Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"This is the Spirit of Revelation" -Doctrine & Covenants 8:3

Sometimes, I think of Moses in the hours before the Egyptians came, standing at the coasts of the Red Sea, overlooking it. Then, looking around the camp of Israel, seeing the children playing, and the adults rejoicing in their newfound freedom. When off in the distance, the rumble of chariots is heard. Panic sweeps across the camp, and everyone looks to Moses to figure out what to do.

Then the thought returns to him from Sinai a little earlier, "thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God" (Moses 1:25). He wonders why the thought came to him. It seemed so weird. Then, he looked over the Red Sea, and a gentle nudge led him towards it. As he starts walking towards it, the people follow, getting a little weirded out by what he was doing.

The chariots get closer, and Moses's heart starts beating a little faster. "I don't know what I'm doing! What do I need to do????" Then, he takes a breath, as the children of Israel start panicing all around him. A thought comes into his mind, it doesn't make any sense, but it feels right. He stretched his hand over the edge of the water, and it parted and the ground was even dry. Israel walked through, while Egypt perished. 

Sometimes we receive strange revelations that make no sense. We often don't follow those promptings, and lose right to gain more. When we do listen to the the still small voice in our minds and our hearts, we come to understand that miracles do happen as we follow the path that leads to them.

Even those miracles which are mighty and earth shattering, often come from the small and simple things. If you want your life to change, ask for the miracle, then trust in God and his appointed servants, following the still, small voice, and you will see miracles.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Obedience of Shepherds

Shepherds sat in the fields, watching their flocks by night. They knew their sheep, and wouldn't let anything in the Judean wilderness come after them. I'm sure too, that they were worn out, after having watched them all day to begin with.

Were they sitting down for a rest or were they standing to make sure that nothing came after them? I'm sure they were the latter: just focusing on what they needed to do, not caring whether that night was the night the Messiah would come. Then, in this sleep-deprived state, these righteous men were given an opporunity that had been closed for quite some time: angels came to them, and revealed to them that the Christ had been born.

When the angels left, did they go about doing their daily work they had been so busy doing before? No. They said, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us", and they did it (Luke 2:15). 

Might there have been others who saw angels and received revelations and promptings about the Babe of Bethlehem? There undoubtedly were: the wise men saw it. So why were the wise men and the shepherds the ones who saw the Christ child and knew who he was? Because these two groups obeyed the revelation they had received. 

One group received it by ministering of angels. The other by careful study of the gospel by the spirit. But both obeyed. As each of us obey the revelations we receive, we will come unto Christ, and will see Him as He truly is.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

If Men Come Unto Me

Ether 12:27 reads: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

This scripture is one of the most beloved in the whole Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As people have talked about it, they tend to put the focus on the last line of "weak things [becoming] strong". However, in that focus, I feel we miss the invaluable lesson taught in the first line: "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness."

To me, that sounds like a promise. If we come unto Christ, we will begin to see our weaknesses. That can be very uncomfortable at times. We dislike seeing our imperfections, we want to believe that we are good people: nobody wants to believe they are a bad person. And most of us are good people, so why do we have to keep seeing more and more of our weaknesses? Wouldn't it be fine for us to just get to be perfect and then stay there?

The Lord answers that question in the very next sentence: "I give unto men weakness that they may be humble". I think to my life. I have some very hard times where I can barely handle all that is going on in my life: I get depressed, and plenty of anxiety attacks, so I just shut down for a few weeks, but I can kind of press through it all. Without these weaknesses that come with mortality, I might start to believe that I no longer need God, regardless of how hard I try. Think for a moment, when do you pray harder: days of sunshine or of rain? As a general rule, we rely on His infinte power when our finite capacity has been drained.

Truly, His "grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." When we rely on His power to make it through our days of weakness, we can look back on it and see our growth. Our valleys can make us bitter that we are in the shadows of the mountains, or can make us better and more grateful for each of the mountains we have come out on top of. Our faith is what brings us to the top of each one: if we did not exercise our faith, we would walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and would despair, but our faith in Christ allows us to not fear until we make it to the mountain. Truly the weak things in our lives can be made strong, but it cannot happen unless we see our weaknesses as we come unto Christ.

If you see more and more of your weaknesses, recognize that you are not becoming more distant from Christ, but you are coming unto Him!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Miracle

Often, the greatest miracles happen in small, obscure ways, but yield that which is great. The Savior paid for your sins, and mine in a small garden, in a backwater province of the Roman Empire, and most every baby is born without fanfare whether the baby later becomes President, Prophet, or pharmacist.

