What is Man?


  1. Identity Crisis
    1. Nothingness or Everything?
  2. Our True Identity
    1. Quote from Pres. Packer
  3. The Plan that Gives Our Identity Meaning
    1. The Fall
    2. Diabolic Oposition
    3. The Atonement of Christ, Redemption and Repentance
  4. Agency:
    1. Agency strengthens our Identity
    2. Kindergarden Decisions
    3. Covenant Commitment Strengthens our Ability to Choose Right
      1. Quote from Elder Gong
    1. Real Intent and Prayer – Ask
      1. Moroni 7:9
  5. Choices:
    1. Repentence
      1. Central Tenant of our Faith
    2. Honesty
      1. Shwan’s Truck Story
    3. Obedience
      1. Missionary Bag
    4. Moral Cleanliness
      1. Joseph of Egypt
    5. Following Jesus Christ
  6. Jesus Christ – Exemplar of Identity and Agency
    1. Our invitation to Act:

Identity and Agency.

In youth, we try so hard to create an identity for ourselves.

My remarks are designed today to be directed towards the youth, as has been requested by President Beard. My first thought is to reflect upon the foundational principles of my youth that gave me the catapulting ability to jump into life and the experiences that have shaped my life since then. It is my attempt today to put into word some of those primary principles which if we embrace, whether in youth, or at some later date, will provide us with the building blocks for success.

First however, I would like to give this conversation some context or paint a backdrop against which we might begin to understand our place in our Father in heaven’s overarching objectives.

A few days ago, I was reading a scholarly/religious article written the year after Sputnik went into orbit. 1958. 61 years ago.

The Nothingness or Everythingness of Man?

Moses has this amazing experience where he behold God and all his creations and his concluding thought, a very humbling and debasing thought is this: “Now I know that Man is Nothing, which thing I had never supposed.”

But then the Psalmist declared:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?… For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Psalm 8:4-5

Just a little lower than the angels? That’s definitely not a position of nothingness that in all of God’s creations, man is esteemed as just one off from the angels of God, which dwell in His presence.

So which is it? All or nothing?

In ancient times we read of God confounding the languages of those who attempted to reach heaven in tower. But now God has allowed man to touch the moon, soaring to heights unimaginable. We communicate in living color instantaneously around the globe. Indeed, our thoughts and ideas ascend into the skies, akin to the angels.

Which is it? Is man nothing or everything?

So clearly, God is interested in promoting the human race, not in destroying it. We sing “I am a Child of God?” What if each one of us had a sense of the royal position that we occupied in celestial realms of glory before this earth was formed? What would be our approach/attitude

All or nothing? It depends upon our adherence to principles of light and truth.

Talk about identities? The word of wisdom in my opinion is far more than a simple law of health. Understanding the premise, helps us to understand the purpose, and exposes to our minds additional potholes and man-made or demonic devices aimed at ensnaring us in money making schemes.

As we follow the Gospel covenant path, our true identity becomes more visible to us.

Elder Boyd K. Packer – Identity as a Son of God

You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!2

President Boyd K. Packer

Our identity is made clearer as we strengthen our capacity to act on our agency. Making right choices is as a muscle to be exercised. Some choices are made once. Kindergarden decisions. When we decide what our commitments are, choices become easier to make. But we need to acknowledge that every day we are choosing to follow Jesus Christ.

Consider the connection between choice and asking. Elder Gong illustrates how our prayers have stronger conviction and answers become more clearly discernible when we attach our choices to our petitions. This is what elder Gong said:

Elder Gong

Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke about the choice to marry his wife.

Covenant marriage becomes supernal and eternal as we daily choose the happiness of our spouse and family above our own.

When I asked, “Heavenly Father should I marry Susan,” I felt peace. But it was when I learned to pray with real intent: “Heavenly Father, I love Susan and want to marry her. I promise I will be the best husband and father that I can be. When I acted and made my best decisions, it was then [that] the strongest spiritual confirmations came.”

