Sunday, December 26, 2010

Joseph, the Man and the Prophet

December 23 is the birthday of the prophet Joseph Smith. Not wanting to upstage the birth of the Savior, I've waited until now to honor the first prophet of this dispensation and the man through whom the Church of Jesus Christ was restored.

For those of you who know little of the prophet Joseph Smith, I encourage you to start here rather than firing up a new Google or Wikipedia search. Remember the source of the information you obtain, especially on the internet. Joseph Smith was a boy of fourteen when God the Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared to him and called him to be the prophet through whom the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ would be restored. The priesthood--the power to act in the name of God to perform saving ordinances such as baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and the power to perform miracles such as healing the sick--was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith by John the Baptist and by Peter, James, and John. Additional heavenly messengers visited Joseph including the angel Moroni who told Joseph of an ancient record written on gold plates hidden in a hill not far from the Smith family farm. From these gold plates by the power of God Joseph translated a record called the Book of Mormon--a collection of writings by ancient prophets living on the American continents compiled by the prophet Mormon for us in our day.

On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith gave his life for the work to which he had been called by God. John Taylor, an apostle and later President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who was present at the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph wrote:

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood;"

The article this week is entitled, "Joseph, the Man and the Prophet," a talk given by apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks during the April 1996 General Conference. I chose this talk because Elder Oaks talks about what he calls, "lesser-known aspects of [the prophet's] life that further affirm his prophetic calling." Read this talk.

I love the prophet Joseph. I know he was a prophet of God.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Testimony of the Son of God

The article this week is entitled, "A Testimony of the Son of God," written by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) for the December 2002 Ensign. President Hinckley was a prophet of God and he spoke the mind and will of God. His words are true. The article is his testimony, given as the prophet of God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read it. The Spirit that you will feel will help you understand the spirit of Christmas even more.

President Hinckley said of the Christmas season:

It is proper during this season when we commemorate His birth that we remember the Lord Jesus Christ in reverence and with love. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has brought meaning to our mortal existence. He has given us the gift of eternal life. He was and is the Son of God, who was “made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Along with the article this week, I want to share with you my testimony of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this season. I love the Savior. I am increasingly grateful for His sacrifice; for His willingness to volunteer to be the central figure in the plan of our Heavenly Father; for His selfless and perfect example of how we can be happy in this life; and for His Atonement that we may become clean and return to live with Him, our Father in Heaven, and our earthly families forever. Let Him in this Christmas season and throughout the next year. Notice the difference in your life.

I echo the words of the prophet:

God be thanked for the gift of His Son, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the Prince of Life and Peace, the Holy One.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Three Degrees of Christmas

Christmastime is an exciting and wonderful time. Christmas is perhaps the only holiday with an entire season, an entire month (or two or three) devoted to it. Most look forward to the Christmas season and miss it when it’s over. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, a season of happiness and joy, of fun and excitement and wonder, a season when people seem to come together, when our hearts are filled with compassion, when we feel more of a desire to help those who may be less fortunate than ourselves, and when we see more opportunities to do good and serve our fellow man. Christmas is a season of traditions, of family, and of worship even for those who are not actively religious. Christmas is a season of hope and love.

Of course, with Christmas come the Scrooges and the people who complain about the music and the commercialization and the cold weather. And, unfortunately, there are those who perhaps have good reason to dislike the Christmas season, people who have lost loved ones or have experienced other hardships during previous Christmas years and all of the Christmas extravaganza only serve as a harsh reminder of the past.

I’ve heard it said that there are three degrees of Christmas: Santa Claus, Silent Night, and the Adult Christ. Each degree has some sort of influence and significance in our lives, whatever the degree of importance may be.

1- Santa Claus

The Santa Claus degree is the commercialized Christmas, Xmas, and what is implied with Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings. Santa Claus Christmas is fun, full of bright lights and elaborate decorations, snow about which people don’t complain, candy canes, Rudolph, cards, presents, Christmas trees and ornaments, and the smells and tastes of all the Christmas candies and treats. Santa Claus Christmas is perhaps best described in the lyrics to the popular Christmas song, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas:”

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

The greetings Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings are heard more frequently in an attempt to include all holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and perhaps even New Years so that Christians and those with other beliefs alike may all celebrate the season together.

Santa Claus Christmas is the Christmas that the Scrooges hate. They hate the songs and the busy stores and the lack of parking and slipping on the ice and whatever else they can complain about. I say bah humbug to them; Santa Claus Christmas is fun.

2- Silent Night

The Silent Night degree of Christmas is the true Christmas story; the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, the original reason people began celebrating Christmas. The Silent Night Christmas is the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, no room in the inns, shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, wise men from the east; it is, in the words of a heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The Silent Night Christmas is the reason we give gifts to each other, although the feeling and meaning may be lost in the Santa Claus Christmas. It is the source of our feelings of goodwill toward men. The Silent Night Christmas gets its name from the sacred hymn “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber:
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

The Silent Night Christmas is so wonderful because on that silent night over two thousand years ago, Christ, the Savior, was born. Families and communities around the world dress up and re-enact the holy scene each year, using the second chapter of Luke as their script. I believe that most people try at least to some degree to remember the Silent Night Christmas each season as they go about their Santa Claus Christmas excitement. The Silent Night Christmas is sacred and holy because the Savior and Redeemer was born on Christmas day.

3- Adult Christ

The Adult Christ degree of Christmas is the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a time of hope, peace, and love and in this third degree of Christmas, the Adult Christ Christmas, our hope of peace and love becomes real.

The Holy Infant so tender and mild “increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and as He did so, He went about His Father’s business (see Luke 2:49). The modern prophets said of the Adult Christ:

“Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He 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.

