Monday, March 12, 2018

Arise, O Glorious Zion

When was the last time you ever talked about Zion? This is a topic that seers have been declaring with as much boldness as possible in every dispensation, yet we in recent years seem to have allowed this to fade away from us as individuals, yet as people Zion should be our ultimate goal.

The Psalmist wrote "And of Zion it shall be said...the highest himself shall establish her." God is at the helm of establishing Zion. He wants her to arise and put on her beautiful garments (Moroni 10:31). Zion is not just a city to come forth to be a nice place for the saints to dwell. No, Zion is a title the Lord gives his people as they are "of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness" (Moses 7:18).

This is not an easy task, and most prefer to avoid doing this. The point of Zion is that we are all exposed to each other. We love one another as Jesus loves us. That means, when a member of the church mentions struggling with the Word of Wisdom over and over again, we love them and do all in our power to help them overcome that struggle. That means, when a member of the church comes out of the closet, we love them and don't push ourselves away from them. That means, when we notice someone doing something that is hurting them, we invite them to choose the better part.

To truly establish and maintain the cause of Zion means that we must all do more. When we gather in Priesthood Quorums and Relief Society Groups, we should be thinking of how we can build up unity upon the Laws of the Celestial Kingdom. When we gather in Sunday School classes, we should teach with the end goal in mind not to demonstrate knowledge of the scriptures, not to even teach what the scriptures say, but we should be teaching one another the Doctrine of the Kingdom that Zion may be established.

Zion is not a free for all though. It can only be established if we obey the Law of the Celestial World: "Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself" (Doctrine & Covenants 105:5). We must become "pure in heart" (Doctrine & Covenants 97:21). We must live the gospel as boldly and as quietly as possible. While that may seem like a contradiction, what I mean is this: we have to be willing to get out of bed at midnight and go to the hospital to give someone a blessing, but remain quiet about it. We have to be willing to make a casserole for a sick neighbor, but not flaunt that it was done. In short, those who establish Zion are to "observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command" (Doctrine & Covenants 97:8).

As we honor our covenants to establish Zion by sacrifice, our blessings come. The Lord has promised that "the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob" (Isaiah 59:20). For those who engage in this marvelous work to establish Zion, our sins will be forgiven and the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will come to us, save us from all our sins, and make us holy. And in that day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is the Savior and the King of Israel, and that those who established Zion prepared His Kingdom to receive Him.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Today during Fast & Testimony meeting (a meeting where members of the church extemporaneously get up and share the feelings of their hearts to the congregation), person after person got up and bore powerful witnesses of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I was among them, but it struck a tender chord in me, and I felt the need to bear my witness to the World.

The crowning message of the Book of Mormon, I feel is summarized quite well in the 10th chapter of Moroni:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
While the Bible is wonderful and teaches about the Christ, the Book of Mormon's powerful witness of Jesus the Christ is matchless. He is taught about with such great clarity and power that any person who seriously studies the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart and real intent will come to know that Jesus is the literal son of the Father. He is our Lord and our God. He who led the children of Israel from the land of Egypt is He who led the Nephites from Jerusalem is He who leads the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these last days before His return to the Earth to reign as King of kings and rule as Lord of lords.

If you have not read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I urge you from the deepest parts of my soul: READ IT! It will change your life! I know it has changed my life since I started reading it years ago.

If you have already read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I urge you from the deepest parts of my soul: READ IT AGAIN! It will lead you in the ways you should go! I know I have received marvelous revelations because I read from the Book of Mormon.

If you are currently reading the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I urge you from the deepest parts of my soul: STUDY IT! By so doing, the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in greater abundance, and will lead you in the ways of life and salvation, through personal revelation you need today.

It is a witness of Jesus Christ.

It provides safety in its pages.

It is the fruit of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the last days.

It is preparing the world for the Second Coming of the Messiah.

READ IT! It WILL change your life!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I Will Praise & Adore at the Mercy Seat

One of my absolute favorite hymns is "I Stand All Amazed". I know many people love this hymn, but if you don't know what it is (or if you want to just listen to it again) here it is:


Through this song, we sing about and give thanks to Jesus the Christ for His great atoning sacrifice. The last verse is my favorite:
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
 In the last day, this song has been coming to mind, and I happened upon the Vocal Point version on YouTube, and just started incessantly listening to it. As I did, one line stuck out to me. "I will praise and adore at the mercy seat". And I found it to be a rather interesting thing to put into the verse, and I began studying the line in context and I found one of many interpretations.

In ancient Israel, the Mercy Seat was the gold covering on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, regarded as God's throne, upon which the blood of the sin offering would be sprinkled on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) by the High Priest (LDS Bible Dictionary).

To get to the Mercy Seat one would have to enter through the Tabernacle courtyard, enter the Holy Place, and pass through the veil in to the Holy of Holies. Many LDS manuals teach that each section of the tabernacle corresponds with a degree of glory:


The Outer Courtyard representing the Telestial World, the Holy Place representing the Terrestrial World, and the Holy of Holies representing the Celestial World. Likewise in modern Temples, similar symbolism is used, as we progress through the rooms, we ultimately make our way into the Celestial Room.

As I sat pondering this verse of the hymn, I have been taught that as we think of his hands pierced and bleeding, it should lead us to the Celestial Room of the Temples, where we will each silently praise and adore Him until the day comes when we will kneel before our Lord, our God, and our King. And after all we go through in this life, it will be wonderful!

