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.

Father’s Day! Yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

The Poetic Corner: The Altar

The Altar

 

let me down without a sound
i’ve been wreckless but i finally figured out
Your love can save me
can i still make up for how
i let my faith in You go south?
tell me what You see buried inside me
and i’ll give my heart to You

You brought me to the altar
my life in Your hands
it is tried and broken
erase the memories of
the light i’ve stolen
i am tried and broken

this is how i will shout
i’ve been hopeless but i finally see it now
Your light can wake me
is this why the world around
is fighting back to keep me bound?
help me to be free
from what has tied me
so i can be like You

You brought me to the altar
my life in Your hands
it is tried and broken
erase the memories of
the light i’ve stolen
i am tried and broken

take my life and make me something great
here at the altar i awake
forgive my past with its mistakes
here at the altar i awake

 

In the Mosaic law, the Jews offered animal sacrifices for sin and other things. Such was their commandment from the Lord. But Christ came to fulfill the Mosaic law, giving us a higher law to obey. Animal sacrifices were done away with. Instead, we must offer up something that goes much deeper than rams or turtle doves.

When the Savior Jesus Christ visited the inhabitants of the Americas after His resurrection, He said to them,

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost… (3 Nephi 9:19-20)

Christ has told us to offer Him a broken heart and a contrite (sorrowful) spirit. Our “altar” of sacrifice is no longer a literal, physical structure but a spiritual manifestation of our willingness to give our lives to Christ. We all are stained with sin, and it can only be removed by approaching our individual “altars” and offering up our broken hearts and contrite spirits. This is not all, though. If our hearts truly are broken, and our spirits truly contrite, we will repent and forsake our sins. We will desire to be like Jesus Christ and change our wills to be in line with His.

This change involves the simple steps of having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sins, being baptized by someone holding His authority, and then, by that same authority, we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, as did the disciples in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled. (3 Nephi 12:19)

 

Articles of Faith IV: Gospel of Christ

Here we go, number four:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

You could say that these are the steps to becoming a disciple of Christ. To be His follower, one must of course obey His gospel. We believe that the first step is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe He is our Savior, otherwise there isn’t any point to anything else we do. Our faith in Christ is the foundation of our testimony in Him and His gospel.

The second step is repentance. Faith and repentance go together. We can’t repent of our sins if we don’t believe Christ is the Savior and that He suffered and died for our sins. We must apply His atonement and ask Heavenly Father’s forgiveness of our sins, made possible through Christ.

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)

Faith and repentance are daily things, however. We must exercise faith each day and daily repent of our sins. In this way we can always keep Christ in remembrance, which will deliver us from the power of Satan.

Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Alma 37:33)

Faith and repentance are the first principles. The first ordinances are baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Baptism is essential. Christ taught that without it, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And it must be done by the correct authority. The same goes for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In the Acts we find an example of this ordinance being performed by Peter and John.

Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 18:15-17)

This is the basic doctrine of Jesus Christ that Latter-day Saints believe in. I know they are true. Stay tuned for more Articles of Faith! HOW EXCITING!

 

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 Restoration: Of Knowledge

A bit of wise counsel I’d like to share from Jacob, a Book of Mormon prophet.

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9:28-19)

Pride cometh before the fall. This is true in all aspects of life, including education and knowledge. I’m sure many would agree that, today, society as a whole has shunned the wisdom of God. We have come far in such a short amount of time. Technological and scientific advances are astounding. More and more information is being discovered each day. But are these truly our advances, or are they blessings from God?

As our knowledge has moved forward, our faith in God has taken a decline. Jacob’s words are true. We no longer hearken to the counsel of God, but instead have made steps to remove Him from our societies. We think we don’t need Him, when in reality every step we’ve made has been because of His love and kindness.

In love, God the Father and Jesus Christ restored The Church of Jesus Christ to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. The heavens are wide open, and revelation is being poured out through living prophets and apostles and through ourselves. The priesthood authority that Jesus Christ personally brought during His earthly ministry is back in full force.