It all began when a young man, crippled from a surgery he'd received, in the frontier town of Palmyra, New York began wondering about the welfare of his soul. Joseph Smith began to search the Bible, and came across James 1:5 "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 determined to do as James directed, and went into a grove of trees to ask God. He knelt down, not knowing the significance of his prayer.

He described his experience, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—“This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”" (Testimony of the Prophet). He walked away as a seer and a special witness of Jesus Christ, knowing that he was to be the instrument through whom the Lord would once again reestablish His kingdom.

Three long years passed, when Joseph was pleading for forgiveness, and an angel named Moroni came to him, with a message that a book was to come forth by his hands, containing the fulness of the everlasting gospel, to gather in the elect of the Lord, that His promises might be fulfilled. The next several years were spent working on the book. 

Palmyra, New York is not a big place at all. Even today, there is a little over 3500 people living there. Nobody should have even been in the printing business there: it was a business doomed to fail. E.B. Grandin started the business anyways, but remained in the business for about 2.5 years. Furthermore, he was a little wary about printing the book, because it was a risky venture. Paper and presses were next to impossible to find on the frontier in those days, but Palmyra happened to have the Erie Canal flowing through it, making access to those things simpler. The prophet, the paper, the press, and the printer were all in Palmyra at the same time.

5000 copies were printed, and many people began to read, and feel of the spirit of the Book, including Parley P Pratt and Ziba Peterson, both of whom went on a mission to the Lamanites, and along the way found many of the Lord's elect in Ohio, including Sidney Rigdon. More were gathered from Canada, and other regions in the northern United States, and they went to settle Missouri.

In 1836, the saints erected a Temple unto the Most High God for the first time since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. Persecution and apostasy drove the saints from Ohio, and again from Missouri. They settled in a swamp where nobody would dream of building a city, but rise it did until Nauvoo became larger than Chicago. Missionaries were sent forth from that Beautiful City, spreading across "England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, where, in the year 1840, a few of our missionaries were sent, and over five thousand joined the Standard of Truth; there are numbers now joining in every land...in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done" (The Wentworth Letter).

From out of the swamp, rose a magnificent temple to the God of Israel, where the ordinances necessary for life and salvation were once again restored to man. Joseph Smith was arrested on false charges. He and a few others were brought to Carthage Jail. When they were about to be acquitted, pistol and ball took the Prophet's and his brother Hyrum's lives, when a mob ransacked the place. In a powerful tribute to the Prophet, John Taylor wrote, "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. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood" (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3).

From there, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continued, now under the leadership of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They traveled west across the plains, and settled the Wasatch Front. Temples soon began to rise there, and missionaries were sent out, and gathering has exploded. Countless millions have come to a knowledge of the fulness of the gospel of the Lamb of God, and millions of the deceased have been redeemed from their prison. Indeed, "God has not ceased to be a God of miracles" (Mormon 9:15), and "God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;" (Doctrine & Covenants 20:11).

With so many fruits, how can anyone doubt: it is a miracle! From a simple prayer, all this has come. This is the Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in the Latter-days. Joseph did not establish it: angels came to the earth to establish it, God himself came to the earth to establish it: "And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope! Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!" (Doctrine & Covenants 128:20-22).

Most will not see this as a miracle, because it is so simple, but so was the prayer that started it all, so was the glorious resurrection, so was the birth of the Savior. The Restoration is simple, but it is a miracle.



Friday, October 31, 2014

Glad Tidings from Cumorah! (Doctrine & Covenants 128:20)

I often wonder, when the battle had ended, and Moroni was sitting in solitude overlooking the destruction which had beheld his people, what was going through his mind? While the people were wicked, I'm sure he had some friends among them, who he wished would simply come unto Christ. I'm sure more than a few tears were shed that day.

Was he sitting on the bluffs, with the plates in his hands thinking, what can I put into this record to help others avoid this? Could the words of Isaiah have been going through his mind: "And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust...And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed" (Isaiah 29:4,11)? Would he have known that the book he was writing is the same one? Might he have been praying with all of his might to see how the book would affect tens of millions of people? In the battle at Cumorah, would he ever have dreamed that Cumorah would be a place causing glad rejoicing among both the living and the dead?

