Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Miracle of the Atonement


"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."

How does our Father in Heaven offer us eternal life (and peace and happiness in this life) through the gift of His Only Begotten Son? And how do we qualify for the blessings of the Atonement?

Elder C. Scott Grow (I know, great name right?) gave a wonderful talk called, "The Miracle of the Atonement," in which he very basically and clearly explains the Atonement and the importance of it in each of our lives. He also teaches how we can more fully appreciate and make applicable in our lives the great sacrifice of our Savior.

One of my favorite lines from this talk is, "Immerse yourself in prayer and scripture study. As you do so, you will feel the sanctifying influence of the Spirit. The Savior said, 'Sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands … before me, that I may make you clean (Doctrine and Covenants 88:74).'" The Atonement makes possible repentance and forgiveness. Through the Atonement all that is wrong is made right and all the inequities of life are eventually made equal if we but emulate the life of Jesus Christ.

Jeremy

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Essence of Discipleship


"From the beginning of time, the Lord has taught that to become His people we need to be of one heart and one mind (see Moses 7:18). The Savior also explained that the two great commandments in the law are “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “love thy neighbour as thyself” (see Matt 22:36-40). Lastly, soon after the Church was restored, the Lord commanded the Saints to “visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6).

"What is the common theme in all these commandments? It is that we must love one another and serve one another. This is, in fact, the essence of discipleship in the true Church of Jesus Christ."

These are the words of Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, from a talk given in April 2011 entitled, "The Essence of Discipleship," (Ensign, May 2011, 84). Sister Allred emphasized the importance of charity and service to those who are in need. She taught how the gospel of Jesus Christ is service, that the gospel the Savior taught is love in action. "When love becomes the guiding principle in our care for others, our service to them becomes the gospel in action. It is the gospel in its finest moment. It is pure religion" (see James 1:27).

Sister Allred also taught that service isn't simply providing for the needs of someone else. Rather, said Sister Allred, "Short-term needs are met immediately, and a plan to help the recipient become self-reliant is established," highlighting the importance of being able to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.

I just really like this talk, particularly the manner in which Sister Allred explains the relationship between following the Savior and caring for our fellow men. "The pure love of Christ is expressed as we give selfless service. Helping one another is a sanctifying experience which exalts the receiver and humbles the giver. It helps us become true disciples of Christ."

I am uplifted and have a renewed desire to follow the example of the Savior and strive to be mindful of the needs of those around me.

Jeremy

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Atonement for All


Yesterday at church we had what is called fast-and-testimony meeting. The first Sunday of every month the members of the Church fast for 24 hours for a special purpose, a purpose personal to each person, and at church Sacrament meeting is open to whomever that wants to stand and share their testimony of the Savior and His gospel.

I wish to share with you my experience in fast-and-testimony meeting yesterday because I wish that each one of you could have been there. The testimonies shared were all so diverse, so different. Some simply testified of the Savior and of their gratitude for His love and Atonement. Some spoke agenerally of trials in their own lives and of how they knew that the Lord was helping them and that all would be alright. And some spoke of specific troubles in their lives, drinking or drug problems, periods of inactivity in the Church, problems at home, and everything in between.

As I sat in the congregation and listened to each of my peers--each one a child of God--share how the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement play an active role in each of their lives, my testimony of the gospel and of the Savior grew also. I came to realize more fully how the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is applicable and helpful to everyone and in every situation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true because it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, set forth in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Church is lead by a living prophet and twelve apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

Although Jesus Christ does not simply take away all of our trials from us, He does soften the effect and help us be happy in this life. Tests and trials are an important part of our lives and the Lord does not leave us comfortless and directionless as we experience these opportunities for growth. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and is active in each of our lives if we but come unto Him and follow in His way.

Jeremy

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Message of the Restoration


Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a lot of things. We don't drink or smoke, we don't swear, we go to church every Sunday for three hours, we give ten percent of our income back to the Church, we serve and strive to be involved in humanitarian efforts, we marry in temples for time and eternity, we place utmost value on our families, and we are open and often proactive in sharing our religion with others. Not to mention the stereotypes of traditionally large families, young marriages and short engagements, attending BYU, being from Utah, etc.

Yes, when people think of "Mormons" a lot of things come to mind. But amidst the doctrines and teachings and habits and stereotypes, the true core and foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the reason behind everything we do is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the chief cornerstone,1 the way the truth and the life,2 the Savior of the world. We believe in Him, we worship Him, and we strive to emulate His life and do as we have seen Him do.3 His sacrifice and Atonement are the very reasons we can experience happiness and peace in this world and have a perfect brightness of hope4 for eternal life in the world to come.5  That is what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are. We are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our message is that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored, that the heavens are open, that God speaks and not spake,6 that the power of His priesthood is given to man once again to act in His name for the salvation of His children. He has given us the Book of Mormon as another testament of Him whose life was given that we may live.

