Pop, You’re “Poifect!”

The 20th of June is my birthday… right around Father’s Day. I always felt kinda bad about that, feeling like it kinda… you know… took the focus away from Father’s Day. But this year is different! I’m some forty miles away from the Canadian border. That’s definitely too far away to have a family dinner and some cake. Dad, you’re welcome! This year, it’s all you, baby!

But seriously, fathers are awesome. Just like a mother, a father has a special place within the family. That place cannot be filled by another. Traditionally, the father is the head of the household. He is the provider, the bread maker if you will, and the protector. He is the patriarch. In a typical LDS family, the father holds the priesthood and presides over them. He uses his priesthood to guide his family and administer to them through priesthood blessings and obeying what the Lord wants him to do for them.

Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said,

There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, and especially when that organization is presided over by one holding the higher priesthood, than that of the father. The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is then a particular reason why men, women, and children should understand this order and this authority in the households of the people of God, and seek to make it what God intended it to be, a qualification and preparation for the highest exaltation of His children. In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount.

I am grateful for my dad, and the blessing of having a father who holds the priesthood authority of God. He has been an incredible example of strength to me, and his love for me and the rest of my family is astounding. He has sacrificed much so my siblings and I could have the blessings we enjoy right now. And he’s got a great sense of humor too. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

If you no longer have a father here on the earth to celebrate Father’s Day with, remember that you still and will always have your Father in Heaven. He is the greatest Father there is, and He is certainly worth celebrating on Father’s Day as well, and every day.

Dads are awesome, and I’ve got the best one.

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Tender Mercies: A Refuge from the Storm

Everywhere I go, every place I have lived, the Lord has watched out for me. I’m not terribly outgoing, and I don’t like to travel. Yet my family and I have lived in three different states, and I’ve attended four different high schools. And now, here I am, on a mission in Montan and Wyoming, away from home and surrounded by people I don’t know. To be quite honest, it’s a miracle I haven’t given up, because Satan has placed that thought into my mind more than a dozen times.

Something that has been a tremendous support to me is the Lord’s comfort and His tender mercies. When I moved to a different city, attended a new high school, and met new people, I was always given comfort to deal with the anxiety that fell upon me each time. And now here on my mission, I’ve served in four different areas. Two in Wyoming and two in Montana. Just as before, each time I was given comfort and tender mercies from the Lord.

Moving around as a kid, the tender mercies often came in more outward things. I always had a place to call home. I had my family (and my awesome cat). I made friends without even having to try and I remained in contact with my old friends. I quickly grew accustomed to the change of scenery and pace, helping me to simply be more comfortable with my surroundings. This had been the case wherever we settled down.

As a missionary, many of those things are the same. I’m able to write my family and friends and hear from them. There have been friendly people wherever I have been. I’ve always had a comfortable place to reside, to relax. Though coming to a new place throws me out of my comfort zone each time, I eventually become familiar with the surroundings and grow to appreciate them.

In Isaiah 51:3, we learn of the Lord’s comfort,

For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Our wilderness, whether it’s a trial or an unfamiar place, can be made like Eden. In chapter 25, verse 4, Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s comforting powers,

For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

Christ is a strength to the needy and poor. He is a refuge from our storms. He is a shadow from the heat of our afflictions. He is the wall that can shield us from Satan’s blasting winds.

Each day, I feel a moment of comforting assurance that the Lord is there. I know it is the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Sometimes it’s triggered by the circumstances, and sometimes it’s random, or seems random. I can’t explain it, other than that every day, for at least short moment, I feel like everything is right in the world, and that my troubles are but a small matter when confronted with the marvelous truth that The Church of Jesus Christ is back on the earth today, that Jesus Christ lives, and that I have a Father in Heaven that knows me and watches out for me.

I know that we receive tender mercies from the Lord each day if we only pause to reflect upon them. I know that Christ is our refuge from the storm, and that the Spirit can touch our hearts at any moment and make every last bit of our heartache and anxiety disappear. Whatever you may be going through at this time, I know that it can be made light by taking Jesus Christ’s yoke upon you.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you ~ John 14:18

Pray always and not faint.

