his daily struggles to reclaim his life, return to virtue, and try to heal his marriage, the Holy Ghost was in great abundance. He mentioned that as someone addicted to pornography he has a heightened awareness for society’s complete lack of virtue. He can look anywhere, listen to anything, and engage in any form of media and instantly be bombarded with crude images, words, and blatant sex.

I shared with him my approach to our most recent General Conference. As conference had approached I had petitioned Heavenly Father to bless me with revelation on subtle things in my life that could make a huge difference, among other things. As the weekend of General Conference came and went I was given a catalogue of personal improvement I could make in my life. One of the most subtle came the Monday after General Conference though.

As I took a break at work that day I pulled out my phone and responded to a couple of text messages. Then, with a few minutes to kill, I chose one of my favorite apps to browse through and look at funny internet pictures and memes. – The app is one I’m sure most of you could easily identify. – As I was scrolling through a particularly funny collection of Bad Luck Brian photos I noticed that nearly half were inappropriate in substance. “I can just skip those ones though,” I had said half defensively to myself. Then, as my finger scrolled on across my phone’s screen, there was a randomly placed picture of a young woman in a bikini. Her sexy pose in front of a mirror while making the peace sign was not something I had intentionally sought out, but there it was. And I confess, I was tempted to pause. The silky and inviting voice from places unknown seemed to say to my mind, “Click on it. Zoom in. Save it even. No one ever has to know.” But just in that moment of temptation another voice seemed to say, “Stan, delete this app so that you never have to stumble across pictures like this again.”

I instantly recognized the second voice as a literal answer to my previous week’s prayers, and I deleted the app from my phone before placing myself in a place of temptation again.

“It’s funny how subtle the devil is,” my friend said as I ended my story.

“Yes. He doesn’t want us to even notice when we’re slipping,” I responded.

Then, since I was already sitting in front of my computer as we spoke, I asked my friend if I could share another brief story with him. He consented, and I prefaced what I was about to read by telling him that this was a story from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the October 1999 General Conference. I read Elder Featherstone’s words,

“Pornography is evil. I love the story told at the funeral of Henry Eyring’s father. When he was a young man coming across the border from the Mexican colonies to the United States, the customs man said, “Son, do you have any pornography in your suitcase or trunks?” He responded, “No sir, we don’t even own a pornograph.” It’s wonderful to be that pure and naive. We know pornography is addictive and destructive. It has companions it travels with: drinking, smoking, and drugs. It uses some types of music, dancing, the Internet, and television. Those who produce it are godless and have no conscience. They know the consequences, but they don’t care. Like those who peddle drugs, they will never be around to pick up the pieces when you’re all broken up. But we will—your parents, bishops, and leaders.”

I added, “And the Lord too.”

And then, as is far too common, I began what I’ve come to call a short Stan Sermonette. I told my friend how I am jealous of President Eyring’s father for having grown up in such a time as to have not been exposed to pornography in his youth. I bore testimony of the power of the Atonement in my friends life. I bore testimony of the Lord’s love for him, and also my love for him. And I invited him to rid him self of the pornographs in his life. Cable, internet, his smart phone, whatever it is that might deliver pornography into his life. “Because,” I said as I ended my soap box preaching on the phone, “nothing is more important than your soul.”

Then there was silence again.

This time we were both crying.

As the silence and sniffles slowly passed he said, “That was exactly what my bishop said last night, and I’ve been struggling with it all day.”

“Your bishop told you to get rid of your pornograph?” I asked light heartedly, trying to not come off so overbearing.

“No. But you know what I mean.”

He then told me that our conversation would make a great blog post. I explained that I usually don’t share such personal experiences of those close to me. He told me to at least consider it.

After some consideration, here is our conversation for the world to see.

We all have weaknesses in our lives. For some it is pornography. For some it is overeating. Others struggle financially and with the principle of tithing. Many battle daily Word of Wisdom challenges. And some, like myself, battle the weakness that is their tongue and saying what they aught naught.

