Why Are “Envyings” Associated with “Strife?”

The word “envying” or “envyings” appears ten times in the Book of Mormon. Nine of those times, it is followed immediately by “strife” or “strifes.” These words are also closely associated in the New Testament.

To envy another person is to resent them because of the perception that they have something that you lack. A recognition of the other person’s superiority is the first step. But it does not become envy until it is coupled with a feeling of unfairness. When we believe that the other person doesn’t deserve their good fortune, or when we think we have been unjustly denied the same good fortune, we begin to feel animosity toward them. This animosity is envy, and it leads to contention or strife.

Ezra Taft Benson identified envy as a form of pride: “Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up” (“Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989).

No wonder the writers of the Book of Mormon associated envy with strife:

And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God (Alma 4:9).

Your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities (Helaman 13:22).

Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes (3 Nephi 30:2).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has pointed out that envy causes us unnecessary grief:

Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! (“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” General Conference, April 2012).

Today, I will celebrate others’ successes and not indulge in envy. I will believe that God loves all of His children, and that He will bless me as He has blessed other people. I will remember that envy leads to strife, and that I must avoid it if I want to maintain positive relationships with other people.

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What Does It Mean to Do Something with “Real Intent?”

After teaching us about the baptism of the Savior, Nephi pleads with us to “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent” (2 Nephi 31:13).

Moroni tells us that repentance leads to forgiveness when it is done “with real intent” (Moroni 6:8).

Mormon tells us that when we give a gift or say a prayer, we should do it “with real intent,” or else it doesn’t count. If you give a gift grudgingly, it’s the same as not giving the gift. If you pray “and not with real intent of heart,” your prayer is useless (Moroni 7:6-9).

In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni urges us to pray to know if the book is true. He promises us that God will answer our prayer if we “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4).

What does it mean to do something with real intent?

The word “intent” comes from the Latin word intentus, which means “stretching out” or “leaning toward” (“intent,” Online Etymology Dictionary). A person who has real intent is willing to exert themselves for the thing they seek. They aren’t half-hearted about it. They act “with full purpose of heart.” They are in the game. They have no ulterior motives. They are sincere.

Brother Randall L. Ridd taught that “real intent” also means being aware of your motives.  He said, “It is important, in today’s world, to be intentional about why you do what you do” (“Living with Purpose: The Importance of ‘Real Intent’,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, 11 January 2015).

Today, I will act with real intent. I’ll strive to be aware of my motives and align them with God’s will. I will engage fully in my activities, focusing my mind and my heart on the task at hand. I will be sincere and totally committed to doing my work well.

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What Guidance Does the Book of Mormon Provide About Recognizing the Holy Ghost?

Nephi promised that, if we will receive the Holy Ghost, “it will show unto [us] all things what [we] should do” (2 Nephi 32:5). The Lord told Joseph Smith that the Holy Ghost speaks to our mind and to our heart (D&C 8:2). But it can be hard to distinguish thoughts and feelings which come from the Spirit from our own thoughts and feelings. What does the Book of Mormon teach that can help us learn to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost?

  1. The Holy Ghost can calm negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or discouragement. Nephi said that the Lord softened his heart so that he did not rebel against his father’s words (1 Nephi 2:16). When Ammon and his brothers became depressed during their missionary service, the Lord comforted them (Alma 26:27). And Helaman wrote to Captain Moroni that, before a difficult battle, the Lord “did speak peace to [their] souls” (Alma 58:11).
  2. The voice of the Holy Ghost is quiet but piercing. When Nephi and Lehi were delivered from prison by the power of God, the people who saw the miracle heard a voice. “It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul” (Helaman 5:30). When a group of people were gathered at the temple in Bountiful following the Savior’s death, they also heard a voice. “It was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn” (3 Nephi 11:3).
  3. Sometimes we may recognize that God is speaking to us without understanding what He is saying. That group of people at the temple heard the voice three times. The first two times, “they understood not the voice which they heard.” But the third time, they did something different: “They did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard” (3 Nephi 11:5-6). Sometimes, we don’t understand because we aren’t listening intently enough.
  4. On some occasions, the Holy Ghost can fill us with overwhelming power. At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Lehi is “overcome with the Spirit” (1 Nephi 1:7-8). Nephi later tells his brothers, “I am full of the Spirit of God, insomuch that my frame has no strength” (1 Nephi 17:47). He later said that God had filled him with His love, “even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:21).

Today, I will strive to recognize the voice of the Holy Ghost. I will remember that the Spirit speaks peace to my soul, that His voice is soft but piercing, and that I must remove distractions and pay attention in order to understand the message. I will also remember and be grateful for the occasions when I have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost with overwhelming and undeniable power.

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How Does God Communicate with Us?