“He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

“His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.”

Indeed, the Adult Christ is the real reason we celebrate Christmas. The real and lasting peace that we truly seek and that we wish upon others especially at Christmastime comes from and through the Savior. “Peace I leave with you,” He taught, “my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He continued, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus Christ did overcome the world. We gain a peace and hope of eternal life as we learn more about the Atonement. Those who have experienced hardships during the Christmas season and no longer enjoy the jollies of the Santa Claus Christmas because of undesired memories can take hope in and eventually have joy because of the Adult Christ degree of Christmas, because of His Atonement. All that is unfair in life is made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement takes a more full effect in our lives as we strive to emulate our Savior’s life of righteousness, service, and compassion. He taught, “this is my Gospel; . . . for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do” (3 Nephi 27:21). As we love and serve our fellow men just as He selflessly did during His mortal ministry, we fulfill His great commandments to love the Lord God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Mark 12:30-31).

This is the true meaning of Christmas: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Lord loves each of His children individually and equally and desires our happiness. “Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

May we all more fully understand and act upon the true meaning of Christmas. I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and hope that the peace, hope, and joy of this Christmas season lasts throughout the whole year.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giving With Joy

Christmas is the season to be jolly, forget about diets, drive around looking at lights, and stress about what we're going to get everyone on our ever-growing Christmas lists. Some of you are just starting the process of figuring out what to get everyone, some of you have been in the process for weeks or months and some of you are wondering why anyone would think about anything related to gift-giving before Christmas Eve.

Whatever your situation, I hope that the article this week can help you in some way to sift through the Santa Claus degree of Christmas and find the other two deeper degrees that your Christmas may be merry and bright.

In the December 1982 Ensign President Henry B. Eyring wrote an article entitled, "Giving With Joy," in which he taught, "what matters in giving is what the receiver feels." His "theory on giving a great gift" as he calls it involves three parts which he illustrates with a story of a gift given to his family by his Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine when his mother passed away.

Wrote President Eyring:

First, I knew that Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine had felt what I was feeling and had been touched.

Second, I felt that the gift was free. I knew Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine had chosen freely to bring a gift. They weren’t doing it to compel a response from me; the gift seemed to provide them joy in the giving.

And third, there was an element of sacrifice. Someone might say, “But how could they give for the joy of it and yet make sacrifice?” Well, I could see the sacrifice.

I like the focus on the giver of the gift. The effectiveness of the gift his family received wasn't the actual gift itself, in this case a bottle of cherries, but the manner and attitude in which it was given made the gift effective. He continued:

Now, it won’t be easy to use this theory to make great strides in our gift-giving this Christmas. It will take some practice, more than one holiday, to learn how to be touched by what’s inside others. And giving freely and counting sacrifice as joy, will take a while. But we could at least start this Christmas being a good receiver. We have the power to make others great gift-givers by what we notice. We can make any gift better by what we choose to see—and we can, by failing to notice, make any gift a failure. Gift giving takes a giver and a receiver. I hope no one uses this theory to criticize the gifts and giving that come his way this year, but to see how often his heart is understood and how often gifts are given joyfully, even with sacrifice.

Our attitude and the manner in which we receive gifts can have a great effect on the spirit of gift-giving.

Now on another, deeper note President Eyring taught: 

If that warms you as it does me, you may well want to give a gift to the Savior. But he seems to have everything, doesn’t he? Well, not quite. He doesn’t have all of us with him again, forever—not yet. I hope we are touched enough by the feelings of his heart to sense how much he wants to know each of us is coming home to him. We can’t give that gift to him in one day, or in one Christmas. But we could show him today that we are on the way.

If we have already done that, there is still something left to give. All around us are people he loves, and he wants to help them—through us.

One of the sure signs of a person who has accepted the gift of the Savior’s atonement is a willingness to give. The process of cleansing our lives seems to make us more sensitive, more generous, more pleased to share what means so much to us.

And so what shall we do to appreciate and give a merry Christmas? “Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8.)

As we go about our gift-giving during this wonderful season, think about what would make the best gifts. Think about those to whom you are giving gifts and strive to understand what would bless their lives the most. Get in the true spirit of the season, for the Savior taught, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

We can all show the Savior that we have accepted His ultimate gift as we reach out to those around us with His love. Be mindful of those in need, of those to whom He would pay extra special attention if He were here--those to whom He needs us to pay special attention because He is not here.

May your Christmas season be filled with the perfect gift-giving and receiving.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Of Things That Matter Most

"Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.

"What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.

"Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions."

The above excerpt was taken from a talk by the apostle President Dieter F. Uchtdorf entitled, "Of Things That Matter Most." In the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Uchtdorf spoke about slowing down in life and refocusing on the things that matter most.

As I read this talk recently, so many things stuck out to me. He teaches so many solid principles about slowing down and enjoying life to it's full potential. You have to read this talk. The gospel and plan of Jesus Christ is plain and simple yet elegant and beautiful, much like our lives can and should be. "We would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most."

President Uchtdorf outlines four key relationships upon which we should focus regarding things that matter most:

  1. Our relationship with God. "As we seek Him, . . . our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God's eternal plan and keep His commandments."
  2. Our relationship with our families. "Since "no other success can compensate for failure" here, we must place a high priority on our families."
  3. Our relationship with our fellowman. "We build this relationship one person at a time--by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents."
  4. Our relationship with ourselves. "[R]educe the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better."
He closed with these words, "Let us simplify out lives a little. Let us make necessary changes to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship--the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace."

