The Conclusion

Well… I think this is going to be my last post on this blog. My mission ends next week and I’m not sure when I’ll have the time (and motivation, quite honestly) to make another ‘official’ posting. So… this is it. Nothing in particular is really on my mind, but I’d like anyone who’s reading this to know that the last two years of my life could not have been spent any better than they were.

My mission was awesome, and it will most definitely be something that I’ll keep close to my heart for the rest of my life. Yeah, sure, it wasn’t a walk in the park. There were ups and downs. There were times when things went right and I knew that I was doing the Lord’s work, and there were other times when things didn’t go so well, and I wondered if I was wasting my time. Thankfully, the Lord has been with me to lift me up, even during those rough moments… or days… or weeks… or months, and to remind me that things aren’t meant to be easy.

But honestly, even the lowest points of my mission were still super awesome. It’s amazing how easily we can function through stressful periods of time. What’s key, or rather, the two main keys are simply a good attitude and a reliance on Jesus Christ and His gospel. Everything else basically falls under those two things.

I’ve learned too many things to count… about others, about the gospel, about the world, about myself. Some things I’ve learned about others… let’s see. People are weird. Straight up, some people are just strange. But it’s okay, ’cause we’re all weird, and we’re also all children of God. Not one of us is better than any other. We each have our strengths and weaknesses. We each have our likes and dislikes. We each have a history, and perhaps most interestingly, we really can’t judge anyone based on their past. Oh yes, you can make generalizations, but you never know when or how someone might change. You never know when a heart might be softened, or broken.

About the gospel? The gospel is powerful. It can be what breaks that hardened heart. It can pierce the thickest darkness and make it light. It can be what gives you strength when nothing else in life can or will lift you up. It’s so much more than even just a lifestyle;  it’s a dedication. It’s a consecration of one’s soul to the Lord (this one I’m still learning about… and working on). It’s the most personal thing in the world, yet it requires one to reach out to others more than anything else.

About the world? The world is messed up. That’s about it. It’s a shaky foundation to build on… and by that I mean it will crumble beneath your feet. Don’t trust it. Don’t rely on it. Don’t indulge in it. Rely on the gospel.

About myself? For one thing, I learned very quickly that, contrary to my pre-mission belief system, I am not the only normal person in the world. I’ve become a lot better at picking the right battles in life. I’ve learned patience and a little bit of charity. I’ve learned that my mind indeed can be quite powerful, and with the right kind of motivation, I can get myself to do a lot of things. I’ve also learned that I am absolutely nothing, and that everything I have learned about myself means nothing if I don’t associate it with the teachings of Christ. In essence, I’ve learned that though I am certainly nothing, and by myself can only amount to nothing, I am everything to my Heavenly Father and my Savior and can do anything with Their help…. if I let Them into my life.

Well, I think I’ve probably rambled enough. I’d just like you to know that I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on the earth today. It is the only true church. It contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel, including the holy priesthood of God. The Book of Mormon is a fruit of Joseph Smith. It is a true record, and those that sincerely pursue a study of it can come to know of its divinity by the Holy Spirit. We have prophets today, and the Lord speaks to them just as He has spoken to them anciently, as we can read in the Holy Bible, which is also the word of God.

I can’t express how grateful I am to my Savior. He’s done more for me than I could possibly imagine to list. He’s been with me through so much, the good and the bad. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, my Rock, and my Redeemer. He suffered and died for our sins, and now He lives for us! How awesome is that? The Atonement of Christ is so powerful, it’s really quite amazing. I love my Savior. I wish I was a better servant, a better representative. I have regrets, but who doesn’t? All we can do is seek forgiveness through Christ’s atonement and then move on and do better. Look up. Look forward. Don’t let your sins or our past define who you are. You are a child of God. Let that divine knowledge help build your character.

Thanks for reading! I invite you to look through all the posts I’ve made. I’ve got quite a few… so… go read and have an awesome day. God bless.

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Seeking the Arms of Love

Many people in this world lack something great. They lack the knowledge of God’s love. Many do not believe in God, and therefore by default they are numb to their Heavenly Father’s compassion, yet still others who do have a believe in God often find themselves, or feel themselves as being, beyond God’s comforting embrace.

I have felt this way at times, and I’m sure you can think about some moments, days, weeks, months, or even years in your life when the warmth of God’s love others talk about felt chilled. You might’ve been on your knees night after night, pleading to feel closer to God and to your Savior, to feel somethinganything, even if it was just a minuscule amount of compassion. Perhaps you felt that those prayers were left unanswered.