From the early 19th century until the present time, just look at all the advances we have made! The fact that all of the remarkable inventions and discoveries began the same time as the Restoration of Christ’s gospel is no coincidence.

I know that these blessings have sprouted because Jesus Christ’s church is once again on the earth. By recognizing God and Christ in all things, our knowledge can bring us further blessings. Let us not shun Them from society, but bring Them back, because “to be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God.”

We Are Christians

A few days ago, Elder Andersen and I had lunch at a member’s home. She showed us a Pentecostal magazine that a friend had given her. It had several pages talking about the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to glance through it and see what it had to say. The main point of the lengthy article, it seemed, was to declare that Mormons are not Christians, and that Mormon doctrines are corrupt and anti-Biblical, but that Mormons should be reached out to be loving Christians so they can be saved.

It was amusing, to say the least. Some of the information on the doctrine was indeed correct, but was placed in a less than pleasing light. Other portions of the article were rather deceptive and only gave certain points of information which, without the full perspective, could easily lead someone to think negatively about the Church. Some of the things I read were outright lies.

It was sad to think that this extremely one-sided article was most likely engendering equally one-sided perceptions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ultimately, all the article served to do for me was strengthen my testimony of the Church. Naturally, if this is truly Jesus Christ’s church restored to the earth again, then Satan is going to do all he can to bring it down. He’s a clever fellow, trying to tear down the fullness of Christ’s gospel with Christians on the front line of his army.

For this thought, I suppose I would just like to bear my testimony. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and of the universe. I know He bled and died for me and all mankind. I know He was resurrected and lives today. I know He is the Only Begotten Son of the living God, our Father in Heaven. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God, and that Jesus Christ restored His church through him. I know the Book of Mormon is a true record. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. I know we have prophets and apostles today, and that the current prophet is Thomas S. Monson. I know he is an inspired man, called of God to be a prophet, seer, and revelator.

People may call us the “Mormon church”, but we are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is His church. I testify that only in this church can the fullness of Christ’s gospel be found. All these things I know, but not of myself. And I would never expect anyone to simply take my word for it. I know these things because the Holy Spirit of God has testified of them to me, and I cannot and will not deny it. Whatever the world may say, it does not matter. I know I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

I invite you to follow the advice of the Master Himself. If you want to know if these things are true, read the Book of Mormon, then humbly pray to God, in the name of Christ, and ask Him if it is true.

Lehi’s Vision

The account in the Book of Mormon known as Lehi’s Vision or Lehi’s Dream is well-known among Latter-day Saints. In it, the prophet Lehi sees the tree of life and, with the help of an iron rod (which symbolizes the word of God) leading to the tree, approaches and eats of the fruit of the tree. When he looks around, he sees his family and beckons them to come and eat the fruit as well. All of them do except for his two oldest sons Laman and Lemuel.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, I encourage you to read the full account. Here’s a link for your convenience.

I’ll take a small section of the vision, which Lehi is giving to his children:

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

And as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit.

And I looked to behold from whence it came; and I saw the head thereof a little way off; and at the head thereof I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go.

And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.

And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.

Lehi’s son, Nephi, was an exceptional young man that grew to become the second prophet in the Book of Mormon, after his father Lehi. He knew God, he knew Jesus Christ and the power of His atonement, and he knew and recognized the Holy Spirit. Something I’d like to note, however, is that in Lehi’s vision Nephi does not take the fruit himself. It was given to him by his father.

Just like our Heavenly Father is the source of all wisdom and truth, our earthly parents are a source of wisdom. We do not gain knowledge and experience in an instant. It must be taught to us. Parents have the sacred responsibility in raising their children in righteousness and truth, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The very first verse in the Book of Mormon begins,

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;

Nephi was taught all he knew by his father and mother, and he makes sure the reader understands that fact right off the bat. I had, and still have, the great blessing of being raised by parents that taught me about Jesus Christ and His gospel. I know that the knowledge and understanding I have could not have come without their guidance, wisdom, and experience. I know that the role of a father and mother in a child’s life is a sacred commission from God.