2012: Dun-dun-dunnnn

Oh my goodness, it’s gonna be 2012! Oh no! Everyone run for your lives! It’s attacking! Some people that lived a long time ago said it would end! There’s no possible way they were incorrect or that we’ve all just misinterpreted what they thought!

If you didn’t realize, that was sarcasm. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any good way to express that type of irony in writing. But anyway, the year 2012 is just around the corner. It’s a year that has approached society with an infamous stench, though honestly, there is no odor attached to this next year. It’s another year… that’s it. I’m excited for it to be here. It’s another chapter in our lives, another chance to improve our characters, eliminate bad habits and create good ones. It’s an opportunity to learn something new, turn enemies into friends, and add more bricks to make our life’s foundation more stable.

This year, I’d like to better myself by thinking and acting more upon Christ’s example. It sounds vague, but I do have some specifics that go along with that goal. I want to be a better disciple of Him, and a better representative of His teachings.

A Book of Mormon prophet named Amulek spoke of our time on this earth as such,

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. (Alma 34:32)

As the new year approaches, let’s do more to prepare ourselves to meet God. Whether that’s when we’re ninety-nine years old, sixty-five, forty, or twenty. We don’t know, so all the more reason to get prepared. Sounds logical? I thought so too. I know that as we put our faith in Christ and our trust in God, we can accomplish the goals we have for this next year. Our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ want us to succeed! Our efforts will not go unnoticed, nor unaided. Whether nor not your goal(s) may be spiritually related, so long as it is a goal of righteous improvement, I know that putting the Savior first will make that goal possible.

Advertisements

A Better Land

Many instances in my life have proven, to me, that the Lord rather enjoys pulling a fast one on me. Take, for example, the fact that I am no longer in Columbia Falls, but Frenchtown, MT. I thought for sure I was going to stay in Columbia Falls for another transfer. But alas, I was bamboozled… and am now sitting here typing this in the Frenchtown High School library.

I’ll admit, I’m not one to readily accept change. When I feel like I need to be in a certain situation, I don’t take kindly to being brought out of that situation. This happens a lot with all of us. We’re traveling along on our life’s journey, comfortable with our speed, the conditions of our metaphorical road, and then all of sudden we hit a road block, or something causes us to swerve off the road, or the road ends up curving in a direction we didn’t intend to go. It happens a lot. There are definitely some things in our lives we have little or no control over.

In my case, I couldn’t decide where I wanted to serve next on my mission. My mission president told me I was going to Frenchtown, so it was either that or go home. So what do we control? And how can this be used advantageously?

Let’s look to the scriptures here for a second. I’ll take a verse out of the Book of Mormon. This is Jacob talking, he was a brother to the prophet Nephi.

And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.(2 Nephi 10:20)

The Lord brought their family out of the land of Jerusalem. They struggled and endured tons of contention and other troubles, but, as Jacob says, they were led to a better land, the Americas. This better land can be many different things in our lives. It could very well be a better location, or a better situation, better friends, better job, etc. It could be almost anything.

So going back to the question… what do we control? We control our attitude and our perspective. We can have the attitude of thinking God is picking on us or ignoring us, that when change or trials arise, our lives have become screwed up. Or we can be like Jacob, as see the changes as being led to a better situation, one in which we can learn, grow, and have better opportunities.

I hated Columbia Falls when I first arrived there, and I wondered why in the world the Lord had sent me there. Over time, however, I saw the reasons, and when the time came to depart I absolutely did not want to leave. I don’t know if the same thing will come with me in Frenchtown, but I know the Lord guides us to where we need to be. He’s always aware of where we are, and wherever He leads us, it will always be to a better land.

Waiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Giant and the Underdog

Everyone loves a good underdog story, and of the best anyone could ever read or hear comes from the Bible. It’s the story of David and Goliath. If you aren’t familiar with this story, just crack open your nearest Bible to the first book of Samuel, chapter seventeen. Or, if you just want to read it right now, click on this link.