So what to do, then? Well, I can tell you right now that God is never the one that moves in a relationship. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ are always constant. They never stray from us.  The only person ever to experience an actual withdrawal of God’s spirit, because the Father did actually withdraw from Him, was the Savior Jesus Christ, and only to make Christ’s Atonement truly infinite, and truly complete.

So if we feel distanced from God, and God is never the one who moves, we can only conclude that we were the ones that took some backward steps. We are the ones who have slacked, or idled, or straight up rebelled. To correct this, we of course need to step forward. Here’s something I read this morning in my studies. This is revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ to Oliver Cowdery…

Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20)

I’ve read this verse many times before, and other verses like it, but it struck a different tone with me today. It’s such a simple concept. The general principle is commonly taught within most Christian denominations. To come close to God, one must make changes in his or her life, changes that are in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Namely, obey the commandments and live the higher law.

Yes, it’s true that the Spirit can comfort us even when we disobey. That comfort, however, is not for comfort in the sin. It is simply the comfort that, if spoken, could be equated to, “You did a bad thing, but you can be better and move on.” It is not abiding, but it is motivating and enforcing, directing the individual to seek the needed change so that true and lasting comfort may be found and enjoyed.

The words of the Lord to Oliver are simple, yet profound. A lot of my missionary comrades like to call them “truth bombs.” If we are obedient, then will we be able to feel God’s love in its strongest and most enduring form. It will be a “Well done, you may rest in My arms of love.” as opposed to a “I still love you, but do better.” Hope that made sense. Naturally this is all making sense in my mind.

And of course, God will show love to those that love Him. Jesus Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He was of course speaking for Himself as well as the Father. Christ’s words are the Father’s words, and Christ’s commandments are the Father’s commandments.

So if you feel a bit of a disconnect between God and yourself, don’t look at God… look at yourself. He won’t forsake you, He will never do that. But He expects us to be obedient and to try our best. He loves you. He will always love you, and He loves you enough to let you have this mortal time period to learn and become like Him. It’s not meant to be easy. He can’t hold your hand the whole time, but like Christ’s parable of the prodigal son, He is always watching for us when we choose to leave Him. So when we realize our mistakes and come back to Him (obey His commandments with sincerity), He will be there to embrace us.

 

 

 

Obey and Be Happy!

Well, I have to admit, I haven’t been compltely focused lately. In about two weeks I’ll be flying back home, back to my family and friends, back to work, back to “normal” life. Naturally, this fact consumes much of my thought process. As a result, I haven’t been super diligent with my blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a missionary. It’s the best thing I’ve done with my life so far, and it will probably be forever the most unique thing I’ll do with my life. I’m sad to see it slipping away, but I’m excited to see my post-mission life fast approaching.

I wanted to make a post for today. It didn’t matter if it was profound and detailed… or not. I just want to say something about the gospel. So… this is what came to mind. I truly feel that it is inspired. The message is simple: happiness. It’s a fun word that holds a lot of meaning, and can be subjected to many different interpretations. Here’s a great verse from the Book of Mormon on happiness. It’s from a sermon given by a wise King Benjamin. Notice what this man says is the key to happiness.

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)

I absolutely love this verse. It’s so straight forward. It’s just awesome. What does King Benjamin say is the key to happiness? Keeping the commandments of God. This is so simple, yet so often we forget it. From first-hand experience, and from the experiences of others, I know this to be a true principle. Through the phases of my own life, I can look back and see that the happiest times were when I was in closest communion with my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ, and when I could most strongly feel the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Now, this is easier said than done. I know that. Obedience, like happiness, is a big word that means a lot. This post isn’t meant to be about obedience though, so you can look back through my earlier posts, or study on your own, to find out what obedience means. What I’m simply trying to say is that… if you’re missing something in life… if you feel like happiness and joy are always just out of reach… look at yourself, examine yourself, and ask yourself if you’re living in a way that is truly in harmony with God. If not, find ways to change.

I promise that as you seek for obedience to God’s commandments, happiness will come. You will feel the love of your Father in Heaven, the love of your Savior, and the influence of the Spirit more strongly in your life. We are God’s children, and we instinctively feel after His love and His approval. It’s built within us. To disobey God is to go against what we were divinely designed to do. So seek God, and seek happiness. That’s it. It’s that simple.

