Finding Answers Within The Doctrine and Covenants

Answers to prompts, quotes, ideas, and themes from reading The Doctrine and Covenants 105-138 for a religious Come Follow Me class.

Doctrine and Covenants 105

How do you feel that your life might change if you were to trust in the Lord just a little more than you do right now for your own situation?

I think I would stop worrying about the small things in life or about the world around me. The world around us is so chaotic that often I get caught up in it and descend into worrying and panicking. But, I must remember as this section said that God made this world and that everything upon it is His. I must remember His glorious power and that he is in control of all and will prevail in the end. All he asks is for me to stay faithful and focused on him, both for the creation of Zion and for my own peace of mind. The purpose of coming down to earth was to learn and grow to become more like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father- anything that gets in the way of that is a distraction. Yet, often I get distracted by the minutiae of life and my devotion to God through scripture reading, praying, and other such activities falls to the wayside. I need to spend more of my time focused on God rather than the world around me. Because it is when I do that that I feel the peace and grace that He gives and I will be guided to where I need to go and what I need to do.

I think so often in life things like education, careers, and families can seem almost impossible to juggle. But yet, when we rely on the Lord suddenly we find strength that we did not even know we contained. Yesterday, I read a quote from the Prophet Thomas S. Monson that said to “Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that the Lord will shape the back to bear the burden placed upon it.” This quote reminds me that while I may panic and worry about the various obstacles in my life, as long as I focus on the Lord and have faith in God, He will help me grow and change through His grace so that I can handle what I have been given. “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.”

Doctrine and Covenants 106-108

Why do you think it is so important that we seek to fully understand the priesthood of God on the earth today?

One of the classes I’m taking right now is on ‘Early Christianity and the Great Apostasy’. We’ve learned that a main reason that the church fell away was due to the fact that all the prophets and apostles had been killed within the first century AD and that their power of the priesthood was not passed on. The power of the priesthood is God’s power on earth to direct His children. It is the strength, power, and authority of His church on earth and without it, the church can easily be lost or go astray. It is the priesthood that allows us to perform the various functions, responsibilities, and ordinances of the church and to do so with the power of God at our fingertips. It is truly the power of the priesthood that gives us the authority that we have to act as God’s church.

But, if we do not seek to understand the priesthood or, even worse, we take it for granted, then we miss out on the many opportunities and blessings that Heavenly Father wishes to give us. Doctrine and Covenants 107:18 says that the “Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church”. This power allows God to directly bless and enlighten our lives. It also gives us the power of perspective in viewing what He wishes to be done on this earth and with his church. It is the basis of Heavenly Power and unifies us as a church. Without it, we would not be the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. And while that church continues with the power and authority of God, if we as members ignore or take for granted the priesthood, then we are at risk of distancing ourselves from God Himself; at risk of losing sight of what it is that He wishes for us to do and accomplish. As Doctrine and Covenants 107: 18 says, the priesthood allows us “to enjoy the communion and presence of the Father” and have Christ as “the mediator of the new covenant”. Without the priesthood, our temples would not truly be the House of the Lord, we would lose that vital connection to God and Christ and no doubt many and maybe even all of the church would go astray as it did in the First Century AD.

Those Early Christians tried their best to hold true to what Christ taught them, but without the power and authority of God through the priesthood that was held by the prophet and apostles, they lost the true guidance of God on what to do and believe. Without that unifying voice, they fell into factions, each with their own idea of what the gospel was meant to be and bit by bit the Church that Christ established on earth fell apart. If we do not seek to better understand and use the priesthood, then we too can fall into our own spiritual apostasy- our own rebellion as we use our own understanding and beliefs to continue in the gospel, but in the end losing that vital connection to God’s voice.

Doctrine and Covenants 109-110

How does temple work prepare people and the world for the Lord’s Second Coming?

The Temple is the House of the Lord; it is the one place on earth that we can truly stand and fully dwell within His presence away from the rest of the world’s clamor. In the Temple, it is through that presence that we can begin to better recognize and know the Father and Son and can even carry it with us after we leave. We can feel of His power and be strengthened by it, able to more fully accomplish the work that we are given in this life. The Temple at its core is a home- a home for God and His children and it is where the family is being actively gathered and connected countless times every day due to the ordinances that take place there. It is where God’s blessings and power flow unto His children. The family is at the core of the gospel and the plan of salvation and it is at the temple that the plan of salvation and the gathering of His children are realized. As we make covenants and perform ordinances in the Temple, we are better connected to God and Christ.