Whatever it is though, I invite you as your friend and fellow sojourner through this experience we call life, to get rids of your pornographs, or whatever it is that might be contributing to your vice. I invite you to listen more carefully to the promptings from the Holy Ghost and to rid your lives of unholiness. And I promise that as you do so your life will be more fulfilling and happier in every way imaginable.

No weakness we have or shortcoming we struggle with is beyond the scope and cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Tonight a dear friend of mine will be discussing with his wife how he wants to trade in his iPhone for a flip phone.

I invite you to identify your own personal pornograph and get rid of it also, because nothing is more important than your soul.

You’ll be glad you did.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

Three Nephites and a Little Miracle

The Whitmer Family farmhouse in Fayette, New York as it stands today.

On my mission we had “Recitations” that we recited at all of our mission meetings. Recitations included Mormon 9:18-21, The Standard of Truth, and Doctrine & Covenants Section 4. These recitations were always done at the beginning of our meetings, directly after the opening hymns and prayer, and after our mission hymn (“Oh Say, What is Truth”). Then an elder or sister assigned with leading each separate recitation would step up to the podium and lead us as we recited sacred words in unison.

I will never forget being with over two hundred other missionaries, all standing as if at attention, and the booming richness that filled the air on those sacred occasions.

Today I am glad that in my small branch part of our priesthood opening exercises include all of the Aaronic Priesthood brethren leading us in reciting D&C 4.

I miss the oft repeated words of Mormon 9 though. Their words hold a deep and eternal truth.

18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.

19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.

I know by sacred experience that our God is indeed still a God of miracles.

Perhaps one of my favorite stories of a modern-day miracle comes from the days of the dawning of the Restoration though.

In the spring of 1829 the Prophet Joseph Smith was laboring vigorously to translate the record of The Book of Mormon. Joseph and his wife Emma had moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania, a small hamlet in the Susquehanna Valley to escape outside pressures and persecution. There in Harmony Joseph and Emma lived in a small cabin on the corner of Emma’s father’s farm. While Joseph labored during the days to provide for his wife as a farmer, he was also laboring to fulfill the Lord’s command to fulfill a sacred duty. The work, both physically and spiritually, was demanding. Much to Joseph’s relief the Lord sent Oliver Cowdery, a school teacher, in early April of that year to assist the illiterate Joseph in the process of translation.

As the work continued the persecution that Joseph had experienced so greatly in New York began to likewise show up in Pennsylvania. Shortly after beginning to assist Joseph Smith with the work of translation, Oliver wrote to his friend David Whitmer in Fayette Township back in New York State. Oliver enthusiastically testified that Joseph Smith had the ancient records and that the work was divine and true. He soon sent a few lines of the translation and bore witness that he knew the plates contained a record of the people who once inhabited this continent. David Whitmer, then twenty-four years of age, eagerly showed these letters to his parents and brothers and sisters.

As persecution began to intensify in the Harmony area late in in the month of May, Oliver communicated with David about the possibility of Joseph and Oliver going to stay with the Whitmer Family in Fayette. In response Peter Whitmer, Sr., David’s father, invited Joseph to stay at his farm home as long as was needed to finish the work of translation. David’s brother John offered to help as Joseph’s scribe. Many people in the Fayette area were anxious to hear more about the work.

As farmers the Whitmers knew that a late May planting was essential for a successful fall crop and harvest. With such thoughts in mind the senior Whitmer, Peter, advised his son David that he had to plow and prepare the soil before he could take his two-horse wagon to pick up Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery down south in Pennsylvania. Obediently David followed his father’s counsel, although anxious to complete what seemed to be a mundane task. At the end of hist first day of plowing he found he had accomplished in one day what normally would have taken two days to do. He was astonished. David’s father was likewise impressed by this apparent miracle. Peter Whitmer, Sr., said, “There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown.” – Plaster of paris was used to reduce the acidity of the soil. – However, the next morning when David went to to sow the plaster on the fields, to his surprise he found the work had already been done.

His sister, who lived beside the field, said that her children had called her to watch three strangers the day before spread the plaster with remarkable skill and speed. She assumed they were men David had hired to speed up the work.

They were not.