 

The Poetic Corner: Take Me Away

in the middle of this road i am looking both ways and say

why did You place me here today?

it always seems that i can’t keep up to what You’re thinking

all the dreams i’ve had will fade away

 

at times i cry

‘cause i can’t work past mistakes

but still i try

‘cause You’re finding a better place for me

 

why did You take me away

from where i thought i needed to be?

please just answer me

how is this right when it seems wrong?

 

how can i make a difference

when i don’t see the relevance to why i’m here?

a repeated history this appears

will this ever end?

will i be looking for a purpose

for the rest of my existence?

 

why did You take me away

from where i thought i needed to be?

please just answer me

how is this right when it seems wrong?

 

it seems wrong, but i must go on

so as i stand on this road i look both ways and say

i know You’ve placed me here today

‘cause all the plans of my life are in Your hands

and this is how You help me understand

 

I was excited to be transferred down to Billings. I had always wanted to serve in Billings, yet I never really thought it would happen. With only six weeks left in my mission, I was confused when my mission president asked me to come down and finish it off here. He said he needed my leadership, but in all honesty I doubted his judgment. I’ll admit, I still wonder why I was placed here when I felt that Plentywood, Montana was where I really needed to be. I’ve had great experiences here. I’ve met awesome missionaries and awesome people in general, but in the back of my mind the question of “Who am I supposed to affect?” still lingers.

You’ve probably had similar experiences, where plans changed and you found yourself somewhere unexpected. Maybe, like me, you wondered, “Why does God want me here?” Well, of course, God doesn’t make mistakes. He certainly never puts us anywhere by accident. There is always someone to help or something to learn… or most likely both.

A scripture that comes to mind is Proverbs 3:5-6. Maybe you’ve heard or read it before.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Most often, we won’t understand why we’ve been placed somewhere. The Lord doesn’t always expect us to understand. He expects us to trust thatHe understands. If we acknowledge Him in all we do, He will certainly be the beacon that will guide us in the right direction.

Traveling to the Americas in the Book of Mormon, Lehi and his family were guided by a compass that worked solely upon their faith in the Lord. Speaking of this compass, Alma, another Book of Mormon prophet, spoke these words to one of his sons,

For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. (Alma 37:44-45)

By following the counsel from the scriptures and the Lord’s living prophets, we too can be led to a better land. I definitely believe that so long as one is doing his or her best to live in harmony with the gospel, the Lord will always lead them to someplace better. Wherever we end up in life, the Lord has a purpose for it. When the Lord’s people are obedient, He always leads them to somewhere better.

Temptation and Turkish Delight

InThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund manages to stumble into Narnia by himself after Lucy had previously done so. Upon entering the wintery world, the White Witch finds him. She knew very well who Edmund was. She knew he was a Son of Adam, as the human race is known by in Narnia. She also knew that he was part one of the four rulers prophecied to destroy her and restore Narnia back to its original state. Unfortunately, Edmund did not know who she was. She beguiled him and gained his trust through satisfying his physical appetite for food. For the sake of turkish delight, Edmund allied himself with her.

When all four children came to Narnia, Edmund was a hinderance to their cause and instead aided the White Witch, once again to satisfy his sweet tooth. The “friendship” he shared with the witch quickly turned sour as her true motives became more evident. Edmund soon found himself a prisoner, his agency taken away, and perhaps worst of all… no turkish delight.

As Isaiah wrote, “for your iniquities ye have sold yourselves.” How often do we sell ourselves for things that do not matter? How often do we indulge our physical appetities, whether hunger, lust, or otherwise, while spiritually we starve? I’m certainly not perfect, and I can easily admit that I’ve forfeited a lot of blessings from the Lord that I would’ve received had I cared more about what was most important eternally, instead of what I had wanted in the moment. Edmund made the same mistake and chose a temporary satisfaction, even though he knew that there was going to be consequences later.

By giving in to temptation, he slowly gave up his agency until he was literally bound as a prisoner, his freedom granted only when he was rescued and Aslan stepped in to sacrifice himself on his behalf. In the same way, the devil desires to enslave us. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi tells us of some ways in which Satan tries to trick us,

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. (2 Nephi 28:21-22)

Let’s not make the same mistake as Edmund. In the end, everything was made right and he was crowned as a ruler over Narnia, yet it came through hardship. He suffered sorrow, enslavement, and then remorse when he was finally freed from the witch’s control. Satan desires to enslave us as well, but if we say no to his temptations we won’t fall into his grasp. We each have individual weaknesses. Edmund’s was turkish delight. So what’s your turkish delight? And are you willing to lay aside the things you want right now for the things that will matter eternally?

