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.

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.

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.

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.

Yea or Nay: Choose Your Path

I can’t take credit for this insight, but I was made aware of it just yesterday by another missionary… who is very awesome. It’s another one of those ‘simple yet profound’ things. Let’s go to the Book of Mormon…

We find here a Nephite missionary named Ammon teaching a Lamanite king named Lamoni. Ammon had been defending Lamoni’s flocks against thieves, and in doing so cut off the arms of the thieves and saved the sheep from being stolen. Lamoni was amazed and desired to speak to Ammon. He thought that Ammon was the Great Spirit the Lamanites believed in, but Ammon taught him about the true God. He asks Lamoni if he believes in God. Lamoni doesn’t understand what Ammon means by that word, so Ammon says something he knows Lamoni will understand.

And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?

And he said, Yea. (Alma 18:26-27)

Lamoni eventually became converted, which resulted in the conversion of much of his kingdom. He went on to prosperity and happiness. His answer to Ammon’s question was short and simple. Ammon basically asked him, in his own terms, if he believed in God. Lamoni answered “yes.” That simple answer set the course for what would happen later.

Now we go to a different part in the Book of Mormon. Alma, the prophet and high priest of the Church, is ‘facing off’ with an anti-Christ named Korihor. Korihor not only denied the Christ, but denied the existence of God, claiming that there was no proof that a Messiah would come. Alma asked Korihor a very simple question, to which came a simple answer.

And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

And he answered, Nay. (Alma 30:37-38)

Korihor claimed he did not believe in God, though in reality he did. He demanded a sign, and as a sign he was struck dumb and became a beggar. After this, he admitted that he was teaching false doctrines, and that Satan had tricked him. He was eventually trampled down and killed.

Lamoni’s answer and Korihor’s answer are the two shortest verses in the Book of Mormon. Each person gave a simple reply. Yes or no. One said yes and led a happy life. The other said no and led a life of misery until he was killed.

And so, with us, the simple decisions we make in life can be profound and make more of an impact in our lives than we think. There are critical times in our lives when a decision needs to be made. It can be a matter of “yes I will do this” or “no I won’t do this.” It’s important that we don’t overlook these moments, for they can dramatically affect the course of our lives.

This same Alma once counseled one of his sons, saying, “…behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” It’s so true, and it can go both ways. Great and wonderful things can be brought to pass by small things, and great and terrible things can result in the same manner. The little decisions we make do matter. So when we arrive at those decisions, will we be like Lamoni and choose God, or will we be like Korihor and reject Him? One ends in happiness, the other will get us trampled.

Line Upon Line

We are children of God. Every single one of us. The bond and the free. The poor and the rich. The intelligent and the unlearned. The famous, the infamous, and the unknown faces. Every person that has ever lived, is living, and will ever live in this universe is a literal son or daughter of a Heavenly Father. And compared to His capacity, every one of us is indeed nothing more than a child. The most intellectual and/or spiritual person on this earth is still to God as a toddler is to its parents.

We are all learning and will still have opportunities to learn long after we pass from this mortal stage in our lives. That’s why we’re here, to learn and grow. A father or mother does not expect their child to fully understand the ways of life before they leave home and begin their own lives. The child continues to learn lessons about life as they grow older, go to school, begin careers and families, etc. Inevitably, mistakes are made along the way and the individual(s) learn how to adjust their ways so they don’t make the mistakes anymore.

Christ said to “be ye perfect,” even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. I’m sure the Savior was fully aware of this impossibility. He wasn’t referring to this life though. Indeed, we should strive to get as close to being like God as we can. Naturally, however, we are bound to epically fail at this endeavor. It’s alright. Perfection can be reached in the life to come. This life is a preparatory state, and like children, we learn how to be like God one lesson at a time.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi expounds this idea nicely.

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)

Through humility, we can be taught by the Spirit of God and learn what God would have us learn. Just as a child must grow in education and understanding, starting in pre-school, moving on to elementary, middle, and high school, and then perhaps on to college and family life, our spiritual minds also must learn by steps and levels. God will give us what we can handle. We can take it, learn and apply it, and then move on to the next thing, or we can desire something more than we can handle and fail… epically.

