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.

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Moms: They’re Awesome

So naturally, with tomorrow being the awesome day when we have awesome celebrations celebrating the awesomeness of awesome mothers all over the awesome world… I need to give a shout out to my awesome mother.

However, I don’t want to just repeat what I posted last year… though I really don’t have any new ideas flowing through my mind.

So maybe I’ll just keep it simple this time. My mission is almost over, so I’ll see my mom soon anyway.

I love my mom. Like everyone else thinks, I believe I have the best mom ever. In reality though, she is the best mom ever, for me. No other woman would have been able to raise me in the right way, as she has raised me. My mom has always told me that I’m a special boy. Sometimes my brother and sister told me that too, but they didn’t mean it in the same way. 🙂

I’ve never really seen myself as anyone extraordinary, or special, but I still always believed my mother when she said it. I figured she probably knew better than I did, and probably possessed some sort of motherly instinct. Parents are, after all, entitled to receive revelation from God for their children. A mother isn’t necessarily more entitled to that revelation than the father, but I think a mother is more in tune to that revelation when it comes to certain things.

And so, I’m glad that my mom has been in tune to those revelations, whether it was to inspire me or perhaps call attention to some misbehavior. She always seems to know when I need one of those two things. No one is free of struggles, and my mother and father have had their fair share of trials and tribulation. But even when our family was struggling, in many different ways, my mom always kept moving forward. She always kept working and always told me to rely on the Lord.

So to make this full circle, I love my mom and she is the most awesome mom to ever exist. I’m glad that she and my father raised me up to follow Jesus Christ, and without them and Him I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!

You Cannot Fight Against God

So… I’ve never really understood the whole point of the whole anti-Mormon thing. And by “anti-Mormon” I don’t mean anyone that doesn’t agree with Mormon doctrine. I’m referring to deliberate attacks on the doctrine. Websites, books, cds dedicated totryingto tear down the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m never worried about them. Their efforts fail and will always fail. Yet… I’m still curious. I wonder… what drives these people to have such an intense hatred for the Mormons and the things we believe? Why try to fight against us? What does it matter to them? I’m not going around trying to bash on the Lutherans or the Catholics or the Muslims. They have their beliefs and I have no reason to attack them for it.

Yet I’ve seen books and websites with the sole purpose of trying to tear down the LDS faith. Perhaps they think it’s some kind of missionary duty, to try and destroy what they believe to be something evil. Whatever the reason, I’d like to inject the reasoning of a great teacher. In fact, Paul the Apostle was the student of this man. His name was Gamaliel. When Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin, they were commanded by the Pharisees to cease preaching in the name of Christ. Peter and John, of course, were not frightened by their threats, and Peter testified to them of their wickedness and how they had slain the Son of God. The Pharisees then wanted nothing more than to murder the two apostles, yet one of them was not wicked in his heart. This was Gamaliel. He had Peter and John step out of the room and then he offered some wisdom to his fellow counselors.

Gamaliel tells them to take caution with what they were intending to do with Peter and John. He cites two references,

For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

Two men, Theudas and Judas, had risen up, attempting to bring followers to their causes, and had failed. Their rebellions came to nothing.

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

He then basically tells them to leave Peter and John alone. If the source of their cause came from their own minds, like the two men he had just mentioned, then it will result in the same manner. It will come to nothing and eventually be done away with. But, if their cause is the cause of God, then fighting against it would be the worst idea possible, because you can’t fight against God. You’ll lose every time.

This is truly wisdom, and thinking about it makes me wonder why people try and fight against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If our cause is the cause of a man from Palmyra, New York, then it will eventually be done away with. But it has not been done away with. It has lasted and endured the efforts of Satan. This is because it is not of Joseph Smith, it is of Jesus Christ. It his His work and His church. No one can fight against it, ’cause they’re fighting against God.

So here’s a little wisdom for the anti-Mormons. Go ahead. Fight against it if you want. If won’t matter, because I can tell you right now you are fighting against the work of God. You will lose. If you truly believe the LDS church is the consequence of a madman, then let us be. We’ll certainly destroy ourselves, given time. But we have not, and we never will. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom restored to the earth. See the fruit of it. Read the Book of Mormon. Compare it with the Bible. Find out foryourself and don’t let anyone tell you one way or the other.

