Time is a Gift

The current prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, once said,

Time is a gift, a treasure not to be put aside for the future but to be used wisely in the present.

So often in life we put off the things that matter most in order to accomplish our temporary goals. We think we’re doing ourselves or others a favor, but in reality we’re robbing ourselves and those we love of precious time. As important as work, school, and other such things are, what is of most importance and the highest value to us is our relationships. Our relationship with God, with Christ, and with our family and friends.

So many of us look back and wish we had spent even just a little less time with our ambitions and more time enjoying the simple things with the ones we love. One less hour at work and one more dinner at home. One less day away and one more afternoon hike. Etc. Etc. No one really looks back and wishes, “If only we could’ve had that vacation!” More often it’s the little things, the minutes or the moments that could’ve left an eternal imprint upon our hearts.

The things we can do are simple: pray together as a family more often, always attend church together, read the word of God together, have more dinners as a family, especially at home, take an evening out of each week and dedicate it to family time, and so on. It’s these simple things we do that add up to a lifetime of fond memories.

Use time wisely, it is a gift. Perhaps that is why it is called the present.

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Wickedness Never Will Be Happiness

Why is it so important to develop our character here on Earth? If God will raise us all from the dead, giving us perfect bodies, doesn’t that mean that we’ll have a perfect mind and spirit, with no more desire to do evil? It doesn’t. Character is the result of our choices, good or evil. It’s the collection of our unique qualities, and it will not change without our own effort and willingness.

Developing good qualities is important because we will possess those same qualities in the life to come. The prophet Alma, in the Book of Mormon, warned…

Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. (Alma 41:10)

Death will not alter our desires or our personality. The things we enjoy, we will still enjoy. The things we dislike, we will still dislike. The things we are addicted to, we will still crave. If we are righteous, we will still be righteous. And if we are wicked, we will still be wicked. The prophets, including Alma, have warned us; this life is the time to prepare to meet God. This life is the time for us to perform our labors, to strive to be like Christ and obey God’s commandments.

If we want to have clean hands and a pure heart when we stand before the judgment bar of God, we need to develop them here and now. There will be no more time after our death. Now is the time to prepare ourselves.

Keep the Commands, Receive the Answers

Many have wondered how God answers our prayers. Some say it’s a mystery. Some say God doesn’t answer prayers. Some say He doesn’t even listen. Such ideas are foolish. God is our Father. Of course He listens and wants to answer us! We just need to do our part to receive His answers. One of the simplest ways is… well… it’s so simple that some people think it’s downright crazy.

Obey God’s commandments.

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:22-25)

This isn’t saying that God will only answer us if we keep His commandments. God answers prayers according to His own will and pleasure, and in whatever way will best benefit us and help us to grow. But surely, if we want God to speak to us, wouldn’t obeying His will be a good first step to achieving that?

By keeping the commandments of God, we can be sure of receiving answers to our prayers. And we can be sure of having the Holy Ghost guide us more frequently. However, we must always keep in mind that God answers prayers in His own way. The vast majority of the time, they are not answered in the way we expect or desire. This is only because, unlike God, our perspective is limited. We can’t see a couple minutes into the future, but everything is before God. Have faith in Jesus Christ, obey God’s commandments, and when you ask you shall receive.

For more information on prayer, you can read one of my previous blog posts here.

Happiness and the Fall

There is a lot of misconception about the Fall of Adam and Eve. Many are under the impression that it was a mistake. That it wasn’t supposed to happen. That life would be better if it never happened. Well, I’m here to tell you that such ideas aren’t correct. The Fall was in fact part of God’s plan, and because of it we can be happy. Allow me to explain. I’ll start off with some verses from the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi explained the necessity of the Fall as such,

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. (2 Nephi 2:22)

If Adam and Eve had not eaten the fruit they would’ve remained in the Garden of Eden. Nothing would have changed. Makes sense, right? Nephi continues…

And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:23-25)

Adam and Eve’s state in the Garden was that of pure innocence. They did not know what evil was. But because of this, they could not progress. If we don’t know bitter we cannot enjoy sweet. If we know no sin we cannot know goodness. There must be opposition in all things, and in order for mankind to progress, opposition had to be introduced, and therefore the Fall was needed.

