Curious Arts

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Question: What inspired the people to burn their “curious arts” books?

Answer: The people, who Paul and his brethren converted, felt that these books were an evil influence in their lives. Because of their new found faith in Jesus Christ, they were inspired to get rid of these evil books.

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Acts 19:18-20

18 And many that believed (who were converted) came (to Paul and his brethren), and confessed, and shewed their deeds (confessed their evil deeds).

19 Many of them also which used curious arts (magic, sorcery, witchcraft, etc.) brought their books together (gathered together their books about sorcery, etc.), and burned them before all men (burned them in public): and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver (they figured the cost of the books they burned to be about 50,000 pieces of silver).

20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed (had much success).

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Sister Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency:

I once saw a sign in a store window that said, “Happiness, $15.00.” I was so curious to know how much happiness I could buy for $15 that I went inside to see. What I found was a lot of cheap trinkets and souvenirs—not one thing I saw could possibly bring me the type of happiness that the sign implied!

Over the years, I’ve thought many times about that sign and how easy it can be to look for happiness in items that are cheap or temporary. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to know how and where true happiness is found. It is found in carefully living the gospel established by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in striving to become more like Him...Although we may encounter occasional obstacles along the way, this path will keep us moving toward our prized eternal destination if we stay firmly on it.

Lehi’s vision of the tree of life

Weston Lamplugh

Weston Lamplugh

The vision of the tree of life shows us how the effects of casualness can lead us away from the covenant path. Consider that the rod of iron and the strait and narrow path, or the covenant path, led directly to the tree of life, where all the blessings provided by our Savior and His Atonement are available to the faithful. Also seen in the vision was a river of water representing the filthiness of the world. The scriptures describe that this river “ran along” the path yet passed only “near” the tree, not to it. The world is laden with distractions that can deceive even the elect, causing them to be casual in living their covenants—thus leading them near the tree, but not to it. If we are not careful in living our covenants with exactness, our casual efforts may eventually lead us into forbidden paths or to join with those who have already entered the great and spacious building. If not careful, we may even drown in the depths of a filthy river.

There is a careful way and a casual way to do everything, including living the gospel. As we consider our commitment to the Savior, are we careful or casual? Because of our mortal nature, don’t we sometimes rationalize our behavior, at times referring to our actions as being in the gray, or mixing good with something that’s not so good? Anytime we say, “however,” “except,” or “but” when it applies to following the counsel of our prophet leaders or living the gospel carefully, we are in fact saying, “That counsel does not apply to me.” We can rationalize all we want, but the fact is, there is not a right way to do the wrong thing!...

Being careful in living the gospel does not necessarily mean being formal or stuffy. What it does mean is being appropriate in our thoughts and behavior as disciples of Jesus Christ. As we ponder the difference between careful and casual in our gospel living, here are some thoughts to consider:

Are we careful in our Sabbath-day worship and in our preparation to partake of the sacrament each week?...

Are we careful in our temple worship, and do we carefully and deliberately live the covenants we made both at baptism and in the temple? Are we careful in our appearance and modest in our dress, especially in sacred places and circumstances? Are we careful in how we wear the sacred temple garments? Or do the fashions of the world dictate a more casual attitude?...

Are we careful or casual in what we read and what we watch on TV and our mobile devices? Are we careful in our language? Or do we casually embrace the crude and vulgar?...

We do not lower our standards to fit in or to make someone else feel comfortable. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, and as such we are about elevating others, lifting them to a higher, holier place where they too can reap greater blessings.

I invite each of us to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know what adjustments we need to make in our lives to be more carefully aligned with our covenants. I also plead with you not to be critical of others making this same journey. “Judgment is mine, saith the Lord.” We are each in the process of growth and change.

The story told in the Book of Mormon about the apostate Amlicites is interesting to me. As a way of noting to others that they were no longer associated with Jesus Christ and His Church, they put a distinct mark of red on their foreheads for all to see. In an opposite way, and as disciples of Jesus Christ, how do we mark ourselves? Can others easily see His image in our countenance and know who we represent by the way we carefully conduct our lives?

As a covenant people, we are not meant to blend in with the rest of the world. We have been called “a peculiar people”—what a compliment! As the influences of the world increasingly embrace the evil, we must strive with all diligence to stay firmly on the path that leads us safely to our Savior, widening the distance between our covenant living and worldly influences.

As I reflect upon obtaining lasting happiness, I realize that sometimes we do find ourselves in the gray. Mists of darkness are inevitable as we journey along the covenant path. Temptation and casualness can cause us to subtly divert our course into the darkness of the world and away from the covenant path. For the times when this might happen, our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has urged us to get back on the covenant path and to do so quickly. How grateful I am for the gift of repentance and for the power of our Savior’s Atonement.

Simon Dewey

Simon Dewey

It’s impossible to live a perfect life. Only one man was able to live perfectly while dwelling on this telestial planet. That was Jesus Christ. Although we may not be perfect, brothers and sisters, we can be worthy: worthy to partake of the sacrament, worthy of temple blessings, and worthy to receive personal revelation.

King Benjamin testified of the blessings and happiness that come to those who carefully follow the Savior: “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.”

Can happiness be bought with $15? No, it can’t. Deep and lasting happiness comes by intentionally and carefully living the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 116; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 54; Excerpts from General Conference, April 2019, “Careful versus Casual,” by Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency.