Saturday, March 22, 2014

My "arm of mercy is extended towards you" -3 Nephi 9:14

We live in a day when peace has been taken from the earth, a day when men's hearts are failing, a day when "Satan reigns in the hearts of men; it is the great day of his power" (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/04/the-coming-tests-and-trials-and-glory?lang=eng). One only need to get onto social media or turn on any channel on the TV for five minutes to realize just how firm of a grasp the devil has on this world.

He could care less about how many people are currently following any one of his plethora of plans. No, his target is the very elect, both in and out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For if the elect can be deceived, either to do things that are evil or to do things other than what we need to do (it really doesn't matter, either way, we're not progressing). He seeks to drag us all down "to the gulf of misery and endless woe" (Helaman 5:12). 

“He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:179). He is a real being, hell-bent on destroying you, and ceasing the Plan of Salvation from operating in your life.

He is still out to prove that His plan would have been better. We are not good enough to make choices and use our agency, so he had to rule over us; he had to "exalt [his] throne above the stars of God", in other words, us (Isaiah 14:13). He lost that battle, but he is still striving to win the war, by disproving the Father's plan for each person he can get his clutches around.

However, this is not to be a depressing post, but to understand the absolute wonder and awe of this post, we needed to understand what Lucifer has done. He has no low point; nothing is too low for him to do. If he can prove that you can't use your agency, he feels he has won. There is a fatal flaw to his plan however.

He cannot descend below the Atonement of Jesus Christ. "He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;" (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6). He descended below what Satan is capable of. Our Savior led a one man charge against Death and Hell, and came out victorious. 

Because of the Atoning Sacrifice of the Son of the Eternal Father, we can all be saved from anything. "There is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of Complete Forgiveness. This is the promise of the Atonement of Christ" (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/the-brilliant-morning-of-forgiveness?lang=eng). 

We, as mortals, fail to realize just how merciful our Father and our Savior are. I feel this is because we often lean more to justice, particularly when we look upon ourselves. While some do have strong feelings of judgement towards other people, usually, that is from people in the great and spacious building mocking those who seek after eternal life or those on forbidden paths. Those who are on the path, or are striving to remain on the path, usually reserve the judgement of justice for themselves. 

If we truly realized how merciful our Savior is, I'm sure we would find ourselves being a little more merciful to ourselves. Not excusing our sins, and daily trying to improve and to repent, we'd find that with a little more patience and mercy towards ourselves that we would begin to see the image of the God of Heaven in our countenances. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Hearts Knit as One

"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another" (Mosiah 18:21). One of the most oft repeated commands in all of scripture is the command to be united one with another. Yet, it is also one of the most difficult commandments to keep, because we do not understand what it means to be united. We do not know the level of unity that is required of us.

Obviously, perfect unity is not something that will occur overnight, nor will it probably happen in mortality, but we can strive towards that unity. In the great intercessory prayer, the prayer of the great High Priest, the Savior pleaded, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:21-23). That is the command. We are not seeking unity simply for the sake of unity. We seek unity, because there is one universal truth to which all things subscribe, and if we know of  "things as they really are, and of things as they really will be", we will all be united as the Father and the Son are united (Jacob 4:13).

The impossibility of perfect unity now should not hinder our quest, however, to find unity among our fellow saints, our brothers and sisters. In fact, we are under covenant to become united with them. We are under covenant, "as [we are in] the fold of God...to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;" (Mosiah 18:8). In other words, the burdens of our brethren and sisters become our burdens as well. There is no better way to become united with another soul than to come and help them with the load on their shoulders. In so doing, love is fostered as we focus on the person.

The greatest burden any of us bear in this life is sin. It brings each one of us pain, because we know we have not lived up to our divine potential. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23). We are youth of the noble birthright. We are children, and thus heirs, of the King of Zion, God of Heaven and Earth and all things which in them are. When we do not live up to our divine potential, our spirit cries out in agony, pleading for mercy and for redemption from the bands of spiritual death, which bind us down.

As in all other things, the Savior is the perfect example. In His autobiographical account of the Atonement in the Doctrine & Covenants, He said, "Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I  smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repentBut 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. Wherefore, I command you again to repent" (Doctrine & Covenants 19:15-20). For a different person's burden, the Savior suffered in both body and spirit; He did things He didn't want to go through. Most importantly, He invites all to repent multiple times.

The burdens which others have might be things that we are uncomfortable around. They might be things that seem so easy to avoid, but they are ensnared in that pit of briers. Of course, if it is something that would cause you to transgress, flee. However, those situations are very rare and far between. Instead, we must stand as each other's strengths. We must become united with our brethren and sisters through bearing their burdens, and, by so doing, become united with the Son of the Eternal God in a small way.