Fast forward about 1400 years. A young man was lost and confused as to what direction he should go in regards to the welfare of his soul. He became convicted of his sins, and went to ask a question of the Lord, following the instruction of James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5). A simple boy went out into a grove of trees, to a place he had chosen ahead of time, after much contemplation of what he should do. He knelt down to ask the question, and it was answered in the most miraculous of ways. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the boy, and he instantly became a special witness of the Lord, was anointed to be a seer, and told that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be restored through him among many other things. And then, it was done. The heavens had opened once more!

Put yourself in Joseph's shoes for a moment here. You saw and felt and were enveloped in the presence of deity for a short time, and instantly, you knew more than the whole of the Christian world combined did about the nature of God and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as a 14 year old boy. Honestly, how would you feel? How would it instantly change you?

For three long years, it seemed that the heavens were closed up once more. Joseph was unsure of exactly how to proceed. I'm sure there were times when he wondered if it might have been a dream. I'm sure many people kept pestering him to forget it all, but his family, particularly his mother, probably put arms around him, and told him not to doubt what he had received. During this time, I am sure also that he began noticing his sins more. I'm sure the adversary was trying to make every effort to stop him from praying again. Finally, one night, he overcame those doubts and fears, and knelt down to ask for forgiveness, knowing that he could receive a manifestation that he would understand was a sign of forgiveness.

As he prayed, the room grew brighter and brighter, without waking up any of his siblings. In the midst of that light, a man suddenly appears, who reveals himself as Moroni, and told him that the time had come for the Gospel to be restored. From Joseph's eyes, he finally felt right again with the Lord amid all the weaknesses he saw in himself. From Moroni's eyes, the record he had spent 1800 years protecting in both mortality and as an angel was finally going to come forth: the Lamanites would hear the covenants of the Lord again, and the gathering of Israel would commence once more! Maybe the battle at Cumorah was not the end! Maybe glad tidings could pour from Cumorah!

Over the next several years, the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. That was followed by many great and marvelous wonders to equal the miracles of the days of old. "Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept;upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!" (Doctrine & Covenants 128:20-21).

Because the Book of Mormon came forth, "the ten thousands of Ephraim, and...the thousands of Manasseh" have come to push together the outcasts of Israel unto Zion (Deuteronomy 33:17). Because the Book of Mormon came forth, the priesthood was restored to the earth. Because the Book of Mormon came forth, the sealing power was restored.  Because the Book of Mormon came forth, thousands left their homes and settled in a barren wasteland, and made it a place of temples being raised to the Most High! Who would have thought that a book printed in an obscure New York frontier township would have made such a big ripple in the world?

Often in our lives, we will feel like we have our hardest struggles. We may even see everything we have become lost in our Cumorahs. However, glad tidings can come of it! The restoration came not only to fulfill the words of the holy prophets, but to give  you a cause to go forth in, and "shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing" (Doctrine & Covenants 128:22).

Who would have thought that a simple book could change millions of lives? God did. And those millions can now testify that it did. Let it change your life!

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Stand by my Servant Joseph"

Imagine for a minute: you live in a fairly religious community, there seems to be more denominations than there are people. Your family was kind of going to one of the churches, but when your grandfather heard that your father was going to a church, he came over three hundred miles just to throw "The Age of Reason" at your father's face, so your father decided to stop going to church.

You, yourself, are not too sure if the church you are going to is the right one. The preachers all around are preaching sermons like"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", which states things like "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours." Obviously, your standing with God would be on your mind, you would want to know if you were doing alright. Such was the case that Joseph Smith was going through as he was seeking for greater light on the subject of religion.

It was in this period of anxiety and uneasiness that the young man went to "their several meetings as often as occasion would permit...[He] became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect" (Joseph Smith - History 1:8). However, before up and joining them, he felt that he should search from the Bible so he could find which church was the one that God wanted him to go to. Through his studies, he was led to ask of God his standing with God and which church he should join, so he went out to a grove of trees, having faith that God would answer his prayer.

A simple boy asked a simple question, and the God of heaven used that question to usher in the labors of the last days. "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith - History 1:15-16). Because a question was asked, Joseph listened to the Savior of the World. Because a question was asked, angels came to visit the earth. Because a question was asked, the priesthood was restored. Because a question was asked, nearly 900 pages of scripture were revealed. Because a question was asked, the ordinances of life and salvation were restored in their fullness to the earth. Because a question was asked, the doctrine of repentance was restored, and through that doctrine Joseph and millions of others have tasted of the sweetness of divine forgiveness.