Some people think that prayer is one way communication. That it’s simply throwing our wishes into the sky and hoping that an unknown being will notice one of them and maybe grant it. But prayer is much more than just talking to God. Prayer is conversation with Him, our Father in Heaven.

Just like our fathers on this earth want to hear from us when we leave home, our Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with him. Just think if you never called up your parents, or even e-mailed them or sent them a text. God wants us to talk to Him. He wants us to tell Him how we’re doing, what we’re grateful for, what we need, what our concerns are, etc.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi counsels on prayer in 2 Nephi 32:8,

And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

Satan doesn’t want us to pray. He knows that if we pray we’ll be able to feel strengthened, enlightened, and comforted by the Holy Ghost. The notion that praying is pointless, that it doesn’t work, that God doesn’t listen or answer, or that we’re not worthy or good enough to pray is from Satan. They are all lies.

God does listen. He does care. He does answer our prayers. And no matter what we’ve done, we are always worthy, always good enough, to pray.

Nephi continues in verse 9,

But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

We must always pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. If we do so, our performances (work, school, family, friends, etc.) will work out for our benefit. From countless experiences, I know this to be true.

My testimony of prayer is simple. It works. Until I was about a senior in high school, I didn’t feel like God was answering me when I knelt at my bed each night. I never ceased praying, but my faith that they were actually doing anything was almost non-existent. Eventually though, I found my life changing, and I found myself becoming more desperate in my pleas to God. I found my prayers being answered in small yet profound ways. Slowly, my faith began to build. I began looking each day for ways that my prayers were being answered. I was surprised at how many of my small and often self-centered desires were actually being fulfilled. I could see that my Heavenly Father was truly looking out for me.

If you don’t feel as though God is answering your prayers, keep an open mind. Understand that He works on His own time, but He is merciful and loving. Understand that He works in small and simple ways. Count your blessings and look around  you. Like me, you might be surprised to discover just how many of your prayers are being answered.

“Before I formed thee…”

Jeremiah 1:5

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

When Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, he did not feel like he was up to the job. He felt inadequate, unqualified, perhaps even unworthy.

We are counted on to do a lot of things in life. Many of them are just… tough. Many of them are things we may not want to do. Oftentimes we just don’t feel like we’re strong enough, prepared enough, or good enough. The counsel of the Lord to Jeremiah can be applied to us.

Before this world began, we existed as spirits with our Father in Heaven. We conversed with Him just as we converse with our parents here on the earth. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet because the Lord knew him. He knew Jeremiah’s strengths and weaknesses. He knew his likes and dislikes. He knew Jeremiah better than Jeremiah knew himself.

Our Father in Heaven knows you. Just like Jeremiah, He knows you inside and out. He knows what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. He knows what you like and what you despise. He knows what you love and fear. He knows exactly how to push you because He knows exactly what you’re capable of, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

1 Corinthians 10:13

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Whether it’s temptation or just something that is difficult to do, God will not allow an impassable obstacle to block our path. Whatever life throws at us, it’s there because Heavenly Father knows we can conquer it.

I know this to be true. I know God knows us all better than we know ourselves. And I know that by trusting in Him, and having faith in the Savior Jesus Christ, we can endure anything.

 

Our Father’s Deepest Love

Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ took upon Himself every affliction the world has to offer. Whether it be the spiritual pain of sin, the physical pain of an injury, or the emotional pain of an aching heart, He has felt it all. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma explains the purpose of this in Alma 7:12,

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Succor simply means to support or to help. In this verse, Alma explains that Christ took (living before Christ’s mortal ministry, Alma speaks in future tense) upon Himself every pain and sickness so that He knows exactly how it feels, so that He knows exactly how to comfort us when we come upon those obstacles in our own lives.

