Monday, June 25, 2012

Recognizing our Personal Liahona, Part 2: All the Small Things

I wasn't intending for my last blog post to have any sequels, but today I was in the temple reading through some scriptures and a few things caught my eye. They tied right in with my last post so I decided I would make another post about it. As I kept finding scriptures, though, I realized that I had two different ideas going on that both related to feeling the Spirit. I didn't want to put them both in one post and make a ridiculously long blog post that nobody would ever read, so I decided to make them two separate posts. So welcome to the second installment of the "Personal Liahona" trilogy! :)

One of the men in the temple today suggested that we all do a little studying while we were there today. He specifically suggested that we turn to the Index or Topical Guide (found in LDS scriptures to help study the scriptures) and look at the scriptures that talk about small things. He shared a few examples from history about the importance that the little things can have on us and encouraged to look at those scriptures and find more. I was surprised to find that a few of them talked about the Liahona! So I read those verses, read the verses around it, and was inspired with a new perspective on things--especially on feeling the Spirit!

In 1 Nephi 16:29 we learn something interesting about the Liahona. Not only did it act as a compass with pointers that directed the way they should go, but it also had "writing, which was plain to be read, which did give [them] understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave to it." From this verse we learn that the Liahona also had a message on it that changed from time to time and helped them learn more about God. Notice that, again, it was only beneficial to them when they had faith and were being righteous.

But that's not all! The verse goes on to explain that "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things." What a small thing is was for the Liahona to have those writings on it! I'm sure this ball wasn't all that big so the writing itself couldn't have been all that large. And yet as it says in the earlier part of that verse, it says that it helped give them a greater understanding of the Lord. So we can see that Lehi and his family received both guidance and direction from the Liahona--from such a small thing!

That is how the Spirit works for us. As I mentioned in my last post, the Spirit is often described as a "still small voice." It is hard to recognize those words that the Spirit is speaking to us. Just as the words that were on the Liahona, the words of the Spirit and the meanings of those words change from time to time depending on our circumstances and our needs. God is the greatest Teacher there is and He knows what will help us the most. The trick is to be doing all that we can to receive that guidance and revelation that comes through the Holy Ghost. As we do these things, we will be able to notice that still small voice in our lives.

Another scripture that I found while studying provided a little more light and insight into this connection between the Liahona and the Holy Ghost! It is in Alma 37:41. In the previous verses, Alma is teaching his son Helaman about the Liahona and some lessons that we can learn from that director. He talks about how when Lehi and his family exercised faith in God, the spindles would point them in the direction they needed to go and help guide them. Then in verse 41, he says
"Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey".
That is such an interesting use of words! "They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith..." Whenever I heard this aspect of the story when I was younger, I would always think things like "How do you forget to exercise faith? How do you forget to follow a compass? How hard is it to remember something that you are dependent on for direction and guidance?" I didn't really understand it until I was older and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost became a priority in my life. Now I really understand how hard it can be! Although the Director I carry with me isn't a physical object but rather a spiritual presence, it can still be just as hard to remember to seek His guidance and direction!

It is hard to seek for the small things. Just like that scripture says, it was because the guidance of the Liahona was so small that they had a hard time remembering to follow it. If the Liahona had been a flashing neon sign saying "Go this way!" I'm pretty sure it would have been impossible to forget to follow it. But it wasn't. It is described as a small, round ball. We don't know exactly how big it was, but I have always imagined that it was somewhere around the size of a baseball. When I was younger I used to go on campouts with my Boy Scout troop. I am a huge fan of baseball so I would almost always bring a baseball with me to throw around and provide some sort of entertainment.

As I got ready for the trip, I would lay everything out on my bed to make sure I had everything then I would put it all into my pack. It would always get to the point where I picked up the baseball and thought "I can just carry this with me. It will make the hike more enjoyable!" So I would usually head out holding the baseball and playing with it. After a little while though, when the hike got a little more intense or when we started an activity, as the ball started to become a nuisance, I would stop wherever we were, toss the ball into an open pocket in my pack, and then continue on with whatever we were doing. The before I knew it, we would be on our way home! I would get home, shower, and start to unpack and along the way I would find my baseball that I had forgotten about after I put it in the pocket a few minutes after we started the campout.

Thinking about this with the Liahona, I can only imagine how easy it would have been for Lehi or Nephi or someone to be holding the Liahona, come across something that they needed both hands for, put the Liahona into a side pocket of a camel or something like that, and then forget about it until they were totally lost and had no idea what was going on! How easy that would have been! And that is with a physical object! Now just imagine how much easier it is for us to kind of toss aside seeking direction from the Holy Ghost. How easy it is to be focused on following His direction then come across something that needs some extra attention and you kind of toss the Holy Ghost into another corner of your mind where you forget about it for a while. I know that has happened with me a lot!

When we do this, just as when Lehi and his family forgot to exercise their faith in God concerning the Liahona, we lose our way and our progress is stopped! So what are some ways that we can always remember the Holy Ghost and not forget to exercise our faith in God? There are a number of ways, but I think this point also goes back to the idea of small things. In an earlier part of his teachings to Helaman, Alma teaches us all the importance of those things. He says,
"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."
In these great verses we learn an important part about the way in which God works--through the "small and simple" things. And that kind of transfers over to us. The little things that we do either enable or hinder us from receiving further revelation and continued answers to our prayers. It is through those small things--like reading the scriptures every day, sincerely praying daily, taking time to ponder--that help us to gain further insight and answers to our prayers. It is through the little things that we show God how badly we want an answer to our prayers. In the words of Bruce Barton, "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things - I am tempted to think there are no little things." How true that is!

The Holy Ghost is a small and simple thing. It is great that it works that way because it forces us to always be on our toes working our hardest to always be worthy and ready to receive guidance from Him. But at the same time because it is so easy to forget! It is so easy to get caught up in something else and forget to ask ourselves if what we are doing feels right and if it is what God wants from us. When we do forget, as Alma 37 says, the miracles cease and we no longer progress in our journey towards God. I invite you to read the words of the great king Benjamin who said "And now, O man (or woman), remember, and perish not."

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