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Moderation in all things is a moderation in commitment

Posted by Devin Miller on

Everytime someone talks about the word of wisdom, the phrase "moderation in all things" inevitably comes up. Ever looked for this phrase in the scriptures? You will not find this phrase anywhere in the scriptures. The phrase, “moderation in all things” usually means that we should not go too far or focus on something to an extreme. However, this phrase leaves lots of room for interpretation and individual opinion, as well as plenty of opportunities for members to judge one another uncharitably.

The phrase “Moderation in all things” is attributed to Terence, a Roman comic dramatist who lived from 185-159 B.C. (or alternately to Plautus, same profession, who lived from 250-184 B.C.).

To better understand this phrase, here are a few quotes from church leaders about this concept of “moderation in all things”:

Joseph F. Smith:  “The saints should not be unwise, but rather understand what the will of the Lord is, and practice moderation in all things.”

Ezra Taft Benson:  “A priesthood holder should actively seek for things that are virtuous and lovely and not that which is debasing or sordid.  He does things in moderation and is not given to overindulgence.”

James Faust: “Part of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom is moderation in all things, except those things specifically forbidden by the Lord.” 

Dallin Oaks:  “Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment.”

It would seem there are some differences of opinion about whether moderation is good or not.  This seems like a question of personal philosophy rather than a matter of doctrine. So, where do you fall on the path between abstinence and indulgence?  Do you believe that even the very appearance of evil can lead to a weak person’s downfall?  Is it situational?  Personal?

I tend to follow along the lines of Dallin Oaks where he provides the guidance that moderation in all things can lead to a moderation in commitment. We can tend to use this phrase as a justification for moderately following the gospel. Rather than making moderation the principle we should seek to make obedience the principle and in doing so we will have a firm commitment rather than a moderate commitment.

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A lack of wickedness is not righteousness

Posted by Devin Miller on

Many of us have seen the 3 monkeys that represent "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." The origins of these 3 monkeys comes from a 17th-century carving over a door of the famous shrine in Nikkō, Japan. The carvings at the shrine were carved by Hidari Jingoro and incorporated Confucius’s code of conduct. The 3 monkeys often represent the way we approach living the gospel. We are given many commandments in the gospel. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not swear. Do not look at pornography. Do not… Often we look at our ticket into heaven as simply having a lack of wickedness in our lives.

The souls of men and women lack spiritual nourishment in our time.
Jeffrey R. Holland - OCTOBER 1997 | “He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things”

This point was driven home to me as I was watching an edited movie on VidAngel. My wife and I have made a concerted effort to monitor what we let into our home. This includes social media, movies, TV shows, and other forms of media. As part of this effort, we love using VidAngel as it helps edit out content in movies and TV shows that we do not want in our home. VidAngel is a great way to remove wickedness in movies and TV shows. However, removing the wickedness in movies and TV shows does not fill the movies and TV shows with righteousness. The movies may still have adult or dark themes, may be scary, may include teachings contrary to our beliefs, and may still bring content into our house that we do not want.

In contrast to VidAngel, we also have a subscription to Pureflix, a streaming service that provides Christian based films. These films not only do not have content that we do not want in our house (such as sex, violence, or profanity) but also have positive messages that bring us closer to Christ.

Righteous goals

This article is not a promotion of VidAngel or Pureflix. Rather, it highlights the difference between a lack of wickedness in our lives and filling our lives with righteousness. D&C 88:67 teaches us that “Your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” It is not enough to simply remove the darkness in your life by no long drinking, swearing, gambling, or looking at pornography. You must also fill your life with light.

You fill your life with light as you pray and study the scriptures with real intent, seeking to know, understand, and follow the Lord… [a]ttending Church meetings and partaking of the sacrament, keeping the Sabbath day holy, fasting, and paying tithing will help you keep yourself free of the darkness of the world… [r]egular worship and service in the temple will also strengthen you.
"Filling Your Life with Light," Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, (2006)

A person that is trying to keep their body healthy and in shape does not simply avoid eating everything that is unhealthy in order to stay healthy and lose weight. Doing so would still result in them withering away as their body lacks food and nourishment. Equally as important as avoiding unhealthy and harmful foods is also taking into our bodies healthy and nourishing food. Similarly, with our spirit, we must not simply avoid wickedness, but must also take into our lives spiritually nourishing media and activities. As we do so, we will not only have a lack of wickedness in our lives but also fill our lives with righteousness.