Nephi’s brother, Jacob, spoke of this in regards to the Jews before and during the time of Christ.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)

The prophets spoke plainly to the Jews. Christ spoke plainly to the Jews. Yet they rejected Him and His apostles. They spoke in their own manner of teaching, i.e., Christ often spoke of Himself as the living bread, that they who ate of His flesh would have eternal life. Such was common symbolism in the Jewish culture, yet they would not listen or understand. They hardened their hearts and instead sought for things they could not understand. We often do this, hoping that in looking beyond plainness we will not be held as accountable for our mistakes.

Well, obviously God knows this when we try and do it. There’s not much point ’cause we’re basically just setting ourselves up for failure. So don’t harden your heart against plain truth, and also don’t sell yourself short. We climb a ladder one step at a time.

 

One in Purpose

The nature of God is something that has been distorted throughout the centuries. What Christ taught about the Father, the Spirit, and Himself was plain and easy to be understood, but Satan’s influence has corrupted such important doctrines. Thankfully, the knowledge of God’s true nature has been restored in these last days.

Let’s start with a very significant little word. One. Christ says He and the Father are one, but what does He mean? Are they literally the same person? Same substance? Split personalities?

Paul stated, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)

Was Paul stating that joining ourselves to the Lord, obviously intending to mean following, literally joins our spirit with His? Do we spiritually melt into Him? Probably not…

In His intercessory prayer, Christ pleads to the Father (I’d like to think He wasn’t talking to Himself) to bless the apostles and those who will believe on their words. He said,

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23)

So could Christ possibly be making a metaphor with the whole “oneness” thing? Nah! He’s probably being pretty literal. Seriously though, joking aside, the Savior obviously isn’t saying that He and the Father are literally the same person, or even that the origin of their substance is the same.

I know I’ve made previous blog posts about this, but I’m not doing this simply for the sake of parroting myself. This is truly important, for how can we pray to our Heavenly Father if we don’t even understand what He is, what He looks like, or who He is? If He’s the Son and the Spirit, but not the Son and Spirit, and the Son is the Father and Spirit, but not the Father or the Spirit… how can you comprehend exactly who or what God is? To what or to who are you sending your prayers?

Well, I’m going to tell you what’s real, not out of any intellect of my own mind, but by the blessing that I have been taught the truth. God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate personages. God and Christ both have bodies of flesh and bone, for we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). The Spirit has no physical body, but He is still a person like the Father and the Son.

I wouldn’t mind going into greater detail, but I feel that this can be better explained by another, someone who is a far greater teacher than I will ever be. His name is Jeffrey R. Holland, and he is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Like Peter, James, John, he is an Apostle for the Lord Jesus Christ, a special witness of the Savior. This is what he has to say about this topic. Like I said, he can explain it far greater than I can.

Click on this link and read what an apostle of the Lord has to say about the Godhead.

 

The Poetic Corner: More Than Sparrows

More Than Sparrows

 

a look outside my window
leads to a desperate, lonely view
as the fog rolls in
emotions bend
my heart is pierced through

a step outside my front door
leads to a dark and empty road
as the cold seeps in
begins the end
my hopes become the snow

they’re frozen in place
face to face
with a world i do not know

no, i do not know
how the rising sun will show
but as i lift my head
my eyes see a light
and it says

you’re not alone
you are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them through
then why not you?

no, i do not know
how the seeds we plant may grow
but as i look instead
to the ground around my feet
it says

you’re not alone
you are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them through
then why not you?

we read that in the end of days
the seas will rise, the earth will quake
the hearts of men will become cold
and in the earth it will be told
there is no God, there is no light
the darkest thought you cannot fight
yet through their lies the light will pierce
the Lamb so meek, the Lion fierce
He is our Head, we are His pride
within His love we may confide
so when we’re found on empty roads
we’ll be raised up because we know

we’re not alone
we are worth more than sparrows
and if God helps them sing
and if He lifts their wings
and if He makes them free
then why not you and me?

 

A lot of people do not believe in God. A lot of people that do don’t believe He plays a large role in our lives. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our Heavenly Father is more involved in our lives than we can ever imagine. I know this to be true. One of my favorite set of verses in the New Testament is found in the book of Matthew, chapter ten, verses 29 through 31. They read,

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

I made a previous blog post about this topic a loooong time ago. If you’d like to read it quickly, here’s a link.

