Jesus Christ – The Prince of Peace

The other night I watched the 2013 Christmas Devotional and was inspired by this talk from Apostle Russell M. Nelson. I was especially inspired by his message that personal peace can be experienced by everyone, thanks to the grace, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ. He said the gift of real and personal peace can come to those:

  • whose lives have been ravaged by war
  • who are not feeling well
  • who suffer in sorrow
  • whose labors are heavy
  • who mourn
  • who earnestly seek the Prince of Peace
  • who choose to walk in the ways of the Master

This is wonderful time of year to celebrate and remember the birth and life of the Prince of Peace. If we are burdened or troubled, He can bring peace to our souls. Likewise, we should seek out opportunities to bring peace and good will to those around us.

Little Children Are Not Capable of Committing Sin

I’m a young father with two little kids. Parenting is tiring, especially when your one-year old has been teething for months – like mine has been – but parenting is also a lot of fun. I always enjoy hearing my 3-year old say something funny, such as when he prayed like this. Or when my wife told him last night that she was so impressed by how nice he was to his sister all day and he responded back, “I’m impressed too, Mom!” Or earlier yesterday when my wife was getting him more milk from the fridge and he yelled, “Hurry up, Mom! This is a thirsty boy!”

My short experience as a parent has taught me that little kids are, well, special. I guess I always knew there was something special about little kids – an innocence, sweetness, guilelessness – but I sure have a lot more time to observe them firsthand and reflect on their personalities and natures.

Yesterday afternoon, I was reading a few verses in the Book of Mormon and began looking up scriptures that describe little children. Here is a portion of what I found:

  • Infants who die in their infancy do not spiritually perish (Mosiah 3:18).
  • Little children have eternal life (Mosiah 15:25).
  • Jesus took the little children, “one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again; and he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: ‘Behold your little ones'” (3 Nephi 17:21-23).
  • little children are wholeLittle children are whole; they are not capable of committing sin; and the curse of Adam is taken from them in Christ (Moroni 8:8).
  • Repentance and baptism are for those who are accountable and capable of committing sin (Moroni 8:10). Thus, it is solemn mockery before God to baptize little children; they need no repentance, neither baptism (Moroni 8:9,11).
  • It is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto little children, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy (Moroni 8:19).

Elsewhere, prophets and even Christ himself taught that we must become like little children: submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love and so forth. These qualities seem to be embodied by little children while other, perhaps less-desirable traits seem to be acquired over time as we get older.

Several years ago, after speaking with a man who was quite cynical about life, I had the realization that cynicism is not something we’re born with – it’s something we learn as we grow into adulthood (or learn to overcome). On the other hand, children are accepting, believing, and optimistic. Perhaps that’s just one reason Jesus taught that we need to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of God.

What is faith? Profound Truth from a 16-Year-Old

On Sundays, I have the great honor of co-teaching a group of teenagers, guys and girls, in a little place we like to call Sunday School. Each week I get to experience profound truth coming from the mouths of these ordinary teenagers. Here’s just one example of this type of profound truth, which explains why this Sunday School class is, well, awesome.

The lesson was, “How did the Savior compare gospel truths to familiar objects and experiences?” So we talked about the parables of Jesus and then I divided the class into two and had one group read Luke 15 and the other Matthew 20 – both of which contain pretty familiar parables. Then, after a brief discussion, I had the kids come up with parables of their own. Each group needed to come up with a familiar object or experience to complete the phrases:

A. “The scriptures are like __________.”

B. “Faith is like __________”

For A, the kids came up with: a Map, a Torch in a Dark Cave, and Batteries. All with great, simple explanations why.

For B, the kids came up with: an App. “How is faith like an App?” I asked. And here was the profound truth spoken by a 16-year-old girl from Northeast Minneapolis:

Because you use it and it helps you accomplish stuff, and because it needs to be updated regularly.

There you have it, the profound truth. Faith is like an App.

And here was the spontaneous takeaway from our lesson. All of us need a little update to our faith every once and awhile. So if you haven’t updated yours lately, give it a go. Taking some personal time to consult a good Map usually does the trick.

Oh, that tears would wash it out!

One of the less pleasant experiences in life is to realize you’ve been unkind, cruel, or harsh toward another person. Mistakes are, after all, so much easier to identify in others rather than in ourselves. Sometimes, we’re too quick to point out those mistakes either to the person directly, or to our friends, allies, and family behind the person’s back.

In more honest moments with ourselves, I think we’d find our own performance falling short of the high standard we often set for others. That is why I find this poem, starting with the second verse, so powerful:

2. Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

3. Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

4. If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

5. Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.¹

This poem was put to music written by Charles Tillman and is found in the current version of the LDS Hymnbook as #273 Truth Reflects Upon our Senses (some may recognize the tune, as it’s shared with the more familiar Life’s Railway to Heaven, popularized at different times by Johnny Cash and Brad Paisley). I have yet to find a great recording of the hymn itself – so my apologies if you decide to click on this link, which will take you to a very dry, unfeeling version of the song, but at least you get to hear the tune and chord structure written by Tillman, which I think is memorable in its own right.

It may not be a great congregational hymn (it’s certainly not a popular one, at least in the wards I’ve attended), but it contains the striving and yearning of the soul I think all of us have felt as we learn to temper our tongues and our feelings, and learn to fill our hearts with love. For me, this hymn is a great reminder of the second great commandment, which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

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¹Written by Eliza R. Snow. The poem is based on the familiar teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 7:1-5. For the lyrics to Life’s Railway to Heaven, supposedly written by Snow as well, visit here.

The Second Great Commandment

I’ve mentioned our lay clergy before, but this article over at Patheos by George Handley does as good a job as any at describing the need for all within a congregation to support, love, and help one another, especially those whose weaknesses might be most visible to us. Here are two brief excerpts:

Religion is shallow if it only fosters love of strangers, of mythic heroes, or of extraordinary people. The great test of gospel living is to see and hear God in those we know best…

and

…God’s work only happens through commitment to consecrate our collective weaknesses and make them work to bless the human family.

And a related thought from Thomas Monson, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”

For me, these are great reminders of the preeminence the second great commandment should take in our lives. As Jesus taught: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:35-40).