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Do you have to be dressed up to give a Priesthood blessing?

Posted by Devin Miller on

You are lying in bed getting ready to go to sleep when your smartphone rings. It is the family you home teach and they are wondering if you would be able to come over to give a blessing to a sick family member. Of course, your answer is “yes, I would love to.” After you hang up, the first thought that runs through your mind is “I just got into bed, do I have to get dressed up in a shirt and tie?”

Wearing a shirt and tie for a priesthood blessing

Dressing in your “Sunday” best is a simple matter of respect. For example, in the church handbook instructs priesthood holder performing the sacrament ordinance (another priesthood ordinance) that “[t]ies and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance.” Wearing your Sunday best is a sign of respect and honor for the priesthood. Some who hold the priesthood may forget what a blessing it is to do so and fail to treat it with the respect it is due. However, we cannot assume every instance where someone does not put on a tie before giving a blessing to mean they lack respect for their priesthood. We all see respect differently and some priesthood holders may not see the putting on a shirt and tie as a prerequisite to respecting the priesthood.

Before you judge, remember, your Sunday best is not required to exercise the priesthood. You do not know who does and who does not have access or time to change prior to administering a blessing. For example, the priesthood holder may be called on at short notice and may not have the time to change his clothes. A soldier who administers a blessing on the battlefield will likely not be able to run back to base, change his clothing, and come back to administer a blessing to a fellow soldier. A priesthood holder may also feel that when giving a blessing in his own home, getting dressed in a shirt and tie is not necessary.

Getting dress up for a priesthood blessing

Whenever possible, put on a white shirt and a tie to give a priesthood blessing as a showing of a deep reverence for the priesthood. However, what is important is that when the blessing comes from a worthy man striving to be what Heavenly Father wants him to be, with the proper authority, the blessing is valid regardless of what the priesthood holder is wearing.

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FHE Lesson on Priesthood Blessings

Posted by Devin Miller on

Click here to download the FHE Lesson for Priesthood Blessings

Conference Talk: "Healing the Sick," by Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, May 2010, 47-50.

Thought: “In these times of worldwide turmoil, more and more persons of faith are turning to the Lord for blessings of comfort and healing. We have this priesthood power, and we should all be prepared to use it properly.” (Dallin H. Oaks, "Healing the Sick," Ensign, May 2010, 47-50.)

Song: Hymn #320 - "The Priesthood of Our Lord" Hymns.

Scripture: They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:18)

Object Lesson: 

  • Show your family a tool (such as a hammer or wrench).
  • Ask a family member what the tool is used for.
  • Explain that using the tool makes it much easier to drive a nail or tighten a nut.

Tell them that priesthood blessings are a tool for healing the sick. In combination with faith, the priesthood of God gives power to priesthood holders as they give blessings. The sick are healed, the lame walk, and evil spirits are cast out.

Story: 

Shortly after my call to the Council of the Twelve, one of my assignments was to direct missionary labors in the missions of the West Coast of North America.

I held a meeting one day in San Mateo, California, and as I listened to the testimonies of the missionaries, I noted that one elder had a terribly scarred face. The mission president, Howard Allen, advised me that Elder Nichols had been thrown through the windshield of his automobile in a terrible accident just a few months earlier. He then pointed out that Elder Nichols' parents were nonmembers and were threatening to sue the Church due to the injury. Doctors had despaired of the boy ever again regaining a pleasing appearance and felt that plastic surgery could do but little in his particular case.

I felt the strong impression to give to Elder Nichols a blessing. President Allen and I took him aside and gave him such a blessing. The spirit was surely present.

In the fall of 1969 my wife, Frances, and I were looking at carpeting in a store in Salt Lake City. The young man handling the carpet came forward and asked if I remembered him. I told him that he looked vaguely familiar, but that I couldn't quite place his name. He then stepped over and sat behind a lamp so that the light of the lamp cast its brilliance upon his face. He said, "Look closely at my face and then see if you can remember."