I understand that becoming overwhelmed with day to day tasks in the midst of larger responsibilities such as school, work, and family duties is quite easy. I also understand that we can only do so much. At least I can only do so much; perhaps some of you are more superhuman. But no matter how much each of us thinks we can handle or are convinced that we "have" to do, we are happier when we simplify and prioritize. The best things in life are those that bring us closer to our Savior and our families and all others, however good they may be, have the potential to distract, disorient, and debilitate.

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon taught, "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and in order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again it is expedient that he might be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order" (Mosiah 4:27).


For further reading, see, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Good, Better, Best," Ensign, Nov 2007

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Obedience and Blessings--the BYU Honor Code real-world application

I have a new favorite quote this week (hint: sarcasm); something a new friend said in a casual conversation just after I met her. She and another of our friends were talking about her experiences at BYU-Idaho this past semester. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Church's universities, students sign and promise to live by an honor code or a set of rules and standards can be viewed as more strict than probably any other university. For instance, students at BYU-Idaho have a curfew and at all BYUs girls have to be out of guys' apartments by a certain time at night and vice versa. The BYUs have dress and grooming standards and take cheating and dishonesty very seriously. Note that one reason the honor code is called the honor code is because the students are on their honor to follow all the rules; no one comes around checking to see if you are obedient. Of course when discovered, violations are justly dealt with but for the most part the schools trust the integrity of the students and we are left to our own integrity. And, of course, all Church standards must be upheld at all times. Strange? Well, we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people.

In this conversation my new friend said, "I don't understand how some of the rules they have," (in this conversation she was referring particularly to curfew and guys out), "help us toward our eternal salvation but whatever, I'll get over it I guess." In my four years at BYU-Idaho and BYU and in my interactions with Latter-day Saint young adults in other places, I've heard many similar such complaints and many seemingly disgruntled students.

Such rules may seem harsh, strict, controlling, or ridiculous and one may feel that he or she is in college and old enough to handle or take care of his or herself and should be able to act as he or she pleases. Regardless, of whatever the argument may be, each student at Church schools signed the honor code stating he or she would live by the rules, and, as I said, a lot of which are not actively enforced; instead the students are expected to live on their honor.

I won't dwell on the question of why one would agree to follow a set of rules and then complain about rules and standards that he or she agreed to live. If one has a problem with such a lifestyle, he or she is more than welcome to attend a different school-one that has no rules and allows you to act in whatever manner you please with little or no repercussions from the admin office. But this post is not about that issue. Nor will I discuss the potential reasons and good intentions behind the rules and standards in existence at the BYUs.

Part I: "They"

The part of my new friend's statement on which I wish to focus is the "they" she used. The ambiguous, ever-present, all-encompassing "they" used so often in our speech. She disagrees with the rules "they" created because she doesn't see what purpose some of the particular and potentially "nit-picky" rules serve, especially in the grand scheme of things. Which is valid. We all pick and choose which laws from the governmental or rules in the workplace we want to follow based on our understanding of their importance. I jay walk when no cars are around that may endanger my life. Not the best thing in the world but sometimes I justify it because I'm not patient and I'm sure "they" understand that jaywalking when the streets aren't busy isn't dangerous. Still against the law. Some justify going five or ten over the speed limit or more on back streets when no cars are around. Not that big of a deal? Perhaps. Illegal in all situations? Absolutely.

I draw attention to the "they" because of who this particular "they" represents in my friend's statement. A person may be "fine" once or twice or even for a while not abiding by the BYUs' honor codes, perhaps even graduate without mishap. One can justify all he or she wants because one might believe that he or she is an exception or because the rule is "dumb" but that is a very dangerous road to travel.

Think for a minute who the "they" is that came up with these rules and standards: the university administration. The presidents of the universities signed off on all honor code standards. "They" are the presidents of the universities. "They" are men called of God to the positions they hold. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the presidents of the Church's universities are called through revelation by the Prophet. "They," both before and after serving as presidents of one of the BYUs, have been called to other positions in the Church. "They" include past and present mission presidents, a Presiding Bishop, members of the Quorums of the Seventies, Presidents of the Quorums of the Seventies, temple presidents, apostles, and a member of the First Presidency of the Church--a counselor to the Prophet.

"They" are some of the closest men to God on the earth. During their terms as presidents of the Church schools, "they" sought nothing save the betterment of their students and through revelation found those things that would help the overall academic and eternal well-being of those over whom they were called to watch and protect. "They" lost countless hours of sleep wondering what more they could do at their universities to adequately prepare their students for life in the real world both temporally and spiritually. "They" were trusted by God enough to have the future of the Church and the world delivered into their hands. "They" sought the glory of God and His righteousness. And the current "they's" continue to do the same. What do some of the rules "they" created have to do with helping us toward our eternal salvation? Everything.

I love the Church's universities. I went to two and was accepted to a third. I loved my time there, I was sad to leave both, but I am so very grateful for everything I learned in my college experience. I am so very grateful for the environment provided at the BYUs that afforded me so many wonderful experiences. I am not saying that one should not go to any other school or even that any other university is inferior simply because it is not run by the Church. But I would that you understood this one thing: the rules and standards upheld at the Church's schools aid the temporal and spiritual development of the students who attend in a way that cannot be found in any other institution of higher learning anywhere in the world because those who introduce and then uphold those standards are called of and sustained by God. Regardless of whether or not one understands the purpose of each of the rules and standards.

Part II: Practical application for each of us

Google Analytics tells me that very few of you who read this blog live in Rexburg, Provo, or Laie and therefore probably don't attend a university run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But the principles and doctrines discussed in this post are applicable to all.