We are filled with His power and stand as witnesses with His name engraven upon us. The temple unifies all of us so that, when the Second Coming occurs, we will be together and ready to follow after Christ as the wicked around us are judged and perish. The temple saves our souls eternally so that, even if we die between now and maybe even during the Second Coming, we can rise again with Christ on that chosen day as the world is made anew. The covenants we make at the temple and the bonds we create will be eternal and will bring us closer to Him and His mission, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It is the Temple that truly brings about eternal life for all who seek to enter it and it is the Temple that will always be a beacon of hope and safety when the world goes awry.

Doctrine and Covenants 111-114

Why is “cleansing your heart” at the very center of having real humility?

While studying these chapters, one scripture kept coming to mind. Mosiah 3:19 says “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” That is truly at the crux of this situation: pride is a thing of the natural man and is the opposite of humility. So is anger and misery and it is because we are in a fallen state that it is so simple and easy to be caught up in such emotions until we have no more room in our heart for love and humility.

We spend our days constantly in our own thoughts and minds, able to spiral into complex and selfish dialogues within only a few minutes. These thoughts and emotions can easily lead us like lambs to the slaughter because they live within us and can work their influence on us day in and day out. And if we put stock into these thoughts and emotions and give credence to them, we hand ourselves over to them and truly lose control as if we give them an inch, they will take a mile. One quote I heard recently is that “Weakness is the first to sink its claws into the person who has given it life” and that such thoughts are “Persistent as insects- quick to escape and difficult to eradicate.” It can get tiring constantly killing and destroying those stray thoughts and emotions day in and day out that, one day, we choose to just give up and learn to live with the pests that are there until they consume us.

A song I heard a while back is called ‘Blessings’ by Laura Story- the entire song truly fits with the idea of finding God amongst our suffering and relying on Him. But one part in particular says that “We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near. We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love. As if every promise from Your Word is not enough. All the while, You hear each desperate plea and long we’d have faith to believe.” And that is at the center of such folly; we begin to doubt and begin to focus on that which is not clean and pure, we allow such thoughts to take over our mind and the emotions that come with them to take over our hearts. We get drawn into the world around us and our hearts are now an offering to that fallen world and not to God and so in the process we lose it and ourselves. And in the end we will be like Lyman Johnson; longing for the time when our hearts were filled with love and humility and every day was a joy, but now so weighed down by doubts and negative emotions that we are almost stuck in a dark hole, not knowing how we can climb out or even have the motivation or hope to look for such a way. But we must focus on Christ so that, as Laura Story says, “What if my greatest disappointments Or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.” (Links to an external site.)

It’s the idea that living the gospel and following the Lord brings us to a higher level of existence that the worldly existence can never compare or compete with. As was said in Conference this weekend by Brother Wilcox “God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us this way.” And so if we choose to follow Him and His Words, we will become more than we ever thought we could be.

General Conference October 2021 Favorite Ideas/Quotes

One theme that I saw throughout General Conference this weekend was the idea that God loves us- specifically the quote that “The first great commandment of the gospel is to love God. The first great truth of the gospel is that god loves us with all his heart, might, mind, and strength” or something of that nature. So many speakers referenced this quote or idea and it filled me with such peace and warmth and has every time I have ever heard that quote. It is His love that can push us on and it is the reason for everything. As Brother Wilcox said, “God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us this way.” And that is what the gospel is for, what the atonement is for; so we can grow and change to become more like God and Jesus Christ.

