Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jesus: the perfect leader My remarks are taken from an excellent talk given by President Spencer W. Kimball to the Young Presidents Organization in 1977. With over 2.2 billion Christians in the world. Christianity is the world's number one religion and experienced amazing growth Africa and on the verge of a similar explosion of growth in China. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, part of our responsibility in being members of the Church is not only leading others to Christ but also to be an example of true Christian discipleship. In learning to be a leader, shouldn't we look to Christ, our Great Leader for our example. We can look to Christ's and seek to develop the same qualities, attributes and skills that He more than anyone else so perfectly exemplified. Christ our Exemplar As we examine Christ's leadership, President Kimball pointed out a few attributes that set Christ apart for all others. As we lead and set an example in our families, among our friends and coworkers, we would do well to apply Christ's example and do as He did. 3 Nephi 27:27 And know ye that ye shall be judges (leaders) of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. Fixed Principles First, Christ based his leadership on fixed principles. Jesus Christ knew who He was, the Son of God, and why he was on the Earth. Jesus acted based on truth and true principles and not like so many secular leaders of the day that, like chameleons, “change their hues and views to fit the situation.” Many secular leaders love to hold focus group and gather “informatics” on their constituency and develop social and political stands based on what seems popular at the time. However, we shouldn't be surprised when our politicians political stands turn out not to be much of a stand once elected. Could traveler's depend on landmarks that migrated from one position to another? Could ancient seamen be guiding by the North Star if it wasn't fixed in it unfaltering position? Similarly, we can't effectively lead others unless our lives and decisions are based on constant and correct principles. Moral Authority Christ taught “come, follow me”, “come and see” and “do what I do” not just do what I say. Christ was not afraid of close relationships or proximity. Christ chose his 12 Apostles to assist in his desire to personally minister to his followers and not as a way to create distance. Christ lived a moral and virtuous life. Christ wasn't afraid of his follows seeing Him as He really was and is. This is in contrast to many of today's leaders who live very discordant personal and public lives and try to convince us that their personal conduct does not affect their Our leaders should be selected not based more on their personal virtue as well as secular qualifications. Virtuous living empowers our moral authority. Leading with Love Christ was a listening leader who sought to understand those he taught. Jesus was patient. Because he loved others he was able to be candid and forthright. He reproved Perter at times but afterward showed an increase of love. D&C 121: 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; In the workplace, how many of our supervisors and managers manage based on fear instead of love? The most effective leaders are concerned with the development and happiness of their coworker and seek to build a unified team instead of just focusing to taking all the credit for things that go right and shirk all the blame when things go wrong. Understanding Christ could see sin as wrong. But he also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet need on the part of the individual. In this way, Chirst was able to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We also need to be able to look deeply in the lives of others to see and understand the causes for failure and shortcomings. Alma the younger in the Book of Mormon exemplified this when he counseled his son Corianton who went astray during his mission to the Lamanites. Coriantan excused himself and committed sins of immorality. Alma 39: 7 And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good. Alma then says: Alma 40: 1 Now my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead. [and] concerning the restoration of which has been spoken… 15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all. So, we see that part of Cortianton's problem was a mistaken understanding of the atonement of Christ and when it meant that Christ's followers would be resurrected and redeemed from sin. And this misunderstanding led to Corianton making up excuses in his own mind to justify himself in sin. Selfless Leadership Christ was a selfless leader. So many problems arise today from self-centeredness. Jesus' leadership emphasized the importance of being discerning with out seeking to control and manipulate others. He taught us that there can be no growth with out real freedom. Christ respected the agency of others and wanted his followers to develop self reliance. Let me explain. The scouting EDGE method emphasizes this exact principle of self-less leadership. This is about teaching people to fish for themselves and not just continually hand out fish making people eternally weak and dependent upon you. EDGE stands for explain, demonstrate, guide, and enable. Imagine that I want to teach the scouts to build a fire. I could tell them to build a fire and not explain or show how to do it, and then when the sun is set, and dinner is not cooked, and they fail, I swoop in and save the day. The boys may be fooled into believing how helpless they are, and how skilled I am. This becomes a twisted pathological situation. This sort of thing happens too often unfortunately because the natural man, naturally desires to feel important, needed and powerful. Instead, a selfless leader that is committed to seeing the boys become self-reliant will explain, demonstrate, guide and enable the boys until they can perform the task on their own and even begin to teach others. In the same way, Christ's atonement works the same way. Christ came to save us from our sins and not just in our sins. Christ atonement is meant not just grace alone to sweep our sins under the rug but also power to overcome our sins and purify and sanctify our lives. Christ atonement empowers and enables us to repent, forsake sin, to improve and grow and develop. Any gospel that preaches faith in Christ without repentance, is not teaching the full gospel of Christ. Family Application As parents, we have the sacred responsibility to raise and lead our children to Christ. What can we do to respect their agency, and provide self-less leadership? Are we teaching our children to be spiritually and temporally self-reliant? What are we doing to help each of our children develop their own individual relationship with God? Develop their own testimonies? Develop their own love of the scriptures? Develop their own talents, and develop their work ethic? Satan likes to take us to the extremes. Are we guilty of neglecting our children on the one hand, or being “helicopter parents” on the other? We can neglect our children when we are emotionally unavailable, or are unwilling to deal with our children's weaknesses or desires and try to imagine that their problem's or opinions don't exist. Helicopter parenting is a term describing a current prevalent parenting type which means that some parents are guilty of doing too much and make all decisions for our children such that they do little for themselves? Many children (so-called Millennial) aren't learning to be self-reliant and are graduating college and having a difficult time leaving home, finding a job, getting married, and starting their own families. Infinite Potential Not all of us would be the prefect example of leadership but all of us can make efforts toward approaching that great ideal. Christ saw in each person a spark of the divine and infinite potential. Christ taught that all mankind are spiritual children of our Heavenly Father. Each soul has the God-given ability to progress towards perfection. Each of us has opportunities and ability to do good and be better. We may not be perfect leaders overnight, but by following Christ's example and implementing Christ-like leadership, we all can be more effective leaders.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tithing and Thanksgiving