Covenant Belonging

Real Intent – Prayer

And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

Moroni 7:9

The power to strengthen our identity grows as we exercise our agency. How to illustrate this?

Beloved, now are we the asons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall bappear, we shall be clike him; for we shall dsee him as he is.

1 John 3:2

Being converted unto the Lord starts with an unwavering commitment to God, followed by making that commitment part of who we are. Internalizing such a commitment is a lifelong process that requires patience and ongoing repentance. Eventually, this commitment becomes part of who we are, embedded in our sense of self, and ever present in our lives.

…As we choose to be baptized, we begin to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ11 and choose to identify ourselves with Him. We pledge to become like Him and to develop His attributes.

Unwavering Commitment to Jesus Christ

The choice to repentance.

When I was fifteen years old, I made a choice that now was the time for me to repent. I choose to talk with my bishop about some concerns in my past. I choose to face any consequences that would result. Since that time, I have choosen to frequently repent of the smaller details. I have become more anxiously compelled as of late to learn how to use the gift of repentance even more frequently, even daily to draw myself closer to God. I am choosing to repent. I want this in my life.

The choice to be honesty.

Several years ago I drove truck for the Schwan’s Company. (Tell the story of driving the truck.) That day I choose to be honest.

The choice of obedience.

I love the example of Nephi. Nephi not only was obedient, but can you hear in his words his choice to be obedient? “I will go and do the things the Lord commands.”

Obedience as missionary was critical to my success.

The choice of moral cleanliness.

The story of Joseph of Egypt is one that demonstrates the choice to stay morally clean.

Of this Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said:

We can also emulate the spiritual reflexes of Joseph in Egypt: when he was tempted, “he … fled” (Gen. 39:12), showing both courage and good legs! Youth and adults must get out of circumstances and situations which threaten.

The Tugs and Pulls of the World, October 2000

Perhaps being somewhat aware of the target that sat on my head as a young man preparing to serve a mission, and that the devil was bent on my destruction before getting into the mission field, I found myself at one such junction.

The choice to follow Jesus Christ.

We use phrases to describe intentional choice. We say things like “full purpose of heart” “with all the energy of my heart” “with real intent” What we are saying is that we choose. We are exercising that one defining characteristic that set us apart from all the rest of Creation. We are beings of decision to act for our selves. As we choose God we become more aware of our identity as such.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, (or in otherword, with the full awareness and active choosing and desiring to choose this thing) that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is…

Moroni 7:48

Choose you this day whom ye will serve…

It is my prayer that as we intentionally choose to follow our Savior Jesus Christ through our actions, that we will become more aware of our true identity as Sons and Daughter of God.

Ye Do Cast Out the Prophets

Helaman 13

The voice of the Lord comes to Samuel telling him to return to Zarhelma, and to “prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.” Notice the mode of communication! That which should come into his heart, that he should prophesy unto the people.

A prophet standing on a city wall crying repentance unto the people — this is a typical iconic image of prophets from ancient scripture. What may perhaps be overlooked here is the seriousness of the circumstances that led Samuel to stand on a wall and prophesy.

Verse 7 illustrated a much different perspective, one of peace and glad tidings. An angel had appeared unto Samuel, declaring unto him the glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This thing brought joy to his soul. Hence, he had been commissioned to share this joyful message with the Nephites. Yet, the Nephites would not receive it and they rejected the messenger.

Matthew 23 expresses a very similar sentiment to what is found here in at the end of chapter 13.

Helamán 13 (in Spanish)

El Señor trabajó con Samuel por medio de su corazon. Le dio instrucciones que debe regresar a predicar al pueblo todo que puso el Señor en su corazon. Y así lo hizo.

