Sunday, November 24, 2013

"And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers" - 2 Nephi 6:7

In the sixth chapter of 2 Nephi, Jacob speaks to the people of Nephi about history of the House of Israel, and its destiny. As he started out, he quoted two verses from the prophet Isaiah, "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (2 Nephi 6:6-7).

As I read those verses last night, I thought, "How does this apply to us today?" We are living in a time of the Hastening of the Gathering of Israel in both sides of the veil, and this verse goes into that gathering. Obviously it was written for our day, and couldn't just be talking about the fact that the Kings and Queens of Europe would nurse the nations from which the gospel would issue forth.

As I pondered these verses more, I began to think, "What is the standard that the Lord will raise?" Well, what's a standard? The dictionary definition is "a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment" or "those morals, ethicshabits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable" ( Another meaning, more archaic, means something (such as a flag) that troops can rally around, so they can tell where their side is. All of these meanings bring light to what the standard is.

The first two definitions point to principles that the Lord has taught. The main sources that can be found are living prophets (if there are any, which there are today), personal revelation, and the scriptures. The third definition narrows down what the standard might be. We are engaged in a war over the souls of the children of men, and, as the hymn says, "We are all enlisted til the conflict is o'er!" (We Are All Enlisted, 1985 LDS Hymnal 250). The front lines of this war, however, are found in the missionaries. They have clear goals, and clear rallying cries. What is it that the missionaries use to cry out the rally to those they find and teach? The Book of Mormon.

This is the standard that the Lord set to call His people back home! The Promise of The Book of Mormon, found in Moroni 10, is 100% reliable! Any person who remembers the mercy of the Lord, ponders the message of The Book of Mormon, prays to know if it is true with a sincere heart and real intent, and they have faith in Christ, will get the answer that it is true. The problem is: very few people, out of their own accord, randomly find, pick up, read, and follow Moroni's promise to get that answer. The Lord had a way for that to work itself out as well.

The verse continued, "they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers;" (2 Nephi 6:6-7). His people, babes in the gospel, would have to be carried into the gospel by kings and queens who shall nurse them. We are the children of the covenant, and heirs to the Celestial Kingdom, if we hold out faithful to the end. The Lord explained what happens to those who enter therein, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:38). The Father is the King of Heaven. If we receive all that he has, we too are Kings and Queens, albeit in embryo now.

We are the ones who are to carry in the dispersed of Israel. We are to be their nursing fathers and mothers. We are commissioned to go to the rescue: not only to the lambs that never have been in the fold, but also the sheep that have wandered out of the fold. Those we bring to the fold, which could take years for some people, will have deep gratitude towards us in the eternities: "they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet;" so deep shall their gratitude be.

The prophets have called us to rescue. Let's do it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flooding the Earth

“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!” 
-Ezra Taft Benson, Oct. 1988

That quote was given 25 years ago. If the time was overdue then, it is overdue now.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints love The Book of Mormon, for the most part. We have testimonies that it is true, but we are not reaching the full potential of The Book of Mormon. We have "treated lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). We will probably not receive any more scripture until we finally figure out the true power behind this book. For, if we do not learn how to use The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as the standard of the Restoration of the Gospel, "condemnation [shall rest] upon the children of Zion, even all. And [we] shall remain under this condemnation until [we] repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:56-57). To know of the true power behind The Book of Mormon, we must know what The Book of Mormon is -- or what it claims to be -- for if it is what it claims to be, then it is true. 

The Book of Mormon claims to be "an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi...Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation", for "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). It further claims to be "a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible...a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas [that] contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel" (Introduction, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Even on the cover, it declares without equivocation that it is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". If it is these things, then it is true. If it is not, then it is false. 