Each of us has a similar attitude toward some of the commandments and standards the Lord expects us to live. Someone may not understand the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy or living the law of tithing. Some may not realize the importance of amply studying the scriptures each day, preparing for and
participating in all three hours of church, or not participating in media that "isn't that bad." And some may not understand why earrings, clothing, and our leisure-time activities are of any concern to the leadership of the Church. We each have our "favorite sins" that we justify, thinking, "how does that standard help us toward our eternal goal?" At times we all discount the counsel of our Church leaders.

But if we remember who is actually giving us commandments and standards and counsel, living the standards of the Church becomes much easier. God works through His chosen servants on the earth today. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). God's work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:37). He desires our happiness and eternal salvation and exaltation because He loves us and wants us to return to live with Him for eternity. The commandments, rules, standards, and guidelines He gives us through His servants help us toward that goal. Jesus Christ taught, "What I the Lord have spoken I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; . . . whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same" (D&C 1:38). The men called to lead us are called by God Himself! Our Father in Heaven loves us enough to give us living prophets and apostles who give of their lives to help us back to live with our Father in Heaven and with our families for eternity.

I believe that our lack of desire or will power to obey all of Father's commandments simply stems from a lack of understanding of those commandments. Think about from whence those commandments come and why they are given. A complete understanding is not necessary for complete obedience and complete reception of the blessings that come from obedience. Remember, "There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven upon which all blessings are predicated--

"And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:20-21). If you believe that the prophet is called of God, you do not need a complete understanding of why a particular commandment exists because you know it is of God for it came from Him through His servant. I am not talking about blind obedience, I am talking about trusting that your loving Father in Heaven knows best and hearkening unto His servants.

Jonah did not understand why he had to return to Nineveh, Zacharias did not understand how his wife was to have a baby, Naaman did not understand how washing in the river would cleanse him, the Israelites did not understand why they could only collect a day's worth of manna or how looking upon Moses' staff would heal them, the rich young man did not understand why he was required to sell all that he had, the apostles did not understand why they should throw their nets into the water once again when fishing had thus been fruitless, Abraham did not understand why he was commanded to sacrifice his only son whom his wife had borne in her old age,

In each case, if the person acted in faith and did as he was commanded although he did not understand, he was richly rewarded. But when the people did not exercise faith in God and do as they were commanded, as in the case of the rich young man, for instance, they received no blessing and "went away sorrowful."

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). How do each of the commandments and standards of the Lord help us toward our goal of eternal life? If by no other way simply by learning obedience to Him who gave us life and growing closer to Him. But there is always another way and another reason even if we do not see it at first. I know of personal experience, both following a commandment and living a standard and receiving the blessing and the understanding and not doing so and going away sorrowful. The choice is ours, trust God or trust man (see 2 Nephi 2:27-29).


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Agency and Consequences

I LOVE this picture. I laughed out loud when I first stumbled across it. To me, this cartoon is so completely ironic and 100% exemplifies the overall attitude of today's society. Before I continue, keep in mind that this post is not about the moral issues of abortion although for the record I oppose abortion except for rare circumstances that can be discussed at another time.

Society would teach you that you can act as you will and then also choose your own consequences. If someone opposes that mentality, he or she is being "ignorant," "intolerant," "narrow-minded," or "judgmental," and is acting with little or no regard to others' rights and feelings (see Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life.)

The reason this picture is so ironic is because the focus is completely off. The artist would have the viewers believe that a pregnant girl has no choice but to have her baby even if she doesn't want it because the "pro-life" advocates won't let her exercise her agency and choose to have an abortion. "NO CHOICE: You're having that baby!" No choice? What about her choice to engage in activities that got her pregnant in the first place? If she didn't want a baby and he didn't want to pay child support, why did they get together and make the choices that put them in that unfortunate predicament? If you don't want to harvest the crop, don't plant the seeds! Everyone absolutely has a choice whether or not to have a baby in less-than-ideal conditions: don't do the things that put you in those situations! The choice is as simple and as black and white as the cartoon heading this post.

Do not get caught up in the details irrelevant to the principle at hand. My understanding is that abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy is legal in all states including South Dakota. All of that is irrelevant. The real point is, the consequences for our actions are set and often well-defined whether or not we choose to learn about them beforehand. If you do not want to deal with a specific consequence such as bearing a child, then choose not to act in a manner in which such an outcome is possible. And if you make a decision with adverse consequences, own up to your actions--don't play the victim and blame another party.

On a different note, if you make a wrong decision, there is a way back. There is always a way back. Yes, you will have to endure some suffering--the road to repentance is not easy and always means work, but it is always worth it. The Savior of the world is your personal Savior. He loves you and desires your happiness. He does not forsake us when we sin and forsake Him. He is always there to welcome us back with arms outstretched. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught this of repentance:

Nowhere are the generosity and the kindness and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance. Do you understand the consummate cleansing power of the Atonement made by the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer? He said, “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). In that supernal act of love, the Savior paid the penalties for our sins so that we might not have to pay. "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," Ensign, Nov 2010, 76.

We are instructed sufficiently, we are free to choose, and all things are given us which are expedient unto man to make good decisions. We are, "free according to the flesh to choose liberty and eternal life, . . . or to choose captivity and death" (see 2 Nephi 2:5,27). The way is clear, the path strait and narrow. Some choices we make enable us to use our agency more freely and some choices we make inhibit our use of our agency. Repentance is open for all who desire to return to God. Ours is always the choice to come back. You are never too far gone.

I love the Savior and am so very grateful for His Atonement.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Live in Thanksgiving Daily

Thanksgiving is a fun time; for most Thanksgiving is a time to get together with immediate and extended family, a break from school and/or work, an excuse to do nothing but eat too much food and watch football, and a time to go shopping. And, for those Christmas purists out there, Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas season and you no longer have to resent Christmas decorations in the stores and Christmas music on the radio.

