What Does It Mean to Be “Easy to Be Entreated?”

After calling the people of Zarahemla to repentance, the prophet Alma traveled to the city of Gideon. He was pleased to find that the people of Gideon had humbled themselves and that they were not in “the state of dilemma” that the people of Zarahemla had been in. “I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness,” he said (Alma 7:18-19).

But he still had some advice for them. Among other things, he told them that they should be “easy to be entreated” (Alma 7:23).

Years later, the prophet Nephi lamented the stubbornness of his people and longed for an earlier day when people were “easy to be entreated” (Helaman 7:7).

And the prophet James would later advise the saints that “earthy” and “sensual” people indulge in “envying and strife,” while people who are in harmony with heaven are “easy to be entreated” (James 3:13-17).

To entreat is to “ask someone earnestly or anxiously to do something.” When someone entreats you, they really need your help. I’ve thought today about what I can do to make it easier for people to entreat me. Here are my thoughts:

  1. When one of my children asks me for help, I am often in the middle of something. Or at least I’m painfully aware of my long list of urgent tasks. It’s so easy to say, “I’m very busy. I can’t help you right now.” Perhaps that is sometimes the right answer. But am I doing that too often? Is a request from my child more important in the long run than the next item on my to-do list?
  2. At work, I can justify closing my office door to complete a project which requires my concentration. Sometimes this is necessary, but would it be easier for my employees to talk with me if my door were open more often?
  3. When I accept an assignment, do I fulfill it quickly and reliably? If the other person has to remind me what I agreed to and ask when it will be done, have I made it more difficult for them to make other requests?
  4. Am I a “spiritual first responder?” When I feel inspired to do something, do I act on the prompting immediately, or do I wait for a second or a third nudge?
  5. Have I filled my schedule with so many projects, activities, and obligations that I have no time to serve the people around me? Can I carve out more space in my schedule so that there is room for people to ask for my help?

Today, I will slow down a little, simplify my calendar, value the face time I have with family and others, and prioritize their needs over my to-do list. I will be more responsive to requests from others and to promptings from God. I will strive to be “easy to be entreated.”

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Patience?

Today, I reviewed the passages in the Book of Mormon about patience. I learned the following principles:

  1. God is patient with us. King Benjamin wanted his people to understand that God has great power and wisdom, but that He is patient with us (Mosiah 4:6). Alma taught the people of Ammonihah that Jesus Christ is “full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering” (Alma 9:26).
  2. God is willing to help us become patient. An angel taught King Benjamin that our natural state is in conflict with God. But if we will “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” we can become saints through the atonement of Jesus Christ. One of the attributes of a saint is patience (Mosiah 3:19). Alma later pleaded with the people of Ammonihah to humble themselves before God, so that He could help them develop those attributes, including patience (Alma 13:28).
  3. God will test our patience. After Alma and his people established a prosperous city, they fell into captivity. Because “they submitted cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord,” God miraculously delivered them (Mosiah 23:21, Mosiah 24:15-16).
  4. God expects members of His church, and especially His missionaries, to be patient when they are persecuted. Members of the church in the first year of the reign of the judges “bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them” (Alma 1:25). God told the sons of Mosiah that He would give them success on their mission to the Lamanites if they would “bear with patience [their] afflictions.” They did endure suffering patiently, and God did give them success (Alma 17:11, Alma 20:29, Alma 26:27-31). Amulek urged the poor Zoramites not to revile against their persecutors (Alma 34:40-41). And Alma praised his son Shiblon for his patience as a missionary (Alma 38:3-4).
  5. We can pray for patience. Alma prayed for strength to “suffer with patience” the afflictions he anticipated before beginning his mission to the Zoramites (Alma 31:31).
  6. Patience is more than simply waiting. Alma taught the poor Zoramites that, if they would plant the word of God in their hearts and would nourish it, it would grow into a tree of life. Their patience would be demonstrated by their consistent diligence, not by passive anticipation of a reward (Alma 32:41-43).

