Scripture of the Day!!!!!

8 But as oft as they repented and sought fogriveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.

Moroni 6:8

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christlike Love

To all those reading this, I hope you got to see the First Presidency Christmas devotional! Every opportunity that we have to hear today's prophets speak is a blessing. It sounds weird though but the part of the devotional that left the greatest impression on my mind is the musical number that immediately followed President Uchtdorf's talk. I'd never heard the song before, but it totally blew me away! The title is "What shall we give to the babe in the manger?" and below is a video of the performance.

Isn't that beautiful? Listening to that brought me an overwhelming feeling of peace and comfort. The first time through I was so busy listening to the sound that I really didn't hear the lyrics, but reading them afterward got me thinking.

What shall we give to the babe in the manger,
What shall we offer the child in the stall?
Incense and spices and gold we've got plenty-
Are these the gifts for the king of us all?

What shall we give to the boy in the temple,
What shall we offer the man by the sea?
Palms at his feet and hosannas uprising;
Are these for him who will carry the tree?

What shall we give to the lamb who was offered,
Rising the third day and shedding his love?
Tears for his mercy we'll weep at the manger,
Bathing the infant come down from above.

Good question what should we give?? Well a couple scriptures leap to mind!
First from the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 9:20
"And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost..."
Here Jesus Christ is very clear what we ought to offer--a broken heart and contrite Spirit. We need to offer Him our whole heart, sincerely sorry for our mistakes and shortcomings, and ready to follow Him wherever He directs.

Second from the Bible, John 13:34-35
"34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
This one struck me because really if you read the scripture, it takes things a step above the earlier commandment to "love thy neightbor as thyself." Loving people the way Christ loves us is a looot more than loving people the way we love ourselves. His love is a pure, unselfish, and unconditional love. His love is so perfect that He willingly suffered persecution, rejection, scorn, abuse, torture, and death, all so that His antagonists could have a chance of recieving forgiveness for their sins. I love a lot of people in my life right now (especially since I've been serving my mission), and there are many I would honestly die for. However, Christlike love is not selective. It is a love of all.
So what shall we give to the babe in the manger this Christmas? Well it is my humble opinion that the best gift we can give to our Savior is to learn to love like Him. As our feelings towards our fellow men begin to mirror Christ's feelings for us, we will experience a new kind of joy and peace, and we will be doing more than ever before to find the true meaning of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Being Open to Answers

Today I had an interesting idea while I was reading from the Book of Mormon. One of those "aha!" moments that feel so good.
Chapter 7 in the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon is an interesting story. It's kinda confusing, but I'm gonna try to break it down! It starts a man named Zeniff who led a large group of people to try and settle in a different part of the land. Zeniff and his people left behind the rest of their civilization and their king, king Mosiah. After 80 years passed with no word as to their situation, king Mosiah decided to send a man named Ammon along with 15 other men to search for the people of Zeniff.
Eventually Ammon's team found the people of Zeniff who now had a new leader named Limhi. When Ammon came to the city, he was captured and thrown in jail. After 2 days of being in jail, he was bound and brought before king Limhi.

OK so after that long setup, here's the point.

King Limhi starts off talking to Ammon in verse 11 by saying:
"I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city....And now, for this cause have I suffered that ye should be preserved, that I might inquire of you, or else I should have caused that my guards should have put you to death. Ye are permitted to speak."
Pretty gruff. At this point Limhi doesn't realize that Ammon is an ally. Ammon's group and the people of Limhi are really from the same place originally. Remember that making contact with Limhi's people was the whole purpose of Ammon's journey.
So now Ammon gets up to bat. In verse 12:
"And now, when Ammon saw that he was permitted to speak, he went forth and bowed himself before the king; and rising again he said: O king, I am very thankful before God this day that I am yet alive, and am permitted to speak; and I will endeavor to speak with boldness;"
And then he says the line that stuck out to me. In verse 13:
"For I am assured that if ye had known me ye would not have suffered that I should have worn these bands..."
Ammon goes on to explain that he's really a friend and that they want to help. After hearing that, Limhi gets extremely excited, commands the guards to release Ammon and his friends, and throws a big party for them! Limhi explains that his people are being heavily taxed by another larger nation, and he is grateful to have made contact with their old civilization who might be able to help. Eventually king Limhi's people do escape and with Ammon's help return to their old lands.
Alright now here's the point of me explaining that whole story!
1) I just kinda like the story haha!
2) How often are we like king Limhi here? At Limhi's first encounter with Ammon's group he totally rejected anything they had to say (not to mention he threw them in jail...). Limhi was suspicious and didn't take the time to listen. It was lucky for Ammon that king Limhi had a bit of curiosity, but if he hadn't.... Well Ammon would have been dead, along with all hope of Limhi's escape from their oppressors. However, Limhi did give Ammon the chance to speak, and he heard the fantastic news of possible deliverance.