Grateful for this divine intervention, David Whitmer hurried off on the three-day one hundred mile journey to Harmony. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery met him as he approached the town. Although David had not told them exactly when he was coming, Joseph had seen in vision the details of David’s trip to Harmony.

These small miracles witnessed by David and the rest of the Whitmer family testified of the Prophet Joseph’s seership and the Lord’s intervention for the successful translation of The Book of Mormon.

After a short time in Pennsylvania these three men, Joseph, Oliver, and David, left en route back to Fayette, New York. Joseph, before departing, had delivered the plates from which The Book of Mormon was being translated back to the Angel Moroni for safekeeping during their journey. One day as the men were riding along in the wagon another unique experience occurred in relation to the sacred work in which they were engaged. David Whitmer said the following,

 “A very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and saluted us with ‘good morning, it is very warm,’ at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand.  We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride if he was going our way.  But he said very pleasantly, ‘No, I am going to Cumorah.’  This name was something new to me.  I did not know what Cumorah meant.  We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around enquiringly of Joseph, the old man disappeared.”

Joseph then related to his brethren that the man they had just seen was in fact the ancient Prophet Moroni.

In 2012 it is sometimes hard to recognize the miracles large or small in our lives, but they are there. The Lord used ancient prophets and disciples to hasten His work in 1829, and I testify that He does the same today. On this side of the veil and on the next there is a hastening like never before to prepare this world for the reception of our Lord and our Master.

Will God send an angel to help you in a daily chore? Will the Lord send the three Nephites to help you next time you’ve got some yard work to do? – Honestly, probably not. – But as you fill your life with His deeds and His words, you will be entitled and prepared for His assistance and His help.

Our God is a God of many mighty miracles, and you in and of yourself are one of those miracles.

Now, as we were counseled so beautifully and repeatedly in last week’s General Conference, go and be a miracle in someone else’s life.

You’ll be glad you did.

Your pal,

Stan

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Latter-day Saint please click here to learn more about us crazy Mormons and what we believe.

For greater detail about the stories I shared above about the Whitmer’s farm please see History of the Church 1:83-86 and Cannon and Cook’s Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), pp. 1–3. To read about the men’s encounter with Moroni please see “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star, 9 Dec. 1878, p. 772.

The Idols In Our Lives

Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Fall Saturdays in Alabama have always been a sacred day for me and millions of others. Saturdays were the days on which I could watch the Alabama Crimson Tide come onto the field and literally roll over their opponents with skill and force.

I used to never miss a game. If I was working, that meant the game was on somewhere at work via a laptop or radio. If I was off, I was usually gathered with a group of friends around a television screaming and hollering like coach Nick Saban could actually hear the directions we were giving him. As half-chewed pretzels came spewing out of our mouths we would pump throw our hands into the air and yell, “Time out already!”. As the opposing team gained yards it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear us screaming things such as, “Get him, get him, GET HIM AND BREAK HIS LEGS!!!” And after each victory, which have always been many, me and my compatriots during the game would proudly put our arms over one another’s shoulders, sway, and proudly sing Rammer Jammer.

Normal, calm, Alabama Football fans.

Even today if you were to call my cellphone you would hear a ringback tone of a hillbilly shouting in a cheering stadium, “You’ve just called the world’s greatest Alabama Football fan. Hold on a minute and he’ll answer the phone.” As the ringback tone continues you hear the cheering crowd get louder and the Alabama fight song, “Hey Alabama”, playing triumphantly in the background.

Alabamians are devout followers of the faith of the Crimson Tide. During games the streets across the state become empty. Smaller businesses close. And yes, even Walmarts empty out. That’s how serious we take our team. We gather in groups large and small, donning our dark shades of crimson, and watch on television with rapt attention.

True followers will go to the Mecca of the faith though, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. With 157 skyboxes, four large video scoreboards, and a general seating capacity of 101,821, it is the temple of worship of the Alabama faithful. It is the house that Paul “Bear” Bryant built, and to walk there is to walk on hallowed ground.

Over the years I’ve learned just how serious this faith can be to some.