Another quote that was often used was that “The joy we feel has less to do with the circumstances of our lives and more to do with the focus of our lives.” The more we focus on something whether that be good or bad, the more we will take notice of that thing. So if all we are doing is focusing on the negative circumstances of our lives, then that is all we will ever see. We must make the gospel- and specifically Jesus Christ -the center of our focus so that we can feel true joy and peace even while in the midst of terrible circumstances. In connection to this idea, the story of the stormy sea with the apostles in a ship while the savior is sleeping was often mentioned and it always reminds me of the hymn ‘Master, the Tempest is Raging’. So often we are caught in the storms of the world and fear we are all alone and will drown. Yet, if we call on and rely on the master, “Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea. Or demons or men or whatever it be, no waters can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey thy will; peace, be still.” Like President Nelson said, we must make our foundations strong and sure on Christ like a temple so that when spiritual earthquakes(or hurricanes as an earlier speaker said) come, we will be safe, protected, and strong in the face of them.

Another quote that was often mentioned was that Repentance/Restoration/Redemption is a process, not just an event. It is a lifelong pursuit and not something that is expected to happen right away. As Brother Wilcox said, “Worthiness is not flawlessness…never give up just because we slip up…Patience and perseverance is required more than perfection…The gospel is not All or Nothing.” I was super excited to hear Brother Wilcox speak in Conference because a few months ago I heard his BYU Devotional ‘His Grace is Sufficient’ and it completely changed my perspective on the gospel. Both have the same kind of message- that Christ and God are there for us and wish to help us. That this life is really for practice, not for perfection. That we cannot quit just because we keep messing up and feel like we are not worthy of the gospel anymore. That God and Christ are with us through it all, not waiting at the end of our repentance or effort. That His power and grace is there for us anytime we need it, no matter what as long as we look to Him and ask.

As for the hymns, I loved how so many of them focused on Christ, but one in particular stood out to me. ‘This is the Christ’ that was sung at the end of the Saturday Afternoon Session. Specifically the line “I feel His love, the price He paid. How many drops of blood were spilled for me?” When I heard that line, I felt the power of its meaning so strongly. I had never viewed the suffering in Gethsemane so personally, to ask which drops of blood came from my life. (Links to an external site.)

Doctrine and Covenants 115-120

Section 115:5-6 state that the gathering will be a refuge and defense from the storm. How do you think gathering with the Saints will keep you safe as the storm worsens over the next few years? Have you had any personal experiences of safety?

The first thing that comes to mind at this question is the picture from D&C 29 of the Savior as a hen who protects her children by gathering them under her outstretched wings when she senses danger. I think that is an important point- we as members are like little chicks, newly born and created, growing rapidly, but often ignorant or unaware of the things of the world. What will we be as chicks? Will we be the chicks that stand close to our ‘mother’ so that, when she sounds the alarm, we can quickly race to her side? Or will we be the too curious and reckless chicks who wanders frequently and who, when mother sounds the alarm, ignores it and races out further away because we do not see the danger that is coming? The church has Christ at its helm and is its wings that he controls and spreads all around the earth to protect his chicks, if only they would listen and heed its calls.

This also reminds me of the talk we had from General Conference, Elder Douglas’ ‘Facing Our Spiritual Hurricanes by Believing in Christ’ and the idea he mentioned of how Hurricanes are formed from warm ocean water that appear peaceful and inviting. How we may be tempted to go and swim in or be near such waters, but how it is the breeding ground for ‘spiritual hurricanes’ and inattention can put us in danger of things we cannot see coming. The Church is like the land beneath our feet and when a Hurricane moves upon it, it loses power and fades away because it does not find the fuel of warm waters of doubt there. This also connects well with President Nelson’s talk this Conference ‘The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation’ of how spiritual earthquakes will come, but if we build our foundation on Christ like the Temple does, we will be able to withstand such disasters and in the end will still stand strong.

The church leaders and officials are the watchmen on the tower, seeing what is coming before those below can see. They are God’s servants on this Earth and He speaks to them often. They are in essence the hen and the land, sensing danger coming and seeking to protect their children and charges. And it is us as ‘chicks’ and people who need to stand close to the church so that when the call of alarm does come, it will be easy to heed the directions given. But if we relax and let go, if we chose to leave the land and step into the warm and inviting waters of the natural world or of doubt, then we can be swept up in the danger before we ever knew it was even coming, the voice of the Church ignored or even drowned out in the cacophony of the world and waters around us. As Elder Henry B. Eyring said this General Conference, “Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.”