Preservación de los justos

Hay un principio de instruccion en los versículos 11 a 14: Se salva a un pueblo por causa de los justos que en ello mora. Samuel detalle muy claramente a los habitantes de Zarahemla de que si no hubiera sido por la presencia — de los que son justos — que el Señor — haría que descendiera fuego del cielo y la destruyera. — Mas bien, los justo se definen como — los que se arrepientan. —

A veces, seamos tentados a creer que nuestras acciones no afecta a los demás. Pero, aquí me hace recordar que aún la vida de una persona justa se puede salvar a un pueblo.

Tesoros ocultos

Otra doctrina importante es el escondimiento de tesoros tangibles. En los versículos 17-23 Samuel avisa al pueblo de la perdida de sus riquezas a causa de sus iniquidades. Los que escondan a sus tesoros para los propósitos del Señor no son afectado por esta maldición.

Rechazamiento de los profetas

Yo he pasados varios días estudiando este grupo de versículos donde habla del rechazamiento de los profetas. Cosa interesante es en el rechazamiento de los profetas, las personas aceptan a otras personas como sus profetas o guías. Cristo preguntó ¿Puede el ciego guiar a los ciegos? Samuel añada –Sí, ¿hasta cuándo os dejaréis llevar por guías insensatos y ciegos? Sí, ¿hasta cuándo preferiréis las tinieblas a la luz?–

Post Conference Thoughts and Impressions

It is the morning after the 189th Semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There have been a couple of doctrines that have sunk deep into my being this morning. The most important being choice and agency.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke about the choice to marry his wife.

Covenant marriage becomes supernal and eternal as we daily choose the happiness of our spouse and family above our own.

When I asked, “Heavenly Father should I marry Susan,” I felt peace. But it was when I learned to pray with real intent: “Heavenly Father, I love Susan and want to marry her. I promise I will be the best husband and father that I can be. When I acted and made my best decisions, it was then [that] the strongest spiritual confirmations came.”

The bulk of his talk was about “covenant belonging” but this tagent near the end about using agency to form covenant relationships was profoundly signficant.

In my patriarchal blessing there is a line “you can find a young lady of your choice…” this in discussing temple covenants and relationships.

Christ is the champion of agency and choice. Perhaps when I am studying in the scriptures and I cannot find anything that points me to Christ, a second line of strategy would be to ask, “What does this teach me about agency or choice?”

Action Item: There is a greater marriage narrative that needs to be written with this increased light and understanding.

Restored Unto Grace for Grace, According to Their Works

Helaman 12

The doctrine of change, the doctrine of repentance, brings about the purposes of God and reason for our existence.

Second morning, I am going back and reviewing the references at the beginning concerning prosperity:

10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

Psalm 62:10-12

Here is another one:

And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.

2 Chronicles 26:5

And one more:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalm 1:1-3

And then a warning not to forget is found in the subsequent verse’s footnotes:

19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
20 As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 8:19-20

Oh How Great Is the Nothingness of the Children of Men

I read this explanation this morning in verse 7. Verse 6 leads up to it. And it really strikes me as profoundly significant that God, our Creator, would give man instructions, and man would think himself greater than God, ignore his instructions, and go in a different direction. In any other context, a thing created that didn’t fulfill the purpose of its creation would be considered of no value, meaningless, worthless. (Perhaps that is why so frequently we feel this way when we disobey God’s commands.)

But the bigger “Aha!” for me this morning is that if we don’t follow God’s instructions for our design, we are nothing! In any other context, a thing that does not act according to design would be wasted, thrown out, tossed aside as having no purpose, discarded.

Saved, Salvation

I have a problem with the word “salvation” this morning, and that is its association with the thought of a “passive redemption”, which clearly the authors of the scriptures don’t believe in or teach. But salvation is a privilege reserved unto God to grant unto those who exercise faith unto repentance.

the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord:

Psalm 37:39

The above is not a passive statement in as much as righteousness is not passive, but requires work to become righteous and to maintain righteousness. For the moment that the righteous man stops working to do good, then is he no longer righteous, but become idle and hence wicked.

Restored Grace for Grace

And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.