That's the beauty of The Book of Mormon! Either it is true or it is false! Either it is of God or it is from the devil. There is no middle ground with this book! The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rests upon the validity of The Book of Mormon. If it is true, we have living prophets who hold the keys of the Priesthood on the earth today. If it is true, this is a time of revelation, even a time when "righteousness...[sent] down out of heaven; and truth...[sent] forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of...[the] Only Begotten" (Moses 7:62). If The Book of Mormon is true, temple work is necessary for everyone who has ever lived on the earth. If The Book of Mormon is true, the gathering of Israel is already well under way. If The Book of Mormon is true, every doctrine, principle, and key taught by this church is one hundred percent true. If The Book of Mormon is false, then this work is the greatest fraud the world has ever seen. But if it is true, then this is "the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands [that is filling] the whole earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 65:2).

The Book of Mormon is truly "a marvelous work and a wonder", causing "the wisdom of [our] wise and learned [to] perish, and the understanding of [our] prudent [to] be" hidden (2 Nephi 27:26). There is no possible explanation for the publication and writing of this book, except the one that Joseph gave: that a messenger from heaven showed the place of the plates and that he translated it by the gift and power of God. As Jeffrey R Holland put it, "Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. " (Safety for the Soul, Conference Oct 2009). Those same theories get resurrected again and again and go through the same process. Attacks on the Book of Mormon will not cease, for it is the work of God, and Satan will stop at nothing to keep one man, woman, or child from finding this work, and joining it.

Every book, every chapter, and every verse of The Book of Mormon has great meaning. It might not be shown instantly to us, but as we consistently search, ponder, and pray (which requires effort!!! See Read, Pray, and Go to Church) we will come to see the gold dust amid all the nuggets. 

I find it interesting that The Book of Mormon came from plates that had the appearance of gold. While there were probably reasons for this dealing with availability of ores and properties of various types of metals with corrosion, I feel that the Lord was very wise in the symbolism. The words of the "Gold Bible" (as enemies of the church at one point called The Book of Mormon) is worth more than gold. They are words of celestial gold. The gold, in addition to being the physical description, also refers to the words therein. They are words of gold. It truly is truth "out of the earth" (Moses 7:62).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day" (The Book of Mormon is the Word of God, Ensign Jan 1988). The Book of Mormon holds the answers that so many in today's world are searching for.

Preach My Gospel shares a few of those questions that are answered:
"Is there a God? (Alma 22)
• What does Jesus Christ expect of me? (2 Nephi 9)
• How can a belief in Jesus Christ help me? (Alma 36)
• Is there life after death? (Alma 40)
• What is the purpose of life? (Alma 34)
• Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur? (2 Nephi 2; Alma 14:9–11; 60:13)
• Does my infant need to be baptized? (Moroni 8)
• Does God know me? (Alma 5:38, 58) 
• Does God answer prayers? (Enos 1)
• How can I find peace and joy? (Mosiah 2, 4)
• How can my family be happier and more united? (Mosiah 2)
• How can I balance my family and career? (3 Nephi 13)
• How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse? (3 Nephi 14)
• How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? (Alma 39)
• How can I avoid sin? (Helaman 5)" (Preach My Gospel pg 107).

All these questions and many more can be found by studying The Book of Mormon. In fact, it is my personal testimony that any question of the soul that any person has can be answered by any chapter in The Book of Mormon! Exclamation point. Now, that is not to say that  it'd be more direct in some chapters than others, but the Book of Mormon is one long revelation on how to get revelation. As people study The Book of Mormon in meaningful ways: not merely scanning a few verses, not merely reading so fast to get the story from the book, but through thoughtful, prayerful study of the words and their meanings and their applications, God will cause swelling within our breasts, enlarge our understanding, enlighten our minds, and cause the words to become delicious to us. These forms of revelation will open the door to us gaining greater light and knowledge from on high. The Book of Mormon truly is a springboard to our revelation.

That being said, in order to gain the revelation, we must follow the program. In the economy of heaven, we will not get anything that we do not work for and earnestly seek. Thus, the Lord provided a framework at the end of The Book of Moroni on how this would work. "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your heartsAnd when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:3-5). This is the pattern for everything we are seeking revelation on, though it is mostly used to coming to know the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. This pattern is absolutely 100% reliable! No person can do it all, and fail to find the veracity of The Book of Mormon, but if ANY one of the steps is omitted, it will fail miserably. Whether a person reads the whole Book of Mormon or only a chapter, this pattern works. Whether it's for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or any other question, this pattern works.