It is my humble opinion that all of us are at times very like king Limhi. Our Heavenly Father knows us all at an intensely personal level. He is totally aware of what we are experiencing and is constantly reaching out to try and aid us on our journey. Only problem is....often if we aren't open and observant we ignore or deny His loving guidance. King Limhi could have easily had Ammon killed, and by the way he spoke to Ammon it sounds like he had executed people for approaching him in the past. I feel like many times the Lord sends us messages through a friend, an experience, or even just a thought or feeling. These are all for our benefit and learning. However, when we ignore or reject God's counsel we are, in a sense, slaying Ammon.
Now I know that there have been times when I haven't exactly followed God's direction. I've had my fair share of being king Limhi. However, often on the mission I feel like Ammon. Missionaries all over the world go out and talk to people every day in the hopes that people will take the opportunity to listen to our message of love. Often we meet people much less curious than king Limhi, but all those who have taken the opportunity to listen and act on God's word have felt the powerful increase of love that comes through following His commandments.
It is my prayer that all of us will take care to pay special attention to our Father's direction. I promise that all those who listen to and act upon His guidance will, like the people of Limhi, be led to greater freedom from the bonds of sin and guilt, and that the Lord will bless them with the kind of peace that only comes through Him.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miracles and God's Power in Healing

Our Heavenly Father is truly a God of miracles. That is one fact that has become blatantly clear to me in the past couple weeks.
One of the references that we use in the LDS church is called the Bible dictionary. It explains/clarifies many of the terms and ideas that are used in the Bible, along with some terms the way they are used in the church. I really like the way that the Bible dictionary describes miracles. The first little bit:
An important element in the work of Jesus Christ, being not only divine acts, but forming also a part of the divine teaching. Christianity is founded on the greatest of all miracles, the resurrection of our Lord. If that be admitted, other miracles cease to be improbable."
True statement. The Savior's sacrifice to save us from our sins coupled with His resurrection is an event that we call the Atonement. The Atonement is the most crucial part of God plan for us because it makes it possible for us to return to Him. What a miracle!! The idea that one individual could provide us with forgiveness and salvation mind boggling; it's something that I think we may never fully understand.
However when we come to believe that amazing miracle, then indeed "other miracles cease to be improbable." Recently I have seen miracles, such as one amazing instance of healing.
I have a very close friend who suffered from a condition called OCD. Anyone ever watch the show Monk? Yeah they joke around about him having OCD, but when it's in real life it's not so funny. To this friend of mine, things would become inexplicably dirty. It was like a contamination that spread everywhere from object to object. Someones pen might be dirty, then they'd set it on the desk, which would become dirty, then in their backpack, which became dirty and so on. He could clean things when he had the chance, but it got out of control to the point that most places near his home were, in his mind, filthy. He couldn't get away!
Well he and I and others who knew had been praying for him for a while. We had faith that the Lord could cure him. Have you read the Bible? Have you read the Book of Mormon? How many people did Jesus heal? My friend and I both have faith in miracles.
One morning he was looking at a picture of the Savior. Quietly the question came to his mind, "do I really believe in the Atonement?" Right away he responded, "yes."
Boom. It was done. That was it. This condition that had been plaguing him for so long was gone in one instance of the Saviors healing.
Miracles are real and happen more now than ever before.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The shield of rubber, slime, and faith!

From Missionary Life

The picture above is a decent representation of the last 11 weeks of my mission. Elder Nuckles and I ride our bikes a lot hence the photo of bicycles. However, notice how in that picture we aren't riding our bikes. Instead we see in this picture inverted bikes with various missing parts and tools scattered all over the place. Why you ask? Well I don't know whether or not we can attribute it to the fiery darts of the adversary, but in the last 11 weeks between the two of us we've had 1 exploding tire, 1 set of escaping handlebars, several sets of over-enthusiastic brakes, 2 sets of escaping and/or dying bearings, 1 completely worn-through tire, 1 bent crank, 1 bent spoke, 1 sheared axle, various incorrect parts purchased, and 14 flat tires. Wooo!
Elder Nuckles and I are serving in a bike area, which means bicycles are our only means of transportation (besides walking but who does that). You can imagine therefore what a problem it is to have to spend time pretending we know how be mechanics. The only thing we are actually competent enough to do is patch/replace a tube, which is good because there are so many little thorns everywhere that we get to practice multiple times a week. This past week though we'd had enough with fixing flats and decided to invest in something stronger.
Up until this point, we'd been using standard tires with standard tubes. We knew from the get-go that we'd probably get flats here and there, but clearly we had no idea of exactly how many flats that would be. Had we known how many flats we'd get and how much time would be invested in fixing them and other problems, we wouldn't have been so cheap. We thought we could get away with the bare minimum and just "be careful" (whatever that means).