The Unsurmountable, Philosophical, Theological Sitcom Analogy Theory

I’m not entirely sure what this has to do with the gospel. I’ll try to make it work, but basically this is a philosophy I’ve developed on my mission that has helped me get through a lot of hard times. The title of the blog came from my current (and hilarious) companion who I related the idea to. Ready? Here goes…

Sitcoms. I love ’em. Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, Seinfeld, etc. These are some sweet shows. For the sake of the anology, I’m going to focus on Seinfeld. Honestly, to enjoy Seinfeld, one has to get to know their inner sadist. It’s an extremely sadistic show with no character development whatsoever. Day by day, the main characters (and the unfortunate souls who have to associate with them) are put through countless misfortunes of all kinds. Physical injury, public humiliation, awkward situations, etc.

If the things that happened on the show happened in real life, they would be horrific, tragic, nerve-racking, and agitating. But they’re not. They’re funny. Why are they funny? ‘Cause it’s just a sitcom. We can laugh because we know it’s not real. If I revealed my secret ATM pin to an old woman and she shouted it just before she died, that would be terrible. However, when George did the same thing to Mr. Peterman’s mother, it was hilarious.

And so, here’s my philosphy. Your life, my life, and everyone else’s life is a sitcom, or rather, may be viewed as such. When tragic things happen, when we find ourselves embarrassed, or caught in an awkward moment, or when nothing goes right in the day… picture yourself or someone else watching your life in the form of a sitcom. Imagine an audience machine laughing during those awkward moments, or even cheering when you one-up someone at something. It makes it funny. Maybe this all just sounds crazy and weird, but it’s worked for me.

Yes, there will be times when true tragedy strikes, and this analogy will be rendered useless. But it works for most situations in life. Laughter is the best medicine as they say, so why not take it whenever you can? I’ve been able to laugh off more stupid/awkward situations than I can count. I just imagine myself as a victimized soul, subject to the  cruelties of a sadistic (yet funny and creative) team of writers.

Again, maybe this isn’t for you, but you can try it. I really don’t know how to connect this to Jesus Christ, but it’s something that’s meant to make life better. The Savior did say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And truly, that team of sadistic writers doesn’t exist. Our team of Writers are not sadistic at all. They do have a sense of humor (and a perfect one at that), but They love us. They care about us and want us to be happy and succeed. Our team of Writers consists of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Together, they’ve written out a plan of salvation for us, a plan of happiness and progression.

Our sitcoms are filled with humorous situations like Seinfeld, but unlike Seinfeld, they’re full of character development. So… laugh at the hard times. Don’t let them get you down. Laugh, shrug, move on, and make your sitcoms awesome!

Deeper Magic and the Wisdom of God

In the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the character Edmund betrays Aslan’s trust and joins himself with the White Witch. He eventually realizes his mistake and comes back to the Narnian side, but this was done at a price.

Aslan offered to sacrifice himself to the White Witch to allow Edmund to go free. During the night, Aslan arrived at the Table where he was to be killed. The White Witch and her group were waiting for him. Though he was stronger than them all, Aslan allowed them to cut off his mane, mock him, tie him to the stone Table and kill him.

Unbeknownst to the White Witch, Susan and Lucy had followed Aslan and had witnessed the awful scene. In the morning, when everyone had left, they approached Aslan’s lifeless body. Their despair over his death was only felt for a short time though, as the Table cracked and Aslan appeared to them, brought back to life, vibrant, and his mane restored.

Confused, Lucy asks Aslan if what happened was magic. Aslan said that it was indeed magic, and that there was Deeper Magic that the White Witch wasn’t aware of. If she had read the inscriptions on the Table with the wisdom that comes from the Deeper Magic, she would have known that a willing sacrifice on the Table, in place of a traitor, could not actually be killed. The Table would crack and the victim instead of rise, fully restored.

This, of course, is an allusion to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. What I like about the event, though, is the fact that Aslan’s wisdom and knowledge far surpassed that of the witch. She thought she had won, but she had only delayed her defeat.

I take comfort in the fact that God is all-wise and all-powerful. Although Satan may have great manipulation over the fallen world that we live in, he cannot know the mind of God. God’s wisdom and greatness are too awesome, too superior for Satan to comprehend.