I’ve heard testimonies shared in Fast and Testimony Meetings about how God blessed certain players. I’ve likewise heard testimonies about how Heavenly Father “must really feel” towards Auburn University and their wicked ways. I’ve been to numerous priesthood leadership and stake priesthood meetings where one or more of the brethren in the congregation would have earbuds running up the sides of their head so they could hear the play-by-play action of a game, while at the same time receiving directions from leaders holding priesthood keys. I’ve even seen those sad occasions when General Conference Priesthood Sessions would fall at the same time as Alabama Football games. The parking lot at my chapel perhaps has never looked more deserted than during those games.

Even among God’s covenant people, the faith of Alabama Football at times ranks supreme.

A few weeks ago I was discussing with one of our full-time missionaries the fact that he would soon be returning home from his mission. We talked about work, schooling, and a variety of things. Eventually the conversation focused on living a consecrated life and how we as holders of the priesthood can live in such a manner. We discussed how we, even as Latter-day Saints, often let the things of the world get in the way of our spiritual progression. And yes, we ended up talking about Alabama Football.

This season I haven’t watched a single game.

To many Alabama Fans that means I wasn’t a real fan in the beginning. I wasn’t fully converted they would say. And perhaps they would be right.

But I’ve got a lot going on in my life. I have a full-time job. I am in the process of becoming a published author. My family takes up a great deal of my time (as they should). I serve as the branch mission leader in my tiny church unit. And this week I made some silly decision to try to get married. So I’m never out of things to do! In fact, each day I wish I had six more hours to accomplish the things I wanted to do.

In the future I plan on raising my children in the faith of Alabama Football, and spending good time fellowshipping them into the Order of the National Championships. My sons and I will spend Saturdays watching plays, passes, and punts with millions of other fans. However, right now my attention is needed elsewhere in life. And when the time comes to raise my family watching Big Al jump around the stadium, I hope I can teach them that although football is great, it should never take precedence over the more important things in life.

As the elder (who has since returned home) and I spoke a few weeks ago we spoke of the cars, the televisions, the unnecessarily large homes, and even the gadgets that many Latter-day Saints own. We spoke of debt, living within one’s own means, and how many worship daily on the screens of their iPads before they ever lay their hands upon scriptures.

There are idols in the world today. They are not graven like the idols of old. I’m sure I wouldn’t find any golden calves set up for worship and with burning incense in any Latter-day Saint household. But there are many things which we have set up to replace God in our lives. There are the brand new cars with the five year loans just so we can afford them. There is furniture that just had to be bought when a more modest couch would have done. There are cell phone plans which milk the monthly budget for all it’s worth, and there are a litany of other toys that demand our attention each day. These idols are casual, and barely noticeable, because it’s hard to look at an iPod and consider it as a God in and of itself. Satan knows we would never turn our hearts to outwardly worship another deity from the heavens; so he uses many of the good things that are already in the world to turn our attention away from the heavens.

Do you work late nights and extra hours to pay for things you couldn’t afford in the first place? Do you spend more time watching DVR’d television shows than you do home or visiting teaching, or spending quality time with your family? They’re deep and personal questions, but much like those asked by Alma to the Saints in Zarahemla, they are easy enough to answer and true measurements of our faith.

Today as the Crimson Tide played I was blowing leaves in my parent’s yard. For a little over six hours I got to enjoy the hum of the leafblower, the strain of walking up and down a slanted Alabama hillside, and raking until I thought I would have blisters on my hands. The hours passed quickly though, and I completely forgot about football as I got to listen again to each of last Saturday’s General Conference Sessions. I am sure I missed some great plays, some great commentary, and even some great pretzels. But today I got to give service to those that I love and I got to listen to prophets, apostles, and other bear testimony of the one true and living God. – There’s nothing better than that.

We all have idols in our lives. But thanks to an insightful conversation with a soon to be released missionary a few weeks ago, I’ve been blessed to cut one of the larger ones out of my own personal life.

I know that by the power of the Spirit the idols in your life will be made manifest to you, and I pray that you might readily release them so as to enjoy even greater blessings in your life.

It’s worth it.

Now I guess I just need to change my ringback tone…

Your pal,

Stan

120 Days Closer to Jesus Christ – Day Five

First landing of Columbus on the shores of the New World, at San Salvador, West Indies on 12 October 1492.