Verse 24

This verse of scripture left me puzzling for a few moments. There are a couple of key insights that are revealed in these verses. First, this verse acknowledges a fall. In other words, that our original habitation was one of glory where we dealt with God “in his great fulness” living “grace for grace”. The path that restores us back to our primeval state of grace, fullness, and glory is that of repentance AND good works. All this is a gift from God, and yet strangely, all this requires our very best efforts to achieve it. “Then is his grace sufficient for you!” (Moroni 10:32) And me!

Why is it so hard? Why is repentance and good works required? Because we’re bring a body in tow with our spirits. We left the presence of God as spirits. Our very purpose in mortality is to return back to God with our spirits clothed in tabernacles of flesh. According to the degree that our spirits could master these tabernacles of flesh, this is the glory to which we are restored, the fullness of which bring us back into the presence of God and His Son. These are not prizes or trophies to be won. NO! It is much more. These are purposes to be achieved, and preparations to be secured. For what? The next chapter has a far greater weight in Glory than could every be conceived in this mortal realm of things.

So in the meanwhile, we are left to limited confines of this mortal existence. Its purposes are to share what we have, and to acquire as much light and knowledge as we can afford to retain.

Helamán 12 (en español)

Los propósitos de Dios se logran cuando los hombres se arrepienten y hacen las buenas obras.

La Vida Sempiterna

¿Cuáles son las escritpuras que testifican o enseñan sobre la vida sempiterna?

No hay mucho que habla de que es la vida eterna. Doctrina y Covenios 132:19,20,24,55 explica con más detalles. Juan 17:3 es el otro lugar.

Condenación Sempiterna

¿Y de la condenación sempiterna? Tal vez lo estudiaré más adelante.

Ripening Again for Destruction

Helaman 11

I’ve been reading this passage of scripture for 3 days now. What have I been missing in my readings? The Lord and the proactive nature of the work of prophets.

It is not normal for the Lord to intervene in the external affairs of man, but here is a prophet of God is proactively soliciting a more humane or compassionate response to the situation of the people. Instead of perishing by the sword, Nephi pleads that there will be a famine in the land. The Lord grants Nephi’s request.

After three years of pestilence, then the people began to remember the Lord and the words of the prophet Nephi. Personal application is this: I forget the Lord when I forget the words that have been revealed to me personally through revelation. I am seeing the need to review, to remember what I already have learned.

Must I be chastened of the Lord, before I will remember Him? How can I better remember the Lord?

By verse 18, a proper order of things had been restored to the land. Nephi is rightly acknowledged as a prophet of God among the people. Nephi has, in fact, petitioned God for an end to the famine which he called upon the land.

It is interesting to note that Nephi called down a famine upon the land in just one verse of scripture. To end the famine that he had called down from God, Nephi plead with the Lord for seven verses, hashing out with the Lord the details of their circumstances. It is almost as if Nephi is petitioning the Lord for forgiveness on behalf of his people.

What follows next is most instructive. Two years of peace and prosperity follow. The church is established throughout all the land. But then, the people’s point of departure from safety was when there began to be “a few contentions concerning the points of doctrine which had been laid down by the prophets.” (vs. 22)

Nephi and Lehi “having many revelations daily” were able to put to an end the strife within the Church in that same season. Revelation was required to be able to do so.

But what follows is the real and sad account of the general state of man, waxing strong in inquity, pride, and wickedness. “And thus they were ripening again for destruction.”

Helamán 11 (en español)

Uno sea tentado a preguntar la sinceridad del arrepentimiento del pueblo que sea compelido a arrepentirse. Y como el resto del capítulo demuestra, entre unos dos o tres años más, se les olvidó de nuevo el Señor su Dios.

(Really, I have been grappling with this set (chapter) of scriptures for a week or so now. I am observing how in regards to long term conversion, it was not really helpful it was to give Nephi power to work great wonders and miracles. That didn’t produce the same staying power as did the missionary efforts of Ammon and his brethren among the Lamanites many years earlier. I actually think that is the point of these chapters. The Lord is trying to illustrate that though He can work shortcuts and give His prophets power to do great wonders and miracles, but they do not produce the needed long term growth that must sustain the children of God in order to become like Him.