With the Fall came sickness, death, and sin. But because of this we can enjoy health, life, and righteousness. Because of the misery we can know the joy. I know that the Fall was part of God’s plan for us. Adam and Eve fell that we might be happy and progress to everlasting life with God and our families.

Make It Happen

We know that by small and simple things God performs miracles. These small and simple things are often us. By using the free will that God has given us, we can be instruments in His hands to carry out His plans for us. This, of course, requires action. It means we need to get ourselves out there and make something happen. A prayer said without a willingness to help that prayer be answered is a prayer said in vain. God will not simply wave a magic wand and make the world a better place. He expects us to do our part. We are His tools, and He has given us the gift of agency for a reason.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma taught,

Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith. (Alma 34:27-28)

If we have the means to assist others, we need to do so. If we don’t, we are nothing more than hypocrites. Jesus Christ was all about serving others. Nothing He did was for Himself. He rendered all his energy to Heavenly Father’s will, and undoubtedly was and forever will be the greatest instrument in the hands of God. If we profess to be followers of the Savior, we must do as He did.

The surest way for a prayer to come true is to do our part to make it happen. Our Father in Heaven will do the rest. We are the instruments He uses to make miracles happen.

Led by the Spirit

So I’ve been transferred to Columbia Falls, Montana. I’ve only been here for… let’s see… not even half a day. I have no idea where anything is, but thankfully I’ve got my trusty companion to help me get it all down before he heads out in about six weeks. Once again, I’ve found myself out of my comfort zone. I’m in a new place and surrounded by new people. But I know I’m here for a reason, and whether or not I find out what it is I know I can accomplish my task if I rely on the Lord.

This reminds me of a very short verse in the Book of Mormon.

And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. (1 Nephi 4:6)

Nephi and his brothers were in Jerusalem. They needed to obtain a record kept by a man named Laban. Their previous attempts at getting it had failed and nearly cost them their lives, but an angel had appeared to them and assured them that the record would be delivered into their hands. Nephi went into the city alone, unsure of what to do but nonetheless trusting that the Lord would somehow provide a way. He knew his mission, but he had no idea how he would accomplish it.

My mission, my purpose, is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There are numerous ways to do this. Honestly, I have no idea what I’ll be doing in Columbia Falls in the next few months, but I’ll trust in the Lord and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide me.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)

God does not give us a commandment without giving us a way to accomplish it. He will always provide a way.

Burdens… Braces… Bacon.

Getting braces is not fun. Of course, they’re good for you in the long run, but having them can be a nightmare for a lot of kids… and adults. From the first day you get them on, they’re a nuisance. My teeth hurt so bad that first day I couldn’t eat my bacon at dinner (my dad took the liberty of eating it for me).

Sure, you may get used to having them after a while, but you never forget about them. They’re always there, feeling uncomfortable, cutting up your lip… whatever else. I was a bit self-conscious when I had mine; I definitely don’t recall smiling too often.

So all in all, braces aren’t a pleasant experience. They’re restrictive, uncomfortable, and definitely not the prettiest thing to look at. If  you had them, and you’re anything like me, your confidence level probably took a bit of a hit. But when that day comes that they finally come off… holy cow. It was an awesome feeling! I felt like I was on top of the world… at least for the next couple days.

Sin is a lot like this; it restricts us and makes us uncomfortable. The guilt can make us self-conscious and our confidence can be shot. The initial sin can often feel painful. Over time we may become accustomed to carrying this burden, but the burden is never eased, and we long for the day when the burden can be eased.

Getting the braces off is repentance. Confessing our sins before God, coming unto Christ to be healed by His atonement, and forsaking our sins removes this burden. And the feeling is awesome! We feel like a new person when that load is removed from us. This is the joy that comes from repentance. This is the joy that comes when we turn to Jesus Christ and let His atonement work within us.

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

(Alma 36:17-20)

The Brass Serpent

The children of Israel were a pretty moody bunch. Most of the time they just complained against Moses and against the Lord. Despite the fact that they were freed from the Egyptians, no longer forced to be slaves, they still found things to be unhappy about. Food was a big one. The Lord provided plenty of manna, but apparently bread falling the sky didn’t cut it for ’em.