One example of this is the Fall of Adam and Eve. Satan tempted Eve, thinking to destroy the plan of God by making them fall from their state of being. Instead, he was only progressing our Heavenly Father’s plan, by being the catalyst for the mortal existence of mankind, necessary for us to gain the experience we need and progress on to the next stage in our existence.

And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world. (Moses 4:6)

The White Witch sought to destroy Aslan, but she didn’t know the Deeper Magic that came from Aslan’s father, therefore she failed in her attempt. Satan sought to destroy God’ work, but he as well did not have the wisdom to comprehend God’s  great plan of salvation for His children, therefore he also failed in his attempt.

We can trust that God knows all, and that all things that seem wrong will be made right by His power and His wisdom. Satan truly has no power, but what we give him. He may think himself intelligent, but God is infinitely greater. So when things become rough, and perhaps all seems lost, remember that God has it covered. Aslan knew what he was doing, and so does our Heavenly Father.

Father’s Day! Yeah!

Well, it’s soon to be Father’s Day. Let’s be honest, Father’s Day definitely doesn’t get quite as much recognition as its counterpart. It should though. It’s quite an understatement, but… fathers are important. The role of a father, to me, is the role of the protector, provider, and example-giver.

The father shows his children how to act and how to get things done, but most importantly, I believe, the father presides over the family. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a patriarchal order. That’s not saying the males are better than the females, but their role is to preside and be a leader, and do so using God’s priesthood.

My own father has a been an awesome example to me of that, of dedication to the Lord. I’m grateful that he’s always been faithful to the gospel, even when my family experienced hard times, when it would’ve been easy to give in and give up. He’s also been a great example of working past weaknesses. We all have faults of course, and many people, including myself, try to justify idleness, transgression, or sin with their weaknesses. My dad, however, has always pulled through. Even when I knew he was struggling, and even when I thought that if I was put in his shoes I would’ve given up, he never did. The Lord and his family were too important to him. For that, I’ll always be grateful, and I hope that I will be able to reflect those righteous attributes that he possesses. I hope that when trials come, I’ll put the Lord and my loved ones before myself, like he has done and will continue to do.

Dad, thank you for… well… being you, for being an example, and for expecting me to go on a mission. I definitely needed the push, and I’m thankful for it.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! You’re awesome!

Our Father, the Emperor-Over-the-Sea

I’m really surprised I haven’t made a lot of blog posts about the Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe I’ve been afraid it would be too cliche. Whatever the reason, I’ve gotten over it. C. S. Lewis was most definitely an inspired man, and his works can teach us a lot of good principles. The Chronicles of Narnia is a profound series, in my opinion, because it takes those wonderful principles and presents them in a way that even a child can understand.Thatis the true mark of genius.

The first principle in the first lesson Mormon missionaries teach is this: God is our loving Heavenly Father. The concept of the Trinity for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differs from most mainstream Christians. We do not believe they are literally one personage, but three separate beings with one purpose in mind.

Lewis actually teaches this principle quite well in the world of Narnia. Aslan, of course, is a symbol, or perhaps incarnation, of the Savior Jesus Christ. Just as Christ is our King, Aslan is the king of Narnia. He rules over the Narnians and they love and respect him. Jesus Christ is also the Son of God, one of His many titles. This isn’t just a title though. Christ is literally the Only Begotten of the Father, meaning that He is the only one who was, is, and ever will be phyiscally related to God as well as spiritually. Although Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He is still subject to the Father. He stated often, even when He was a child, that His purpose was to do the will of the Father and not His own will. Therefore, the Father is the Ultimate King and Ultimate Creator.

Under the direction of the Father, Christ created the world. In that way, Christ can also be referred to as the “Father” because He is the Creator of our physical bodies and the world we live in.

Aslan also has a father, the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. Although Aslan is the king of Narnia, his father is still superior to him. With a song, Aslan created the physical world of Narnia, yet the powers of Deep Magic (the laws by which Narnia is governed) come from the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. Aslan’s father is the ultimate steward over Narnia, and Aslan acts in proxy to him, just as Christ acts in proxy to the Father.

Aslan is not the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, and vice versa. They are clearly separate beings in the novels, and so are the Father and the Son if we read the scriptures.

I know that God the Father truly is our Father in Heaven, the Father of our spirits. I know Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, and the Savior of mankind. He is the Lion of Judah.

