Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Motivating Power of Hope

I recently quoted Elder Perry’s beautiful description of how the picture in a recipe book motivates us to cook, much like our hope of the celestial kingdom motivates us to move towards it. Ether’s statement on the topic is worth repeating.

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
Ether 12:6

The stronger your hope is, for whatever it is you want, the less it matters what you’re scared of. In the words of Bill Cosby,

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

This principle is most applicable when we are keeping one of God’s commandments or fulfilling our end of a covenant with him, because we are entitled to his help. The more faith and hope we have, the easier it is to get that help.

So, how do we develop such confidence in God’s promises? How can we get the surety that will let us call down the powers of heaven when we’re in God’s service, as Jacob describes?

Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. 
Jacob 4:6

I think Jacob gives us a pretty good description of how he became that kind of man. Ammon’s father was promised that Ammon would be safe while he taught among the Lamanites, and it was Ammon’s faith in that promise that led him to face down an entire band of robbers, single-handedly. His good friend Alma described him much the same way:

They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.

Alma 17:2-3

“Read the scriptures, fast, and pray? But Michael, those are just the Sunday School answers! I already do that!”

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about a quick prayer every morning and night. I’m not talking about perusing the scriptures for a few minutes before you start your day. Those are good habits, and they can help you stay close to God. But I’m talking about going to the temple and needing an answer so badly that you won’t leave until you get it. I’m talking about searching the scriptures to find out what you can count on God to do, once you have sufficient faith. I’m talking about expecting God to change your life, and being willing to sacrifice in order to develop that faith. In the words of King Lamoni’s father:

What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Alma 22:15

Whenever I have asked God anything, over and over, without giving up, I have gotten a clear answer. With some questions, it takes longer than others, and I get a little at a time, “line upon line, precept on precept.” Some of the quickest answers come when I ask about what I can sacrifice in order to develop my faith or be worthy of a blessing, because I’m trying to bring my will closer to God’s.

Monday, July 1, 2013

America: The First Benevolent World Empire

I learned in History class about all kinds of empires, and the motives that were said to drive them--British colonialism and trading, Chinese nationalism, the Spanish quest for gold. Some of these empires were more harsh, and some were kinder, but none were said to conquer other nations primarily for their own good. All were selfish.

America? We've done terrible things, too, as we've gone from isolationist Republic with a lot of farmland to worldwide empire with territory around the globe. We now have hundreds of overseas military bases, with a military presence of more than 1,000 soldiers in over a dozen countries, and we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined. Some say that blowback from our involvement in the Cold War has led to resentment in countries where our forceful anti-Communist policies made life worse for people--particularly in Afghanistan.

But the fact is, when our leaders sent soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan, our leaders spoke of liberating the people from oppressive leaders. They spoke of leaving voluntarily as soon as a legitimate authority could keep the peace, as soon as the country was no longer a threat to our security. And then they got criticized when they didn't leave fast enough.

Machiavelli is rolling in his grave. Doesn't America know that the proper thing is to conquer other countries permanently, to add them to the ever-growing power of the greatest country on earth? (I'm being sarcastic.) We're very different from the imperialism of earlier empires.

Of course, it'd be nice to go back to George Washington's advice to not get entangled in stupid wars at all. I'd like that. But I have to admit, America has been more respectful and less selfish than any other world power in history.

And that is something to be proud of.