It is so easy to doubt, to be swept up in anger and frustration. So many look to the gospel and think that they must follow everything, that this gospel is ‘all or nothing’. And it is often that view of chasing after perfection that leads many to grow jaded and bitter towards the church. So many leave and go to the world where they do not feel as pressured to be better or do better. They think that in the world they have more freedom of choice and more power over themselves to choose their own lives according to their own wishes and desires. But like Elder Wilcox said in his BYU Devotional ‘His Grace is Sufficient’ “We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Heavenly Father and His Son did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming a part of us-part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become Saints.”

Doctrine and Covenants 121-123

How can knowing that the Savior descended below all things (D&C 122:8) help us when we experience adversity and affliction?

I think such knowledge helps us realize that we are not alone; that the Savior will always be with us and will understand the sufferings we are going through. Also, so often in religion people see suffering and trials as a manifestation of our sins- that if we are suffering that it’s because we made a mistake somewhere or sinned or were unworthy. But the Savior was perfect and never sinned, yet he suffered more than anyone else ever had or ever will. But from his suffering, he was redeemed and saved all of us. And though I’m sure moments like the Garden of Gethsemane and his final moments on the Cross must have been truly agonizing and unbearable, He has reigned in Majesty since then and those moments of suffering are nothing compared to the glory He holds now and the blessings that those moments brought. It will be the same for us that choose to mold our lives after Christ’s. We will have our own Garden’s of Gethsemane and moments on the Cross where we will feel condemned and worthless, but if we hold on to the Iron Rod and “endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” As in verse 44, “Thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”

Last week in my Saints Volume 1 institute class, we read the events where Missourians came into Zion and torn down the printing press and destroyed the town and then tarred and feathered Bishop Partridge and Brother Allen in the public square. And in one moment, Sister Vienna Jaques was collecting the scattered pages of the Book of Commandments made of the revelations given by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the other brethren and a man came up to her and ridiculed and taunted her. And when he pointed to Brother Partridge stumbling down the street, instead of shrinking away or not responding, she said, “Glory to God! He will receive a crown of glory for tar and feathers.” I was struck by her ferocity of spirit and testimony, to stand up for the church and praise the man that another was trying to tear down. A little before this, when threatened to be tarred and feathered if he did not leave, Bishop Partridge said, “If I must suffer for my religion, it is no more than others have done before me.” Truly, if we suffer for our religion, then we are in good company. The man who taunted Sister Jaques said that “this is only a prelude to what you have to suffer” and indeed it was; this was the first true physical attack on the church(aside from the Prophet and Brethren) and was just the first of many such and even worse incidents. Yet I found it interesting how, in these moments of suffering, we saw the true testimonies and natures of these early saints, willing to risk life and limb to protect the Book of Commandments and to follow the words of the prophet in establishing Zion. It is the same in the Doctrine and Covenants chapter readings for today; So many of the church suffered and even died from the actions of others against them and even the Prophet and others were imprisoned in Liberty Jail, in such miserable conditions. But as God said in chapter 121, “they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun.”

This reminds me of something Brother Wilcox said in his BYU Devotional ‘His Grace in Sufficient'(I keep referring to this talk, but it has SO MANY APPLICATIONS) where he quotes the song ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints’ which says ‘Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day’. To this he says, “What an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them.” And that is the truth of the message from today’s reading; that though we may have nights of true darkness that seem to never end, the Savior will soon come and with His love and grace will lift us from our suffering just as the Sun shuns away the dark of the night. For the darkness is nothing compared to the power of the Sun. As it says in D&C 122:9, “Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

What is one teaching that has been restored that has blessed your life richly.

One teaching that has affected me the most is the true nature of the godhead that the Prophet Joseph Smith restored. For so many centuries, humanity looked at God and Christ and saw powerful and mighty beings that were distant and different from us; they saw them as beings that looked down on us and judged whether we were saved or damned, ones that were almost unfeeling and inhuman. But when the First Vision happened and every subsequent event afterwards in this church, Joseph Smith proved that God and Christ were loving and merciful. That They did not forsake this world, but were still here to teach and to guide us. That they were willing to impart Their wisdom and blessings to mankind. Most of all, that They loved each and every one of us dearly and wished to save us all so that we could be with Them when we died. This message and teaching, this revelation brings hope and happiness into my life and leads me to try even harder to become like Christ(also helping me understand more of just who Christ is and what attributes he has) so that I can be with Them because with the knowledge of Their true natures, I WANT to be with them in the end more than anything and I know that is what They want as well.