Today, I will work on becoming more patient. I will remember how patient God is with me and that He is willing to help me become more patient. I will pray for patience, and will avoid fighting back when I am mistreated. I will remember that God may test my patience in order to help me grow. I will remember that steady hard work over time is a manifestation of patience.

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Kindness?

Near the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi prophesied that the Savior be scourged, smitten, and spit upon. He would willingly endure all of this “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, we read the same description of charity given by the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians. The description begins with these words: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind” (Moroni 7:45, 1 Corinthians 13:4).

You could read that as two separate characteristics of charity: a charitable person is long-suffering, and he or she is also kind. But I prefer to read it as a single attribute: a charitable person is kind even when they are suffering. That grouping is more meaningful to me, because it’s easy to be kind when things are going well. The true test of your love for other people is how you treat them when you are in pain, when you are under stress, when you don’t feel like being kind.

When Jesus appeared on the American continent, He quoted the words of Isaiah about the constancy of God’s kindness toward His children:

For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
For this, the waters of Noah unto me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee (3 Nephi 22:7-10, Isaiah 54:7-10).

God’s kindness and love for us is constant, even when we don’t see it. We should strive to emulate that.

When the Savior heard that His cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by King Herod, He traveled “by ship into a desert place apart.” He wanted to be alone, to mourn the loss of His relative. But people heard where He had gone, and thousands “followed him on foot.” When Jesus saw the multitude, He “was moved with compassion toward them” (Matthew 14:13-14). He healed their sick and fed them miraculously. He then instructed His disciples to cross the sea ahead of Him, telling them that He would meet them on the other side. Only then was He able to find the solitude He had sought: “He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

Today, I will strive to follow the Savior’s example of kindness. I will remember that the Savior was kind even when He was suffering. I will strive to emulate His selflessness all the time, not just when it is easy to be kind.

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What Is Priestcraft?

Is it okay to do the right things for the wrong reasons?

Near the end of his writings, Nephi issues a serious warning: We must not participate in priestcraft. Here is his description of what that means:

Behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion…
But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish. (2 Nephi 26:29, 31).

When we’re doing the Lord’s work, our motives matter. We should participate in religious activities with a goal to help God accomplish His work, not with a goal to win the admiration of others. Why does this matter? Here are a few ideas:

  1. A person who is trying to win the admiration of others may perform their religious duties superficially. They may go through the motions of religious observance, but since their heart isn’t in it, they will likely not get much out of the experience.
  2. If our goal is to win the praise of other people, we will likely perform only our public religious duties. Private activities like personal prayer, quiet pondering, and secret acts of service may fall by the wayside.
  3. A person who is motivated only by praise may stop performing their duties when praise is received or when praise seems not to be forthcoming. They may therefore be inconsistent in the performance of their religious duties.

When the Savior visited the American continent, He twice warned the people against priestcraft, both times in the middle of a list of sins (3 Nephi 16:10, 3 Nephi 21:19). Mormon ended the book of 3 Nephi with a similar list, urging us to turn from our “priestcrafts,” so that we can come to the Savior, receive the Holy Ghost, and be numbered among His people (3 Nephi 30:2).

President Dallin H. Oaks once talked about six possible motivations for serving in the Church. These motivations, from the lowest to the highest are:

  1. For an earthly reward
  2. For good companionship
  3. Out of fear of punishment
  4. Out of a sense of duty
  5. For an eternal reward
  6. Because we love God

Elder Oaks explained that the first of these motivations is what the scriptures call “priestcraft.” He said:

Service that is ostensibly unselfish but is really for the sake of riches or honor surely comes within the Savior’s condemnation of those who “outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within … are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt. 23:28.) Such service earns no gospel reward (“Why Do We Serve?” General Conference, October 1984).

