Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don't Stop Believing


The Book of Mormon includes the record of a people known as the Jaredites.  This name comes from the principal ancestor of their people named Jared.  Jared’s brother was a prophet and they lived at the time and place of the Tower of Babel spoken of in the Bible.  When the Lord counfounds the languages of the people at the tower Jared and his family avoid this fate through earnest prayer.  The Lord then promises them a choice land, and tells them that He will lead them there.  This land is the Americas.  The Book of Mormon tells us the desire of the Lord for these people, “And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop [at] the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should [go forth] even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” (Ether 2:7).  So, the Lord led this people through the wilderness and had prepared a way for them to cross the sea to the Americas.  Despite this fact, the people halted their progression.  “…the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth, even to that great sea which divideth the lands.  And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents… upon the seashore for the space of four years” (Ether 2:13).  Eventually they do figure things out and the Lord helps them cross the sea, but I want to reflect a bit on this cessation in progress, and liken it unto us. 

The Lord has great blessings in store for all of us.  He has an eternal perspective and knows our potential.  He knows where we can end up in life.  If we pray sincerely, He will be our guide.  I think this is a very common occurrence.  The majority of people at some time in their life become overwhelmed and find comfort in trusting in the Lord.  This could be a result of difficult questions like, “I graduated high school, now what?”  “What should I major in?”  “Who should I marry?” “Where should I live?”  I know that the decisions I made after highschool to attend BYU and in time to dedicate two years of my life to the Lord in Mexico, were decisions that depended heavily upon the guidance of the Lord.  I felt his hand guiding me through those decisions.  But maybe recently, I have pitched a tent.  I don’t doubt that Moriancumer where the Jaredites pitched there tents, was a beautiful place.  It was a virgin beach, and had at least enough plants and animals to maintain their group for four years.  Like that beachfront property, I’m in a good place.  I’m in a great university, I am very pleased with the two years of service that I gave to the Lord, I have a job—things are going great.  There are many of you that might be in this situation, and things don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be comfortable.  We feel like we’ve reached some destination, when really we’re still on the journey! We know we should be here because the Lord guided us here, but we are blinding ourselves to the fact that the Lord is saying, keep on going.

So how is it possible to change this?  The Lord chastens the brother of Jared for his lack of prayer.  The brother of Jared was a prophet.  It is unlikely that he stopped praying.  But maybe his prayers changed.  He probably continued to thank the Lord for life and happiness, but maybe he stopped seeking that guidance from the Lord.  Maybe he stopped asking questions and therefore stunted his flow of personal revelation.  We can learn from this experience.  We are not at the destination that the Lord has in mind for us.  We need to keep on moving, and doing it with constant and profound prayer.  Hear the Lord, and then don’t forget to seek that guidance continually.  Don’t forget the feeling of the Holy Ghost as it whispers to your soul. 

There is no better way to say it, then to quote Journey.  “Don’t stop believing.  Hold on to that feeling.”


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Writing it Down

      In the Book of Mormon we have the blessing of reading the words of a great prophet named Samuel, and specifically a prophecy he made that when Christ is resurrected, many of the dead would rise from their graves and minister unto the living.  Later we are able to read that this prophecy was fulfilled, however this would not have been possible had Christ not come to the Americas.  In 3 Nephi 23:9 Christ inquires of his disciples, "I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?". The disciples confirmed the truthfulness of this claim, and then Christ asked, “How be it that ye have not written this thing…?” (3 Nephi 23:11).  It says that in that moment Nephi remembered that he hadn’t written it down, and under Christ’s direct command, those things were written. 

     I feel like every person should imagine themselves in the shoes of Nephi.  When we die, we will go to judgement before Christ.  What detail of your life might he ask you about?  I asked myself this question and recalled when a friend shared her testimony and it was extremely powerful to me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it was as if Heavenly Father was talking directly to me through her.  I could imagine Christ saying, “I commanded her that she should speak this words and they pierced you to the very soul.  Was it not so?”  I would undeniably confirm his claim, and then I thought about the question that would come after.  “How be it that ye have not written this thing?”  I could only imagine the shame, the self disappointment that I would feel in that position, and so from that moment of reflection I resolved to be better about keeping a journal, and doing it right.

