Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Righteous Living

            The Prophet Joseph Smith was living in Kirtland, Ohio, on May 6, 1833, when he received a revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants 93. This revelation explains how to become righteous enough to be prepared to meet God. The first verse of this section states:

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.

            Section 93 covers numerous areas of righteous living. Some of the topics discussed in this section are: “John bore record that the Son of God went from grace to grace until he received a fulness of the glory of the Father” (verses 6-18), “Faithful men, going from grace to grace, shall also receive of his fulness” (verses 19-20), and “Christ received a fulness of all truth, and man by obedience may do likewise” (verses 29-32).

            I find it quite interesting that the revelation discusses the process of gaining righteousness and becoming worthy to see God face to face and then ends with a commandment to the leading brethren to set their house in order (verses 41-53). Verse 43 is as follows: "And now a commandment I give unto you – if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house."

            Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that this revelation “represents one of the many powerful validations of the integrity of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He did not delete from scripture words of stinging rebuke, even though some were directed to himself” (“Set in Order Thy House,” Ensign, November 2001). Elder Nelson then proceeds to explain how we set our houses in order.  

To set our house in an order pleasing to the Lord, we need to do it His way. We are to employ His attributes of “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, [and] meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11). Each father should remember that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41).

Parents are to be living examples of “kindness, and pure knowledge, which … greatly enlarge the soul” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:42). Each mother and father should lay aside selfish interests and avoid any thought of hypocrisy, physical force, or evil speaking. (See 1 Peter 2:1.) Parents soon learn that each child has an inborn yearning to be free. Each individual wants to make his or her own way. No one wants to be restrained, even by a well-intentioned parent. But all of us can cling to the Lord.

            The same day that I studied the talk by Elder Nelson, I read an article titled “Living Righteously in a Wicked World” by Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Seventy. He uses the life of Abraham as an example of how we can remain righteous even though we live in a wicked world. He discusses the following ways that Abraham remained righteous. 

Consistent Choices: Abraham consistently chose righteousness. He followed the Lord’s prompting to move to Canaan. He built altars, worshipped, and offered thanks on arrival. He went into the mountains to pray. He followed inspiration that saved his family. Faced with conflict, he sought resolution by suggesting that his family and Lot’s family physically distance themselves from each other.

Evaluating Opportunities: After surveying the land, Lot chose to live on the plains near the city of Sodom. The land, well-watered and beautiful, appealed to him…. Lot later moved into Sodom….

Lot’s experience reminds us of the need to periodically consider allegiances and priorities. Are our symbolic tents pitched toward the Lord’s house or toward the seemingly enticing pleasures of the world?

To the Rescue: When Abraham “heard that his [nephew] was taken captive, he armed his trained servants” and rushed to save him. “He brought back … Lot, and his goods, … and the people” (Genesis 14:14, 16).

After the rescue, Abraham met with the king of Sodom and later with Melchizedek, king of Salem….
… Melchizedek “brought forth bread and wine.” Abraham recognized him as “the priest of the most high God” and willingly “gave him tithes of all” (Genesis 14:18, 20).

Abraham demonstrated his love for the Lord and his brethren. On learning of Lot’s capture, Abraham did not say, “[He has] brought upon himself [these trials]” (Mosiah 4:17). Instead, he responded with love.

Despite Warnings: When the Lord told Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah “because their sin is very grievous,” Abraham asked if He would spare the city if 50 righteous souls could be found. Abraham continued asking – 45, 40, 30, 20 – finally asking if God would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous souls. We see the Lord’s love for individuals when He confirms that if 10 can be found, “I will not destroy it” (See Genesis 18:20-33)….

Lot had made his choice to live in Sodom, and the influence of the wicked city was taking its toll on his family. Despite repeated warning, Lot was slow to respond….
What a tragedy! Lot’s choices – to live near Sodom, pitch his tents toward Sodom, move into Sodom, and return to Sodom after being rescued by Abraham --- had taken their toll. Even after being warned by angels, Lot could not convince his sons-in-law and his daughters of the pending destruction. Lot’s wife seemed so connected with life in Sodom that she could not resist the temptation to look back.

Although the Lord and Abraham clearly wanted to help Lot and his family, Lot’s choices, made over a long period, left his family weakened and unable to respond.

            Elder Meurs shares how Abraham was consistent in making good choices and evaluating the opportunities that came to him. He discusses the love that Abraham had for Lot when he went to rescue him and his love for God when he paid tithes to Melchizedek. He then explains that we have the opportunity to choose how we will respond to the counsels and commandments of God. He tells us how we can apply Abraham’s example in our lives.

Like Abraham, we can choose to live righteously. The Lord has provided stakes of Zion as places of refuge for Saints to gather. He has provided ordinances and covenants that protect and strengthen us. He has blessed us with temples where we can draw closer to Him and perform sacred work in behalf of our ancestors.
All of us struggle to cope with negative influences of the world. From Abraham and Lot we can learn the power and protection of choosing to live righteously, of choosing to avoid places where we or our families may be subject to great wickedness or temptation, and of choosing to always keep our tents facing toward the temple.

            We can choose to follow the example of Abraham and live righteously. One of the ways that we can live righteously is by making and keeping sacred covenants and by marrying in the temple for time and all eternity. As we teach the gospel to our children and grandchildren and create a righteous family, we put our house in order. Like Abraham, it is a matter of making consistent choices, evaluating the opportunities that come, rescuing other people, and paying attention to any warnings from God and/or His servants.

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