As I examined his face, I noted thin, scarcely discernible scars running across his nose, forehead, and cheeks. It was then that I realized this was Elder Nichols, the horribly scarred boy who had received a blessing in San Mateo while serving as a missionary in the Northern California Mission.

When I identified him, he smilingly said, "Brother Monson, even the plastic surgeons have called my case a miracle. I told them it was the intervention of Divine Providence through a priesthood blessing coupled with faith."

Elder Nichols was among the most handsome of young men.

(Thomas S. Monson, Inspiring Experiences That Build Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994], p. 126)

Activity: 

  • Give each person a paper and pencil.
  • Place a variety of household tools in a box.
  • Have one family member take one of the tools out of the box without the rest of the family seeing what the tool is.

Instruct the others that they should guess what the tool is. Each person may ask one question that can be answered "yes" or "no." They cannot ask directly if it is a certain tool. For example, they can't say, "Is it a hammer?"

After everyone has asked his question, have each write on his piece of paper what he thinks the tool is. When this has been done, have the person show the tool. Next have each person tell one thing the tool can be used for. Begin with the person who had the tool.

The next person takes a new tool out of the box. Be sure the other players don't see it and repeat the game. At the conclusion of the game, see who guessed the most tools correctly.

 Refreshment Layered Cookies

  • 1/4 pound butter or margarine
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Instructions:

  • Melt butter in 9x13-inch pan.
  • Sprinkle remaining ingredients over butter, in layers.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Immediately after removing from oven, cut cookies away from sides of pan.
  • Cut in squares while still warm.
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Don’t judge me because I have a question

Posted by Devin Miller on

It is my personality to question everything. I question authority. I question why things are the way they are. I question tradition. I also have lots of gospel questions. I have wondered since mothers play such an important role in our early lives, why we do not talk about our Heavenly Mother? Is there polygamy in heaven? Do we still have to work towards perfection in Heaven or do we become perfect at the resurrection? Who tempted Satan?

When we were first married, all of my questions about the gospel worried my wife. She worried that with all of my questions about the gospel, I would begin questioning my testimony and would fall away from the church. While I understand the concern, nothing could be farther from the truth.

I like how Albert Einstein explains it:

As we grow in our testimony and understanding of the gospel, the circumference (i.e. the amount) of questions we have also increase. Gospel questions are not a bad thing and can help us grow in our understanding. Just as Joseph Smith questioned the truth of other churches before getting an answer, we too can have gospel questions before getting an answer.

As we have questions about the gospel, it is important to understand the difference between questioning the gospel and having gospel questions.

Questioning the Gospel

Questioning the gospel refers to challenging, disputing, or picking something apart. When it comes to religion, the result of this approach is often not to find answers but rather to find fault and destroy confidence.

Having Gospel Questions

On the other hand, in religion, just as in science or anything else worth studying, it is absolutely essential to ask questions, even difficult ones. It’s the only way you’ll get answers. And answers mean greater knowledge and understanding—and in the case of religion, greater faith and spirituality.

Attitude

Your attitude and motive in asking a question can make all the difference in where it will eventually lead you. For instance, if you’re studying the scriptures and come across a passage that seems to contradict a Church teaching or a scientific or historical fact, there’s a big difference between asking “How could the scriptures possibly be true if … ?” and asking “What’s the full context of this passage and what does it mean in light of … ?” The first question may lead you to a hastily drawn conclusion based on skepticism and doubt rather than actual knowledge or logic, whereas the second is more likely to lead you to greater insight and faith.

The difference between questioning and asking questions has to do with how and why you’re asking the questions, what you hope to gain from them, and where they’ll eventually lead you.

doubt your doubts not your faith

Don’t Judge Others’ with Questions

I have always been a little worried when I raise a question in Sunday school or Elder’s Quorum that the Relief Society president and the Elder’s quorum president will come visit me after church to make sure my testimony is doing okay. This has yet to happen, thank goodness, but the worry is still there. Rather than making people with questions feel like they cannot ask them without others judging their testimony, I like Elder Uchtdorf’s advice:

Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.”

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.

Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.

As each of us have gospel questions, let us embrace each other’s questions and help each other grow in our understanding of the gospel.

 Love is the absence of judgment

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