Friday, February 9, 2018

I Think of You

Hey Erik,

It's been a year since you left us. There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I don't think of you in some way.

I think of you as I go to the Temple.

I think of you as I cook food, especially bacon gravy, which you loved so much!

I think of you and it makes me crave pizza.

I think of you and I miss all the puns we made on a daily basis.

I think of you and I want to be better than I was yesterday.

I think of you and I smile at the memories.

I think of you and I cry at not being able to talk.

I think of you and I want to be more diligent in studying my scriptures, like I was when we talked about the gospel every night.

I think of you and I know you are proud of my improvements and understanding of my shortcomings.

I think of you and how much you faced your fears with faith.

I think of you and I want to do more to learn new skills.

I think of you and I want to cross off more stuff from my bucket list.

I think of you and I want to add more stuff to my bucket list.

I think of you and I know what Zion was like, because we are of one heart and one mind.

I think of you and I miss you, man. Nothing will ever make me stop missing you, because you're my closest friend, and I cannot wait for the glorious resurrection when we shall see each other face to face once more.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Caledonia

Celtic Thunder is a music group out of Ireland I've started binging over the past several months. They sing some modern song covers, but I really enjoy their Celtic songs, in other words, their traditional Irish and Scottish folk songs.

One song they perform I really enjoy is "Caledonia". This song was written by a person who was sitting in Brittany (a region in France) in 10 minutes, basically about how homesick he was for Scotland. I first listened to it because of my Scottish heritage (and really my pride in it). One line has stuck out to me as I have listened to the song: "I've lost the friends I needed losing, found others on the way."

While this line is probably glossed over by most people as just a part of the song, it has resonated with me for as long as I've been listening. Why? Because the Lord is truly in the details of our lives.

We hardly ever know where we're going to be led to, but the Lord knows. He who commands the heavens, the worlds, and the galaxies, know where his children need to be placed. He knows people you need to meet at certain times. He's taken me halfway across the country to make me be in positions to meet some of those people. He's also taken me halfway across the country to get away from some people.

As you think of the people you have met and lost contact with over the years, you begin to notice just how God works with us. According to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Steve Jobs said, "you can only connect the dots looking backwards." And as you look at the dots in your life, you'll see that the Lord has orchestrated a lot. Of course, agency is still involved. There will be people who will randomly leave, for whatever reason. But, the people you meet, especially the ones you get close with, you can begin to see the pattern the Lord works with you to bring people who you need in your life and vice versa.

When we get to the end of our lives, and see just how the God of Israel led you by the hand and answered your prayers, like Caledonia, heaven "will be calling [us], [and we'll be] goin' home."

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Red Sea and the River Jordan

In 1956, Cecil DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" was released. In 1998, "The Prince of Egypt" was released. These two tell the story, at least part of the story, of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. One of the more iconic scenes from each movie is when the Red Sea parts and allows the Israelites to pass through on dry ground. While this is a true event, it is also an abnormal event; every so often the Lord works by way of parting the Red Sea, but another account in the Exodus shows the Lord's typical pattern.

In Joshua 3, we read of the Israelites' entry into the Promised Land. With the River Jordan flowing well beyond its bounds, there was no clear way for the people to cross into the land. The Lord commanded Joshua to have the Priests carry the Ark into the river. After their feet were wet, the record states, the water stopped, and parted for the people to cross into the Promised Land.

Both of these accounts illustrate two very different ways the Lord works. Sometimes, he parts a whole sea to let the people pass through; more often he requires we get our feet wet before he removes the water. Sometimes, God calms the storm as we call to Him; more often, He waits until the Fourth Watch to calm the storms. Sometimes, a simple prayer of faith removes an addiction; more often, he leads people to friends so they can help each other overcome an addiction. Sometimes, answers to prayers come vividly and immediately; more often, prayers are answered slowly and gradually line upon line until all is known.

Often times, we sit and wait for the Red Sea to part, delaying our lives. We promise we'll move forward as soon as the water is gone and we can walk through on dry ground; until that time, we sit on the banks, overlooking the sea. Once we understand the Lord typically brings us to Jordan, and we have to get our feet wet first, then we truly learn the only thing hindering us is our own holding back because we don't want to get our feet wet. Only by moving forward and getting our feet wet can we truly be prepared to enter our Promised Land, the Celestial Kingdom. So stop staring at the water, and march in.

Valiant for Christ

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Temple waiting for my endowment session to start. I was praying before the session that I might obtain revelation and I participated in the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Life has been stressful lately. I've been busier than I've ever been previously, and it stresses me nearly to the breaking point at times. But the Temple has often been a place of refuge from all that stress. I was wanting to know what I could do to relieve the stress I have during those times when doing a 2 hour session is just not feasible.

While pondering this and praying to know the Lord's guidance, a sentence impressed upon my mind: "Be Valiant for Christ".

I'm not going to say that being valiant for Christ will remove all stress; I'm not going to say being valiant for Christ is going to improve your situation one iota. If we choose to be valiant for Christ, the difference is not in anything going on around us, but we, ourselves, are changed. We are enlarged to have the capacity to accomplish more. We yoke up with Christ, and rely on His strength to get through and ultimately shine through all that we'd previously struggled with.

President Benson said, "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."

When we are valiant for Christ, we live the Celestial Law. Obviously, we will not be perfect. We will make mistakes; we will struggle with some things; we will break down at times. Despite all of this, Christ's enabling power will come to you and me and carry us through. He lifts us to higher planes, and we begin to see as He sees, do as He does, and become as He is.