After writing two days ago about the importance of firsthand spiritual knowledge, and after writing yesterday about the role of prophets in helping us to grow closer to God, I was thinking today about the variety of ways that God sends us messages. Here are some examples:

  1. Dreams and visions — The Book of Mormon opens with a vision. In the city of Jerusalem, Lehi “saw and heard much” after offering a sincere prayer on behalf of his people (1 Nephi 1:5-14). Later, as the family traveled in the wilderness, Lehi described to his family a dream “or in other words” a vision which he had seen (1 Nephi 8). These were interactive learning experiences in which Lehi was a full participant, not like watching a movie on a screen. When Lehi’s son Nephi wanted to see the same things his father had seen, he experienced a different kind of vision in which an angel showed him multiple scenes and provided explanations of what Nephi was seeing (1 Nephi 11-14). Many years later, we read about a Lamanite woman named Abish, who was converted to the gospel because “of a remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16). We don’t know anything about this vision except that it resulted in her conversion to the gospel.
  2. Prophets — When the people of King Noah were sinking into greater and greater wickedness, God sent the prophet Abinadi to warn them that they were in danger, and if they didn’t repent they would be destroyed (Mosiah 11:20-29). Instead of taking the message seriously, the people rejected the messenger. Alma the Younger and Samuel the Lamanite both had experiences where their message was rejected but they were told to go back and try again (Alma 8:16, Helaman 13:3). Samuel emphasized to the people how foolish they were to listen only to messages which are easy to hear (Helaman 13:24-29).
  3. Angels – Sometimes God sends earthly messengers—prophets. Other times, He sends heavenly messengers. But people can be so hardened that they fail to respond even to miraculous messages. Nephi reminded his brothers that they had seen an angel of God who had spoken to them, “but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Nephi 17:45). Similarly, in the years leading to the visit of the Savior, the people experienced so many miracles that they “began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven” (3 Nephi 2:1).
  4. Friends and family members — The sons of King Mosiah asked their father for permission to preach the gospel among their enemies, the Lamanites. He prayed and received a promise that God would protect them during their service (Mosiah 28:7). The king of the Lamanites trusted Mosiah’s son Ammon when he told them that the believers should immigrate to the land of Zarahemla (Alma 27:12). Jared asked his brother to pray for guidance on behalf of the family at the tower of Babel (Ether 1:34). Sometimes, we receive messages from God through people we know who are close to Him.
  5. The scriptures — The written words of ancient prophets contain messages that are relevant to us. Nephi enthusiastically shared the words of Isaiah with his brothers, not for their historical significance but for their current applicability: “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning,” he said (1 Nephi 19:23). Abinadi rebuked the priests of King Noah, who had studied the scriptures but had not “applied [their] hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:26-27). Therefore, they had completely missed the messages the Lord was trying to give them.
  6. Our daily experiences — King Benjamin reminded his people that God created us and that He continues to “preserve [us] from day to day, by lending [us] breath, that [we] may live and move and do according to [our] own will” (Mosiah 2:21). Alma told Korihor, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). Just because we experience some miracles on a regular basis, and just because we routinely take them for granted, doesn’t make them any less miraculous.

Today, I will be grateful for the many ways God communicates with me. I will remember that my Heavenly Father regularly sends me messages, and that it is my responsibility to recognize them and to be receptive to them. I will remember that His messages may stretch me and require me to change. I will open my heart to accept this guidance, knowing that He loves me perfectly and is helping me become something better than I am today.

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Why Do We Need Prophets?

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of having firsthand spiritual knowledge. If the best way to gain spiritual knowledge is directly from the source, then why do we need intermediaries at all? Why does God send prophets?

The obvious reason is because we’re not there yet. A feature of this life is that we are no longer in the presence of God and we can’t remember the time when we were in His presence. So we need someone to teach us about Him and to help us learn to connect with Him.

Here’s how Alma explained it: By partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve introduced physical and spiritual death into the world. They became mortal and they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. This life became a time for them to prepare to return to God’s presence. But because of their lack of access to Him, they didn’t know what they needed to do to prepare for that event. Recognizing that they needed more information, God sent angels, who taught them about His plan of redemption and gave them instructions to enable them to follow the plan (Alma 12:22-37).

Mormon later explained that God sends different types of messengers: angels and prophets (Moroni 7:22-23).

Actually, the Hebrew word for angel—malak (מֲלְאָךְ)—can refer to either heavenly beings or to mortals who bring messages from God. (See Genesis 19:1, 15.). The last prophet in the Old Testament was named Malachi, which means “my messenger” or “my angel.” So when he quotes God as saying, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1, 3 Nephi 24:1), the original Hebrew word in that passage is his own name: “Behold, I will send Malachi, and he shall prepare the way before me.”