Perhaps for most this season brings thoughts and feelings of thanksgiving and we find ourselves in a more giving and grateful mood. A lot of people look forward to the holiday season and in general we are happier and more optimistic. One can attribute these warm, happy feelings of the holiday season to the decorations and the music and the fun clothes and Santa Claus. But I believe that those feelings originate from a deeper reason. I believe that the reason the holidays--beginning with Thanksgiving and climaxing with Christmas--bring such warm and happy feelings is because the holidays tend to produce feelings of gratitude and love. Thanksgiving prompts us to recognize all of the things for which we are grateful. We gather with family and friends and are surrounded by those for whom we love and care. Christmas should prompt us to be even more mindful of the selfless, compassion-filled life of our Savior. We hear and are involved in stories of selflessness and caring for those in need. When done properly, we find, make, and give gifts to express gratitude to important people in our lives.

Article of the Week

On Halloween in 2000 during a talk given at Brigham Young University, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "[Gratitude] is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance of this virtue, there is happiness." His talk, entitled, "Live in Thanksgiving Daily," was reprinted in the September 2001 Ensign of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is the early featured article this week.

Think of what Elder Withlin is saying--he has given us the key to success and happiness in this life. "Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It softens our grief and heightens our pleasure. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent. It forges bonds of love and fosters loyalty and admiration.

"Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those we love." As we recognize and express our gratitude for everything in this life and especially for our family and for Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we receive that peace and comfort promised by the Savior in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

"Live in Thanksgiving Daily"

I recognize that for some Thanksgiving and the holiday season may not be as memorable or enjoyable. Some may feel that they do not have so much for which to be thankful, or people with whom they can spend a few days off. The holiday and all the preparation of food for guests may just be another stressor in life. The beginning of the Christmas season may even bring bitter memories and unwanted feelings.

To those of you who feel this way, Elder Wirthlin said, "In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Isn’t that a wonderful thought to live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? less stressful? less angry? more spiritual?"

He continued:

"We must let go of the negative emotions that bind our hearts and instead fill our souls with love, faith, and thanksgiving. . . .

"Pray with all your heart. Consider the love your Heavenly Father has for all His children. Open your heart to His cleansing word. Feast on the words of holy writ. Cherish the messages of modern-day prophets and apostles. Forgive others who have offended you. Don’t waste another moment feeling self-pity. Every day drain from your heart the feelings of resentment, rage, and defeat that do nothing but discourage and destroy. Fill your heart with those things that ennoble, encourage, and inspire."

Remember, to the one leper who returned and "fell on his face at [Jesus'] feet, giving him thanks," the Master Healer said, "thy faith hath made thee whole." All ten were cleansed of leprosy; but only the one who returned to express his gratitude for what the Savior had done was made whole and therefore received a fulness of joy (see Luke 17:11-19).

"As I Have Loved You"

Gratitude is a principle with a promise and is made manifest best through our actions.

"We can live in thanksgiving daily by opening our arms to those around us. When was the last time you told someone you love how much they mean to you? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone who has always been there for you, someone who has sacrificed for you, someone whose heart has always been filled with hopes and dreams for you?

"When was the last time you unselfishly reached out to help another in need? Every time we cheer another’s heart, every time we ease another’s burden, every time we lift a weary hand, we show our gratitude to that God to whom we owe all that we have and all that we are. . . .

"The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer."

Remember the challenge I gave you last week? To express gratitude and love to your parents and to one other person? Did you do it? Well here is a prophet of God telling you the same thing and promising you blessings.

The challenge this week? Find a burden to ease, a weary hand to lift, or another way in which you can serve and show your gratitude to that God to whom we owe all that we have and all that we are. Once again, I'd love to hear your stories and results of your actions here on the blog, on facebook, or via email @

Just as President Monson says at the end of the video at the beginning of this post, "A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude."

As we go into this holiday season I have a renewed desire to live a more grateful life and encourage each of you to do the same. Gratitude is something that we all can work on and what better time to create or strengthen an attitude of gratitude than during the holidays. Perhaps you could begin by expressing thanks to the Savior for His Atonement, for without Him, nothing would be possible.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Because of Your Faith

The article of the week is coming a bit early this week.

During Institute this week we read and discussed a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the most recent General Conference entitled, "Because of Your Faith." In our discussion, one girl pointed out that this talk is the perfect Thanksgiving talk. I thought her comment was quite insightful because although Elder Holland may not have said much about the doctrine behind the Christlike attribute of gratitude, he expresses so much gratitude to so many people for their service in the church and to each other.

Elder Holland references "Mormon culture" a lot so those of you who aren't familiar with the green jell-o and girls' camp references, bear with him and finish reading; you will be touched with a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude.

I challenge each of you to do two things this week: 1- Call or visit your parents and express your gratitude to them for whatever you feel appropriate. Do this. For a lot of you this will be relatively easy and simple because you may see them on Thanksgiving. But I know that some of you are sitting there reading this thinking that your situation is unique and that you aren't in a position or don't have the desire to talk to your parents. I don't care. Do it anyways. Although I do not pretend to understand your situation I do know that if you call or visit or in someway express your gratitude to your parents in words if not immediately someday it will bless each of your lives. 2- Recognize some act for which you should express gratitude to someone else in your daily life. You can do this too. When you have accomplished either or both of these tasks, please feel free to share your stories with me and the other readers by either commenting here on the blog, on facebook, or via email @

This is the second in a series of Thanksgiving posts in the spirit of the season. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life

We live in a time where the adage "eat, drink, and be merry" is widely popular and the attitude that one is free to act as one chooses and it affects no one is largely accepted. Should someone say or act against either of those mentalities, he or she is considered "ignorant," "intolerant," "narrow-minded," or "judgmental" with little or no regard to others' rights and feelings.