Right now I am taking the Saints Volume 1 and through the past few weeks I have gained so much love and respect for the Prophet Joseph Smith, connecting with him in ways I never have before. And this knowledge of the Godhead is something that I have seen him constantly show and speak of as the church began and grew. He brought such a message of hope and love, of a Heavenly Father and Beloved Brother, in at a time when God seemed like a vengeful and Calvinistic God whose judgement was based on predestination and people were either elite or damned with no true way to change that or know for sure which side they were on. And though this knowledge and even the revelation of the Plan of Salvation(where people literally left the church because they thought it saved too many people) led to many condemning, ridiculing, or leaving the church, the Prophet Joseph Smith held firm to the truths that he had gained and could not deny it, but instead testified of it all constantly and didn’t let anyone pull him away from preaching Christ’s true doctrine and church on this earth.

Doctrine and Covenants 124

How can we stop the immediate consequences from being the focus of our actions? What then should be the focus as we choose to act in this mortal world?

I think that often times we worry and panic about the things that are right in front of us. For me, I’m an introvert who absolutely hates confrontation. I would rather run and hide away then face problems around me involving others. My siblings are the exact opposite- if something is happening that they don’t like, they immediately face it with their perspectives. Me- I’m always worried about the consequences of such instances. Yes, I can say that something angers me or upsets me, but what would be the point? Is the speaking up worth the consequences that will come? Oftentimes I decide that it is not worth it- that me speaking up will not solve anything, but will only create more anger and contention. There can’t be too much or too little of anything, though- it is best to seek the middle ground.

I think it is this middle ground that we should focus on so that we do not fall into extremes and lose sight of the true path. It is so easy to carry ourselves off when we step into an extreme that we all become divisive. But oftentimes such paths can bring the consequences of no reconciliation in the future. I think it’s that consequence that worries me the most- that such extremes will permanently tear apart the bonds and relationships we have with others. And so if anything has even the slight chance of going this way, I turn and hide and let others duke it out around me. I just can’t stand confrontations with such consequences. And that is ok- especially if the situation is over inconsequential and insignificant things.

But we must speak up regardless of what the consequences are when the situation is important enough to call for it. That is something I need to work on myself as I tend to stay too quiet. We need to focus on what the risk will be if we lose the argument- is it just a loss of pride if we do or do not speak up or is it a loss of soul if we do or do not? That is what we must study- the degree of importance of the topic or situation we are facing. I may not be making sense right now, I don’t know, but that is just where my mind is going right now with this question.

Doctrine and Covenants 125-128

How might looking at our life, from an eternal perspective, change the way we look at our role in redeeming the dead and the living?

Our lives on this earth are short compared to the eternity we face in Heaven. Before this life, we lived in Heaven with God. We watched as Lucifer fell and watched as others around us began their own lives on earth, learning and growing through the decades. Then, they passed away and their spirits returned to the heavenly plain. Yet, many were born and lived through a time where the authority of God was not on this earth and so, right when they reached the end of their trial, they were not able to complete it and so now stand in the Spirit World waiting and waiting for someone to find their name and be baptized on their behalf so that they can enter God’s presence.

How would we feel if we were in their place- being so close to God, yet not truly standing at his side? Learning and learning more about the gospel, yet not able to complete their eternal goal? I think I would feel sad and be filled with a deep yearning. Yet, we that are on this earth and have the authority of God can be baptized on their behalf so that they can enter the Kingdom of God. It is our solemn responsibility to find their names and fulfill the ordinances they need. We are blessed to be born in a time where the authority of God is here on earth and so we must not take that for granted- we must remember those who did not have that opportunity and seek to help them attain that glory and make all of their struggling and growth be finally realized.

