Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Index | Forgiveness
Trying to catch up on the news, I used my scripture time to read the newspaper. I reasoned that the newspaper was full of spiritual lessons that I could write about. Indeed, I found plenty to criticize, the reports of mayhem and disregard of the rights of others are on every page. However, I could not bring myself to report their sins to you; instead I found myself thinking of the Saviors’ words, “judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1,2).
One article reports the decline in attendance at confessional in the Catholic churches, down to 9%! Other articles report people taking judgment and execution of the penalty into their own hand through violence. The trend worldwide is to judge ourselves less in favor of blaming others. Jesus calls hypocrites those who are more concerned about the “mote that is in thy brother’s eye” instead of considering “the beam that is in thine own eye” (Matthew 7:3).
We are cautioned to use good judgment in recognizing who to follow. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15,16). His doctrine astonished the people, “for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). He did advise the people “whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Even so, ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:3,28).
There is also the danger that we could misjudge those who are sent to lead us. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city” (Matthew 23:34). So, how do we avoid judging others, while exercising good judgment in who we follow? Jesus warned of perilous times of false prophets and false Christs who shall deceive many (Matthew 24:5,11). In the same breath he promises that “the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matthew 24:14).
He gives the answer in chapter 25: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.” (verses 34-36).
May we all use good judgment in following the light of Christ and his chosen messengers, avoid judging others, and make wise choices for our own path in life.
When the first Europeans came to America, they learned to eat the native foods. The Pilgrims restored their health with pumpkin, corn, squash, turkey, and a multitude of berries and sea foods so different from the salted meat and fish, peas, beans, beer, and hard cheese of their journey. Later the traders brought exotic tropical goods like sugar. By the late 1800s Americans were consuming five pounds of sugar per year. By the late 1900s the consumption was 26 pounds per year. Now Americans ingest 135 pounds of sugar per year! Taking in more sugar than your body can process causes problems, including raising the insulin level, inhibiting the release of growth hormones, depressing the immune system, promoting the storage of fat, elevating triglyceride levels. Sugar increases cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and tooth decay. Sugar aggravates asthma, mood swings, personality changes, mental illness, nervous disorders, diabetes, gallstones, hypertension, obesity, degenerative disease, and the common cold. Furthermore, sugar is devoid of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and has a deteriorating effect on the endocrine system. Sugar can even speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and gray hair. Yet we are constantly served sugar rich foods, and easily develop a constant urge to eat more of this imported poison, even though it makes us feel worse.
It seems to be in our nature to do things that are bad for our bodies. We do the same with things that are bad for our spirits. When Adam was confronted by God about eating something he shouldn’t, he first hid himself. Then he said, “The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat” (Moses 4:18). It seems to be a natural, pleasant pastime to criticize the government, the church, our friends, and especially our relatives. But if we make it a habit, cricizing others only weakens ourselves. It seems to be very natural for us to do things that are bad for us and then justify ourselves by blaming others. “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” (Mosiah 3:19). One characteristic of children that we need to learn for ourselves, is their purity of heart. They are willing to submit to all things, and not blame others. Blaming others does not affect the person we blame, it changes us; it changes our heart.
Our 17th Century ancestors used sugar as a condiment and a rare and special treat. Somehow we have continued to increase the dose until our bodies cannot process it, and it changes us like a poison. We are also poisoned within when we criticize others. The principle is, “See that ye love one another...”(D&C 88: 123) “cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil one of another” (D&C 136: 23). If we take too much sugar, we develop cravings and want even more. The result of criticizing is that it becomes our nature, we do it more and more, causing a change in our own heart, such that we no longer have room for the Spirit of God, and darkness rules our life. Be aware of your own weaknesses and shortcomings. I guarantee that the people around you, especially your friends and relatives, will do plenty to irritate you. However, criticizing them only poisons your own heart, resulting in more adverse symptoms than you want or need. I am fortunate that my wife does not have any weakness or shortcomings, so we are both free to concentrate on mine. Christ atoned for the sins of your friends and relatives. Let Christ judge them. Don’t weaken your own heart by choosing to react badly to their shortcomings.
There are no references in all the scriptures to sugar; it is a new, modern problem that is “to be used, with judgment, not to excess” (D&C 59:20). Just like too much sugar weakens the body, too much criticism weakens the spirit. Choose to be strong, not weak. Choose to let Christ be the judge, you are not the judge. Choose to love one another. The scriptures do give advice about this ancient problem. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20). “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).
A Month of Sundays
The thirty Sundays from January to July are like a month of Sundays. During this time in 1999 there were many special Sundays, including conferences, Easter, Fast and Testimony meetings, a temple dedication, and a farewell, High Council Speakers, and Bishopric messages. During this time there were hardly any “regular Sundays” with speakers selected from the ward members. But it is not our special events and speakers that make the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unique in the world. Our distinction comes from being the restored church and the Kingdom of God upon the earth, with keys to perform the saving and sealing ordinances and prophets who have a unique relationship with the Lord of the earth.
Because of my unique role as a musician and academic, I have been in close contact with ministers, and believers of many churches, and each year I gain a greater respect for the goodness available to them. Although Nephi saw that in the last days there “are many churches built up which cause envyings, malice, and strifes” (priestcrafts and secret combinations - 2 Nephi 26:21), yet he reports from this intimate acquaintance with the Lord: “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world, for He loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that He may draw all men unto Him. Wherefore, He commandeth none that they shall not partake of His salvation. He hath given His Salvation free for all men... noe are forbidden from partaking of His goodness... and He commanded all to repent, to have charity... and denieth none that come unto Him; black and white, bond and free, male and female; and He remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26: 24-33). “Jesus is the very Christ... and He manifesteth Himself unto all those who believe in Him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue and people, working mighty miracles, signs and wondres, among the children of men, according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:12-13).
Like Joseph Smith and Nephi, I have discovered the “honorable men of the earth” (D&C 76) and found many who believe, as we do, that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer who died for our sins and who broke the bands of dath that we may live. Mormon said, “...if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ” (Moroni 7:19).