Am I missing something else here? What about Nephi’s conversion? It is also fairly notable that admidst such gross wickedness, God was willing to give unto Nephi sealing power. Nephi’s personal life becomes a testament that 1) even among great darkness, one can live a consecrated life and progress spiritually, and 2) God will deliver the righteous even if by miraculous means when needed. )


Mighty in Word and Deed

Helaman 10

I don’t know why this chapter always resonates so deeply with me. Nephi is given the sealing power, power to loose and bind in heaven and on earth.

The Lord declares unto Nephi that he can be trusted with all the words which the Lord gives unto him.

Helaman 10

El Sacrificio significa apartar algo a un propósito sagrado. El significado actual es diferente: –es el de renunciar a algo o sufrir la pérdida de lo mundano por el Señor y Su reino.– Me parece más el primer sentido, porque ser apartado o santificado tiene un sentido mayor. No perdimos cuando nos sacrificamos algo, aún que en lo inicial así se parece. (véase versículo 4)

La razón por lo cual el Espíritu del Señor resuena dentro de mí tan fuerte en estos versículos: Hay claves de poder en versículo 5.

La diligencia en atender a la obra del Señor fue uno de las razones por lo cual Dios bendijo a Nefi, –porque has hecho esto tan infatigablemente–

The Wickedness and Abominations Which Are Among You

Helaman 9

In very dynamic fashion, Nephi demonstrates that prophets are fully aware ” of the wickedness and abominations which are among you. ” Suddenly my respect and appreciation to God for calling prophets in our day has increased. That their guidance and council keeps us safe from those influences that would destroy us is true. You cannot wrest with the worlds or guidance of a prophet of God and come out on safe ground.

The opposing judges in these verses again demonstrate their unorganized attacks against Nephi. Their claims are across the board from trying to condemn, to bribery with money and promises to free him if he will devulge the murderer. They simply refuse to believe that God would reveal it unto him.

Heláman 9

Hay niveles de rectitud. No sea que fácilmente nos puede medirlas, pero la realidad es que hay tiempos en nuestros vidas cuando somos más fieles que otros. También, hay algunos que son malos, y deben ser buenos. Hay blanco y negro, pero satanás nos haría creer que solo hay gris.

Mission Statement, Experience with Wayward Children

Alma 42:15-22

¿Qué es el amor? el mundo no entiende que es el amor. Y por alguna razon, hay un industria que se dedica a la mentira de amor, que en verdad es [lust]. A mi hija que no ha comprendido el amor verdadero, y que ha [compromised] su virtud,

(This morning a clash between the divine and my own personal experiences.  A culmination of truth in action and here are my thoughts at the moment.)

What is love? The world doesn’t understand it. There is an industry that seem bent on the perpetuation of the lie that obscures love, and replaces it with lust.

My own daughter has for a season been carried away by the power of this lie, confusing lust for love, compromising all that was sacred, and putting herself on a course of eternal consequences. I’ve wrestled this morning with the idea that one doesn’t know what sin is who doesn’t know the law. Then also how that has been additionally compromised with the challenges of mental disorder/anxiety.

But it doesn’t stop with my daugher, because my oldest son is also caught in the same social trap, being made prey to all those enticements that waste away youth and steer one in the wrong direction.

Here is the issue on a much larger scale however: There is an industry that has hijacked our culture, and is destroying family value. And this is where my fight lies. Why are they capitalizing on a lie? Because it is so pervasively believed.

This is an extremely important social issue, because of what is happening to family, and how generations are being affected by it, and it is in part a result of our entertainments.

Your mission is to define for yourself those principles that are true. To secure all the blessings of the such principles to ensure a stable home environment, and then to reach out as far as your grasp will take you to change the world for the better.