Called In His Name

We’re known by a few different names. Some call us LDS. Some call us Latter-day Saints. Most call us Mormons. A lot of people even refer to us as the “Mormon Church.” In fact, the actual name of the so-called “Mormon Church” is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think a lot of people forget this very important detail, or at least definitely overlook its significance.

The Church is not named after a random person or a mode of ministry. If Jesus Christ had a church, it would certainly be named after him, it would be The Church of Jesus Christ, which is precisely what the “Mormon Church” is. We did not come up with that nickname. In fact it began as a derogatory term which was eventually accepted by the Latter-day Saints. We don’t mind being called Mormons, but as for the title of our church, we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ. Since we are in the last days as foretold by the Bible, the add-on “of Latter-day Saints” is used.

In the Book of Mormon, when Christ came to minister to the inhabitants of the Americas, He established and organized His church just like He did in the Holy Land. There were disputations, however, concerning the name of said church. This is what Jesus said,

And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. (3 Nephi 27:8)

We are called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because we are Jesus Christ’s church. If it is His church, then it should be named after Him. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established upon the earth. We are not an American church. We are not Joseph Smith’s church. We are Jesus Christ’s original church restored after centures of spiritual darkness.

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.

A Trip Through Galatians

This is going to be a kind of… random/disorganized post. I’m just going to let my thoughts run straight into my fingers on this keyboard, so bear with me. So my companion and I were walking down a street one day in the great Montanan metropolis of Hungry Horse when suddenly, a man pulls up beside us. He says something random that I can’t remember and then asks,

“What company are you with?”

“We’re LDS missionaries,” I respond after a pause, somewhat perplexed by his question. I tap the name tag on my shirt pocket.

“Oh,” he says. “I guess the shirts and… Well hey, you ever read Galatians?”

“Yeah, I have.”

“Well, you should read it again. Read it over and over again.” He smiles. “Eventually you’ll get it.”

I smile back. “Alright, sir. You have a good day.”

Well, this morning I remembered that short conversation and decided to break out Galatians again. Paul begins boldly, speaking out against those of The Church who were engaging in the perversion of the gospel.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

I wonder if the man we talked to was trying to perhaps… suggest something. Well, if I could talk to him again, I’d tell him that Paul was referencing an early apostasy of The Church, an embryo, if you will, of the Great Apostasy, the Dark Ages.

Paul then continues,

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Here Paul basically says that anything other than what Christ taught is not His doctrine. It doesn’t matter if an angel came down from Heaven to preach it. If it’s not Christ’s gospel, it’s no good. The doctrines of man will not and cannot bring salvation. But here’s where it gets good, and here is where I’ll end this little rant of mine.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

I will echo Paul’s question. Do I seek to please men or God? I could easily preach things pleasing to man. “All you have to do is believe in Christ and you will be saved!” Easy as that, and people would give me money to do it. But no, that’s not what I do. We don’t seek to please men, but God. Work out your salvation with a steadfast faith in Christ. We are not saved in an instant, but through a lifetime of dedication to Jesus Christ and His gospel. Yes, there are things one must do along with things he or she must believe. Salvation is not cheap, and God didn’t put us on this earth to waste our inheritance on worldly junk.

Does that sound like a doctrine pleasing to man or to God? As missionaries, we sometimes tell people stuff that’s hard to take. We don’t tell them it’s easy, because that’s a lie. We don’t even tell them that all they need to do is get baptized in our church, because that is also a lie. We tell people to have faith in Jesus Christ (for only through His name can salvation be made possible) and to work. Jesus Christ filled His life with service to His Father in Heaven. As Christ’s disciples, we must do the same.

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As Paul, I can certify as well that the gospel which is preached of me is not after myself or mankind. It is after Jesus Christ. And just like Paul, I received it by revelation, which has not ceased, but continues today.

I’ve only read through Galatians a few times, but I think by now I get it.

Articles of Faith XIII: Christ-like

Finally, the last one. Here’s the biggy.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

These are all qualities Latter-day Saints seek to acquire. Not saying that all Mormons possess these qualities, but these are the characteristics that the LDS church teaches and endorses. We believe in being Christ-like to all men, not just to other members of our church. We are all children of God, all part of the same spiritual family.