     A journal should not be a collection of gossip, but a collection of testimony, showing the marvelous works of God in your life each day.  This journal will come to be a strength to you in your own life, and may very well be a strength to your posterity.  On this subject, President Spencer W. Kimball said the following: “Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.”

     I hope we can all begin this wonderful practice.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Who Come Unto Me


When Christ appeared in the America’s he shared many amazing teachings and performed many miracles because of the great faith found among the people.  One section of his teachings was quite similar, actually almost identical, to the Sermon on the Mount as found in the Bible in Saint Matthew chapters 5-7.  There are however some differences between the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple given in the Americas.  Some of these differences come because the Lord adapts his teaching to different regions of the world, some come because of the timing of the sermons, one being before the Lord’s death, and the other coming after.  And then there are differences that come because the Bible has been translated so many times that details may have fallen through the gaps.  There is one detail in particular found in the third verse of Matthew 5 and the third verse of 3 Nephi 12.  In the Bible this verse reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The Book of Mormon’s equivalent reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The difference is found in four words.  “Who come unto me…” These four words make a world of difference.

            I have in my long life of twenty years meditated upon what characteristics I want in a future wife.  Never has the thought come to me, “I want a wife who is poor in spirit.”  Quite the contrary, I want a wife who is spiritually powerful. A wife who knows the scriptures, who loves God, who is actively participating in church assignments and activities.  I want a spiritually rich wife, and I want to be a spiritually rich husband and father.  I am certain that this is what God and Christ want as well.  Christ wants us to be spiritual giants but there is only one way to achieve that: humbling ourselves and allowing ourselves to be strengthened in Christ.  Then and only then will we become candidates for the kingdom of heaven. 

            A person who is poor in spirit is someone who has weaknesses and recognizes them.  This is good, and preferable over the all too common sin of pride, but a Book of Mormon prophet teaches us what happens when, after we are poor in spirit, we go to the Lord.  Ether 12:27 reads, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.  From this verse we can learn what kind of person someone who goes unto Christ is.  They are not spiritually poor, or weak.  They are strong.  Not strong in their own strength, but strong in God.  That is what Christ wanted for us, that we can find wealth, spiritual wealth, and that we can recognize the only source of that wealth is Christ himself. 

          We can all go unto Christ by making and keeping sacred covenants with him.  We will then find that as we honor those covenants we will find ourselves closer to Christ, and spiritually enriched. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I have great worth though I am nothing


Wednesday in my Book of Mormon class we studied Helaman 12 where Mormon pauses from the narrative to remind us of our nothingness. “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.” -Helaman 12:7-8  It is a lengthy and strongly worded sermon and a wonderful lesson on the importance of humility. But there was a concern raised about going too far: becoming “humble” to the point where we become self-deprecating.  This concern and the discussion following has stayed with me and I wanted to try and decipher the secret a little more for myself and hopefully for anyone who reads this.

            The first key I thought of is perspective.  In Doctrine and Covenants section 4 God describes one of the important characteristics that we should strive for is to have an eye single to his glory.  Often I have found myself meditating on what exactly that means.  Through much study I have come to believe that it means that we see the same way he does, or come to have a single eye with him.  We need to adopt God’s perspective.  In the case of our nothingness we need to have his perspective in two ways.  First, how does God see us in comparison to him? In a sermon given by one of the leaders of the LDS church Dieter F. Uchtdorf, he spoke of how God sees us like toddlers still learning how to walk.  This should be humbling to us.  We need to understand that compared to God we are completely powerless.  At the same time this perspective can help us avoid self-deprecation.  Do we get mad at a baby who can’t walk? Of course not. In the same way we need to have God’s perspective and see that we are so very young.  We will fall, but God doesn’t get angry with us.  He will encourage us to get up and try again.

            We also need to adopt God’s perspective in seeing ourselves in comparison to others.  We had a great lesson on this subject in church on Sunday.  They brought three people to the front of the room.  Two of them stood shoulder to shoulder and the teacher asked who was taller.  It wasn’t hard to see.  Then he had the third person stand on a table and look straight down on the two girls.  The teacher asked which was taller and the man on the table observed that from his perspective, it wasn’t possible to tell.  This reminded me of a great talk in an LDS conference by church leader Dale G. Renlund.  In this talk Elder Renlund shares the following anecdote:

Some years ago a wonderful young man named Curtis was called to serve a mission. He was the kind of missionary every mission president prays for. He was focused and worked hard. At one point he was assigned a missionary companion who was immature, socially awkward, and not particularly enthusiastic about getting the work done.

