Sunday, November 22, 2009

Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions

"Since truth is the only meaningful foundation upon which we can make wise decisions, how then can one establish what is really true? Increasingly more people are finding that making wise decisions is becoming more and more difficult because of the ultra-interconnected world in which we live. Constantly forced into our consciousness is an incessant barrage of counsel, advice, and promotions. It is done by a bewildering array of media, Internet, and other means. On a given subject we can receive multiple strongly delivered, carefully crafted messages with solutions. But often two of the solutions can be diametrically opposed. No wonder some are confused and are not sure how to make the right decisions.

"To further complicate matters, others try to persuade us that our decisions must be socially acceptable and politically correct. Some pondering of that approach will reveal how wrong it is. Since social and political structures differ widely over the world and can dramatically change with time, the folly of using that method to make choices is apparent."

The above quote comes from this week's article by apostle Elder Richard G. Scott. In the October 2007 General Conference, Elder Scott gave a talk entitled, "Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions" in which he spoke about truth, why seeking truth is important, and the ways we can and should seek truth.

In our day and age, truth is often defined by science and popular views. In regard to spiritual matters, "truth" is often defined by the individual, who argues that only he or she can decide what is right or wrong for them individually often interpreting the eternal truths as set apart by the Creator in His Holy Scriptures to best fit his or her own lifestlye. Frequently, especially as a missionary when I talked with people about truth all day, I heard and hear people justify their actions and beliefs by saying that they do what's right for them. This answer and mentality is lazy and serves only as justification so that people can get on with their lives without much of a guilty conscience for things they should not be doing but are and for things they should be doing but aren't.

Truth is black and white. Examples of truth are that God the Father lives and that He loves us. He created a plan that we may attain happiness not only in this life but in the life to come, also called eternity. His Son, Jesus Christ, taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come. God reqiures certain things of us that we must do in order to reach our potential and obtain eternal life which is living with Him and our families forever. These things, these actions are not defined by us, but by God. Either we do them or we do not. Either we attain a fulness of joy and happiness in this life or we do not. God gives us commandments that we may know how to be happy. This is truth. Either we live as He directs and be happy and attain eternal life; or we live as we direct, contrary to His will and obtain something lesser.

King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet taught:

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For 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 neverending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)

Now, I am not talking about living life in blind obedience. We are all endowed with the ability to search out truth and choose for ourselves our actions (see 2 Nephi 2:27.) However, we must search. Elder Scott said, "The process of identifying truth sometimes necessitates enormous effort coupled with profound faith in our Father and His glorified Son." Because Truth has become generally unpopular, faith and trust are required as we accept the Savior's Atonement and live His teachings.

In conclusion, I highlight one final phrase from this talk. "A knowledge of truth is of little value unless we apply it in making correct decisions." When we find truth, we must put off the natural man and humble ourselves (Mosiah 3:19) and apply the truths we found or all of the searching is in vain. Faith, without works, is dead (see James 2:17-18.)

I have a knowledge of the truths that have here been addressed through my own searching, prayer, and living the principles of the gospel (see John 7:17.) Indeed, these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Jeremy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Safety for the Soul

In the last session of the most recent General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the quorum of the twelve apostles gave a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon. His talk, entitled "Safety for the Soul," is a strong witness and personal testimony from an apostle of Jesus Christ that the Book of Mormon is true and is key in helping us overcome the troubles and trials we experience in these latter days. I encourage each of you to listen to Elder Holland give this talk; it is found toward the bottom of the page in the Sunday Afternoon session.

As not to detract from the words of Elder Holland I wish to share only one sentence from this article. Elder Holland says:

I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies.

I add my testimony of the truthfulness of both the Book of Mormon and the words of the apostle Elder Holland. The Book of Mormon is absolutely true and not just that, it contains the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore one who reads and applies the teachings will find the fullest measure of peace and comfort. I have tried and tested it's teachings and the spirit I feel when I study it's pages and there is not a doubt in my mind that the Book of Mormon is the word of God as spoken by His prophets. The challenge is open to everyone to read the Book of Mormon, ponder the teachings contained therein, and ask God Himself if the Book of Mormon is true (see Moroni 10:3-5.)