The admonition of Paul is referencing Philippians 4:8, which states:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

We seek out the good things in life, the things that uplift us and bring us closer to our Father in Heaven. This is what “Mormonism” (as some people call it) is all about. We are The Church of Jesus Christ. We praise the things that come from Him, and seek to be like Him in our thoughts, words, and actions. We are Christians.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (1 Peter 2:21)

 

Our Father

Let me ask you a question. Do you believe God is your Father? I’m not talking metaphorically here. I’m not asking if God is a father figure, because of course He is. I’m being literal. Do you believe you are a literal child of God, that God is literally the father of your spirit? Your answer can change the entire meaning and nature of your relationship with God.

My companion and I met a man a couple days ago that did not believe he was a child of God, or anyone was, for that matter. Instead, he said, in essence, that we are just creations of God, created for the purpose of worshiping and giving glory to our Creator. Of course, giving glory to God is part of what we do, but it is certainly not the sole reason for our existence! How vain and arrogant such a God would be. I certainly would not want to worship such a being, or even believe in it.

The God I worship is no such person. He is not prideful, vain, egotistical, or selfish. Such are the characteristics of mankind, not the Almighty.The God I worship is a God of love, kindness, selflessness, and mercy. The God I worship is my Father, my ultimate Father, and the Father of my spirit.

Hebrews chapter 12 verse 9 says,

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

Acts 17:28 and 29 states,

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

In John 20:17, Jesus says to Mary,

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

I know that we are children of God. He is indeed our Father. Without this relationship there is no relationship. How do I know? The scriptures testify of it and the Spirit bears witness to me that it is true. I can’t imagine going through life without believing God is our literal father. Such doctrine is empty. Truth is light. It enlightens, empowers, comforts, strengthens, and helps us to endure. God is not our Father? There is no enlightenment or empowering strength with such a thought. None whatsoever.

But there is strength and comfort when we understand that God really is our Father, literally. When no one else is around, we can always count on three people to be with us and stand by us: Our Father in Heaven, our eldest brother Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

God’s Work: Eternal Progression of Man

There are many things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that differ from some of the more mainstream Christian denominations. One of these deals with the details of post-mortal life, and a belief Latter-day Saints hold known as eternal progression.

Let’s start with a scripture. This one’s coming from Corinthians. One thing the Corinthians did not quite understand was the resurrection. Paul goes into a bit of detail explaining this doctrine.

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrialis another.

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:40-42)

Here, Paul is talking about the conditions of resurrected bodies. If you’re at all familiar with Mormon doctrine, you may be aware of the fact that we don’t simply believe we’ll all end up in either Heaven or Hell. Indeed, there is a Heaven and there is a Hell. But it goes much deeper than that. Heaven is divided into three kingdoms: the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial. For more detailed information on what I’m about to present, go to mormon.org (there’s a link on the right side of the page). All of this information has been given to us through modern revelation, through modern-day prophets.

The celestial kingdom is reserved for the valiant souls of men. Those that obeyed Christ’s gospel, were baptized and received other necessary ordinances (which everyone will get a chance to receive, whether in this life or the next), and repented of their sins while enduring to the end. Husband and wife, and their families, can remain together for eternity in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. Eternal happiness and progression are their rewards.

The terrestrial is for those who lived good lives, but rejected Christ. And also those that did accept Christ, but were not valiant. They did not strive to obey Christ’s gospel, they were not sincere in their repentance, etc. They will receive Christ’s glory, but not God the Father’s. It will be a wonderful place, full of goodness, but they will be lacking the full happiness that comes from eternal families, remaining married to their spouse, and living with God. It will be like having to settle with a B on a test when they could’ve achieved an A.

The telestial kingdom is for the wicked souls of men. Murderers, thieves and robbers, adulterers, liars, etc. These are the ones who continued in their sins without repentance. They will be shut out from God and Jesus Christ’s presence and glory forever. It will be a good place though. Satan will be bound, and they will have peace and rest. But they will never be in God’s presence. It’ll be like the world is now, only without temptation, illness, war, etc. It’s like settling for a C or a D on the test when they could’ve had an A or even a B.