Doctrine and Covenants 129-132

How might an understanding of the blessings of eternal marriage affect the way a person thinks about and prepares for marriage? How does it affect the way they should treat their spouse and children in that marriage?

I think they then start to treat the institution of marriage with the gravity it deserves- you are not just residing with someone else for a short time(mortal life), but are joining your life with theirs for time and all eternity. That this person is your eternal companion and partner, not just someone you have to coexist and get along with to get through mortal problems and situations. It also gives your marriage a spiritual and sacred air- that God himself is a witness to your marriage and that you are to act in His name. It brings with it the idea that the celestially married couple will support and grow with one another, that they live for each other’s benefit. It’s a sad thing how many marriages are out there where couples simply tolerate one another or are very self-focused because it stunts their own growth and power or they were rushed into and now peter out as the pairing realizes they do not mesh with or match with this person at all or were not ready for the covenants they made(which I unfortunately saw a lot of at University).

For me, reading these blessings and situations tells me that I need to walk forward steadily with God in looking for my own eternal companion; that I should not get caught up in the excitement of new love and the present emotions, but should always keep an eternal perspective. This person will not be just my earthly husband, but will be my eternal companion. That while it may indeed take me longer than many my age to get married and have children, in the grand scheme of things those few single mortal years or decades even will be nothing compared to the eternity I will have with them and to the knowledge that I did not rush into marriage due to pressure or excitement(which there, often unintentionally, was a lot of at University). I wish to have these blessings in the greatest degree I can and hope for a heavenly marriage that I can add to and increase as the years go on side by side with my husband who is someone who has the same heavenly goals as I do.

Marriage truly is a great priority of life that should be treated with respect and gravity. It leads us to focus more on the relationships we have with our spouse and children, to wish to grow with them in ways that matter rather than simply coexisting with them. Anger is so easy to feel and get caught up in, especially when we are children and teenagers. How we treat each other truly does matter- we should endeavor to grow with one another as God’s children and realize that simple emotions and problems occurring now should not interfere or tear apart or obscure eternally important things.

Doctrine and Covenants 133-134

As you have studied, what stands out to you about Jesus Christ that gives you hope even as the world seems to be in commotion?

I think it is verses 52 and 53 that really show the hope of Christ- that the redeemed of Christ will testify of His “loving kindness” and all that He has given them out of the goodness of His heart. That He was there with them with every one of their afflictions and saved them with His angels. That He loves and pities us, carries us, and calls us His own. That the children of Judah and Ephraim and Zion will be singing “songs of everlasting joy”. That even in the chaos of the world at this time and though mortal things will be destroyed and made nothing, the things of the spirit will be once again lifted up in glory above all that once was placed before it(as Elder Oaks said) and will take their rightful place and priority alongside Christ.

In verse 7 the Lord says, “go ye out of Babylon”. How is it possible to live surrounded by hard things while still keeping your own standards high?

I think we must be like Daniel. In a metaphorical way, like him we are captives, slaves, and prisoners to Babylon- to the mortal world and atmosphere. We are constantly surrounded by things that mock and look down on the things of the gospel and our choices to follow them. We are seen as nothing compared to the ‘great kings of Babylon and their followers’. Yet he was not truly defeated by them, no matter how much they tried, and in the end he had more power then they ever had. After looking at the Bible Dictionary under ‘Babylon or Babel’, one thing that’s interesting here is that Babylon is the capital city of Babylonia and so, in a way, we are all right in the very center and powerseat of the mortal nation.

The history of this city is ancient and well known- it’s where the Tower of Babel was built, was where Nebuchadnezzar ruled, where the Jews were taken captive after their homes and temple were destroyed. That it was a fortress of power really. And yet, as the Bible Dictionary says, the greatest building within the city was the Temple of Bel which shows inscriptions matching the book of Genesis and Bible stories of Israel and Judea. How incredible is it that, even in the city of the world, the Temple of God still stands tall and above all? We all must be like this Temple, testifying of the things of the gospel time and time again despite what is going on around us. That even with the chaos of the world around us and the various mortal events and situations, we must cling to the spiritual world and set that above the world around us constantly and consistently, as it will be in the Lord’s Second Coming. That is how we can live among the chaos, yet still keep our standards. We need to focus on our spiritual beauty which is a sharp contrast from the world around us. Like the ten virgins from the Bible, we must prepare ourselves and fill out lamps(our souls) with oil so that when He comes, we can follow Him with our own lights shining and not be lost in the darkness.

Doctrine and Covenants 135-136

As you have studied about Joseph Smith, how have you seen your testimony of his life as the Lord’s restoration prophet grow? 

This fall, I have been taking the class ‘Saints Volume 1’ and in it my testimony and understanding of Joseph Smith has completely changed. Growing up and hearing his story, I have always respected and honored him, but I never truly felt connected to him or like he was fully real to me, more like he was a figure on a pedestal in my mind. But, reading this simply worded book of Saints and taking this class at the same time, I have begun to really see Joseph Smith as a person just like me. I have always been grateful of all that he did in creating the church and giving his life for it, but in studying the various events and situations- the timeline -of his life, my heart and soul have been opened. I have grown to love him dearly and learned so much about him. His life truly is a mirror to Christ’s.

Both were born in humble circumstances, their lives having been prophesied of; both were given a mission at a young age, and both honored God in their actions. They both faced the rejection and and mocking words of others. They were both deeply hated and, unfortunately, betrayed by those close to them. They taught love and peace and acceptance and both gave their life and will over to God constantly and consistently. They both suffered afflictions and responsibilities that we cannot understand or grasp, bringing into creation a church that would bring God’s full power to the Earth once again, but also would lead to Satan reacting powerfully as well.

In the end, they were both unrighteously condemned by the law, with political leaders being ignorant and ‘washing their hands’ of the situation, and both faced the scorn of others and were brutally killed by those that did not realize the crime they just committed in spilling innocent blood. Joseph Smith has completely changed the fate of mankind, just as Christ did, and though his mortal life was ended so brutally and cruelly, his immortal and eternal life has only grown and grown since then. Joseph Smith truly is a model after Christ himself and for all his afflictions and pains, is now crowned with glory in Heaven and will be remembered forever and ever. 

Doctrine and Covenants 137-138

How does the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world and the redemption of the dead illustrate Heavenly Father’s mercy and His love for His children?

It shows just how much he is willing to do in order to have all of his children together in Heaven with Him. There are so many people that have existed that were wonderful followers of Christ, yet the gospel authority was not fully on the earth. There are so many before Christ’s mortal ministry and after the death of Christ’s twelve apostles up until the restoration that had no ability to be baptized by the true authority of god and so have not been able to join God and Christ. There are many that were alive while the gospel was on the earth, but due to circumstances of their lives, have not been able to find the gospel.

I love that God does not judge us for the circumstances of our lives, especially the ones that we have no control over. That his focus is on us and our hearts- that our intent and desires are so important to him, even if they are not fully executed in practice or reality. Seeing that God and Christ look upon the heart and will give people the ability to be redeemed even in death if they ended their lives without the gospel, fills me with such happiness and joy. He truly loves every one of us and is doing all He can so that as many of us can live with Him as possible if our hearts are willing and we desire such a thing. It truly is a message of hope and love.

Articles of Faith and Official Declaration 1 and 2

Why is it important that we take time to really study and understand what we believe rather than taking the words of others as truth? How have you seen your testimony grow as you have studied and better understood gospel topics?

To God, our agency and ability to choose is something that should always be recognized and encouraged. Even in the simplest parts of the gospel, we should pray and ponder what they mean for us. Every one of us has different world views and beliefs and struggle with different doctrines of the gospel. What is easy for one person to accept as truth is not easy for someone else to. So, like Article of Faith #11 says, “we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may”. This Article of Faith is at the center of this idea; that we are all important in God’s eyes and that we should all learn for ourselves what matters most to us. The gospel is a living and breathing thing and is the very focus and is at the center of our eternal existence. It is through the gospel and following and understanding its principles that we will truly become just like God and Christ.