The first step in this all is to read The Book of Mormon. If we are searching for a question of the soul, we should read with that question in mind, looking for the answers placed before us with eyes of discernment granted from on high. If we do not read the words God already gave us, he is under no obligation to give us more. But notice: this is only the first step! There is much more that needs to be done to gain direction from God.

The second step is that we remember the mercy of the Lord "from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts" (Moroni 10:3). Remembering the mercy of the Lord gives us a deeper level of gratitude. Furthermore, as we ponder, the Lord is able to give us more --sort of like that gold dust among the nuggets again--that we can use to gain deeper understanding. It is during the pondering that the Spirit can teach most effectively. At this point, a person has received gentle promptings from the spirit, usually unrecognizable to anyone. Why? I'm sure it's because we are getting the answers from that same God that said, "But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;" (3 Nephi 13:3). So, I feel He anonymously gives us thoughts to be answers to our prayers without our knowledge. Furthermore, the Lord taught, "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8). He will not give us the overarching confirming witness until after we have come to a conclusion, because that is the economy of heaven.

After we have received those thoughts and those slight impressions from the spirit, then we must pray and ask if The Book of Mormon is not true. The wording there is so very significant. Yes, if the verse said, "if these things are true", it would mean the same thing in our thoughts, but the wording is so carefully placed. To ask if it is not true means to ask, "It's true, isn't it?" We already arrived at the answer and are merely asking the Lord to confirm it. This is very consistent with the way the Lord works. The Lord has said that those "that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record" (Ether 4:11). It isn't until after we believe that we receive the witness. Why? Because belief is an act of faith. 

To gain this knowledge we must have faith in Christ. Believing before we get a definite answer is acting on a belief, or having faith, which is a principle of action. Remember that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6). Believing first is something that we are not prone to do as humans, especially in this evidence-based, modern world we live in. It is going against our own natures to show that we have faith in Jesus Christ: that we have such a strong belief that He will answer our prayer that we will pray. Without this faith, even if we pray, we will receive no witness, for our faith had not been tried, because we had none. Those who have pursued this can all testify that they know that The Book of Mormon is of God.

Even with the faith to act and to believe before we get evidence, two more aspects are needed in this prayer. We must have a sincere heart, and we must have real intent. I intentionally separated the two because, too often, they're said in the same breath, and we come to think of these two things as the same, or close to the same, thing, when they aren't. A sincere heart is someone who really wants to know if something is true. They will return to the thoughts again and again. They will dwell on it. Remember the last time you really wanted to know something: whether it was why do bad things happen to good people or why does ice float? You didn't just sit around waiting for the answer, you worked to find it. You sincerely wanted to know  it. This is what a sincere heart means. Real intent means that you will act on the answer that you get. Whether that's getting baptized or more earnestly building up the Kingdom, you must be willing to act on the answer you get and only then the Lord will give you the answer to the question you are seeking.

There is one part of this formula that many (including missionaries as they teach investigators) tend to skip over. That part is the pondering. Without the pondering, nothing happens. The reason it tends to be skipped over is that nobody seems to really get how to ponder. Quite honestly, the easiest way to ponder is to write what you learned. Writing what you learned, whether it's while you read or afterwards, causes you to work with the information with your mind, and is a form of pondering. So, the easiest way to describe this formula is called the "Pray, Read, Write" method (at least by me). It comes from Clayton Christensen's book, "The Power of Everyday Missionaries". (I suggest reading the book, but I'll give a quick overview here). First you pray, and tell the Lord what you want to get out of reading, then you read The Book of Mormon, and write. When you get to this point, you pray again, and tell the Lord what you learned, and ask Him to let you see more. You read the same passage again and write what you learned in addition to last time (because you will find more). Then, you pray to know the truthfulness of what you have learned and what you read. It is the most effective way to get answers to the questions of the soul.