Most people don't realize the story of Thanksgiving is the story of the Law of Tithing.  The Puritans at Plymouth Colony attempted to eatablish a perfect society and live with "all things in common" instead of having "all things common"

As Governor Bradford explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):

“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could man husbands brook it."

Because of the disincentives and resentments that spread among the population, crops were sparse and the rationed equal shares from the collective harvest were not enough to ward off starvation and death. Two years of communism in practice had left alive only a fraction of the original number of the Plymouth colonists.

Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor.

As Governor Bradford put it:

“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end. . . .This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

The Plymouth Colony experienced a great bounty of food. Private ownership meant that there was now a close link between work and reward. Industry became the order of the day as the men and women in each family went to the fields on their separate private farms. When the harvest time came, not only did many families produce enough for their own needs, but they had surpluses that they could freely exchange with their neighbors for mutual benefit and improvement.

In Governor Bradford’s words:

“By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

When Christ visited the Nephites, he gave them the scriptures in Malachi that derail the Law of Tithing.  So even though the Book of Mormon says that the Nephites lived "with all things common"they als obserbed the Law of tithing.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Power of Hope and Restraint

"And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days" (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 5:3-5)

Psychologist Walter Mischel performed a series of experiments on self control and delayed gratification with young children using varous rewards involving candy and marshmallows. The studies found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes. Intact families showed the strongest link to delay of gratification.  Children who came from homes without a father exhibited the least self control. (wiki)  Interestingly, Socio-economic status showed no correlation with study outcome. 

Sacrificing what we want now for what we want more later is both a spiritual and temporal principle.  Living prophets, scriptures, are critical to giving us a perfect brightness of hope for the future. God doesn't just promise us peace and joy in the next life but also happiness here and now if we keep God's commandments. If we had no hope in the future, there would be no reason to not just "eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die". However, with our hope of eternal glory we gladly enter into covenants with God to do His will and keep His commandments.

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31:20)

Elder Neal A Maxwell spoke about the power of hope in 1994 General Conference talk entitled "Brightness of Hope".  Elder Maxwell says:

"Hope helps us to walk by faith, not by sight. This can actually be safer. When unaided spiritually, natural sight often shrinks from the odds. It is immobilized by improbabilities. Mauled by his moods and intimidated by his fears, the natural man overreacts to, while hope overrides, the disappointments of the day.

Hope is particularly needed in the hand-to-hand combat required to put off the natural man. Giving up on God and on oneself constitutes simultaneous surrender to the natural man.

Daily hope is vital, since the “Winter Quarters” of our lives are not immediately adjacent to our promised land either. An arduous trek still awaits, but hope spurs weary disciples on."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elder Bednar Visits Augusta, GA

Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a psychological self-help but a total transformation.

Blessings of the priesthood are to all. Priesthood is not men.  Priesthood is the power of God like an umbrella. For some reason men are asked to hold umbrella but it shields everyone standing under its protection.

Dispensation of the fullness of evil and good.  As bad as it is right now, this is as good as it is going to get until the Savior comes.

Stay unspotted from the world and remain sanctified and retain a remission of sins. Invite Holy Ghost into our lives.  Not a check list.  Living the gospel is rigorous but not hard.  Not living the gospel is hard.

When will we stop talking about Sabbath Day and tithing?  When we all start doing it.  

When Christ said His time is at hand, He Instituted an ordinances. Ordinances unlock the power of godliness.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Esau and Jacob

The Bible tells the story of Esau and Jacob.  Esau was born said to have been born hairy and ruddy and was a man of the field, a hunter, and a mighty and strong man of the world. Jacob, on the other hand, the Bible says was a plain (peaceful) man who dwelt in a tent. 

Jewish rabbi's comment on why it says that Isaac loved Esau.  The Bible says that it was because Isaac, "did eat of his venison" which is also a play on words to mean that "his game (catch) was in his mouth" suggesting a type of deception.  So it seems that Isaac was already blind by Isaac's continual gifts of savory meat. 

Esau came in from hunting and was famished and traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils.  The Bible says that Esau despised the birthright or responsibility to care for Isaac's family but later desired to be blessed. Esau and Jacob had very different perspectives on life. Esau focused on death, materialism, immediacy, and instant gratification while  Jacob had an eternal perspective and desired to serve God and his family instead of the flesh.  How can we cultivate a perspective more like Jacob?