Well we finally got smart and took it to the next level. We went to the bike shop and bought new innertubes with a very thick outer layer of rubber designed to be puncture-resistant. We also bought some slime-sealant to fill the tubes with so that, should a puncture actually occur, the tubes would self-seal.
Now as you can see below, the following day we reaped the fruits of our labor!

From Missionary Life
That is one big. fatty. thorn. You can't tell from the picture, but it's probably one of the longest we've run over so far. However, the tire was still full! I think Elder Nuckles, being the scriptorian that he is, summarized that moment best.
"O death, where is thy sting? O [thorn], where is thy victory?" (see 1 Corinthians 15:55)

Yeah. We won.

Believe it or not however there is a short gospel lesson to be learned!
Elder Nuckles and I had basic tires and tubes. They worked great and got us to where we needed to be. However, a small thorn was all it took to stop us in our tracks. One little thorn! So you'd think then that after getting flats a time or two we'd get wise and buy some thicker/stronger gear. Nope. We bought some cheap patches and got by on that. Even after getting 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 flats we still wouldn't shell out the extra work and money necessary to buy. We ignored the obvious signs that we needed to do more than the bare minimum if we wanted to be able to get around freely.
Do we do that with obedience? Heavenly Father's commandments aren't always easy to keep. Maybe we come to church, but only the first hour. Maybe we read our scriptures, but only once a week. Have any of you ever gone to bed and just skipped out on prayer because you were just 'too tired'? Untidy language, 'edgy' movies, a little crude music--none of these are too terrible, but they're things that slow us up.
The moral?
IF we don't take God's commandments seriously and just do the bare minimum, THEN our Spirits are just as defenseless to sin and temptation as my bicycle tires were to those thorns.
IF we are obedient to our Heavenly Father's commandments and put in more work and effort than just the bare minimum, THEN we will build some real and solid protection against everything that will be coming our way in this life. We will have a shield of faith that will guard us and enable us to continue unhindered on our journey back to our Father in Heaven.

So, put in that extra time and effort to prepare yourself for the 'thorns' in life. I promise that it'll be worth it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"If a man die, shall he live again?"

I am so grateful today for the inspired words of our modern prophets. I was reading one talk in particular during church that meant a lot to me. The talk was given by Thomas S. Monson, who is the current prophet today. Below is the video of that talk. The part I'm writing about starts at 2:37 and goes through 4:45, but you can watch the whole thing if you want! :)

"If a man die shall he live again?" (Job 14:14)
It's a good question. For some even a scary question. Many of the people I meet on the street or at doors say something like, "I dunno buddy; I don't like to think about it!"
Well I am here today to say that there is more! There is so much that awaits beyond this mortal life! Today we are here in what we call mortality. We have physical bodies that are subject to pain, suffering, temptation, disease, and other hardships. At some point we may struggle through employment difficulties. We might be betrayed or abandoned by someone close. Many experience depression or anxiety. All those make life challenging, and sometimes seemingly impossible. In those moments where everything seems so insurmountable or even pointless, it is easy to lose perspective.
HOWEVER, if we remember that this life is not the end, then life is much more positive. In the Mormon church, we call that keeping an eternal perspective. Even if we fully believe that there's more to our existance than mortality, it won't help us unless we remember that always. By keeping our eternal perspective on, we can take our blinders off a bit and see that there's more to life than the trials that we're currently experiencing.
If a man die shall he live again? YES!!! The scriptures, the prophets, and the light of Christ in all of us bear witness that this is true! My invitation to all of you is to hold on to that. Keep moving forward. Continue trying. Follow our Heavenly Father's commandments because He has promised if we hold out faithful we "are recieved into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow." (Alma 40:12)
As a real life example, check out:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I know how to make God laugh. Tell Him you have plans.