In the purest respect, we are free to act as we want; agency is God-given and all are endowed with the power to choose for his or herself. The prophet Nephi taught, "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are expedient into man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27).

This verse teaches us that while we are free to choose our actions, we cannot chose the consequences of those actions. Some choices we make even limit our future ability to use our agency. Indeed, "Those who followed Satan [in the preexistence] lost the opportunity to receive a mortal body, live on earth, and progress. Because of the way they used their agency, they lost their agency." In a similar manner, those who choose to use abuse drugs-legal and illegal alike-tobacco, alcohol, or become involved in pornography or gambling likewise lose their agency and become victims controlled by their previous choices. (To learn more about how addictions affect the use of our agency see, Russell M. Nelson, “Addiction or Freedom,” Ensign, Nov 1988, 6, and M. Russell Ballard, "O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One," Ensign, Nov 2010.)

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk in the most recent General Conference entitled, "Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life," in which he spoke about agency and our ability to choose. He taught:

Our agency—our ability to choose and act for ourselves—was an essential element of [the plan of our Heavenly Father]. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress. Yet with agency we could make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with Heavenly Father again. For this reason a Savior would be provided to suffer for our sins and redeem us if we would repent. By His infinite Atonement, He brought about “the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice" (Alma 42:15).

We even had agency in our premortal existence when we lived with our Heavenly Father. Elder Hales continued:

But think of it: in our premortal state we chose to follow the Savior Jesus Christ! And because we did, we were allowed to come to earth. I testify that by making the same choice to follow the Savior now, while we are here on earth, we will obtain an even greater blessing in the eternities. But let it be known: we must continue to choose to follow the Savior. Eternity is at stake, and our wise use of agency and our actions are essential that we might have eternal life.

Agency is ours so long as we do not abuse it. But more than just preserving our ability to choose for ourselves in this life, the righteous use of agency—the use of our agency to follow the example of our Savior and do as He commands—enables us to live with Him and our families forever.

So go ahead, eat, drink, and be merry for someday we all die. But know that some of your actions will affect you more deeply than you think and you will affect those around you and your posterity for untold generations. Yes, each of us is free to act and free to live according to our desires but God does not approve of the unrighteous use of the agency with which He blessed us. The mentality that our decisions affect no one but ourselves is not correct and we will be accountable for all of our actions in this life of which we have not repented. The test of this life is to prove that we are strong enough to show our love for our Heavenly Father through our actions.


See also Dallin H. Oaks, "Love and Law," Ensign, Nov 2009, 26 (Article of the Week, October 25, 2009)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

"In many cookbooks there are pictures of the perfect dishes that recipes make—the fulness of the joy of cooking. These pictures are important because they help us envision the outcome if we strictly follow the directions as given in the recipe. It is important to begin with the end in mind, but the end represented by pictures in cookbooks is an end that is only possible if everything is done right. If directions are not followed or an ingredient is left out or miscalculated, the desired taste and appearance are seldom attained. The picture of a perfect dish, however, can serve as motivation to try again to create something that is both delicious and beautiful.

"When we think of eternal life, what is the picture that comes to mind? I believe that if we could create in our minds a clear and true picture of eternal life, we would start behaving differently. We would not need to be prodded to do the many things involved with enduring to the end, like doing our home teaching or visiting teaching, attending our meetings, going to the temple, living moral lives, saying our prayers, or reading the scriptures. We would want to do all these things and more because we realize they will prepare us to go somewhere we yearn to go."

Above are excerpts from a talk given by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the April 2008 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his talk entitled, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Perry taught that, "Essentially, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a five-ingredient recipe for eternal life." The five ingredients are faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

Of faith Elder Perry taught, "In order to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, people must first embrace Him whose gospel it is. They must trust the Savior and what He has taught us. They must believe that He has the power to keep His promises to us by virtue of the Atonement. When people have faith in Jesus Christ, they accept and apply His Atonement and His teachings."

Faith is essential in our quest for eternal life. Faith is the beginning and the purpose, faith is what drives us to the rest of the gospel.

Of repentance Elder Perry taught, "Our faith also leads to action— it leads to the commitments and changes associated with true repentance. As Amulek taught in the 34th chapter of Alma:

Therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you; “Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save (vv. 16–18)."

In repentance is our faith made manifest.

Of baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost Elder Perry taught, "it is an ordinance denoting entry into a sacred and binding covenant between God and man." We promise God to serve, to obey, and to proclaim the gospel; God promises us the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and eternal life. "Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are the prescribed ways to enter the strait and narrow path to eternal life."

Both baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands are ordinances performed by the Lord's anointed—by those who have been given authority from God.

Of enduring to the end Elder Perry taught, "this is not an easy task. It is intended to be difficult, challenging, and, ultimately, refining as we prepare to return to live with our Father in Heaven and receive eternal blessings." Enduring to the end requires the Savior's redemptive powers as we continually strive nurture and grow our faith through constant repentance and otherwise fulfill our part of our baptismal covenant.

The gospel is our pathway back to our Heavenly Father. Prayer is our line of communication to Him. Revelation through the holy scriptures is one of His main lines of communication to us. We must work to develop faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. We must repent of those things in our lives keeping us from experiencing true happiness, we must participate in saving ordinances, and we must endure to the end of the path which leads to eternal life. If we do so, we can live with our families forever.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

"In our world today, each child, each young man and young woman needs his or her own conversion to the truth. Each needs his or her own light, his or her own “steadfast and immovable” (Alma 1:25) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, independent of parents, youth leaders, and supportive friends."