However, even with such miracles and so much good wrought by the Almighty God by the Mighty Prophet of the Restoration, it was revealed, from a very early time, that Joseph's "name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues" (Joseph Smith - History 1:33). The attacks began from the moment he spoke of his experience in the grove, and have not ceased since. Some attacks are true, most are false. He was a man with faults, just as you and I, but he was and is a Prophet of the Most High, and the Lord commands us: "Stand by my Servant Joseph" (Doctrine & Covenants 6:18).

In the coming days and years, the attacks against Joseph will not diminish, but shall increase in frequency and intensity. Regardless of that, our testimonies need not be shaken. Regardless the number of demons who revile against the "choice seer", he remains just that: the "choice seer" (2 Nephi 3:6). Though earth and hell revile against him, he stands as the head of the last dispensation, declaring his witness of the Savior of the World even unto the end of his life. Truly, Joseph Smith "was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ" (Doctrine & Covenants 20:2).

"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. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood;" (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3). Any person who seeks to discredit the Prophet must crawl around all the mighty miracles performed by his hands. They were far beyond the capabilities of the most educated preachers of his day, let alone an obscure farm boy who walked with a limp in western New York. All but few of the preachers of his day have faded out of memory, yet Joseph Smith's name sounds in every land and every tongue across this world.

Truly, the days are here that we must "Stand by...Joseph" (Doctrine & Covenants 6:18). Let your testimony sound loud and clear to all who will hear the message of the restoration. Though men revile him, I sing with every fiber of my being:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Praise to his mem'ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav'n while the earth lauds his fame.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.

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.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

We Talk of Christ

Scripture study is one of the more difficult commandments for the Latter-day Saints to keep, not because it's particularly difficult, but because it can be tedious, boring, or sometimes too easy to do for us to put the importance it deserves in our life.

I'll admit, sometimes the passages we read seem as if they have no relation to us. I mean, 2 Nephi 2, we can perfectly see how the Creation of the Earth, the Fall of Adam, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ relate to all of us. On the other hand, how does the feud between Pahoran, Pacumeni, and Paanchi in Helaman 1 actually affect us?

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26) The whole of the scriptures will come to life if we look for Christ in the story or passage. If you seek for such, he will be found.

In Helaman 1, Moronihah ends up fighting the secret band until Zarahemla was reclaimed by the Nephites again. So it is with the Savior, He will fight your battles for you until you have been fully reclaimed. 

No matter the story, the same thing will happen: you can find Christ in any passage. As you look for Christ, the scriptures will come alive. It make take some effort to see: the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize the Savior immediately, but when they did, their sorrow and confusion, turned into great rejoicing. 

He is everywhere in the scriptures. "Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ." (Jacob 7:11). As you read, find Him.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Have Ransomed Even Thee

About a month and a half ago, school was starting here at Utah State. With the advent of the school year also came the starting of new wards, and the logistical problems associated with starting a new ward. I got there early to help set up the sacrament; however, when I got there, the bishopric had already set everything up as it worked for them in the previous year, but they asked if I would bless the sacrament.

I gladly accepted the invitation. When the sacrament was passed, the passing of the bread went smoothly with the three trays, but the water ran out a few cups short. The one elder passing the sacrament who was closest to the preparation room stepped in, and added in a row of cups, and I knelt and blessed the water for "all those who would drink of it". I watched as that tray allowed another three people in the congregation and three men passing the sacrament the opportunity to renew their covenants.

Unlike the sacrament that day, our redemption does not have to be done again. The Savior took care of it all in Gethsemane: ALL OF IT.

Often we put boundaries on the Infinite Atonement: often it covers everything that everyone has done, except ourselves. While it might not be in these exact words, individually, we often think, "God has ransomed every one of His children, except me." We put bounds on the power of God, who has no bounds. In one of my favorite hymns, "Reverently and Meekly Now" (which is written from the Savior's point of view), words are sung that I'm sure the Savior is saying to each one of us: "I have ransomed even thee" (emphasis added).

I love the way that the poet put it. If it was just "I have ransomed thee", many of us would think that it was in general terms, at least subconsciously. By adding the simple word "even" in the line, it changed the feel of the line to "I did not leave you out of my atonement".