Heart & Mind

Recognizing the Spirit of God can sometimes be a challenge. Going through life and facing difficult challenges and decisions, we desire to do what God would have us to do. Sometimes we’re unsure of what exactly that is and we may think, “Why can’t God make this more clear for me?”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely felt this way quite a bit. If only there was always a clear, undeniable, supernal feeling for every right decision in life. It would certainly make it easier to choose our correct pathways. But that isn’t how it works. God didn’t place us here with a dumbed down version of life. It’s a complex, difficult life, filled with many gray areas and multiple pathways to follow. Thankfully though, God did give us a means whereby we can make the right decisions.

The Holy Ghost is that means. He’s the third member of the Godhead, and fulfills many roles for us. One of those roles is to be a guide, spiritual roadsigns, if you will, pointing us to God. Although only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be bestowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost (which entitles a member to His constant companionship on conditions of obedienc), anyone can feel the influence of the power of the Holy Ghost. I wrote a previous blog specifically about the comparison of these two subjects. You can read it at this link.

So how do we feel the Spirit? How does He communicate with us? How are we to listen? I’m going to focus on the two primary channels the Spirit uses to speak to us. You wanna take a guess? One is our heart, the other is our mind.

Speaking to Oliver Cowdery about receiving a testimony, the Lord declared,

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3)

Impressions from the Holy Spirit can come as strong, swelling motions within our heart, or they can come as enlightenment and increased understanding within our mind.

Again speaking to Oliver, the Lord said,

Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spiritof truth;

Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:15-16)
 
 No being other than God knows our thoughts. No being other than God knows our hearts, as we read in 1 Samuel, “the Lord looketh on the heart.” And as I said in a previous blog post, these two things, and our Spirit, are God’s territory. Nothing can touch them, not Satan or any other worldly thing. Satan can influence us physically and through temporal emotions, but he cannot quicken our understanding, nor arouse our hearts to feel charity and love.
 
By these two channels, you can know when the Spirit is speaking to you. The feelings of the Spirit cannot be duplicated by another source. I know this is true, that through our hearts and our minds, we can know of truth when we experience it.

Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words

a song for Thy peace like a river does flow

my lips to the sky, Thy glory is known

yet open my eyes to see just beyond

there’s more to Thy grace than singing a song

our tongues are quick, yet our feet are slow

we say we believe, but how do we show it?

actions speak louder than words they say

so let’s drown out the world with hands we raise

not in shallow praise, but lifted for others

our sisters and brothers

to bring about change in the world today

’cause the devil dreams on an idle horse

so what could be worse than abandoning movement?

you never think that you’ll feel the remorse

a silent hearse is slowly beckoning

so shut your eyes and tell yourself

you’re singing praise, you’re safe from Hell

your hands are raised, your pastor tells

the congregation they’re saved

but last time i checked what’s contained in the word

it’s not enough to say “Lord, Lord”

but to do the will

and fulfill

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)

To me, worshiping God, and worshiping Jesus Christ, is more than just going to church. It’s more than just singing hymns. It’s more than raising your hands in a “Hallelujah!” or saying a memorized prayer. Worship is about who we are and what we do with ourselves, not simply what we say.

To hear the gospel of Jesus Christ is not enough. We cannot justify ourselves because we go to church every so often to sit and listen to a sermon or a lesson. We cannot justify ourselves because we sing a worship song with our hands raised over and over again. I speak as my own opinion, andinmy opinion, such so-called worship is shallow. It doesn’t amount to anything. It creates no progression within one’s soul. It does not deepen one’s understanding of God, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost. It does not help one to understand Christ’s atonement. It is not bad or evil by any means, but I feel that there is a better way.

Apply what you learn at your worship service. See how you can use it in your every day life. Make note of what you need to improve on. Pray and look for opportunities to progress as a follower of Christ and understand Him better.

As Paul states, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13) Receiving the gospel means nothing if we do not live the gospel, using the principles that the Savior taught. Jesus Christ died, “leaving us an example, that [we] should follow his steps,” said the apostle Peter.

When Christ visited the inhabitants of the Americas, teaching them of salvation and eternal life, He said, “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” (3 Nephi 15:9)

We must endure to the end to receive eternal life.Enduringis certainly not idleness. It’s perseverance. It’s courage. It’s faith, love, and obedience. It’s awareness. It’s everything that involves a life of diligent seeking and diligent service. This life is our probationary state, as the Book of Mormon also teaches. We’re here to prepare to return to God again, so let us live our lives accordingly, not with our hands raised in idle worship, but raised in service and love.

One LORD.