Just think of all the blessings that have come because of The Book of Mormon. Think of the wonder and majesty and awe of the power of The Book of Mormon! Think of the joy and the peace you have received from the knowledge that The Book of Mormon is true. Think of all the ways it has helped you. As you ponder these things, it will become increasingly clear that The Book of Mormon has blessed the lives of members of the church in more ways than we realize on a day to day basis. We take it for granted. In our day to day lives we treat "lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). But we can change! We can remove this condemnation from Zion! How? By remembering The Book of Mormon and flooding the earth with this holy book!

Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.” (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work." It is by no coincidence, I feel, that Elder Nelson used the term of a "wave" to describe missionary work today, and that we are to flood the earth with The Book of Mormon. God is hastening His work. The Book of Mormon is the tool he is using to orchestrate this grand harvest of the souls of men!

President Benson continued, "My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved." If every member of this church read from the Book of Mormon on a daily basis, I testify that the work of the Lord would hasten faster than it already is. We would have a greater desire to share the gospel with others. Our homes and families will be stronger as we study from the hallowed pages of this book individually and as families. The
Kingdom of God's growth is not limited like it was in previous dispensations. No, today the Kingdom of God is ONLY limited by the effort of the members in the work of Salvation and our attitude, individually and as a church, towards The Book of Mormon. Every member should hand out at least one copy of The Book of Mormon each month. If we truly believe that we can flood this earth with The Book of Mormon, we should all have copies TO hand out, and the Lord will bless us with the opportunities. This I know independent of anyone else. I close this post with the words of President Benson, as you read, think of ways that YOU can personally assist in flooding the earth with The Book of Mormon.

I challenge our mission leaders to show their missionaries how to challenge their contacts to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Missionaries need to know how to use the Book of Mormon to arouse mankind’s interest in studying it, and they need to show how it answers the great questions of the soul. Missionaries need to read with those they teach various passages from the Book of Mormon on gospel subjects.

I challenge our Church writers, teachers, and leaders to tell us more Book of Mormon conversion stories that will strengthen our faith and prepare great missionaries. Show us how to effectively use it as a missionary tool, and let us know how it leads us to Christ and answers our personal problems and those of the world.
I challenge those who are in business and other professions to see that there are copies of the Book of Mormon in their reception rooms.
I challenge owners of cassette players to play Book of Mormon cassettes from time to time and to listen to them at home and while walking, jogging, or driving.
I challenge the homes of Israel to display on their walls great quotations and scenes from the Book of Mormon.
I challenge all of us to prayerfully consider steps that we can personally take to bring this new witness for Christ more fully into our own lives and into a world that so desperately needs it.
I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.
I have a vision of home teachers and visiting teachers, ward and branch officers, and stake and mission leaders counseling our people out of the most correct of any book on earth—the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.
I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Read, Pray, and Go to Church

We're Missing the Mark

Quite often in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we hear the "seminary answers" or "Sunday School answers" of read your scriptures, pray, and go to church. I have been pondering on why we always hear those answers. The answer usually received as to why these are brought up is because that's all we need: that the gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful. While this answer seems good, I feel that it misses the mark.

Don't take that the wrong way! I'm not saying that we can cease to study the scriptures (particularly The Book of Mormon), halt communication with our Father in Heaven, nor discontinue attendance at our Church meetings. What I am saying is that those are just the basics. Every person needs to start with those three things to be spiritually alive. Full-time Missionaries today refer to these three acts as "CPR" which stands for "Church, Prayer, and Reading". It is good to be kept alive by CPR, and there are times where CPR is the only thing that can keep us alive. However, it is not the end, but a beginning.

In the fourth chapter of Ether, the Savior beckons, "Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief" (Ether 4:13). We can not become complacent to only do the minimum of what the Lord requires of us. If we only read, pray, and go to church, we will not have the knowledge of "the greater things". 