The other day I was visiting a friend who said something pretty interesting. She quoted her friend saying:
"I know how to make God laugh. Tell Him you have plans."
First of all I had to laugh. That is so ridiculously true. How many times have we made any kind of plans in our lives that turn out exactly the way we expected? Maybe it's only me, but things usually just don't pan out the way I expect them to.
There are lots of perfectly innocent reasons for not fulfilling our plans. Maybe a new opportunity comes up that looks a bit better. Perhaps we change our mind or just lose interest in our goal. Sometimes we hear an experience or get some advice that points us in another direction. These and other similar events happen frequently and are generally easy to handle because we are still 'in control'.
However, sometimes our plans get derailed by forces beyond our control. Could be bad health, unemployment, divorce, a death, war, a natural disaster, getting cheated or stolen from, etc. Chances are you or someone very near to you has experienced one of these life changing events. One might say, "Why? I planned to do so much with my life! I had so much potential! Was I doing something wrong? What did I do to deserve this? If God loves me why would He let this happen??"
When life gets hard, it's easy to get caught in this pattern on thinking. This mindset comes when we get so focused on the disruptions in our personal plans that we lose sight of the greatest of all plans: God's plan. President Spencer W. Kimball, one of God's modern day prophets, gave a great talk that has really stuck with me. In it he says:
"If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective."
That is the idea!!!!
President Kimball goes on to say, "Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?"
My friends, bad things can, do, and will happen. This life is not easy. We can't see the future. We can and should try and plan for it, but we must always remember that our Heavenly Father is in control.
So does God laugh when we make plans? Who am I to say. BUT I know that if we trust that our Father has a plan for our eternal happiness, then we can always face our future, whatever it may be, with "a perfect brightness of hope." (2 Nephi 31:20)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Courage to Act

Do you ever have those moments when a memory kinda sticks in your mind for a couple days? Today I was thinking a lot about the experience of an individual I had met earlier in my mission. I met her after she had been taught by missionaries for a long time. She understood what they taught her long before I ever met her, but her interest hadn't led her to any action until a couple of weeks before I'd met her, which was just a couple days before her baptism.
She'd been through a lot--I was surprised by her story. Much like many of us, she had made decisions that, in retrospect, she was not proud of. Funny how sometimes in the moment we can't see how silly our choice really is. Or what's more, we know how bad our choice is but we still do it anyways!! Our human nature tends to get the better of us and we do stupid things.
Well we've all been there in some way or another. We make mistakes and eventually come to the point where we have to own up. That's how life works. Eventually we have to own up to ourselves, to others, and to God, which can be a terrible place to be. In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Alma ended up in such a situation and described his feelings in this way:
"Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments." (Alma 36:13)
This friend of mine had since felt the awful pains of guilt. However, she, like Alma, turned to the ultimate source of forgiveness and peace. She turned to our Savior who is always reaching out to save us and protect us from our sinful choices. In the Book of Mormon Jesus explains, "And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost." (3 Nephi 9:20)  I don't think I've ever seen such a perfect example of a broken heart and contrite spirit as I saw in my friend in the days preceeding her baptism. She had experienced the healing power of the atonement so completely that she was full to the brim with joy and love.
We all end up broken, but Christ wants to fix us. It is my prayer that we all follow my friend's example and choose to follow our Savior by having faith, repenting, being baptized, and recieving the gift of the Holy Ghost. I promise that those who take those steps and stay faithful to our Father's commandments will find the only true and lasting joy there is.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking it to the Web!

So by now you might be wondering, "this missionary is just begging to get himself sent home." Well that's what I keep thinking too! No worries though I'll still be sticking around.
The LDS Church's missionary department has asked some missionaries to create an online blog and facebook profile to assist in the great work of helping all to come unto Christ! The internet is an amazing blessing from our loving Father in Heaven and He is beginning to open our eyes to the great and wonderful tool this will be in helping our brothers and sisters find their way to the peace and joy that is found in the restored gospel.
The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon helps me to understand the importance of this way of preaching and teaching. He says, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23) All mankind need Jesus Christ. Plain and simple. Where would we be without His love, His example, and most importantly His atoning sacrifice for our salvation? The answer is we would be completely lost.
But we are not lost!! Our Savior lives, and we know this through His prophets. Where would we be without the writings and direction of the great prophets? Again, completely lost.
I am no prophet, but I will write diligently to persuade ALL, Mormon or not, to come unto their loving Savior. In His arms they will find an unlimited supply of warmth and love. They will be safe from every trick and sly temptation of the adversary. They will understand their identity and mission on earth. As a representitive of Jesus Christ, I promise you that your Father in Heaven wants you back, so make the choice that the Spirit teaches is right. Choose Christ.