And that’s what prophets do: they prepare the way for us to approach God. They do this by teaching us true principles about God, by encouraging us to take actions which will bring us closer to God, and by providing correction when we are distancing ourselves from Him. They are our guides along the path. They are not a substitute for direct experience with God, but they provide valuable guidance and encouragement as we follow the path back to His presence.

When Jesus Christ visited the American continent, He introduced Himself in the context of the messengers who had prophesied of His coming: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Nephi 11:10). These people were able to understand who He was because they had been prepared by the messengers who had preceded Him.

Today, I will be grateful for prophets who help me become closer to God and who prepare me to return to His presence. I will remember that God wants to communicate with me, and that He does so through multiple channels. I will strive to hear and follow the messages I receive through the scriptures, through the words of modern prophets, and through the words of my local church leaders. I will remember that these words can form a scaffolding for me as I learn to hear and follow the direct messages the Lord sends to me through His Spirit.

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Why Is Firsthand Spiritual Knowledge Important?

After the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, Lehi, described a dream or a vision which he had experienced, one of his sons—Nephi—wanted to have the same experience. He tells us that he wanted “to see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:17). Later, as he sat pondering his father’s words, he saw a vision in which he interacted with an angel, saw the symbols from his father’s dream, and gained greater understanding about the meaning of those symbols.

When he returned to his family’s camp, he was frustrated to find his brothers arguing about his father’s words. He asked if they had “inquired of the Lord.” When they answered that they had not. Nephi chastised them: “Do you not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:10-11).

Primary sources are better than secondary sources. Firsthand experience provides a more complete education than hearing or reading the opinions of other people.

The ultimate source of spiritual truth is God Himself. That is why the prophet Joseph Smith said, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, “Chapter 36: Receiving the Ordinances and Blessings of the Temple“)

As I’ve thought today about the importance of direct spiritual experiences, I’ve identified three reasons it is important for us to seek answers directly from God:

  1. Because our Heavenly Father knows more than any mortal. Any time you receive information second hand, it is subject to the limitations of the messenger. Some of God’s messengers—the prophets and apostles—have been very pure and very careful to pass the messages on faithfully. But if we really want to understand the full implications of those messages in our lives, and if we want to be able to receive personalized messages, we need to also go directly to the source.
  2. Because we grow as we engage in the process of spiritual inquiry. As Elder David A. Bednar taught last Sunday: “Our personal responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become who the Master would have us become” (“Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” General Conference, April 2019). In other words, we aren’t just seeking information. We are engaged in a process of transformation. This will not happen just by obeying messages delivered by other people. It will happen as we engage directly with our Heavenly Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
  3. Because spiritual headwinds are growing in the world. A year ago, President Russell M. Nelson said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018). Last week, Elder Bednar underscored that point: “As important as home-centered and Church-supported learning is for our spiritual strength and protection today, it will be even more vital in the future.” We need to learn to receive revelation from God so that we will be prepared for the challenges we will face, individually and collectively, in the future.

Today, I will strive to receive firsthand spiritual knowledge. I will place myself in a position where I can receive communication from God through His Spirit. I will remember that direct revelation from Him will give me a more comprehensive understanding of spiritual things, will help me progress and become what He wants me to become, and will help me prepare for future challenges.

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Why Is It Good to Be Submissive?

King Benjamin taught that our natural state is contrary to God’s will. He further explained that God is willing to help us overcome this state and become saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, in order to receive this gift, we must be “submissive.” Specifically, we must be “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]” (Mosiah 3:19).

Why is submissiveness a requirement for a disciple of Jesus Christ? Because God can only change us if we are willing to be changed. His goal is to help us become something infinitely better than we are today. But this gift cannot be forced upon us; it must be willingly received. Only by intentionally submitting our will to His, including suffering all that He allows or causes us to suffer, can we receive all that He has to offer. We choose to submit our will to His because we trust Him and because we believe that He knows what He is doing.

When the people in the city of Helam prayed for deliverance from their captors, God comforted them, strengthened them, eased their burdens, and promised to deliver them. Therafter, even though they remained in bondage, they were able to be happier. They “they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13-15). Eventually, they received the promised blessing of deliverance.

When the Savior visited the American continent, one of the first things He emphasized was His complete submission to the will of His Father. He explained that He had “drunk out of that bitter cup” which His Father has given Him. By so doing, He “suffered the will of the Father in all things” (3 Nephi 11:11). He had achieved the full purpose of His mortal life and had opened the gate of heaven to us all, because of His perfect submission to His Father’s will.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that the intentional submission of our will to God is “the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory” (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” General Conference, October 1995).

Today, I will choose to submit to the will of my Heavenly Father. Trusting that He loves me and is committed to my progression and happiness, I will cheerfully and patiently endure everything He sees fit for me to experience. I will strive to follow the perfect example of the Savior and suffer the will of the Father in all things.

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