It does not end there, but also, like we take the sacrament on a weekly basis, we do not just reap the fruits of the atonement on a one time basis. We were all ransomed by the Savior: even the one who feels like they've messed up too many times; even the person who can not seem to overcome that one addiction; even the one who got worthy and fell again after months and years of remaining pure; even the one who feels like they saw the blood of Christ run out on everyone but themselves. I testify that the blood of Christ has not run out on anyone. It is still available to ransom even thee.

That doesn't mean we have no responsibility. In the closing lines of the hymn, we sing, "And be constant unto me, That thy Savior I may be." He wants to save and ransom even thee, and he asks that we repent and come unto Him that He may heal us. I invite you to accept His invitation, and taste of the joy of the redemption.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rosh Hashanah

It is early in the morning, when the sound of the shofar echoes down the mountains of Israel. For generations, Rosh Hashanah marked a time of new beginnings for the children of Israel.


In 1827, Rosh Hashanah fell on September 22 (Rosh Hashanah dates). Interestingly enough, September 22, 1827 is when the Book of Mormon came forth. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown" (Isaiah 27:13). The trumpet that was blown on this particular Rosh Hashanah was not to be heard in Jerusalem, nor was it to be heard in Egypt, but it was to be heard throughout the world. 


This time, the shofar that would be sounded was the glad tidings of the everlasting gospel found in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. On this Rosh Hashana, the Jews didn't just enter a new year, the world entered a new dispensation. The world could start anew: the "famine in the land...of hearing the words of the Lord" was over (Amos 8:11). 

Those who have read the Book of Mormon, for a moment think. Imagine what you would be like if you did not know the stories of Nephi, Moroni, or Abinadi. Where would you be without Alma's sermon on faith? Would you have less courage to face the world without having the story of Nephi and Lehi in prison? Would less love fill your heart without the image of the Savior blessing the children as they were surrounded in a ring of fire?

For those who have not read the Book of Mormon yet, I invite you to read it, and come to experience the joy that millions have felt as they have read the words of the Lord sent forth in these latter days to gather scattered Israel back to the covenants of the Lord. 

Regardless of whether you've read it once, hundreds of times, or never, the Book of Mormon is the shofar calling out for all men everywhere to repent, and come unto Christ, and have your own personal Rosh Hashanah, your own new beginning. For each time you read from this book of holy writ, prophets and angels speak from the dust, inviting you to repent and start fresh.

Blow the shofar, and let the Rosh Hashanah of the final dispensation change you. It does not sound down the mountains of Israel, but across the whole world. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Culturally, we have decided that the song "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is a Christmas song. I do not like that: the message of the song is wonderful for any time of the year.

Emmanuel means "God with Us", and, in today's world, who wouldn't like God to be with them? When the song sings of Israel, we should always remember that our God is a personal God. We are each of the House of Israel, most often by blood. The song is about you!

How often do we feel alone in this world? How often do we feel like God has forgotten us? How often do we feel ensnared and captivated by the woes of mortality?
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
We wait upon the Lord to come to us, desiring that our exile be removed from us. We've all had our dark days, and several have had dark weeks, months, and years. All we want is to be restored to the light.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save,
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! EmmanuelShall come to thee, O Israel! 
Some have foes of addiction, some have foes of depression, some have foes of destroyed families, and we all have foes of sin. We want Christ, the rod of Jesse's stem, to deliver us from them, and save us from both physical death and spiritual death.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times did give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! EmmanuelShall come to thee, O Israel! 

We desire the Glory of the Lord of might to come to us, as we strive to live His laws. We desire to know Him as they did in days of old.

However, throughout the song, the refrain is always the same: "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!" We don't have to feel like we are trapped: the Savior suffered for you in Gethsemane, and while healing processes might take months and years, you can be healed. He took upon Himself each thorn you have come upon you in life thousands of years ago. He is right by your side each step of the way, even if you don't see Him.


Emmanuel hath ransomed thee, O Israel.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Ye cannot behold"

In just about 3 weeks, I will have been home from my mission for a year, having received a medical release. Many people talk about the mission being the best two years of your life, and some say, no, it's the best two years for your life. I contest that, at least for me. I have learned so much in this past year in subtle, yet profound ways.

I knew that God loved His children. I knew that I was His son. However, that connection really didn't sink into my heart. I knew that He loved you, but I didn't know that He loved ME. When I came home, I was confused: I loved serving the Lord, I loved Washington. In fact, there was nothing I didn't love about my mission.