In the article this week we are again reminded of the importance of teaching children and training up our children in the way. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk during the April 2010 General Conference called, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," in which he taught how the stories about and life of Jesus Christ can and should be used to bring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strength to the foundation of testimony.

Said Elder Andersen, "We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them. Our challenge as parents and teachers is not to create a spiritual core in their souls but rather to fan the flame of their spiritual core already aglow with the fire of their premortal faith." He continued, "The stories of Jesus can be like a rushing wind across the embers of faith in the hearts of our children."

We are continually warned by the Lord's servants that these are perilous times and that, "A stronger personal faith in Jesus Christ will prepare [your children] for the challenges they will most surely face." Teaching our children the stories of Jesus enable them to fall back on the example He lived when they wonder what to do in their own lives.

Read and/or listen to the talk; each parent has wondered and worried or currently wonders and worries how to best do their job, that is, how to be good parents that their children avoid the worst of mistakes and do not suffer needlessly. All can learn and benefit greatly from the stories and life of the Savior. We can learn more so that we can help our children make better decisions and think of the Savior in times of need. He is perfect, He loves us, He entreated all to follow His example and as we do we find the true joy and happiness in life.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Gentle God's Commands

The invocatory hymn this week at church was “How Gentle God’s Commands.” Today may be the first time I’ve ever paid attention to the lyrics and as we sang, a few lines from some of the verses stuck out to me.

Hymns, How Gentle God’s Commands, no. 125

How gentle God’s commands!
How kind his precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord
And trust his constant care.

Beneath his watchful eye,
His Saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guard his children well.

Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your Heav’nly Father’s throne
And sweet refreshment find.

His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day;
I’ll drop my burden at his feet
And bear a song away.

Text: Philip Doddridge, 1702–1751
Music: Hans Georg Nägeli, 1773–1836; arr. by Lowell Mason, 1792–1872

The author suggests that we cast our burdens on the Lord and trust His constant care. Some think that the commandments of the Lord are grievous, or burdensome and oppressive. This simply is not the case. The love of God is this: that we keep His commandments. God’s commands are gentle. His commands outline how we can live a joyous life, free from unnecessary trials and burdens. We must trust Him and trust that keeping His commandments is the best choice. As we trust Him, He will give us strength as we strive to withstand the temptations of the adversary.

Christ has commanded us to come, follow Him. He offers us comfort and rest. Why should our anxious loads press down our weary minds? As soon as we kneel before our Heavenly Father in prayer we will receive comfort. He will not necessarily take our burdens from us but He will lighten them.1 Remember the command of our Savior: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The Lord knows how to succor us according to our infirmities (see Alma 7:12). He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3-5) and knows best how to help each of our individual situations. So come, heed the Master’s call; drop your burden at His feet and bear a song away!


1. Read the story of Alma and his people when the Lord lightened the burdens placed upon them by Alma’s former friends and colleagues found in Mosiah 24.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We Follow Jesus Christ

Today is not Easter, nor is Easter even a close holiday, but this month is kind of Easter's half birthday and either way any month or day is perfect for discussing the Easter message. We rejoice in all the Savior has done for us--that He has made possible for each of us to gain our salvation and exaltation if we but seek the higher ground.

Six months ago Easter morning, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk entitled, "We Follow Jesus Christ," which highlights certain events and attributes from the final days of the Savior's life about which we should learn more and from which we can benefit as they help us gain higher ground. I've read this talk a couple times but a few things stuck out to me tonight in particular as I reread the words of this apostle.

First, Elder Cook discussed the sacrament. I love that he pointed out that while the adversaries of Jesus Christ were plotting His unfair trial and death, Christ was thinking about us and our salvation and instituted the sacrament. Said Elder Cook, "If we are to be His disciples and to be committed members of His Church, we must remember and reverence the sacrament."

Second, Elder Cook emphasized that, just as everything the Savior did in life, Christ reiterated that we love one another. "This was the Son of God pleading with His Apostles and all disciples who would come after them to remember and follow this most central of His teachings. How we relate and interact with each other is a measure of out willingness to follow Jesus Christ" (italics added). Also, pay particular attention to his counsel on disagreements.

Third, Elder Cook talked about the blessings of slowing down, pondering, praying, and otherwise living so that we are worthy to receive and act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Reception of the Holy Ghost is vital to our eternal salvation and is of utmost necessity if we are to weather the seemingly unbearable temporal and spiritual storms that inevitably come to each of us.

"The Savior's example and life teach us to spiritually avoid the low pathway, where the things of this world dominate." Let us get to higher ground by gaining a stronger appreciation for the miracle of the sacrament, striving to live with more love for our fellowmen, and living in a such a manner that we may recognize and follow the promptings of the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost. In doing so, we can receive the greatest of all the gifts of God--Eternal Life.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cleansing the Inner Vessel

During the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk entitled, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel.” (The Church also has a new site in which makes watching and listening to past General Conference talks easier.)

In his talk, President Packer reiterated teachings about temptation, sin, the degradation of the conditions of the world in which we live, the power of the devil, the love our Heavenly Father has for us, the power we have to resist temptation, and the wonderful rewards available to those who repent and strive to live righteously.

He spoke of the blessings of procreation and said of such power, “Through the righteous exercise of this power, as in nothing else, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy.”

He spoke of those who wish to, “change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature.” Of such laws he said, “There are both moral and physical laws ‘irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world’ that cannot be changed (D&C 130:20). . . . To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.”