Once Christ was lifted upon the Christ, He had endured everything, except one thing: complete loneliness. In order for the Atonement to be complete, Jesus Christ had to suffer the entire realm of afflictions. And so we read in Mark 15:34,

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Through all the hate and scourges, God had still been with Jesus. But now, hanging there on the cross, Christ felt His Father’s presence leave Him. Perhaps Jesus did not know that such a thing would happen, or perhaps He understood completely and still could not help but ask His Father, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

There is no doubt in my mind that Heavenly Father was pained and grieved beyond comprehension at even the thought of having to leave His Only Begotten Son. It would not surprise me if our Father in Heaven hid himself in the deepest corner of the universe, so great was His anguish. But He knew that it had to be done. In order for the Atonement to be complete, Jesus had to experience the entire spectrum of sin and pain, which included knowing what it felt like to be completely alone, without even God at His side.

I know that this was done out of love. It was perhaps the hardest thing God has ever had to do, but He did it because He knew that it was the only way for His plan to succeed. I am grateful that my Heavenly Father let Jesus be, allowing Him to be able to succor you and me in our own afflictions no matter what they are.

 

God is Love

Why did God create us? Why did He create this earth? Why did Christ give His life for us? The purpose of this life is to return to live with God as eternal families, but again, why? The answer is profound, yet simple. Love.

Christ gave us a commandment to love one another,

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Showing love to others is how others can know that we are disciples of Christ, and that He has wrought a change in our hearts through His atoning sacrifice. So how do we show forth this love?

1 John 3:16-18 reads,

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Showing love in word, or in tongue, is not a bad thing, but we all know that actions speak louder than words. In addition to showing our love through kind words, we show it best through our actions. In the next chapter, we read in verses 7 and 8,

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Everything that God and Jesus Christ have done for us is out of love. We have this earth because They love us. We have family and friends because They love us. We have the Atonement because They love us. We have the opportunity to live with Them again eternally and with our families because They love us. If we desire to understand our Heavenly Father, we must first understand love.

I testify that our Father in Heaven is a God of love. I know that He loves us. I know that our Savior Jesus Christ loves us too. I know that to grow closer to God and Christ is to grow closer to each other.

Family and Friends

Proverbs 14:20

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.

I am truly grateful to be blessed with amazing family and friends who love and support me. I definitely would not be where I am, character-wise and literally, without the encouragement I received, and still do receive, from friends and family.

That’s… mostly it. I suppose I could go on and on about how awesome everyone is, but it would probably be somewhat repetitive. Maybe I can add some depth to this topic though. I suppose I can try…

The family is instituted of God. It is a foundation that has existed since the beginning of time. Before we came to this earth we lived together as a spiritual family, brothers and sisters, with God as our Heavenly Father. When we began our mortal lives, we were born into family units. Our Father in Heaven understands how important the family is. It is essential for spiritual, physical, and emotional development. It is essential for expanding our social qualities. In our families, we learn how to love one another. We are connected by love, by experiences, by blood, by circumstances.

And of course, the family extends to our friends, to our loved ones. When we’re not at home with our families, we’re out with our friends. They’re our family away from home. Heavenly Father also understands the importance of friendship, and beyond. Friends help us to cope; they comfort us during hard times. Friends lift us up and strengthen us. Friends are there to rejoice with us when we are happy. Friends make the bad times go quicker, and the good times to go a little bit slower. Friends can keep us moving in the right direction, or keep us steady in a secure place or state of mind.

Horrible things were happening to Latter-day Saints while the prophet Joseph Smith was a prisoner at Liberty Jail. With desperation, and in a time of seeming abandonment, the Prophet prayed to the Lord, pleading with Him and asking Him why he was allowing such suffering to happen. The Lord comforts him, telling Joseph that his suffering would be but a moment. He then brings an important fact to Joseph’s remembrance in Doctrine and Covenants 121: 9-10.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

The Lord reminds him about his friends, that his friends still love and support him, and that in time he will be among them. I am grateful for my family and friends that have and will always be there for me in times of trial. I know that I can always turn to them and they will receive me with warm hearts and friendly hands. I know that our family and friends are blessings from our Heavenly Father. I love my family and I love my friends.

I know God is my Father. I know Jesus Christ is my eldest brother and my Savior and Redeemer.