Study Assignment: 1 Nephi 13 — 14
Daily Scripture: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” – James 4:10
Daily Thought:

“Humbly submitting our will to the Father brings us the empowerment of God—the power of humility. It is the power to meet life’s adversities, the power of peace, the power of hope, the power of a heart throbbing with a love for and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, even the power of redemption. To this end, the Savior is our supreme example of the power of humility and submissiveness. After all, His submitting His will to the Father brought about the greatest, and even the most powerful, event in all of history. Perhaps some of the most sacred words in all the scriptures are simply, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).”

– Richard C. Edgley

I’m liking the routine that I’m in with this whole 120 day program. My closest friends know that I’m big into my daily scripture study. I try to read on a specific topic early in the morning, then at night read from a specific book chronologically. Calling me around 9PM usually gets you nothing but voicemail because that’s my set study time. However, this week I’ve added a mid-afternoon reading session to the mix to do an initial reading of this program’s chapters, and then I come back and read them again each night before writing my blog post.

And wow, I can’t even begin to describe the difference those afternoon readings have been making!

When I was 18 years old I was saving for my mission and working as a customer service associate at a large chain grocery store. As a customer service associate I would run back and forth between the service desk and the checkout lines for hours at a time performing the various duties of my job. Those duties, much of the time, consisted of assisting customers by getting their cigarettes. – Luxurious, I know. – As the “kid” up front I was essentially a glorified gofer. “Oh, you wanted the Marlboro Ultra Light 100’s in the silver pack, not just the Lights. I’m so sorry,” I would try to say cheerfully as I ran back for the umteenth time to try to please a customer. The fact that they couldn’t remember the magical color of their color coded cigarettes baffles me to this day. In addition to being “ciggy boy” (a name affectionately given to me by management), I was also “change-getter boy”, “clean up boy”, “haul that to the car boy”, and, when the cart pushers called in for work, “buggy boy”. My bosses were crude, cursing, cantankerous people who made me wince at the very thought of work, and the cashiers I had been promoted over were all middle-aged union gals who liked to give Ciggy Boy a hard time. I hated my job, and the environment soon began to wear on my soul. My one bit of solace was the 30 minute break I would take mid-shift every day. It was my opportunity to recluse to the breakroom of the store, a dimly lit closet that smelled like an ashtray and made truckstop urinals look immaculately clean, and there I would unwind just enough to get wound back up for the remainder of my shift. Going into work each day made me feel miserable in ways I had never before imagined.

One day I had finally had enough. Having been yelled at by the store manager, two cranky cashiers, and a customer who was upset we no longer carried her desired brand of cat food, I clocked out for break and decided to literally make a break for it. I grabbed my jacket and ran to my car. It was winter and raining and as soon as I slammed the door shut and put my keys in the ignition I felt like I was on the verge of freedom. I turned the ignition and my heart raced. As the heater forced out frigid air and I applied the break to shift the car into reverse I looked in the rearview mirror, and there I saw it: A blue missionary edition of The Book of Mormon.

And my thoughts of escape faded instantly from my mind.

I knew I had to stay. I knew I couldn’t quit the job. I knew that if I left midshift no one would think, “Oh, Stan quit.” Instead they would think, “That Mormon kid left us short handed.” My personal lackings and inability to cope with a crummy job would not reflect just me, they would reflect my membership in the Lord’s church. I put the car back into park, and with my heart still racing, I bowed my head to say a prayer for patience. When I was finished I looked back in the rearview mirror at the store looming in the background behind me, and again noticed The Book of Mormon sitting there. I reached across the backseat and grabbed it. And, not knowing beforehand what I was doing, ended up starting in Alma. For 30 minutes that day my life was perfect, and I was strengthened enough to go back to the job I hated to raise money for my mission.

That job ended up being a true introduction to the world for me, and the coping skills I learned there to be in the world but not of it have blessed me ever since.