Jeremy

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Moral Discipline

The article two weeks ago discussed how God loves us and therefore He gives us commandments that we may know how to become truly happy. This week's article discusses our need to be obedient to those commandments in spite of the world of changing and shifting values that surrounds us.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, apostle of Jesus Christ, gave a talk entitled, "Moral Discipline," in the most recent General Conference. He said:

Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service (see Mark 10:42–45).

What is right is defined by God, not by us or by anybody else. Often the teachings today are about choosing for yourself, letting the individual decide what is wrong and what is right for his or herself because truth is relative to the individual person. As Elder Oaks taught in last week's article, the commandments of God apply to all and we cannot pick and choose which commandments we like and which ones we do not. Sin is sin, no matter what one wishes to believe because truth is defined by God, not us.

In his talk, Elder Christofferson also addresses the responsibility and importance of parents teaching their children right and wrong. He said:

I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous, multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness.

Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him and His omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).

People put their children in sports or music with coaches and instructors who push them to achieve their potential without waiting for the child to say, "yes, this is what I want to do." Then, in the future, when the child is old enough they may decide that they don't like the sport or instrument and drop out or they decide they do and now they are a lot better at what they do because of the years of earlier preparation that they would not have otherwise had if the parents had waited for their child to choose for themselves.

Think of any child who has ever said, "oh, I love school, and homework, and I never want summer break or holidays because school is just so great." Right... Yet we don't allow the children to start their education when they are ready and when they feel that school is important. Instead we have laws that force children to go to school until they are a certain age. These laws exist because older, more mature people understand the importance of education and understand that a love of learning and education needs to be instilled in the child before they get too old and have started down damaging paths. Hundreds of thousands of people go to college voluntarily and are prepared to learn and be tested because of the education they received when they hated school and didn't want to go. They even pay to go because they now understand the importance of education and what it can do for them.

With this in mind, why would we think that teaching our children gospel principles and teaching them that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them is not totally and completely necessary and vital?

Elder Christofferson taught that many of our societal problems stem from the lack of moral discipline. Our choices affect more than just ourselves or those immediately around us. Truth is truth, it doesn't change from day to day, from era to era, or from society to society. We need to have the strength to do what is right despite what others think or do. Only this way can we be truly happy, only this way will we, as Elder Christofferson said, "have an influence for good and inspire others to pursue the same course. We may thereby have an impact on future trends and events. At a minimum, moral discipline will be of immense help to us as we deal with whatever stresses and challenges may come in a disintegrating society."

God is our Father in Heaven. He is the source of truth and light. He desires our eternal salvation and happiness. I love Him.

Jeremy

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Repentance

A few weeks ago I posted a blog on Faith in Jesus Christ. This week’s post on repentance is part two of my five part post. The faith that we have in Jesus Christ, if it be true faith, will lead us to sincerely repent of our sins.

On my mission in North Carolina, I saw many people who repented wholly and sincerely. I also saw those who repented, but went right back into their old habits. What was the difference? True repentance is instantly turning from darkness and sin and returning to Jesus Christ. It means having a change of heart. A Book of Mormon prophet named Alma spoke of the change of heart that came to his father: “. . . according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart . . . he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves, and put their trust in the true and living God.” (see Alma 5:12-13) Repentance takes humility.

One example of true repentance from my mission is a young man named Stuart. He was attending a university and had a friend there who was a member. She introduced him to the missionaries, but his heart and mind were closed, and he rejected what they taught, going as far as hating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and really anything that had to do with religion. He liked his way of life and wasn’t about to change. Then some things happened in his life which caused him to be humble. He opened his heart and decided to change. One of the commandments of God is the Word of Wisdom. Stuart loved sweet tea, and sweet tea is against the Word of Wisdom. In order to be fully repentant he had to give up drinking sweet tea for good. That’s a hard thing to do, especially for someone who grew up in the South. He decided to give it up, and he hasn’t had any since. That’s repentance. Turning from something you know is wrong and turning with full heart to the Lord. It wasn’t easy for Stuart, though he eventually did join the Church of Jesus Christ. He continues to turn his life to Heavenly Father each day.