To be brief, the Philistines were at war with Israel. One Philistine in particular was creating quite a stir. His name was Goliath. He was huge, perhaps about nine feet tall, and he would present himself to the Israelite army and tell them to bring him a champion to fight. But No one in the Israelite army was brave enough.

David heard about Goliath, he said to everyone, “Who’s this guy think he is? Why doesn’t someone beat him?”

Well, Saul, the Israelite king,  heard about the things David was saying and sent for him. David came to him and said, “I’ll go and fight this battle.”

“You can’t fight him,” Saul told him. “You’re just a child, and Goliath has been raised in the ways of war since he was a child.”

“I killed a lion and a bear once!” David exclaimed. “And I’ll do the same to this Philistine, ’cause he’s defying God! If God can deliver me from the attacks of a lion and a bear, He’ll do the same for me when I face up to this Philistine”

“Alright,” Saul gave in. “Go, fight him, and God be with you…”

So David went and grabbed his sling and five smooth stones to face Goliath. When he approached Goliath, the Philistine laughed because he was just a scruffy little boy. “Once I kill you,” Goliath yelled, “I’ll feed your dead body to the birds and the beasts!”

“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a shield,” David then said, “But I come to you in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, who you’ve mocked. Today God will deliver you into my hands. I’ll kill you and cut off your head, and I’ll feed your dead body to the birds and the beasts! And everyone will know that our God is real!”

Furious, Goliath charged. David did the same, taking out a stone from his bag. He put it into his sling and slung the stone right into Goliath’s forehead, killing him. Needless to say, the Philistines ran, scared out of their minds.

Just like David, we all have Goliaths we face in life. They’re giant, they’re intimidating, they’re in our face. It can be spiritual or temporal. A sin, an honest mistake, bills, debt, school and tests, a job, an attack on our faith, etc. These things may seem enormous, and at times we may feel like David standing in front of Goliath. But like David, we can turn to the Lord and rely on Him! David wasn’t afraid, because he knew that it didn’t matter how big Goliath was. He could’ve been one hundred feet tall and David would’ve acted the same way.

Like David, we also need to do our own part and prepare ourselves to face our Goliaths. David was prepared with five stones and a sling. He had a plan in mind and he trusted that God would support him with his plan. We too need to prepare and plan to face life’s challenges, all the while seeking the Lord’s help and inspiration.

If we do so, we too will find ourselves conquering our Goliaths.

The Broken Bow

In the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi takes his family and friends and journeys into the wilderness out of Jerusalem. Life is good. They feed themselves well upon the beasts of the land… until Lehi’s son, Nephi, breaks his bow. Fail.

And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food. (1 Nephi 16:18)

Not only his brothers, but his entire family becomes angry at him and also God. Even Lehi complains against God. So what does Nephi do? What would you do?

Well, Nephi didn’t want to just sit around and be mad at God. Instead, he took action. Verse 23 of that same chapter says,

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Nephi gets to work and makes himself a new bow. After Lehi repents of his anger against God, he inquires of God where Nephi should go to get food. Nephi obeys and is able to slay animals for them to eat. Rejoice! Everyone is happy, and probably feeling like a bunch of fools for sittin’ around and doing nothing.

Nephi was part of the solution, not the problem. This is a prime example of doing our own part.

So, although we may not be out in the desert hunting beasts, we all have our own problems that come up, our own broken bows, if you will. They can be pretty much anything. Small or big, temporal or spiritual. They all must be solved the same way, however. If we expect a problem to be solved, we must take action and be part of the solution, like Nephi.

I know that if we do our part, God will cover the rest and provide a way to overcome our obstacles.

All things done in order.

At the beginning of each day, we may find ourselves with a list of things to do. Chores to complete, work to finish, people to see, things to study, etc. Whether it’s a lengthy list or a mercifully short one, we often want it to be done all at once. Sometimes we might glance at each item listed, or review them in our minds, and think that it’s simply impossible. We may wonder how God could possibly think we can do all the things that are placed before us.