This week I started a new job. Amid writing a book, discussing with publishers the possible publication of two manuscripts I have already finished, and a plethora of other huge things happening in my life, I started a new job. – Silly silly Stan. – I admit that the job is something that I am loving though. And, it was literally an answer to prayers in various ways. But it has altered my writing schedule drastically, and it is weird readjusting to the work force after my break since mid-March. Having been in a management capacity in one form or another since the age of 18, it is now nice to be in a job where the buck doesn’t stop with me. Despite the fact that everyone else says it is a high stress job, I am sitting fun and fancy free each day performing repetitive, menial, yet oh so fulfilling duties. After years of never even having the chance to breathe and go to the bathroom, I am now forced to take a one hour break for lunch. And, it is during that coveted lunch break that I have been reading The Book of Mormon each day.

Life feels magical and happy.

Today I finished Nephi’s amazing vision. Having stretched from chapter eleven to the end of fourteen today, it is perhaps one of my favorite sections in all of revealed scripture.

The columns, corners, and sides of my scriptures are filled with countless notes on these pages. “Columbus” is written near verse twelve in chapter thirteen. Then an eclectic cacophony of historically moving words follows. “Puritans”, “Smallpox”, “The American Revolution”, “The Bible”, and more are all written neatly and succinctly as if they were always meant to be in the margins. The Great and the Abominable Whore has numerous parallels equally expansive in being recorded in my own set of scriptures, and then we move into chapter fourteen where I hang on Nephi’s every word.

I was excited as I read verse one in chapter fourteen and Galatians 3:27-29 came to my mind. Then my own patriarchal blessings rushed into my memory, quickly pushed out as I was reminded by the Spirit of the blessings of the temple and blessings promised there.

As I reached verse seven the word “temporal” caught my attention and I thought of not just our current economic crisis in the United States, but of our incomprehensible national debt, and of the lack of anything holy in most of society. I read it over and over, and it seemed to make more and more sense as I realized just how far from God most people are.

Verses twelve and fourteen struck my heart, and though small in number, I could see in my mind’s eye the Saints throughout the world living lives of covenant and consecration.

As I finished reading during lunch today and pondered different passages from John’s Revelation while sitting in my car, I and felt the same warmth and peace that I felt nearly ten years ago on a cold winters day outside a grocery store.

The word today is a crazy place. Babylon and the Great Whore surround us, Ol’ Scratch is continually tempting us, and the whispers of wars and rumors of wars are becoming a deafening roar. But our Master calls calmly, “Peace, be still.”

Day five has rocked.

I am excited to see what happens tomorrow…

– Stan Way

If you’re just joining me on my journey in reading The Book of Mormon in 120 days please click here to see how this all began. To see the first few days of reading just go to the Home Page and you can read through the posts there.

If you’re not a Mormon and you’ve stumbled upon this blog post somehow, thank you for reading. Now go ahead and click here and take a few moments to learn more. I personally witness to you that The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches that He is our Savior, and shows how we can return to live with him some day. I know it is the Word of God to be used alongside with the Holy Bible. It is true scripture, and I invite you to find out for yourself whether or not it came from God. So go ahead and click on the link above. I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

O Divine Redeemer

Last night as I was falling asleep I was listening to the Mormon Channel app on my Kindle Fire when one of my favorite hymns came on: O Divine Redeemer.

The first time I remember hearing this hymn was on a P-Day in July of 2004 in the Seattle North Stake Center of the Church. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve had passed away, and it was the first time since I had been a member of the Church that one of the men whom we sustain as a Prophet, Seer, or Revelator, had left his mortal probation. A good brother from the ward in which I was serving at the time was kind enough to record the funeral proceedings for me, and there in the lobby of the stake center the following P-Day my good companion and I watched the funeral proceedings on a blurry VHS tape. The services were touching. President Hinckley’s words were heart-stirring, and as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rose to sing the closing hymn I was intrigued by the eerie sounds which the organ produced. And for the first in my life I fell in love with this great hymn.

Originally published to the world by Charles Gounod in 1893, the words still convey the yearnings of many Christian souls.