One day, while they were riding their bicycles, Curtis looked back and saw that his companion had inexplicably gotten off his bike and was walking. Silently, Curtis expressed his frustration to God; what a chore it was to be saddled with a companion he had to drag around in order to accomplish anything. Moments later, Curtis had a profound impression, as if God were saying to him, “You know, Curtis, compared to me, the two of you aren’t all that different.”

I love that quote, “Compared to me, the two of you aren’t all that different.”  It is a constant reminder that life isn’t a competition with other people! We can’t become proud because we understand that God isn’t comparing those “worse” than us to us.  And we can’t become self-deprecating because God isn’t comparing those who are “better” than us, to us.  We must always maintain God’s perspective.

The second key is much more simple and yet we often find it difficult to do.  The key is turning outward.  All problems of pride or self-deprecation come because we are thinking too much about ourselves.  To heal our bodies we must turn inward with medicine and surgery, but to heal our spirits we must turn outward with charity and service. 

I know that by following these rules, we can all be humble followers of Christ, and we can remember our nothingness as taught by Mormon, as well as our self-worth and great value in the sight of God.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Don't be a sore loser

The Book of Helaman (in the Book of Mormon) opens with an election for a new chief judge. In this election there are three candidates: Pahoran, Pacumeni, and Paanchi.  These three are brothers, and sons of the former chief judge.  The people are divided about which son should inherit the judgement seat at the time of their father’s death.  It doesn’t give much insight into the discussion or campaigning of this election but it is safe to deduce that there were debates, warm disputes, and many strong opinions, much like a presidential election in the United States today.  The votes were cast and tallied, and the majority vote fell to Pahoran.  He was placed in the judgement seat and began his rule.  I want to reflect just a bit on the reaction of each of his brothers. First was his brother Pacumeni.  In Helaman 1:6 we read the following:
“And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgement-seat, he did unite with the voice of the people.” 
In stark contrast to this we have Paanchi.  Helaman 1:7 says the following of his reaction:
“But behold, Paanchi, and that part of the people that were desirous that he should be their governor, was exceedingly wroth; therefore, he was about to flatter away those people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren.”
So here we have someone who is such a sore loser that he wants to start a rebellion against HIS OWN BROTHER!
What exactly did this little act of pride bring about? I’ll tell you.  *spoiler alert if you haven’t finished the Book of Mormon yet.
Because Paanchi was a sore loser, he caused his people to be sore losers and upset about Pahoran’s power.  This led them to form a secret organization to take away his power, they end up killing Pahoran, but they still don’t get power because Pacumeni ends up with the throne. So a guy named Gadianton steps up among the secret organization, says he’ll help them get rule over all the Nephites, they start civil wars, and eventually bring the extinction of an entire civilization.
This example may be extravagant, but the principles are applicable to us.  How do we react when we lose? What consequences can we have on people around us? Maybe we aren’t in enough power to persuade the nation to a civil war, but do we ever cause fighting within our families? In church? At school? 
Christ has commanded us to be peacemakers.  We need to support our leaders whether they be religious, political, or in our family--The fifth commandment is to honor thy father and thy mother; how are we doing with that?
I want to note here that we can only assume that Pahoran was a good man.  We know that the people at this time were righteous and the majority vote would have been for a good man, my intent is not to say that we have to mindlessly submit ourselves to every dictator or tyrant that comes along.  My intent is that we need to beware of hurt pride.  If you don’t win a talent competition, it doesn’t give you the right to criticize everyone else’s talent.  If you a girl/guy you like dates someone else, how do you react? Do you speak poorly of the other person? Even if it’s not vocal, are your thoughts hateful and critical?
There are thousands of examples where this lesson can be applied and each person will have a different scenario whether it’s striving to be valdectorian and falling short, or trying to get a job and not getting it.  Let us accept what falls before us and with bravery and humility explore the path’s we are given.