We must be active in our understanding and learning, but if we merely sit there and allow ourselves to be handed the gospel’s truths, then we are not truly taking the truths and allowing them to seep into us. It is in studying and understanding them that they begin to have a place within us and can even change our very being and soul; our very path in life back to God. The Truths are there to change and evolve us so that we can one day be with God and be able to become like Him and that only happens when we give the truths of the Gospel the proper focus and attention that each deserves. God believes in all of these things and accepts them as His reality and as essential parts of His mission and we should strive to be the same way as well, through this life and the next.

I have went through periods of understanding and growth in my life relative to the focus and importance I have placed on the gospel. In times where my focus is strong and where I am deeply active in working to understand the Gospel, I have felt my testimony grow by leaps and bounds. But in times where I have turned from the Gospel to focus on the things of the world, I have felt the change that that has brought as my testimony has been pushed to the side and even weakened depending on how long it has stayed in the shadows of my heart and being. To use an analogy, our testimonies are like flowers and our attention and focus is like the light of the sun. Our studying and understandings are like the water and nutrients that flowers need. If we are properly caring for and continuously working, this flower will grow and blossom under the light, warmth, and care it is receiving. But, if we hide it in the shadows, away from the focus of the sun and do not add water and nutrients to it, it will be stunted in its growth and may even begin to whither away. I have seen that in my own life as I have been a part of this Gospel and I try my best to keep that flower in the light, filling it with the nutrients it needs so that one day it will blossom beautifully and powerfully and I can be confident in living with Christ and God once again after this life and help in Their Mission as well.

I also love that God encourages us to make the Gospel individual and personal; that we must understanding it and view it based on our own perspective and conscience. That we all have agency and should use that as we seek to understand the Gospel. As we follow through in studying the Gospel for ourselves, we truly do learn of our own purpose, responsibilities, and duties in God’s Mission. The Gospel truly does bring peace into our lives and allows us to confidently face the world around us through the strength of our own testimonies.

Family: A Proclamation to the World

Although we often look at “the ideal” how can we as true disciples of Christ help others as they are struggling to understand their purpose and place in this world. What do you think is most important for someone to understand in order to keep fighting for what is right?

I think that that is the perfect word to describe this document: ‘the ideal’. Like Elder Ballard said, “the mission statement for mortality might be ‘to build an eternal family’.” But often times, we fall short of that ideal and, from that, question our own worth. Oftentimes, we can grow angry and feel that such ideas are unfair or are condemning us in some way or other. But this document is not there to be a battering ram against those that do not match the ideal it speaks of because, to be honest, we all fall short of this ideal in one way or the other. This is a document of hope and unity, not a deafening shout made to hurt people that do not fall in line with the ideal.

It is human nature to read into things and overanalyze- to make assumptions about something before one truly understands the topic itself. Not once in this document does it speak negatively of others or look down on people who are different(though it does testify against spousal abuse and speak of accountability in regards to parents who fail to fulfill their responsibilities). At its core, this documents focus in the family. The world is an individualized system, often inherently selfish and self-focused; the gospel is a family centered thing that seeks to unify and build together one another in Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Simply put, we cannot get through this life alone- we need each other.

Of course, many of us many feel that we are alone, having come from families of abuse or families that have been torn apart due to infidelity, betrayal, and worldly ideas. We may feel that we do not fit with this document and so feel worthless. But, as Elder Ballard says in his talk ‘What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest’, “Not everyone will find a companion and have a family in mortality, but everyone, regardless of individual circumstances, is a precious member of God’s family.” We are God’s beloved children and have parents in Him and our Heavenly Mother, a brother in Christ himself. Though we may feel alone due to our own circumstances, we always have them there to support us and lift us up.

If there are topics in this document that you struggle with, start small. So often, we see something that shakes our beliefs and hyperfocus on that and make that the definition of the document. But we must step back, make a list of the doctrines we see in the document, and then study each one. Learn to understand the collective ideas and messages- the context -before we focus on the hardsayings we find within. From my own study of this document, I see it as a document of hope, love, and understanding. Of clarification, not a condemnation. It is not a negative document, but is there to help us.

We must not live our lives judging the gospel based on the standards of the world, but instead judge the world by the standards of the gospel and the standard this document speaks of is of the family as a unified front- as one of love, respect, and happiness. One of growth and spirituality which we should all strive towards no matter our circumstances in life. That is the true message of this document.