Ah! Turn me not away,
Receive me tho’ unworthy;
Hear Thou my cry,
Behold, Lord, my distress!
Answer me from thy throne
Haste Thee, Lord to mine aid,
Thy pity shew in my deep anguish!
Let not the sword of vengeance smite me,
Though righteous thine anger,
O Lord! Shield me in danger, O regard me!
On Thee, Lord, alone will I call.
O Divine Redeemer!
I pray Thee, grant me pardon,
and remember not, remember not my sins!
Forgive me, O Divine Redeemer!
Night gathers round my soul;
Fearful, I cry to Thee;
Come to mine aid, O Lord!
Haste Thee, Lord, haste to help me!
Hear my cry! Save me Lord in Thy mercy;
Come and save me O Lord
Save, in the day of retribution,
From Death shield Thou me, O my God!
O Divine Redeemer, have mercy!
Help me, my Saviour!

I am thankful to know of such a loving Lord who has truly pardoned my many transgressions and remembers the most scarlet of my sins no more.

I know that He lives.

120 Days Closer to Jesus Christ – Day Four

Study Assignment: 1 Nephi 11 — 12
Daily Scripture: “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good — yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which will fill your sould with joy. And then shall ye know, or by this shall ye know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.” – Doctrine and Covenants 11:12-14
Daily Thought:

“Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has past.”

– Hyrum W. Smith

Chapter eleven of 1 Nephi is pivotal, for it is upon this one chapter that the entirety of the rest of The Book of Mormon rests. It teaches of Christ, His birth, His ministry, His death, and resurrection. As it shifts seamlessly into the twelfth chapter we read what could be called a synopsis of the rest of the story of the book. There will be wars, a literally stellar appearance of the Lord, a season of true righteousness and consecration, and eventually more wars, pride, temptations of the devil, and an entire people left in unbelief.

When Mosiah, King Benjamin, Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, and Helaman teach of a Lord that will appear to their people, they know of this Lord because of what happens in 1 Nephi 11 & 12. And so these are not just any simple chapters in The Book of Mormon, they are The chapters in The Book of Mormon because of the way in which they direct us to our Savior.

I needed these chapters today. In fact, I first read them today on my smartphone earlier this afternoon. Then again earlier this evening. And then a final time as I sat down at my desk here in preparation to write this post.

Why did I need these chapters today?

Because, in truth, I needed to feel the love of my Savior. I needed to know He was there. And I needed to know that His promises are true…

This 120 Days Closer to Jesus Christ came at the perfect moment in my life. As odd as it might seem for someone who shares so much online via a blog, I am a deeply private person. I don’t share my personal matters with many people, nor do I participate in the daily dramas of life like much of society does. If I could add one bit of commentary on the verses from today’s reading, it would simply be to pay great attention to the meanings of the mists and of the building. Pride is a tricky little devil in and of itself, and for the past few days I’ve been dealing with it personally. God has said one thing to me, and I have countered His knowledge with some reasonings of my own. The dialogue has continued in this manner since Sunday. Then today He decided to stop speaking, and there has been a great void. My own pride, my own reasonings, and my own “vain imaginations” almost led me down a path which obviously wasn’t meant to be.

Thankfully for The Book of Mormon I was blessed with a tender mercy today and able to see that His ways truly are not my ways.

I hope that you’re following along and reading with me. I now know of three people online who are following along, and I am thankful for the international participation. It is that very participation and your expectations of these daily posts that is ensuring my obedience to this task. So I sincerely thank you.

From Hyrum W. Smith’s words in my little booklet of reading assignments, to the words of the Spirit to Nephi, today I have been blessed to hear God’s voice, and what a loving and awesome voice it is.

– Stan Way

If you’re just joining me on my journey in reading The Book of Mormon in 120 days please click here to see how this all began. To see the first few days of reading just go to the Home Page and you can read through the posts there.

If you’re not a Mormon and you’ve stumbled upon this blog post somehow, thank you for reading. Now go ahead and click here and take a few moments to learn more. I personally witness to you that The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches that He is our Savior, and shows how we can return to live with him some day. I know it is the Word of God to be used alongside with the Holy Bible. It is true scripture, and I invite you to find out for yourself whether or not it came from God. So go ahead and click on the link above. I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

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