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.

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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)

Squares In A Masterpiece

Life is a masterpiece, a work of art, built by the hands of God. But sometimes it’s difficult to see this masterpiece. Unlike God, our perspective is limited. We can only see sections and slivers of this grand work. I’ll use Chuck Close as an example. He’s a pretty famous artist, well-known for his really huge portraits. He’s confined to a wheelchair, so he puts a grid on his canvas and paints one square at a time. If you look at each square individually, it’s just a bunch of really colorful boxes. But when you step back, you can see what the painting really is.

A Book of Mormon prophet named Alma gives some pretty straight forward counsel on this. He said,

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)

Our lives usually aren’t full of spectacular events. The hand of God is more often seen in the smaller things. The things we sometimes overlook. The things that require slowing down and having patience to see.

I know that God and Jesus Christ are in our lives, and that through the small and simple things God works His miracles. The greatest miracle, I believe, is life itself. What are some of the colorful boxes in our lives? Family and friends. A rejuvinating sunrise or a peaceful sunset. The sound of birds chirping. A family dinner. An afternoon hike. The sound of rain falling. A good song on the radio. These are just a few things that come to my mind. We all have our own.

All we need to do is take a step back and see how the squares, the simple things in life, come together to form the masterpiece.

“And ye shall also forgive one another…”

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

(Matthew 6:14-15)

There is more to forgiveness than having God forgive us of our sins. Forgiveness also involves us forgiving those that have wronged us. It’s not always an easy thing to do. The “natural man” within us doesn’t like to let things go. Holding a grudge, or holding a wrong deed over someone’s head to cause them endless guilt, is often our view of justice. But this isn’t so. We know that it’s not our place to judge, so we are commanded to forgive others.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the prophet Alma this:

And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. (Mosiah 26:31)

If we cannot forgive others of personal and often minor offenses, how can we expect our Heavenly Father to forgive us of our disobedience to His commandments? Let us not judge one another, but instead love and forgive one another. In this way can charity, the pure love of Christ, abound within us.

Small and Simple Things

A Book of Mormon prophet named Alma once gave this counsel to his son Helaman in Alma 37: 6-7,

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

God is a God of miracles, but more often than not they are subtle. More often than not they are small, personal miracles on individual levels, as opposed to large, eventful happenings. While we are seeking for amazing signs that catch the eye, we may miss the simpler things in life that testify of God and Jesus Christ.

Many today say, “Where is God?” They see no giant miracle nor any enormous display of His power. This they use as their logic to be proof of a non-existent God that works no miracles. But they miss the point, and the point is that God wants us to pay attention. He wants us to live our lives in such a way that allows us to see the smaller things that witness of Him. He wants us to be meek, to be humble, to be willing to admit that we simply don’t understand how He runs things.

The small and simple things add up to great things. And we can see these great things if we only open our hearts and minds to God and humble ourselves before Him. God is indeed a God of miracles. I know this to be true, and I know Alma’s words to be true, that through small and simple things God brings to pass great and marvelous miracles.

Life After Death

My grandfather, and last remaining grandparent, passed away not too long ago in the beginning of January. My mission president had called me up and informed me of the news. Admittedly, I was a bit taken back. The previous Sunday, my family and I had been fasting for him. He had been suffering from dementia and physical limitations for quite some time and we had decided that it was simply his time to go.

The surprise was due more to the fact that his passing had happened so soon; not even a week had gone by. Instinctively, I was saddened, but ultimately I was grateful. I knew that my grandfather’s pain and suffering had been done away with. I knew he finally was in a place where he could rest and find peace, and be reunited with my grandmother who had passed away when I was only a baby.

We learn from the Book of Mormon what exists between the event of death and the resurrection of the body. Alma the Younger’s son, Corianton, was concerned about this topic. In Alma chapter 40, verses 11 and 12, his father explains it to him as thus,

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received 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.

The words of Alma assure me that my grandfather is in a state of happiness and that, likewise, all the righteous souls of this Earth that pass away are received into the same state. This knowledge is a comfort and a strength to me, and I am grateful to be blessed with such an understanding.