There always have been, always are, and always will be times in our lives when we feel completely and utterly alone. We may feel that no one in the world cares about us, or no one can understand our problems. Sometimes that second one is true. Sometimes even our family and closest friends simply do not and cannot understand our difficulties. But there are two individuals who can. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. They can relate to us perfectly, and with Them we are never truly alone.

Heavenly Father is the Ultimate Creator. Everything big and small in the universe moves under His watchful eye. In the verse above we read that not even a sparrow can fall without God noticing. The tiniest detail does not escape Him. The same goes for us. He always knows where we are, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We may at times feel alone, but we aren’t. God watches over the sparrows, and we, being His children, are certainly worth more than sparrows. I know this is true. If you feel alone, look up and know that your Father in Heaven loves you and watches over you.

Time Is Short… Welcome to Narnia

In the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, part of the book series known as the Chronicles of Narnia, four siblings discover the world known as Narnia while stumbling through a portal in a wardrobe. While there in Narnia, they find out the White Witch is in control, and the fantasy world is stuck in a constant winter. The children embark on an adventure that eventually destroys the White Witch, saving Narnia and bringing spring to the world. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are crowned as kings and queens and remain in Narnia for a long time, until they’re adults.

On a hunt for the White Stag, the four siblings accidentally come across the same portal they had originally entered and return to the ‘real’ world. Citing the movie, they fall out of the wardrobe, again as children, and find the owner of the house, Professor Kirke, in the room as well. We soon discover that their many years spent in the world of Narnia were only a couple minutes back in their world.

We are in our own Narnia. We existed before this life with our Father in Heaven and made the decision to come down to this earth and be tested, but we are here for only a short time. It may seem like a long time to us, but only because our perspective is limited. Our Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective. To Him, we are away for only a couple hours. We must make the most of what time we have. It is short, but it is the most important time among our entire eternal existence.

Privileges

Growing up, I attended church… mostly because my parents made me, and I liked to hang out with my friends. Church really wasn’t a spiritual thing for me, and if I could find a reason to not go, I exploited it. I remember one weekend when I was thirteen, I got a bad sunburn on my shoulders and used that as my excuse. I was convinced I had gotten away with it until a couple of my youth leaders showed up at the front door and made me come to church with them.

We moved to south-central Idaho when I was fifteen. Once again, church was more of a chore, something I was obliged to do. On top of that my family didn’t feel entirely welcome in our congregation. I made friends though, and they were the main reason I tolerated it.

Shortly after we moved, my dad lost his job and we eventually could no longer remain there. We got split up a little bit. My mom and I moved to Idaho Falls, my sister was going to college, my brother was living in Provo, Utah, and my dad moved to Salt Lake City to stay with some relatives while he looked for a job. This time around, I said “screw it” to church. Pardon the French, but that’s honestly how I felt. My mom worked just about every night, so we she was busy trying to regain her energy Sunday morning. I, on the other hand, had no such excuse. The meetinghouse was only a mile and a half away, and I could easily have attended by myself, but I didn’t. I simply didn’t care.

Did our lives fall apart? Did we lose the influence of the Spirit in our home? Etc? Etc? No. In fact, those nine months I spent there were awesome. I loved going to another new school and having new experiences. I loved the time spent with my mom; our relationship was strengthened tremendously, and the other relationships I developed have changed my life forever. I continued to grow and learn from my experiences.

My dad eventually found a job and house down in Utah, and once my school year finished we moved down. We began attending church again. I was a bit apprehensive about the whole “Utah Mormons” thing, but something strange happened. For once, I felt as though I actually belonged in that pew. I felt at home, and church quickly became an event I looked forward to, instead of dreading its arrival as I had done for so many years.

As I began to finally get something spiritual out of church, I realized what I had been missing those nine months I blew it off. Yes, my life hadn’t been terrible, but I had been missing out on spiritual growth and experiences. My life could’ve been so much better, yet I had settled for less than what I was privileged to receive. The Lord gave me a wonderful opportunity and I had only taken a small portion of it. Who knows what might’ve happened had I possessed a different attitude and looked at life through a brighter shade. Well, I know. I know I would’ve learned so much more had my heart and mind been more focused on the Lord, seeking out good things, instead of trying to run away from what I had been taught as a child.

This is just a simple example. Take from it what you would like. But so many times in our lives we live beneath our privileges. We can’t comprehend the blessings God has in store for us, if we only seek Him out and do what He has commanded us to do.

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.