Not only should we be reading the scriptures, but we should be studying them daily. Only through the depth of studying, the searching, the pondering, and the prayers involved in that act, will we ever come to receive personal revelation about what the Lord wants for us to glean from the scriptures. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Salvation cannot come without revelation" (History of the Church, 3:389–90). And unless we are actively asking, seeking, and knocking, we shall not receive, find, nor have the door of revelation opened to us. Also, we should earnestly seek after this revelation. The scriptures and the words of the living prophets are not enough to survive in today's world. We should never be satisfied with the amount of the word of God already received."Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" (2 Nephi 28:29). Rather we should seek after revelation through the scriptures, particularly The Book of Mormon, every time we read, which should be on a daily basis. For, "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal" (Doctrine & Covenants 42:61). The words of God shall never cease. 

Not only should we be praying, but we should seek earnestly for a conversation with our Heavenly Father. Too often, many of us have prayers like: "Father in Heaven. I thank thee for this day. I thank thee for my many blessings. I thank thee for my home. I ask thee to bless the prophet, the apostles, the general authorities, the missionaries, and all my family. I ask thee to bless me to get a good night sleep tonight. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." and then hop into bed without giving a thought to what we actually said or did. Too often our prayers become like the ones Jesus condemned at the Sermon on the Mount: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7, 3 Nephi 13:7). Real, sincere prayer takes work. Real, sincere "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (Bible Dictionary, Prayer). Merely throwing out words to appease some being who commanded us to pray is an act of hypocrisy, for he wants us to pray in the way the Bible Dictionary just taught us, not the vain, repetitious, childish "prayer" we so often fall back on. Yes, there is a pattern to prayer, and, yes, we should use it, and teach our children how to pray, but we must always remember what prayer truly is: speaking with our Father. We are not speaking at Him or to Him, we are speaking with Him. We must give Him time to respond through the Holy Ghost.

Not only should we go to church weekly, but we should be seeking the Lord's guidance, and in an attitude that shows our feelings towards the renewal of all our covenants. It is always possible to be at church without being in church. It is always possible to active in the church without being active at church. Being at church or being active in the church merely mean that you are attending your meetings -- faithfully, perhaps--but that's it. All you are doing is showing your face in the meetings you're supposed to be attending.  Being in church and being active at church require us to do more. They require us to faithfully participate in worshiping our Father, and deeply contemplating the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Gospel. Being in church requires us to take seriously our covenants to "take upon [us] the name of [Jesus Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given" us (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). This church never was, is not, and never will be a Sunday-only religion. The point of Sunday worship is to partake of the sacrament (to renew our covenants), and to have a place where we can be "unspotted from the world, [by going] to the house of prayer and [offering] up [our] sacraments upon [the Lord's] holy day;" (Doctrine & Covenants 59:9). It provides a "gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes...for a refuge from the storm" of the world, a place in which we can receive personal guidance from on high for how we personally can better live our covenants (Doctrine & Covenants 115:6).  Revelation comes through church attendance.

In reality, the Lord requires of us to obtain revelation from Him: personal revelation from Him directly to us. He gives us the Scriptures, Prayers, and opportunities to attend Church to provide opportunities for us to "receive revelation upon revelation" (Doctrine & Covenants 42:61). There will be those who take those opportunities, and will progress. Others will not take those opportunities and will be damned, meaning to hindered from the ability to progress to become more like our Father in Heaven for "Salvation cannot come without revelation" (History of the Church, 3:389–90). 

Reach up and hear the words that God has for you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reporting My Mission

I just reported my mission today. It was so weird! Throughout my mission, I didn't think the day was gonna be all that soon. I loved my mission, and, honestly, didn't want it to end, so today is a very interesting day with mixed feelings. I know that I served every day with my whole soul ("And the spirit and the body are the soul of man." Doctrine and Covenants 88:15). 