Today, I will consider my motives for my religious activities. Am I doing the right things for the right reasons, or am I motivated by less noble motives? I will remember that poor motives can result in poor performance. My “why” affects my “what” and my “how.”

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What Is the Relationship Between “Idolatry” and “Idleness?”

The Book of Mormon explicitly connects idolatry (the worship of man-made objects) with idleness (slothfulness). For example:

  • Mormon tells us that the wicked king Noah and his priests “were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people” (Mosiah 11:6).
  • In the early years of the reign of the judges, the members of the church became far more wealthy than those who did not belong to the church, despite being far more generous. Mormon tells us that this second group remained in poverty in part because they “did indulge themselves…in idolatry or idleness” (Alma 1:32).
  • When the sons of Mosiah arrived in land of Nephi on their mission to the Lamanites, Mormon tells us that they could see how challenging the task would be. The Lamanites hated the Nephites, had set their hearts on riches, and “were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols” (Alma 17:15).

What is the relationship between idolatry and idleness?

The Guide to the Scriptures provides the following definitions:

Idolatry – The worship of idols or an excessive attachment or devotion to anything.
Idle – Inactive and uninvolved in righteous works.

A good friend pointed out to me that both of these deficiencies can be a by-product of prosperity:

Idleness is enabled by access to resources without the constant investment of time to produce. Abundance may be due to economies of scale or hard work resulting in prosperity, or privilege and oppression. When the abundance is not shared with others and results in cessation of righteous activity, the resulting idleness is a canker to the soul.
Idolatry in modern times is not a golden calf but instead a thing, activity or belief system to which we devote undue time….
The fact that we have an abundance of time is often a result of us having idle hands/hearts/minds (not filling time outside of work with good deeds) and the manner in which we spend that free time is often the idol.
(Source: personal email, 21 Feb 2019)

Today, I will engage diligently in worthwhile activities. I will remember that a lack of engagement in appropriate activities can result in an undue attachment to inappropriate activities or things. I will avoid the sin of idolatry by avoiding the sin of idleness.

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How Can I Prepare to Hear the Words of Prophets?

General conference is today and tomorrow. I’d like to get as much out of the experience as possible. Today, I took the opportunity to review some passages from the Book of Mormon about preparation to hear the words of prophets.

Open Your Ears, Heart, and Mind

(Mosiah 2:9)

When King Benjamin called his people together, he opened his sermon by urging them to take his words seriously. “I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak,” he said. He then urged them to do three things:

Instruction Promised blessing What can I do?
Open your ears Ye may hear
Pay attention to the speakers. Focus my attention on what they are saying. Avoid multitasking.
Open your hearts Ye may understand
Come prepared to learn. Expect to hear things that will challenge me, expand my perspectives, and help me grow and progress.
Open your minds The mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view
Seek for a revelatory experience. Pray for the Holy Ghost to accompany me as I listen, so that I can receive personalized messages from God.

Don’t harden your heart

(Alma 12:9-11)

In the city of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom interrogated Amulek, attempting to prove that his teachings were false. After hearing Amulek’s testimony of Jesus Christ, Zeezrom’s attitude changed. “He began to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt,” and he began to ask a different kind of question. He was now seeking for understanding instead of seeking evidence for his previously held views (Alma 12:1, 8). Alma taught him that “the mysteries of God” are only available to people who choose not to harden their hearts. You must be willing to adapt. You must be able to set aside your preconceived notions and to give new principles a fair hearing. If you do this, your knowledge will grow. If you don’t, your knowledge of spiritual things will actually decrease “until [you] know nothing concerning his mysteries.”

“Ponder upon the things which I have said.”

