Forgiving Ourselves

Forgiveness is a strange concept to many of us. It’s straightforward, yet can be very difficult at times. Forgiving others is hard enough, but often we find it impossible to forgive ourselves. Whether it’s out of insecurity or a need to receive the pity of others, we hold things over our own heads, sometimes for years and years. Forgiving ourselves, however, is a commandment.

In the Doctrine and Covenenants, the Lord commanded,

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10)

“All men” means exactly that, all men. This includes ourselves. The Lord has also said that if we are not willing to forgive, He will not forgive us. The same applies to forgiving ourselves. We are commanded to do it, and we must do it if we expect forgiveness from the Lord.

If you truly feel like you have not been forgiven, go to your Heavenly Father in prayer. Ask for forgiveness and for a confirmation of it from the Spirit. When we are forgiven, Satan does not want us to recognize it. He would rather have us feel miserable and incapable of doing good. A lot of the time, when we have done something wrong we convince ourselves that that means we cannot do any more good, that we cannot help someone. This is not true, but when Satan gets us to think that way, he hinders us from doing the good that we are capable of doing.

This is partially why refusing to forgive oneself is such a grievous thing to the Lord. We use it to excuse ourselves from the Lord’s work. We use it as an excuse to be idle, lazy, or apathetic. This is not the Lord’s way. The Lord’s way is to forgive ourselves, or others, and move on, doing good to others.

In the most recent General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles advised,

It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late.

Refusing to forgive ourselves is denying the healing power of Jesus Christ’s atonement. I echo Elder Holland’s counsel, to you and myself, to not procastinate the fellowship of the Lord’s labor. He has work for us to do, and if we are carrying unncecessary weight upon our shoulders, we need to remove it and give it to Him. Let Him take your burdens so you can work to your fullest.

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Wolves Don’t Make Good Fruit

The 182nd annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was held over this last weekend. It is composed of five sessions, each of which are two hours long. Two general sessions and a priesthood session on Saturday and two more general sessions on Sunday. General Conference is basically when the prophet of the Church, his two counselors, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities of the Church come together and offer talks of encouragement and counsel. This is done in the conference center, located by Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The conference center fills to capacity, and members of the Church around the world (over 14 million) watch or listen to the conference via radio, internet, cable, or satellite.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, and something that only recently I’ve come to truly appreciate. The speakers are inspired men (and sometimes women). They speak under the unfluence of the Holy Spirit. They are servants of the Lord, and the words they speak in General Conference are the Lord’s words. For this, I’m grateful. Every person, no matter who they are or what circumstances they may be in, can benefit from the counsel given during General Conference, especially from the prophet Thomas S. Monson.

Many times, when I tell someone there is a living prophet on the earth, a modern-day Moses, they like to quote the book of Matthew in the New Testament and say, “Jesus talked about false prophets. Ravening wolves He called them.”

Yes, indeed He did, and He also said that “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Those same people often seem to forget that very important verse. So what’s a simple way to find out if this Thomas Monson fellow is truly a prophet called of God. Hmm… maybe…. listen to him speak? That’s pretty easy. Heck, you could even read his biography if you wanted to really study it out. But you don’t have to.

If you listen to him speak, and he really is a prophet, you will know. The Spirit will witness to you of that fact, if you are in the right state of mind to receive it and your heart is open to the possibility. The same goes for the rest of the speakers. The Spirit can testify that the words they speak are true. The Spirit can also testify that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles areactually apostles like Peter, James, and John of the New Testament.

This last General Conference was awesome. I actually took notes! I’m not usually one to do that. The “notes” typically end up becoming doodles of some kind, but not thistime! These were legit notes, and I most definitely got a lot more out of the messages than had I not taken notes. But the notes are not what’s important. What’s important is the Spirit that was felt. I encourage you to visit lds.org and watch or listen to some of the conference talks that were given. I can promise you strength, comfort, and insight for your life’s struggles if you do so.

Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. His counselors and the twelve apostles are also called of God to receive revelation for God’s children on the Earth. If Moses was back on the Earth today, would you not want to hear what he had to say? Well, he’s not, but there is someone on this planet that holds the same power and authority as Moses. Listen to his words and see for yourself if he speaks for the Lord.

Chocolate Altoids

So, my companion and I were getting some food from a gas station because… well… it was lunch time… and we were hungry and had no food on us. After I grab my Clif bars (which, by the way, are super delicious… and good for you) I notice some altoids in the mint section, or whatever you want to call it.

Now, don’t judge me, but it has been one of many goals in life to find some chocolate covered altoids. I saw a commercial years ago and I said to myself, “I want those!”, but I have never found them… until this day in the gas station. I look and, lo!, I see some chocolate altoids. I kind of flip out a bit as I snag them and proceed to explain to my companion what you just now read. I mean… of all the places I’ve been, all the Wal-marts I’ve entered, I finally find my evasive chocolate altoids in a random gas station in Frenchtown, Montana. Who would have thought? Seriously, it baffles me.

So exactly what point am I attempting to make? I’m sure you’re wondering, and I’d be wondering too if I was reading this. Let me direct you to an experience shared by J. Devn Cornish, of the Seventy, during the most recent LDS General Conference this last October.

My route would take me past a fried chicken shop, and I felt like I would be a lot less hungry and tired if I could pause for a piece of chicken on my way home. I knew they were running a sale on thighs or drumsticks for 29 cents each, but when I checked my wallet, all I had was one nickel. As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if, in His mercy, He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.

I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.

Elder Cornish goes on to explain how, despite this piece of chicken being a very minor thing, it was important to him and therefore important to our Father in Heaven. God loves us. He wants to bless us, even in minor things. Essentially, what is important to us is important to the Lord, so long, of course, as it is within righteous boundaries. I would say that a piece of chicken, or chocolate altoids, isn’t a super righteous desire, but it’s certainly not a wicked one either.