Hell, or Outer Darkness, as many members of The Church call it, is reserved for Satan and his fallen angels, and all those that lived too wickedly to even abide a telestial glory. Cain and Judas Iscariot are two that we know of. They will be cast out to a place that no mortal mind can comprehend.

If all this seems crazy… that’s okay. It’s certainly very different than what mainstream Christianity professes today. But it is true doctrine. It was preached in Christ’s primitive church. It is nothing new. It is simply doctrine that was lost that has been restored

Think of the traditional view of heaven. Great billowy clouds in the middle of… somewhere. People in white robes playing harps and singing and… playing more harps and singing… on clouds… or something. It all seems rather stagnant, plain, and without growth. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that God is a progressive God. He wants us to learn and grow and actually achieve something great. Just as a father (as He is to us) wants his children to grow up and be like him, God wants us to be like Him. And He has given us a way!

Only in the celestial kingdom is continued progression possible, where we can grow to be like our Father in Heaven. Such is His purpose, to have us progress and grow and learn. I make the point again; isn’t that what any loving father would want for his children? Of course! God’s work and His glory is the immortality and eternal life of man. I know this to be true. If you still have not looked at mormon.org, I again invite you to do so.

Bible + Book of Mormon = Prophecy

There are multiple prophecies in the Bible concerning the Book of Mormon. One such is a prophecy concerning Joseph, the son of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Each of Israel’s sons receives a prophecy. Joseph’s is this,

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. (Genesis 49:22)

The beginning of the Book of Mormon follows a family that leaves Jerusalem (about 600 B.C.) and sails across the ocean to the American continents. The patriarch of this family is Lehi, who is a descendant of Joseph. Truly, this prophecy is more literal than it seems. Joseph’s descendants, his branches, most definitely ran over the wall. In fact, they ran over the ocean and into a new land.

Other Biblical prophecies about the Book of Mormon can be found, such as the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph becoming one (Ezekiel 37), or the sealed book that is delivered to the unlearned man (Isaiah 29).

The truth of the matter is that the Bible and the Book of Mormon support each other. They both testify that Jesus is the Christ. I’ve met many people that say the Book of Mormon is false, and that it contradicts the Bible. If I was more bold I’d call them fools, for it is foolish to think such things. Many of them have never read the Book of Mormon… many of them haven’t even read much of the Bible.

Well, I’m here to tell you that these two books go hand in hand. They support each other, not contradict. If you don’t believe me, read the Book of Mormon. If you’ve already read it and still disagree, then you did not understand what you read, and you did not search it diligently. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ. I am a witness of that. But don’t take my word for it. Read the Book of Mormon and listen to the Spirit of God.

Of Sheep and Goats

It’s impossible to earn your way into Heaven. Everyone knows that. No human power can bring about salvation. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved. But doesn’t Jesus Christ bid us to follow Him? Did not the apostles state that He, Christ, set the example for us to follow?

I ask you, what did Jesus do? Perhaps a better question would be to ask what He didn’t do, but I’ll answer the first one. Christ carried out the will of the Father. He performed miracles, forgave sins, and set the ultimate example of righteousness for us to follow. He is the Good Shepherd, and those that follow Him are His sheep. Those that do not follow Him are goats. We read in Matthew 25, verses 33 through 40…

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The goats, on the other hand (literally), did not tend to the hungry, the poor, the sick and afflicted, or the needy in general. They did not work righteousness. They still, however, acknowledged Christ as their Lord. They believed, but they did not follow Jesus’ example. They didn’t do the will of the Father. Christ said Himself that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of the Father.

The prophet Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, stated,

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, but only after all we can do, for we will be judged by our righteousness. So don’t be a goat! Believe in Christ. Believe He can save you, and then follow His example and work righteousness.

 

Squares In A Masterpiece

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand In Holy Places

Driving along a road with the branch president, or bishop, of our congregation (essentially the equivalent of the pastor), we came across a good sized snake along the road. It was belly up… dead, and our bishop commented that it was probably a bullsnake.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a bullsnake is, I’ll give you a quick rundown. They’re large snakes that are pretty common in the United States. You can find them anywhere between Idaho and Wisconsin, as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. They’re not venemous, but they can be fairly aggressive. What tends to get them in some trouble is the fact that they look a lot like rattlesnakes, specifically diamondbacks. They have a similar pattern, and they also hiss and beat their tails on the ground to imitate rattlesnakes. Many unsuspecting hikers have come across them and killed them because they mistake them for a rattlesnake.