It was honestly a time with some of my toughest times. I'm sure nobody but the Lord and me know exactly what happened; and I'm sure he's the only one who knows why it happened. Some days and weeks, my all was very, very limited. I was getting physically, mentally, and emotionally worn down. I am grateful for loving people placed in my path to help out. There are some missionaries that if it wasn't for them, I would have cracked a lot earlier. There were multiple occasions that I received a letter that buoyed me up. I'm sure if I had every miracle written down in which my life or sanity had been saved, it would go on for many pages, but I shall not go into that.

My mission was ultimately a refiner's fire. I learned more about the Lord and His mercies in 15 months than I had in the previous nineteen years. I learned more fully the meaning of The Plan of Happiness. I learned more about myself than I had ever before. It is the greatest experience ever! I would not trade it for anything the world has to offer.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marriage Isn't For You

Stop it with the rebuttals!

Most everyone in the Facebook, Twitter, and iEverything world has probably by now seen "Marriage Isn't For You" by Seth Adam Smith. It seems that with this post, everyone has a rebuttal about how it is wrong: from saying marriage isn't about other people, but about glorifying God to the post causing marriage problems in and of itself, because it places all the responsibility on one person's shoulders. Quite honestly,
with these rebuttals, I feel that President Uchtdorf has a wonderful quote: "Stop it!"

All these rebuttals seem to not even look at the original premise of the post! Today's world is full of people who seem to feel that marriage is something that you just enter into for your own sexual and emotional enjoyment, and if it ceases to provide either of those, you can move on. "In the view of modern society, marriage has gone from a sacrament, to a commitment, to a convenience" (Dr. William J. Bennett).

Because of that view of marriage, we have seen divorce rates soar and the family attacked from every hand. If every person took the advice to give more than they receive from their marriage, I am confident that the divorce rates would plummet, and people would actually come to taste the sweetness that comes with the age of the love.

When Jesus Christ was on the earth, he taught that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Marriage is all about laying down our life: our thoughts, our desires, our appetites for the one who should be our best friend: our spouse. If every person placed their spouse's needs ahead of their own, nobody would fall behind. People seem to fail to realize that Seth is talking to both men and women! If both the husband and the wife place each other's interests first, the world would change, and many more marriages would last!

So, really, stop making rebuttals, and start making improvements.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What is Liberty?

Many in today's world seek for Freedom and Liberty, but those two terms are really vague. What exactly does it mean to be free or liberated?

Some might say that it means to be unaffected by any outside influences (such as the law, family, or standards). Others decree that liberty is to have no intervention on any behavior, whether moral or otherwise. Might I suggest another definition.

Throughout The Book of Mormon, we read the promise, "inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper" (1 Nephi 2:20, Alma 36:1, 2 Nephi 2:9, Alma 37:13, Jarom 1:9 among others).  This promise was worded slightly different to the people of Jared: "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written" (Ether 2:12).  

Liberty means to be free from bondage and from captivity. Relatively few of us will ever be subjected to physical bondage, though that does still happen in this world. No, for most of us, there is a much greater threat to put us into bondage: sin. The interesting part of this particular bondage is we can choose whether we're subjected to it. "Wherefore, men are choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil;" (2 Nephi 2:27). 

Through "the great Mediator of all men", Jesus Christ, we are able to choose liberty for ourselves. It does take conscious effort to "serve the God of the land". We must consciously and constantly be choosing the right way. We must become disciples of Christ in order to have everlasting liberty: both here and in the world to come. And becoming a disciple requires discipline. It requires us "“to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,” not just some of the time, in a few places, or when our team has a big lead" (Jeffrey R Holland, "Israel, Israel God is Calling").

We are to love God and all men! How do we do that? That's the hard part. Jesus taught, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Our first responsibility is to keep the commandments of God, and then have compassion upon all the children of men.  We must stand up for laws on moral issues, and "not offend him who is your lawgiver" (Doctrine & Covenants 64:13). For we, then, are serving Him, and he will bless us with freedom from bondage individually, which will lead to collective liberty. For he said, "I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed" (Doctrine & Covenants 98:8).

So, what exactly is liberty? Liberty is obedience to God's commandments.