To me, Elder Cornish’s experience as well as my own are small testimonies of the Lord’s watchful eye and His love. He is always with us, even in things that may seem insignificant to us. No detail is too small for the Lord to overlook. He does indeed know all. He knows our lives in and out. He knows every feeling we possess, from the smallest of our desires to the most fleeting of lonely thoughts. He knows every intricate detail of our lives, especially the ones that we ourselves are unaware of.

Every instant He is aware of, and every prayer He does answer.

Waiting

What, then, does it mean to wait upon the Lord? In the scriptures, the word wait means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. ~ Elder Robert D. Hales

Life can sometimes be a struggle between wanting to do what we think is best and trusting that the Lord knows best. In regards to the latter, sometimes it takes patience and sometimes it takes initiative. But in all cases, it takes humility and an acknowledgment of the fact that any decision made solely upon our own intellect is going to be a fair idea at best.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

If we expect to get anywhere in life, we can’t allow ourselves to make our decisions only on what we see with our eyes. We can only see the present and learn from the past, but the Lord knows what lies ahead in our life’s path. He loves us and wants our success. We can and must trust that He will only lead us in the right directions. Any good solution I’ve come up with has most definitely been inspired by the Lord’s infinite knowledge. My own intellect only takes me so far… which is not very far at all.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (verse 6)

In every decision we make, in every action we take, we must always ask for the Lord’s guidance. This means we need to have patience and faith in Him, and be willing to submit ourselves to time and, if necessary, trials. Things won’t always seem like they’re going work out. I’m sure that Moses, at least for maybe a second or two, thought, “Oh… crap.” when he saw the Red Sea. But the Lord didn’t lead him to the ocean only to let the Egyptians come and slaughter them.

The Lord we not lead us to an impossible obstacle. If we must cross a sea, He will divide it. If we wait upon the Lord, and have faith in His knowledge and time, He will direct us.

Nothing and Everything

At times we feel insignificant. Sometimes it happens in our own homes, among our family and friends. Take that and compare it with the community, now it may seem like we really are invisible. Then widen the perspective and look at the state, providence, or territory we live in. We’re even smaller. Keep panning out and go the country… the continent… the planet… the universe. We truly are very small when we look at life’s big picture.

Indeed, we are nothing compared to the vastness of the universe and the power of the One who organized it. Understanding this fact is what it means to be humble.

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon stated, “...I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily…” (Mosiah 4:11)

However, we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that because we are unworthy, we are worth nothing, or capable of nothing. This is not true. There is a great potential within each of us, but God is required in order to reach that potential.

In the last LDS General Conference, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency said, “And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.

We are everything to God, and with Him can be everything. Near the conclusion of his talk, President Uchtdorf states,

Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love. God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.”

We do matter to God. His work and glory is to help us achieve eternal life. That is the reason He created this universe for us, His children. We truly and literally are children of deity, and our Father loves each of us with an incomprehensible love. We are unworthy,  yet we are of great worth. Without God we are nothing, yet with Him we are everything.

Ask of God

This last weekend was amazing. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear from a living prophet of God, apostles, and other church leaders called of God. Of course, the things they say are not to be taken by their word. We must search and study their words and listen to the Holy Spirit of God to know that they are true. As I watched and listened to conference, I can testify that the Spirit was present. Two hours is a long time to sit… and I’m somewhat of a fidgety person. When one session is over, I’ll admit I’m slightly relieved. However, it is also, for a moment, a depressing feeling.

When each session ends, I can without a doubt feel the power of the Holy Spirit lessen. It is always a testimony to me of the divinity of the Prophet’s and Apostles’ callings.

When Joseph Smith was in a position of uncertainty, wanting to know which of the religious sects was right, he came across a verse in the New Testament, which reads,

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

He did so (that is, ask of God) and received his answer in a marvelous way, in which he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.

I am certain that you and I will never have such a thing revealed to us, in that manner. But we can know truth which just as much surety as if we had seen a vision. A Book of Mormon prophet named Moroni stated simply,

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)

If you did not participate in General Conference, I invite you to watch it online at lds.org. Listen to the Prophet’s voice, and the voice of the Apostles and other leaders. Ask God if their words are true, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know if they are truth.

Prophets and Apostles: Called of God

This upcoming weekend is a rather special event for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s what we call “General Conference”, a semi-annual event that takes place every year in April and October. I suppose you could say that it’s a gathering of sorts. Thousands of Latter-day Saints flock to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, which can seat up to 21,000 people. All over the world, millions of members, and others, gather to church buildings to watch the broadcasts via satellite. Others listen on the radio or watch on their televisions or computers in their own homes. There are four main sessions. Two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each one is two hours long.

So what exactly is all the excitement about? Why do so many people sacrifice eight or more hours out of a weekend to participate in this event?

The reason is profound. It is because we have a living prophet today, as well as apostles and others, called of God, to lead us in these last days, and General Conference is when we can hear and see them speak. It is a wonderful blessing that I am grateful for and am looking forward to.

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

Whether it is from God or the mouth of His servants, it is the same. Listening to a prophet’s words is having new scripture unfolded unto us. But many think that we don’t need prophets and apostles in our day. To them I must ask, isn’t it during times like these when we need them most?

Ephesians 4:11-14

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive

There were prophets and apostles in Christ’s day, and even before then. So why not now, when Satan is working his hardest to lead us astray?

I testify that there is a living prophet on the earth today. His name is Thomas S. Monson. I know he has been called of God. We have twelve apostles living today as well, just like the twelve apostles of Christ’s day. They are also all inspired men, called of God to serve Him and guide His people. I invite you to hear them speak this weekend and see for yourself that they are truly prophets, seers, and revelators.