It was a difficult time to get on that plane. When I got home, I met Elder Wilcox and Elder Jacobson. I quickly became really good friends with both of them. I did as much as I could with them, and was having a blast, but in the back of my mind, I wondered if I had made a mistake and was supposed to be going back, though I knew I would just be put back in the same boat, struggling with depression in the field if I did return. 

It was at this moment that I went to the stake center with these elders to watch conference. I was praying that I might figure out if I was alright, and then Elder Holland got up, and gave his talk Like a Broken Vessel. I was bawling through the whole talk. The Elders literally threw their arms around me.

I returned to school in January, and had a great ward. Instantly made friends with several of the people in the ward. I remember very clearly one day when I had a panic attack on my floor, outside of my room, and Joey noticed. All the ward members on the floor rallied around me to make sure that I was doing alright. It was the most amazing feeling.

I made 2 friends in particular, Jacob and Brian. Meeting them was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. As my panic attacks increased, so did their reaching out for me. I remember on the severest panic attack I've had since my mission, I honestly don't remember what happened. I remember being in the cafeteria at school for wing night at 9:00, and the next thing I remember, I got a water bottle from my room, I remember pouring the water on my head. The very next thing I remember seeing was Jacob more scared than I had ever seen him before, grabbing my shoulder. That brought me back to reality, but that whole time was 90 minutes.

Time progressed, and it became time to pick where I'd be living this school year. I had a strong feeling to go to Richards hall. I did not know why, but I signed up for Room 118 of Richards. Several months later, when receiving the email, it said that one of my roommates was Alex, a kid I was friends with from freshman year, and we'd emailed each other during the missions (especially since I was serving in his home mission).

Then I came to church on the very first Sunday when people started moving in. I played the organ, and so was scanning the congregation for people who might have moved back into the stake. I was only able to pick out a handful of people, but not the one in particular I had in mind to find. I consigned myself to the fact that he was probably living off campus.

Then we broke up into wards, and President Simmons said, "Greaves Hall and Richards Hall are combined into the 4th Ward". Which was strange, as Richards had always been its own ward; however, being that it was about the size of a branch last year, the boundary change made sense. Then walking in late to the meeting, because he thought church was at 1:00, came in my good friend Sam. 3 of us from my freshman ward all ended up in the same ward.

It was by no coincidence. God is mindful of our needs, and is as surely putting people we need in our lives, as well as people who need us in their lives, into each others' lives, that we all can grow, learn, and ultimately progress towards eternal life. I don't know how my life is going to turn out, but I remember one of my favorite scriptures:

"Ye cannot behold with your natural eyesfor the present time,the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation." (Doctrine & Covenants 58:3)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Good Shepherd

Inside the Bountiful Temple's atrium, there is a painting of the Savior carrying a sheep out in the Mountains. It is instantly recognizable as the parable of the Good Shepherd.

I looked at the painting really carefully while waiting for a friend to get dressed to leave the temple. I began to think of all the times I was a Good Shepherd, and all the times that I was the sheep, and there have been many times of both of those situations.

I began to notice that the Savior's staff and feet all pointed towards you seemingly because of the way the painting was done. However, no matter what way He seemed to be walking, it always was towards the Temple.

Good shepherds are not satisfied when the sheep enters the church through baptism, or returns to church and their covenants. Good shepherds know that the best place for the sheep to be is in the Celestial Kingdom, so they will always invite the sheep to continue in righteousness until they arrive at the Temple and are sealed by the authority of the holy priesthood to be in an eternal family forever.

Everything we do in the church points to the ordinances in the House of the Lord, and every ordinance in the House of the Lord points back to the Atoning Sacrifice of the Son of God. As we bring people to the fulness of the Everlasting Gospel found in the Temple, we also bring ourselves to the Temple, and redeem our dead.

How beautiful thy temples, Lord!
Each one a sacred shrine,
Where faithful Saints, with one accord,
Engage in work divine.
How beautiful some aid to give
To dear ones we call dead,
But who indeed as spirits live;
They've only gone ahead.

How beautiful thy message, Lord,
The gospel, pure and true,
In these our days to earth restored
And taught to men anew.
How beautiful its faith and hope;
All mankind it would save,
Including in its aim and scope
The souls beyond the grave.

How beautiful thy promise, Lord,
That we may grow in truth,
And live, exalted by thy word,
In endless, glorious youth.
With loved ones sealed in holiness
By sacred temple rites,
Worlds without end we may progress
From heights to greater heights.