(3 Nephi 17:3)

After spending a day with a group of people at the temple in Bountiful, Jesus Christ recognized that they had reached a saturation point. “I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words,” He said. Promising them that He would return the next day, He gave them some counsel about what to do to prepare for His return:

  1. Ponder upon the things which I have said.” Spend some time thinking about the implications of what you’ve heard today. What do you know now that you didn’t know before? How will that new understanding affect your relationships with other people, your approach to the challenges you face, and your efforts to draw closer to God?
  2. Ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.” A recognition that we don’t fully understand can open the door to additional understanding. Asking for help from someone who knows more than we do is an important part of the learning process.
  3. Prepare your minds for the morrow.” By taking the time to analyze and synthesize the things they learned on the first day, the people would free up mental capacity for the following day.

Today, I will engage fully in general conference. I will pay attention to the words which are spoken. I will listen with an open mind and with a desire to learn. I will also follow up at the end of the day, ponder what I have learned, ask Heavenly Father for additional understanding, and prepare my mind to be taught again tomorrow.

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Taxes?

The Book of Mormon speaks about the tax policies of five leaders. Two of them worked to minimize taxes on their people, while the other three imposed exorbitant taxes on their people, with predictably catastrophic results.

  1. King Benjamin reported to his people at the end of his life that he had labored with his own hands “that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 2:14). Note that to be “laden” is to be heavily burdened. Benjamin cared about his people and did what he could to keep their tax burden low.
  2. Following in the footsteps of his father (Mosiah 6:6), King Mosiah also earned the admiration of his people for his beneficent policies. He was not “a tyrant who was seeking for gain” and had therefore “not exacted riches of them.” The people “did esteem him more than any other man,” because they knew that he could have taken advantage of his position as king and enriched himself at their expense. But he had not done that (Mosiah 29:40). Incidentally, he knew that he had too much power, which is why he proposed to the people a system of judges with checks and balances. Even though he and his father had behaved honorably, he knew that an unscrupulous person in their position could wreak havoc. He knew this partly because of…
  3. King Noah. A man named Zeniff had led a group of Nephites to establish a colony among the Lamanites. When his son, Noah, became king, he made life miserable for his people. “He laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed” (Mosiah 11:3), which sounds like 20% of their assets, not just their income. What did he use this money for? “To support himself, and his wives and his concubines; and also his priests, and their wives and their concubines” (Mosiah 11:4). And the people could plainly see that he was not contributing to their prosperity as they were contributing to his. The outcome was predictable: Noah lost the loyalty of his people, and an insurrection cost him his life.
  4. The people of King Noah then fell into bondage. The Lamanite king easily conquered their city and imposed a “tribute” of 50% of their income (Mosiah 7:22). Note that this money was not used to benefit the people but only to benefit their captors. The new king, Limhi, told Ammon, a messenger sent by King Mosiah, that this tribute was “grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 7:15). Ammon agreed and helped them devise a plan to escape their captors (Mosiah 22:1).
  5. Many years earlier, a king named Riplakish made the same mistake King Noah would later make. He overstepped his authority as king and learned that there was a limit to his authority. According to Moroni, Riplakish “did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes.” What did he use those taxes for? He built “spacious buildings.” He erected “an exceedingly beautiful throne” for himself. And he built prisons to hold the people who were unable to pay taxes. Not a good strategy. After enduring this hardship for forty-two years, “the people did rise up in rebellion against him.” Riplakish was killed, and his descendants were banished (Ether 10:5-8).

I think these passages teach a simple lesson: leaders have been entrusted with power. Act unselfishly and with restraint, and the people you lead will love and respect you. Abuse your authority, and your leadership will become unsustainable. Any of us in a leadership position would do well to learn this lesson. There are so many ways that we “tax” the people we lead: implementing policies, requiring them to attend meetings, and making assignments. Many of these are essential, and make the organization more effective. However, we would be wise to be as conscientious as King Benjamin and King Mosiah about cost of these activities and ensure that we are not imposing an undue burden on the people we lead.

Today, in my leadership roles, I will strive to minimize the “taxes” I impose on people. I will strive to minimize the burden my leadership places on them and to ensure that any “taxes” I impose serve the interests of the organization, not my own selfish interests.

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