The Lord didn’t exactly appreciate all the complaints. He had made them a free people and was giving them free bread to sustain them. How could they possibly sit around and whine? So, the Lord sent fiery serpents to bite them. As a kid, I always hoped that was a reference to dragons, but it was probably just a bunch of snakes. So a lot of the Israelites died from poison. The ones that lived thought it might be a good idea to go to Moses and see if he could work something out between them and the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9)

So the Lord tells Moses to make a brass snake and set it on a pole. The Israelites that were suffering from the poison would be healed if they would only look upon the snake. Such a simple thing! Just as the snake was lifted up for all to see, so was Jesus Christ lifted up. All that look upon Him can be healed.

Some of the Israelites, because of stubborn pride, and perhaps because the task seemed too simple, didn’t look and were not healed. In this way, we can sometimes shirk the mercies of Christ and His healing power. Our pride might take hold of us and we refuse to look to Him. This is a mistake, and can only lead to us perishing.

When it comes down to it though, it really is this simple. If we want to be healed of our afflictions, we just need to look to the Savior Jesus Christ. Follow His example and be obedient to His gospel and God’s commandments. If we do so, we can be recipients of His love and healing power.

The Broken Bow

In the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi takes his family and friends and journeys into the wilderness out of Jerusalem. Life is good. They feed themselves well upon the beasts of the land… until Lehi’s son, Nephi, breaks his bow. Fail.

And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food. (1 Nephi 16:18)

Not only his brothers, but his entire family becomes angry at him and also God. Even Lehi complains against God. So what does Nephi do? What would you do?

Well, Nephi didn’t want to just sit around and be mad at God. Instead, he took action. Verse 23 of that same chapter says,

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Nephi gets to work and makes himself a new bow. After Lehi repents of his anger against God, he inquires of God where Nephi should go to get food. Nephi obeys and is able to slay animals for them to eat. Rejoice! Everyone is happy, and probably feeling like a bunch of fools for sittin’ around and doing nothing.

Nephi was part of the solution, not the problem. This is a prime example of doing our own part.

So, although we may not be out in the desert hunting beasts, we all have our own problems that come up, our own broken bows, if you will. They can be pretty much anything. Small or big, temporal or spiritual. They all must be solved the same way, however. If we expect a problem to be solved, we must take action and be part of the solution, like Nephi.

I know that if we do our part, God will cover the rest and provide a way to overcome our obstacles.

Of Sheep and Goats

It’s impossible to earn your way into Heaven. Everyone knows that. No human power can bring about salvation. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved. But doesn’t Jesus Christ bid us to follow Him? Did not the apostles state that He, Christ, set the example for us to follow?

I ask you, what did Jesus do? Perhaps a better question would be to ask what He didn’t do, but I’ll answer the first one. Christ carried out the will of the Father. He performed miracles, forgave sins, and set the ultimate example of righteousness for us to follow. He is the Good Shepherd, and those that follow Him are His sheep. Those that do not follow Him are goats. We read in Matthew 25, verses 33 through 40…

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The goats, on the other hand (literally), did not tend to the hungry, the poor, the sick and afflicted, or the needy in general. They did not work righteousness. They still, however, acknowledged Christ as their Lord. They believed, but they did not follow Jesus’ example. They didn’t do the will of the Father. Christ said Himself that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of the Father.

The prophet Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, stated,

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. (2 Nephi 25:23)

We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, but only after all we can do, for we will be judged by our righteousness. So don’t be a goat! Believe in Christ. Believe He can save you, and then follow His example and work righteousness.

 

Advantage in the World to Come

A good education is something that everyone should aspire to. It’s a wise piece of advice that we’re told over and over again, most often by our elders (the old kind, not the white shirts and name tags kind). But what kind of education is worth our time? What knowledge should we be most aspiring to gain? Modern revelation, from the prophet Joseph Smith, gives us an insight to the role knowledge plays in the life to come,

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19)

We can’t take our possession with us to the grave. . . . Well, I suppose we could, but they would just disintegrate with our bodies. What we can take, however, is our knowledge, what’s in our hearts and minds. The wisdom we gain through our experiences and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ will forever remain with us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with attaining worldly knowledge. We learn in the Book of Mormon that “to be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:29)

So long as we put God first and follow His commandments, our learning and education will be for our benefit, and it will rise with us when our spirits and our bodies are reunited in the resurrection. I know this is true. What we put into our hearts and minds is what will be worth the most to us, now and after we pass from this life.