So what’s the point of this? Well, I’ll tell you, and it’s about what our bishop said as we continued down the road.

“Someone probably thought it was a rattler and killed it,” he said. “They often hang around them.” Then, with a chuckle, “I guess you gotta be careful about who’s company you share.”

The same can be applied to us. What kinds of people do we hang around with? They may not have venomous glands in their mouths, but perhaps they have their own kind of poison. Satan and his evil influences are all around us. Alcohol, drugs, pornography and immorality, etc. When we share their company, we can often find ourselves imitating their behavior. We may not end up dead on the side of the road (hopefully not, at least), but we will easily find ourselves spiritually dead if we break the commandments of God.

But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32)

We are commanded to stand in holy places. Keep good company and do not move from it. By doing this, we shall live and can have eternal life.

The Glass Table Analogy III: Restored

Joseph Smith grew up in Palmyra, New York, during the early 19th century. During this time, there was an excitement about religion, at least in the town of Palmyra. Preachers stood outside their meetinghouses and called out to passersby. Joseph’s father was partial to the Methodist faith, while his mother aligned herself with the Presbyterians. They were both devoted followers of Jesus Christ, and raised their children as such, reading and learning from the Bible.

At a point in his childhood, Joseph became concerned for the welfare of his soul. He desired to join one of the churches in his town, but he didn’t know which one. They were all confusing to him, and they all seemed to contradict each other. Unfortunately, an argument on a particular doctrine couldn’t be settled by the Bible, because all the preachers interpreted it differently. The Bible seemed more like a battle ground than common ground.

Young Joseph was reading one night in the epistle of James, first chapter, fifth verse, 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.

He pondered these words, and then he decided to take James up on his promise. You can read my post about Joseph Smith’s First Vision here.

Joseph saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Together, They appeared to him. He asked them again which church to join, and Jesus Christ answered him and said that he should join none of the churches. For although there is truth in them all (pieces of the glass table), they don’t have the full doctrine of Christ (the original table).

Joseph Smith was later called as a prophet, and through him Jesus Christ would restore His church to the earth by restoring the keys of the kingdom, or the priesthood authority. By doing this, ordinances such as baptism could be done with the proper authority from God. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, and because we are in the latter days, or the last days, it is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:10)

We are living in the fulness of times, and Jesus Christ has restored His church. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet called of God. And how can we know this? Matthew stated that by their fruits we may know if a prophet is truly called of God, or if he is fake. The Book of Mormon is the “fruit” of Joseph Smith. By reading it, pondering it, and praying about it, one can know of its divinity.

I know the Book of Mormon is true. If you have not read it, I challenge you to do so. It’s the only way you can know if Christ’s church has been restored. This is my testimony, and I give it in the name of Jesus Christ, that His church is restored.

 

Death Cannot Conquer The Hero Again

Speaking of Himself and His crucifixion, Jesus said,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)

By allowing Himself to die for us, Christ can bring us unto Him, therefore bringing forth fruit. The metaphor can be applied to ourselves and others though, when He added in the next verse,

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

And so, I will apply this to the prophet Joseph Smith. The mobs that continually persecuted the Mormons in the early days of the Church thought they could do away with them, the Mormons. They figured, if they killed Joseph Smith, that would be the end of it all. Unfortunately, for them, they were mistaken.

The martyrdom of Joseph Smith only added more fire and zeal to the testimonies of the early Saints, and they pressed onward, eventually settling in the west. Joseph Smith lost his life, but in doing so he sealed his work with his blood. In the words of a hymn, written by William W. Phelps,

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

The Prophet still lives on. The mobs may have killed his body, but they could never touch his spirit. I bear witness to you, whoever you may be, that Joseph Smith was and still is a prophet of God, and called by Him. Through Joseph Smith, God and Jesus Christ restored The Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. And by the power and gift of God, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, which contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. To sum it up, in the words of John Taylor,

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.