My companion and I had a confrontation not too long ago with a man on his doorstep. This gentleman, if I can even refer to him as such, basically told me and my companion that we are going to Hell unless we change our ways and come unto what he termed as the “real” Jesus Christ. I asked him if faith in the Savior constitutes salvation. He responded in the affirmative, to which I told him, “Then byyourstandards, I am saved.” He shook his head and told me that I believe in a “different” Jesus than him.

Last time I checked, there’s only one Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Latter-day Saints may believe in added detail about His life and who He is, but we certainly don’t believe in a different being. This is one of the many things that irks me: people telling me I’m not a Christian, or that I believe in some other kind of Jesus. Well, here’s what Latter-day Saints believe about Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God. He was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary. He began his earthly ministry about the age of thirty. He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit, in the sign of the dove, appeared during that amazing event, and the voice of the Father bore record of Christ’s divinity.

Does this sound Christian yet?

His first recorded miracle was changing water to wine at a wedding feast. He performed many miracles in fact. He gave sight to the blind. He made the lame walk and the dumb speak. He healed lepers. He multiplied fish and bread to feed thousands. He raised the dead. He walked on water.

Does this sound like a different Jesus?

He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to begin His atonement. In the Garden he took upon Himself our pains and afflictions. The suffering was so great that He bled from every pore, as Luke records. His atonement continued as he was falsely accused and was put through an illegal trial. He was scourged and crucified, allowing Himself to succomb to physical death. Three days later He was resurrected and appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to his disciples. He ministered for forty days and then ascended to the Father.

Any of this sound Christian? All of these are beliefs of the Latter-day Saints. If you don’t think we’re Christian, just visit our websites: lds.org and mormon.org. Or, perhaps, read the Book of Mormon and see if it brings you closer to Christ.

 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)

Two Books, One Witness

I’m going to cover my accuser’s second argument mentioned in my previous blog post. In his mind, the doctrine of the Bible and the doctrine of the Book of Mormonobviously were not in accordance with one another, even to the point that he admitted he would never prayerfully consider the divinity of the Book of Mormon.

Those that claim the Book of Mormon teaches doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible are simply choosing to interpret the Bible only one way. They are the ones that blind themselves from other possibilities. Think about this: how many lines can you draw through a single point? The answer would be… infinity. You can interpret the Bible an infinite amount of ways. One says this, another says that. But engender another point into this scenario, and now how many lines can be drawn through those points? Only one. Only one straight line may be drawn, therefore there can only be one interpretation. Any other line drawn will be curved and littered with logical fallacies.

Let’s look at one example: Romans 3, verses 27 and 28,

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The born-again might say, “Aha! Faith alone is what saves us. Our deeds in this life mean nothing.”

The devout Catholic might respond, “Oh, but sir, Paul is speaking of the Mosaic law. Paul was speaking to those still practicing that law, explaining that the rituals have no effect, but faith in the Savior is the key element.”

They could turn to James and read how our faith must be shown by our works, or to the words of the Savior Himself saying, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

You could then go to Ephesians 2:8 and 9, which reads,

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So what do we make of all this? It’s clear that these verses can create quite a difference in such a simplistic doctrine as faith and works. Let’s turn to the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi wrote,

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 we can do.

Ah! So it is by grace that we are saved, but after we have put forth our honest effort. So we see that we cannot have one without the other. You can be the most righteous person in the world, yet still be damned without the grace of Christ. But the atoning power of the Savior will not be in effect unless we take the effort to apply it in our lives. We will inevitably fall short of what God expects of us, but we still have agency to make good choices out of our own power.

This is one simple analogy, but one to show that the Book of Mormon serves to supportthe Bible, not tear it down. I know for myself that, like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have considered it, pondered it, and prayed to God about it. The Spirit has told me it’s true. I invite you to do the same.

The Spirit, the Witness

I was told recently that my faith is blind. My belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. My belief that the Book of Mormon, alongside the Bible, is scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ. My belief in the entire set of doctrines outlined in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, as found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of this… all that I hold dear to me and believe with every fiber of my being… is blind following.

And why is it blind? According to my accuser, because…

1. There is an apparent lack of archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, and…

2. The teachings of the Book of Mormon are obviously, according to my accuser’s opinion, in contradiction to the Bible’s doctrine.

Both of these arguments are, in my opinion, weak excuses. I bore my testimony to this man, but his heart wasn’t sufficiently softened to receive it. Honestly, that’s fine. I told him straight up that I didn’t expect to convince him, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. But to accuse me of blind faith? No, I won’t have it. Heck, he even insinuated that what I believed to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit confirming my beliefs was in reality a trick of Satan.