The Savior commanded us to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (see Matthew 5:48) That doesn’t happen overnight. Repentance takes recognizing sin, feeling godly sorrow for that sin, confessing to the Lord, stopping the sin completely, and the lifelong process of keeping the commandments of God. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the quorum of the twelve apostles once said:

You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality. (Born Again, Ensign, May 2008, 76–79)

The only way to feel the full power of the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is to repent of our sins.

Forgiveness

Elder Richard G. Scott once said, ”Repentance is a process of cleansing. It is difficult, but it has an end, a glorious end with peace and refreshing forgiveness and the miracle of a new beginning.” (To Be Free of Heavy Burdens, Ensign, Nov 2002, 86) We can be forgiven of our sins and feel like Alma when he said “. . . oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy . . .” (see Alma 36:17-21) But can we really expect the Lord to forgive us of our many sins if we are not willing to forgive those around us? I was blessed with knowing a wonderful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints named Christine. About six years before I met her, she had quit going to church. Some of the members had said some things to her that really bothered her, so she was offended and stopped attending. When I met her I could tell that there was something missing, the Holy Ghost was not in her home. We taught her about forgiving others, about the Savior. Over time she came back, she brought her family, and the blessings of the gospel were once again hers. She had been forgiven of her sins because she had forgiven those that may have wronged her.

Repentance is possible, it requires faith and hard work, but I know the Lord will forgive us if we let Him change our heart. Repentance is essential for us if we want to return and live with our Father in Heaven. “Behold he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I the Lord, remember them no more.” (see D&C 58:42-43)

Zachary

Sunday, November 1, 2009

But If Not...

In shuffling through some conference talks from before my mission, I came across a talk about which I had forgotten and feel the need to share with you this week. This talk was given by Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the seventy in the April 2004 General Conference and is entitled "But If Not...."

Elder Simmons tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego being thrown into a fiery furnace at King Nebuchadnezzar's command. They responded that they had faith to be saved, but if it saving them was not the Lord's will, they would still not do as the king commanded and worship his idols. We know that the Lord did deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego according to His will and their faith. In his talk, Elder Simmons focuses on the phrase from the account, "but if not."

Elder Simmons said:

"The Lord has given us agency, the right and the responsibility to decide (see 2 Ne. 2:27; Hel. 14:30; D&C 101:78.) He tests us by allowing us to be challenged. He assures us that He will not suffer us to be tempted beyond our ability to withstand (see 1 Cor. 10:13; Alma 13:28.) But we must understand that great challenges make great men. We don’t seek tribulation, but if we respond in faith, the Lord strengthens us. The but if nots can become remarkable blessings."

Events take place in our lives beyond our control. Sometimes we feel that the particular trial that we are experiencing is not fair, that our faith should somehow have saved us from grief, sorrow, and heartache. Elder Simmons taught that we need to trust in the Lord regardless of the outcome. Faith precedes and is the source of many mighty miracles (see Hebrews 11 and Ether 12.) However, the Lord does not always deliver us from our trials in order to test our faith so that we may prove that we will be faithful in good times and bad.

Elder Simmons concluded with these words: "Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not … . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.

"Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has" (see D&C 84:35–38.)

Note that the very last phrase does end with the caveat, "but if not...." Trials of our faith last only as long as this life. All that is unfair about this life can be made right through the Atonement.1 Eternal life is promised to all who are faithful.

President James E. Faust said: "Through faith and righteousness all of the inequities, injuries, and pains of this life can be fully compensated for and made right. Blessings denied in this life will be fully recompensed in the eternities. Through complete repentance of our sins we can be forgiven and we can enjoy eternal life. Thus our suffering in this life can be as the refining fire, purifying us for a higher purpose. Heartaches can be healed, and we can come to know a soul-satisfying joy and happiness beyond our dreams and expectations."2

I conclude with a story from the Book of Mormon about a people who were highly favored of the Lord. These people followed the prophet, served each other, and otherwise honored their baptismal commitment. The 23rd chapter of Mosiah states that the people did prosper exceedingly in the land. Mormon continues:

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

Our personal righteousness and faith do not shield us from life. But they do help us deal with life and help us return to live with our Father in Heaven. Eternal life with our Father in Heaven and our families is the goal and purpose of this life.

Jeremy

1Elder David S. Baxter Of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 2006, 124
2 James E. Faust, “‘Woman, Why Weepest Thou?’,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 52