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin gave some solid advice pertaining to this subject. In Mosiah 4:27 it reads,

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

see that all these things are done in wisdom and order – Stop. Slow down. Think about the things that need to be accomplished. When our chores are piled high, the last thing we need to do is rush through them.

it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength – Heavenly Father does not expect us to do more than we are able. Think of Jesus’s parable of the widow’s mite. She only gave two coins, though others gave many. But it was all she had to offer, and from a righteous perspective, she gave more than the rich.

God does not issue us a challenge we do not have the strength to overcome. He will not put a mountain before you if you can only climb a hill. Honestly review your strengths and weaknesses, and then put an honest effort into your tasks. That is all your Father in Heaven asks of you.

expedient that he should diligent, that thereby he might win the prize – Diligence is sincere, zealous obedience. If we expect to accomplish our goals, we must strive to do all we can. If we can climb that hill, we are expected to do so, even if we have to strain a bit to get over the top.

all things must be done in order – Going full circle now. Slow down and take the time needed to perform the work. When you encounter a speed bump while driving, you slow down. And so it is with life.

Slow down. Review strengths and weaknesses. Understand that God does not send us something we cannot overcome. Listen to the Spirit. Do all things in wisdom and order.

I know that by doing these things, we can accomplish anything we have set to do. God knows you and knows that you can succeed. He wants your success. Put your trust in Him, your faith in Christ, and listen to the Holy Spirit.

They That Be With Us

Elisha, a prophet of the Old Testament, did a lot of amazing things. Some of my favorite stories from the Old Testament are centered around him. This is one of them.

The king of Syria decided to make war with Israel. He made plans on exactly how to place his army. Elisha, being a prophet of God, was aware of these plans. In fact, he literally was able to hear the king make his preparations. Having this knowledge, Elisha decided to warn the king of Israel, telling him where the Syrian armies would be so that Israel’s armies could have the advantage. When the king of Syria realizes that something is up, he suspects that someone from his own side is a betrayer. They inform him that there is a prophet named Elisha that has been hearing him make his plans and therefore relating those plans to the king of Israel.

2 Kings 6

13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.

15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

Elisha’s servant wakes up and sets out, probably to do chores of some kind. To his surprise, he finds a portion of the Syrian army surrounding them. Naturally, he becomes a bit upset and goes to tell Elisha, basically asking, “What’re we gonna do!?”

Now this is why Elisha is so awesome. He’s not afraid at all, and he answers his servant,

16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Elisha tells his servant to not be afraid because the guys that are backing them far outnumber the Syrian army. He then prays, asking the Lord to open his servant’s eyes. The Lord does so, and the servant sees the mountain full of a heavenly army.

We all have “chariots of fire round about” us. Ways in which the Lord is blessing us and protecting us. We need not fear. When we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and obey His commandments, they that be with us are more than they that be with them. “Them” is the world. “Them” is anyone or anything that makes us fear, or makes us our doubt our faith in the Lord.

I invite you to look for the “chariots of fire round about” you in your life. I know they are present in my life and I know they are present in yours. We only need to pray and, like Elisha’s servant, have our eyes opened so that we may see the blessings and safety that come from trusting in the Lord.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that a lot of my thoughts are centered around or end up leading to the topics of uncertainty and the need and power of faith. Maybe they’re just topics that I feel like I know a lot about. Or maybe God is just finding a clever way to teach myself things. Well, this is another one of those topics. This is also going to be a rather lengthy post, so bear with me. I can promise you it’s worth the time to read.

Last night Elder Holbrook and I had the opportunity to attend an institute class covering the Doctrine and Covenants. For those that may be be unfamiliar with what that is, the Doctrine and Covenants is modern-day revelation, most of which came through the prophet Joseph Smith. It is scripture, and it is the word of God.

During this institute class, we specifically went over verses in the 101st section. To give you a little insight, here’s the introduction to this section,

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, 16 December 1833. At this time the Saints who had gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes in Jackson County; and some of the Saints had tried to establish themselves in Van Buren County, but persecution followed them. The main body of the Saints was at that time in Clay County, Missouri. Threats of death against individuals of the Church were many. The people had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property; and many of their crops had been destroyed.