Last time I checked, Satan doesn’t have influence over my spirit. Yes, he can make evil appear good, and he is a grand master manipulator. He can deceive us by affecting our carnal senses. Our sight. Our hearing. Our physical sense of feeling. These are often what he attacks, but our spirits? No, that’s God’s territory. Satan can make sin seem appealing, but only God’s Spirit can touch my own spirit and manifest truth. If Satan could manipulate the very spirit within us, how awful our circumstances would be! You couldn’t trust anything! You wouldn’t be able to trust any thought or feeling you have, no matter how righteous and peaceful it feels.

But now I’m rambling, and perhaps that particular topic should be given its own blog post, just like how Venom should’ve been the spotlight of Spiderman 3.

I’m going to just focus on the first reason now. No archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon? Anyone that has ever honestly looked into this topic knows that such a claim is complete nonsense. However, evidence for the Book of Mormon is not what helps an individual gain a testimony and a spiritual witness of its divinity. It is through a witness of the Holy Spirit that that is accomplished. For the sake of those who might be curious though, here’s a great link to a website dedicated to phyiscal evidences of the Book of Mormon.

http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/

Concerning the Spirit, the apostle Paul teaches us,

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath preparedfor them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

It is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God are revealed to man. Indeed, studious research is beneficial, but without a firm testimony from the Spirit, an unshakable conviction in any particular truth will never stand up to persecution and the storms of life. I marvelled somewhat that despite the fact that my accuser was a strong Christian man (and I had no reason to doubt this of him), he denied my testimony of the Spirit and claimed I was blindly following my beliefs because of an apparent lack of physical evidence. He should know very well that if something is of God, it cannot be understood or known except through His spirit.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

The Poetic Corner: Forward Or Back

Forward or Back

another misadventure

another portion of your history gone wrong

you just wanna tear out the page

but the ink has stained too long

you think it’s sunk too deep

a second chance is long gone

so instead of forward

you turn back

no longer working on things you lack

your faith, your hope, your charity

you shun the things that set you free

and try to find the answers in

the lack of light and your favorite sins

the habits you have yet to break

the thoughts you hate and the words you say

they make a slave of you each day

but the key, you see, is not to look back

it’s to keep pressing on

finding faith in the Lord, not in the world

and before long you’ll find a change is in place

the things of your mind

and the pace of your heart

will begin to take part in the plan God has set

to make you like Him and erase your regrets

to put off the slave who causes you shame

to set yourself free

and take the name of Christ upon you

a new way to live

a beacon for truth

spreading the love of God to all

and it all begins on the point you now stand

move forward onto the rock of Christ

or back into the sand

Agency is something that we all possess. We are agents unto ourselves, meaning that we can choose how to set the course of our lives. God has given us this free will so we can be properly tested. He will not force us to choose good, but instead we must actively pursue Him and seek Him out.

We’re all guilty of the person described in the poem. At one point or another, or on multiple points, we have turned back to sin during hard times for a temporary “comfort.” Of course, there really is no comfort in sin. We convince ourselves that we need it and make exemptions through anger, sadness, loneliness, hunger, tiredness, etc. In consequence, we put a stop to our spiritual progression. We put spiritual chains upon ourselves and make ourselves into slaves. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is often referred to as the “natural” or “carnal” man.

King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, talked about the natural man and the agency of man. He said,

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

The natural man, or the inclination within us to disobey God, is an enemy to God. To solve this, we must “put off” the natural man. Shun him. Shed him from us as a snake sheds its old skin.Howis this done? Number one, through the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ, and two, by “yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” Instead of following the instinct to do evil, we must listen to our conscience, the secular world’s term for the Light of Christ within us.

It’s a small, subtle influence, but a very powerful influence as well. We can feel it when we go to church, when we open up and read the word of God, when we do service for others, etc.Thatfeeling is what we must seek for and, as King Benjamin reminds us, we must rely on Christ. Only through Him and His power can we change ourselves. Not just our behavior, but our hearts and our minds. We must become, as he says, like a child. He even lists some attributes for us to help us understand when we are beginning to change.

I know that through Christ and by submitting ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit, we can change. We can root out the natural man and become a saint, a true example of a disciple of Christ. When hard times come, don’t turn back to bad habits. Don’t look for comfort in sin, or comfort from the world. Seek the comfort that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can give you the strength to overcome all things and move forward, not back.