The Good Shepherd wants all His sheep who before the world confessed Him their God, all who have lived, or will live. Let us be true undershepherds, and bring all we can of the living and the dead into the House of God.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Intimate Atonement

Often, when speaking of the Atonement, we focus on its majesty, breadth, and power. Rightfully so, without it, existence would cease. However, I feel we often forget to talk about the intimacy of the Atonement. For the infinite atonement is also the intimate atonement.


Indeed, there was one atoning sacrifice for all, but He did it all for the one. Every pain, every fear, every insecurity you have ever faced or ever will face, He faced for you and suffered for that. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15). 

Throughout the Savior's ministry, premortal, mortal, and postmortal, He ministered to the one. He taught the one. He loved the one. He had compassion on the one. So how did he atone?

Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-19:
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
I find the suffering in spirit to be a rather interesting statement. So much emphasis is placed on His physical suffering, which makes sense: it was a lot of suffering. However, I've come to find, at least for me, mental and emotional pain hurts even more than any physical pain I've experienced. He suffered for that.

He knows the exact pain felt by the man dealing with depression, as the woman dealing with childbirth, as the couple unable to have children. He's been through it all. He not only walked through hell, but he has walked through your hell. He not only defeated the devil, but he defeated your devil.

Every thorn faced by you or me,
Was upon the head of our King on the tree.


He walked with your hand in His. He loves you, He desires your salvation, He is your Savior. He ever waits for you to fully repent of all your sins, and come unto Him, that through His grace, we may all be perfect in Christ, through His Intimate Atonement. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Power of Writing

One of the most overlooked aspects of all of scripture is that of writing. In the Book of Mormon alone, there is 249 references to "write" in any of its many forms.

Why is there such a focus on writing? "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God;" (2 Nephi 25:23) is obviously a big reason, but there is more than just that.

When you write down the promptings you receive, you show the Lord that His words are of great worth to you, and that you want to receive more. These writings are then staying around for you to be able to look back on the many wonderful things you had learned in previous days, weeks, and months. 

Writing down the promptings also makes you more keenly aware of what the spirit is telling you. It allows you to pick out principles and doctrines from the stories found in the scriptures. No person can truly study from the scriptures without utilizing a way to write down what is learned from the reading.


There are as many ways to write down the promptings from the scriptures as there are types of people. I have three ways that I do so.

First, I have paper right by me as I study from my scriptures. Each time something stands out to me, I write down whatever it was in my own words. Oftentimes, as I do so, I come to learn more, because as I write down, I am pondering, and it is in the pondering that revelation comes.

Second, when I am done reading, I have a group of friends who I text one of the things I learned. Usually, it's short, just one or two text message lengths, but that keeps the pondering going, and I email myself the texts at the end of the month, and keep in a Google Document, so I could access it anywhere. This also helps others come to understand the doctrines of the Kingdom more fully, and helps keep the observation of the commandment "that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom" (Doctrine & Covenants 88:77). When you keep commandments, that opens your mind to obtain more light and truth, and, thus, greater knowledge and faith.

If some subject keeps pressing upon my mind again and again, I then typically come here. I write a blog post about it. These are more for me than they are for anyone else, most of the time. In writing these, and having to put what's been on my mind into, basically, a paper, I come to understand each of the doctrines and principles I write about more. I come to understand it at a greater depth. My head and my heart go together, and my attitudes and behaviors change: slowly, incrementally, and often almost imperceptibly, but as I look back at how far I've come in a few weeks, months, and sometimes years, I come to see that I am becoming more refined, "more fit for the kingdom...more blessed and holy" (More Holiness Give Me). 

I testify that as you write, the Power of the Word will change you to become more like our Savior. It will raise you to greater heights, and you will both know in your head and understand in your heart what the Lord wants you to know, as you stand a little taller and improve a little more each day.

There will be moments of backsliding, yes. We are merely mortals right now. One step off of the path does not cause eternal damnation. The only thing that stops one from progressing is not repenting. Every other malady we face in this life has been faced by our Savior, and He will always go before your face, and the Father shall be your rearward, the Spirit will be in your heart, and the angels round about you to bear you up. 

As we consistently strive to write the words spoken by the spirit and angels, we will be blessed to understand more fully the doctrines of the kingdom, and our attitudes and behaviors will change to be perfectly in line with the Celestial Law, in and through the blood of the Lamb.