Of repentance President Packer taught of the help of angels and the lack of power the adversary has to hold us when we repent. I love the way he taught repentance! “Nowhere are the generosity and the kindness and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance. Do you understand the consummate cleansing power of the Atonement made by the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer? He said, “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). In that supernal act of love, the Savior paid the penalties for our sins so that we might not have to pay.” He continued, “I know of no more beautiful and consoling words in all of revelation than these: ‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more’ (D&C 58:42).”

Repentance is real! The laws of God are before us and we have the opportunity and ability to choose happiness and eternal life or captivity and death. When we find ourselves becoming captive, the Lord, our Savior, is there to help us return to His arms of safety and love. Read and/or listen to the talk. Pray for the Spirit to speak to you and tell you how you can best apply the teachings of the Lord’s apostle that you may qualify for the promise of “peace and happiness for you and your family.”

I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He loves us enough to give us commandments and laws that we may know how to receive a fullness of joy in this life and in the life to come. I am grateful that God calls prophets and apostles that we may know of His will and commandments and laws. I know that President Packer is His apostle and that what he says is the word of God.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

General Conference Highlights

This past weekend we were privileged to participate in the 180th semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. People from all over the world gathered in Salt Lake City or in their own homes and meetinghouses across the globe to be uplifted and edified by the words of prophet and apostles and by the beautiful music.

The talks were wonderful. Each talk was perfectly suited for us in our day. The speakers expounded the scriptures and taught us the Lord's will concerning us today. They are mindful of our needs and concerns and their counsel is very timely.

This is a highlights video from conference. I encourage all to read and/or listen to each of the full talks, for they contain the words of Christ and the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. The Lord speaks through His servants so we are overcome by our trials and not lost amidst the shifting and changing values and morals of this world.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief

I think blog a lot about trials and finding happiness, joy, and comfort in life. This post is also about how faith can sustain us in our trials and offer us comfort in life, but the featured article focuses more on the level and devotion of our testimonies and how we can strengthen our faith so that it becomes the comfort we seek.

President James Faust (1920-2007), counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley, taught, "Sustaining faith can be the ultimate comfort in life. All of us must find our own testimonies." If we seek that ultimate comfort and not simply the temporary, counterfeit comfort offered by the world, we must seek to strengthen our faith and thus grow our testimony of the Lord and what He has done.

President Faust continued:

A testimony begins with the acceptance by faith of the divine mission of Jesus Christ, the head of this Church; and the prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. The gospel as restored by Joseph Smith is either true or it is not. To receive all of the promised blessings we must accept the gospel in faith and in full. However, this certain faith does not usually come all at once. We learn spiritually line upon line and precept upon precept.

We learn line upon line as we strive to live according to the ever-increasing light given to us. And the deeper our faith in the Savior and His gospel grows, the more comfort our testimony affords us.

The article this week is a talk entitled, "Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief," given by President Faust in the October 2003 General Conference. President Faust taught how we can have a testimony without knowing everything or having a complete understanding of all gospel principles. He also taught, "those who believe but wish their belief to be strengthened, I urge you to walk in faith and trust in God. Spiritual knowledge always requires an exercise of faith. We acquire a testimony of the principles of the gospel by obediently trying to live them."

And so we must be constantly striving to increase our faith if we are to endure our trials well. The Lord loves each of us and suffered for us that He may know how to succor us in our infirmities. All He asks is that we come unto Him; that we get down on our knees and speak with our Heavenly Father, that we strive to do as He asks, and that we strive to make others' journeys more pleasant. We can find joy in the journey if we but believe.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Baptism: Our First Covenant

We learn from Jesus Christ in the Bible that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). Indeed, Jesus Christ Himself was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (see Matt 3:15; 2 Nephi 31:5).

But why baptism? Why the act and why is simply accepting the covenant in prayer or being born again by some other means in our own way not enough?

To answer these questions, we must begin with the foundational principle of faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Faith is active and requires action that leads to and involves repentance (see Mosiah 4:10). The prophet Alma taught that we must repent and be born again: “therefore come and be baptized into repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, . . . And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God . . . shall have eternal life, . . .” (see Alma 7:14-16).

Baptism serves as a witness to the Lord that we have entered into a covenant with Him to serve Him and keep His commandments and that we desire the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit in return (see Mosiah 18:8-10; Alma 7:14-15).

As the people of King Benjamin heard the words of the Lord through His living prophet (see Mosiah 2-5), they  experienced a mighty change of heart and were willing to enter into covenant with God to do His will and to be obedient to his commandments that they might have eternal life. King Benjamin then promised:

7  And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

8  And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

9  And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. (Mosiah 5).

Baptism is the first saving ordinance after which we straightway receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and begin on the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:17-18). As we continue down that path repenting along the way, we become clean through the Atonement of Christ.

Yes, we must be born of water and of the spirit that we may enter into the kingdom of God. As we do so, we are blessed with His Spirit, we receive strength each week as we renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament, we receive the opportunity to make additional covenants with the Lord in His holy temples, and through His Atonement we come closer to obtaining the greatest gift God can bestow upon us: the gift of eternal life (see D&C 14:7).

I am grateful for the decision I made when I was eight years old to be baptized by my grandfather into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the gift of the Holy Ghost which I received by the laying on of hands by my father and other priesthood holders shortly thereafter. I am grateful for the infinite mercy of my Savior Jesus Christ that I may continually repent and renew my covenant with Him that I may constantly be edified by His Spirit and be guided through the trials and travails of this life. I know that He lives and that He loves us. I know that He desires for each of us to make this covenant with Him through baptism that we all may return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father for eternity.


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