As the article this week, read "The Message of the Restoration,"7 a talk given a few years ago by Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the living apostles of the Jesus Christ.

I leave you with Elder Perry's testimony:

"Our message is unique. We declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. We declare with boldness that the keys of the priesthood have been restored to man, with the power to seal on earth and in the heavens. The saving ordinances pronounced by the Lord as requirements for entering into eternal life with Him can now be performed with binding authority by those who worthily exercise the power of His holy priesthood. We declare to the world that this is the day referred to by biblical prophets as the latter days. It is the final time, before the coming of Jesus Christ to rule and reign over the earth.

"We invite all to listen to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from us. Then you can compare the glorious message with what you may hear from others, and you can determine which is from God and which is from man.

"My witness to you is that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, established in the latter days."

Jeremy

1. Ephesians 2:20
2. John 14:6
3. 3 Nephi 27:21
4. 2 Nephi 31:20
5. D&C 59:23
6. “An Address,” The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1929), 45.
7. Ensign, May 2007

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Oh Beautiful for Patriot Dream"


As we commemorate the 235th birthday of our great nation, we would do well to remember the history of how our forefathers came to this land and secured freedom for themselves and for us, their posterity. In a General Conference address more than 35 years ago, Elder Paul H. Dunn of the Quorum of the Seventy gave a talk entitled, "'Oh Beautiful for Patriot Dream,'" (Ensign, Nov 1975) in which he spoke of the sacrifices made and the trials endured by our forefathers in order to bring forth on this continent a new nation.

Thanks to modern revelation, we know that this land was set apart and blessed by God to be the promised land long before our forefathers fought and died for our liberty. More than two millenia before the drafting of the Constitution, the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught:

Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom [God] shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve [God] according to the commandments which [H]e hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever. 2 Nephi 1:7 (see the entire chapter).

So, founded in faith on principles of righteousness, our country came to be the land of the free, one nation under God, indivisible so long as its citizens never forsake the God who gave them life. The founding fathers recognized where they received their inspiration and gave credit where it was due. Those who came before us were not shy about openly expressing gratitude to God for the freedoms they enjoyed. Each of the 50 states' own constitutions refer to God in some way, and most express gratitude to the "Almighty God" for the blessings of civil and religious liberty and freedoms.

Let us not forget the faith of our fathers and the reasons they fought and died for the liberties we enjoy. In our efforts to appease Thomas Jefferson's concept of separation of church and state let us not take God completely out of this blessed land of America when it is, in fact, God who preserves this land as the blessed and promised land. Was it not, in fact, God the Father who inspired explorers to find America in His own time, first led immigrants to this land as they sought religious freedom--freedom to worship God without persecution and not freedom from religion and God, watched over and strengthened the patriots who gave their lives to establish America as a free and independent nation, and inspired those same leaders to write divine documents such as the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution? (For more on the role of God in the settling of America, see 1 Nephi 13.)

But let us also not forget the greatest blessing of our independence and freedom. In this great country, Jesus Christ was able to restore His gospel and His church in its fulness. Just decades after the signing of the Constitution, He called Joseph Smith, a New England native, to be a prophet, starting an unbroken line of prophets and apostles that continues in our day. The Lord brought forth the Book of Mormon as another testament of His divinity. Indeed, Independence Day is not significant only because a new nation, a free nation, was born.

Elder Dunn suggests two ways in which we can express gratitude to God and honor those who have given their lives to preserve our freedom, "First, by striving to make our citizenry the righteous people the Lord requires of us. And second, by telling the story of what the Lord has done for you and me and this great church, and why."

God bless America. Those blessings depend on us and will continue inasmuch as we strive to keep the commandments of our Father in Heaven.

Happy birthday America.

Jeremy

Saturday, July 2, 2011

He Showed Us the Way to Return Home


Elaine S. Dalton“The Savior came to the earth to show us how to live the plan that was authored in heaven—a plan that, if lived, will make us happy. His example showed us the way to return home to our Heavenly Father. No other who has ever lived has been so ‘steadfast and immovable’ (Mosiah 5:15). He was never distracted. He was focused on carrying out the will of the Father, and He remained true to His divine mission. …

“You are a part of that wondrous plan that was presented in the premortal realms. Your coming to the earth now has been anticipated since the plan was accepted. Your position in time and place is no accident. Your ‘exceeding faith and good works’ (Alma 13:3) then has laid the foundation for what you may accomplish now if you are faithful and obedient. … You have a great work to do. In order to accomplish your divine mission and live the plan of happiness, you too must be steadfast and immovable.”

Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, “At All Times, in All Things, and in All Places,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2008, 116.