The obvious point that’s trying to be made here is that life for the Mormons was not fun. The persecution was heavy. Their property was being stolen or destroyed. Mobs drove them from their homes and often sought to kill or otherwise harm them, regardless of gender or age. It was a time of great uncertainty for the Saints of Missouri.

We live in a time where uncertainty is pretty much the norm. In this particular post, however, I’d rather focus on the more subtle uncertainties. The things that make us worry, make us anxious, make us restless or untrustworthy towards people or ideas. We all have these experiences, and we’ll continue to have them the rest of our lives.

So what did the Lord counsel the Saints in Missouri to do? In the sixteenth verse of that section it reads,

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

It is advice that He has already given in Psalms 46:10. Simply, the Lord tells them to settle down, relax, and trust in Him. Trust that He knows what they’re going through. Trust that He knows their doubts, their fears, their anxieties, their sufferings, etc. Trust that He’s aware and is allowing it for a purpose.

Of course, this seems easier said than done, and it is. It’s not easy to simply sit back and just have faith that everything will work out. That our problems will be met with solutions. That our worries will be silenced. That our doubts will find peace. Just like anything in life, it takes time and practice. We learn through experience. We exercise faith just like we exercise our bodies. Our spiritual muscles, so to speak, need to be stretched and torn a little bit, but by doing so they will become stronger and able to endure even more the next time.

Our teacher drew a little equation: Heat + Time + Pressure = Jewel. He even doodled little pictures to go along with the words which were rather humorous. Anyway, the point: you can’t take away any of those things. You can’t take away the heat, or the time, or the pressure. All three are required. If we expect our end result to work out, whether it’s the situation or ourselves or both, we must be willing to abide by all the factors in the equation.

This is my testimony: that God is aware and understands. We may not know much, but thankfully He does. During the times when it seems everything will fall apart, when nothing seems real, when we’re not sure what to do or what to believe… be still… and know that God is there and can do all things.

Countless times in my life I have felt abandoned and unsure of what I believe… or if I should believe anything. My faith in God and Jesus Christ and my testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been tested many times. And many times I found myself with no answers to my questions, no way to solve my doubts and fears. Does God really exist? Is Jesus Christ really my Savior? Is this church I’m involved in even true? Was Joseph Smith a prophet or just a crazy guy? Is the Book of Mormon true or just a hoax? Is the Bible even true?

Many times I would find answers, and many times I was left with nothing. It was those times, when left to wonder, that I had to exercise my faith, be still, and trust that God was there. I received comfort, and I know that it was the peaceful assurance of the Holy Ghost. I still didn’t have all my answers, but it was okay.

I testify that God is there. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and I know that it was translated by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s church restored again to the earth. And all these things I am blessed to know because of the Lord’s counsel: “Be still and know that I am God.”

The Heavens are higher.

Isaiah 55

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Let’s admit it; we all wish that we could have it our way. Often, we think our way is how things should go. We’ve got it all planned out. Everything is perfect. Then what happens? Something falls through. Something doesn’t add up. Or sometimes it all just goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Sometimes this may happen because we planned incorrectly and trusted ourselves more than the Lord, and sometimes it happens simply because we are all meant to face obstacles in our lives. In either case, we can learn one very important lesson: The Lord’s ways are higher than ours. Our Father in Heaven knows our strengths and weaknesses inside and out. He knows this world inside and out. He knows the doings of life, both the good and the bad, in every shape and form.

The perspective of man is limited. We cannot see ahead, we can barely see what’s already in our face, and we often forget what we have already witnessed. This is why we must put our trust in the Lord to guide us. He knows the better way. It may not be the easiest, shortest, or most fun, but it is the higher way. By trusting in the Lord and His ways instead of our own, we can follow the path that will help us to grow and receive the experiences that will be most beneficial.

Though our thoughts and ambitions may be driven by greed, by pride, or by weakness, Heavenly Father’s thoughts are driven by unconditional, godlike love and wisdom that knows no bounds.

I testify that the Lord knows the better way. May we trust in Him enough to be willing to subject ourselves to Him and take it.