We each have our strengths and weaknesses. We each have different spiritual gifts: to "some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby" (Doctrine & Covenants 46:12). That is the whole purpose of having the organizational aspect of the church, from the family to the church as a whole. If my spiritual gifts cover Josh's weakness, and his gifts cover Sarah's weakness, and her gifts cover your weakness, and your gifts cover my weakness, then everyone is taken care of.

Yes, it takes great humility to say to someone that you need their strength to help your weakness. There is often a fear of judgement from the other person, even if you know they aren't trying to judge. The humility will come out in its strength and power, either when you choose or when you hit rock bottom, because God would have you be humble. "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" (Ether 12:27). And, quite often, God will use other people to help us develop that weakness into a strength, by placing people in our lives whose weaknesses are where our strengths are and whose strengths are where our weaknesses are.

Usually when we are using our strength to help another's weakness, we don't notice how much we are helping, because it is a strength. The most minute action can mean worlds to others. You never know when your gift of being happy with a smile on your face will brighten up someone else's day. You never know when your gift of discernment will help you to give a friend a hug at just the perfect moment to give them strength to get through the day. Those are things that we often do that take little to no effort at all, but to another, that action could mean worlds to them.

In addition to all of this, if we are truly to have our hearts knit as one, we must learn to communicate with each other, and do more than just the socially accepted just saying you're good when people ask how you are doing. It lacks depth of understanding when we do that, and we mock the need for unity. As part of mourning with those that mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort, we must allow others to know when we mourn or when we stand in need of comfort, so they can fulfill the obligations of their covenant.

We often don't do that. Why? Who cares? We just do not share our true feelings, usually out of fear. We fear that nobody will care. We fear that people will judge us because we've been to hell and back, and might have gotten singed from the fires of affliction. And that is just the way of the world.

But we are not to be following the world's way, we are to be following the Lord's way. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). Not only are His ways different than the world's, but they are also more nobler than the world's. The Lord's way, I feel, is taught very well by the doctrine of prayer.

From primary on up, we keep being taught that if it's important to us, it's important to him. We are commanded to pray always, and not faint. We are commanded that we should not perform anything save in the first place we shall pray. We are commanded to share our fears, our loves, our joys, and everything with our Father in Heaven. If He is the perfect example, shouldn't our communication be the same?

As we reach out to each other, and love God and our fellowmen, our hearts will become knit as one. We shall become united, and Zion, in her beauty, shall rise. May we each strive to knit our hearts with all around us.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Being "willing to bear one another’s burdens" -Mosiah 18:8

One of the most well known passages of Scripture from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the baptismal covenant found in Mosiah 18:8-10. "And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" 

I'd like to focus on bearing one another's burdens, that they might be light. Normally when we hear that phrase, we think of all the wonderful service we do in the Church. (Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the service is bad). We often think of mowing the lawns of older members or helping someone get packed so they can move or chopping down blackberry bushes (a favorite service members asked me to do on my mission in Washington). While that is important, it is missing the mark for what this phrase fully means.

L Whitney Clayton of the Seventy taught, "our sins...are among the heaviest of all the burdens we bear" (Talk). The covenant is less about physical burdens, though that is important, but rather, it is about spiritual burdens carried all the children of Almighty God. Jesus Christ is the perfect example of this. He bore sin's tremendous load. He felt the sin and heart ache of every single person who had walked the face of the Earths. 

In the covenant to take upon ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ, we are to be doing what He would do if He were in our place. If someone flips you off, what would Jesus do? If someone told you of a struggle they had, what would Jesus do? If someone was having a hard night and was being tempted to commit an old sin they hadn't done in years, what would Jesus do? He would act in love, for that is His character. 

When we covenant to bear one another's burdens, in essence, we are covenanting to have Charity: The Pure Love of Christ. We are promising that when someone opens their hearts to us, we won't judge the person, and we will do all in our power to lift the person higher. We are covenanting to act in godly ways when struggles are placed before us.

That is not to say that we excuse the sin. That is not to say we don't invite them to seek help from priesthood leaders. It is, however, to say, when their sin hurts you, "Father, forgive them: they know not what they do." It is to, in word and deed, seek to act like the Savior of the World in every situation. When one person acts like the Savior, they have established Zion in their life.

We talk of Zion, we teach of Zion, we read and prophesy of Zion through all of scriptures. Unfortunately, we do not become Zion. God gave each of us covenants, to give us the strength and the determination to become a Zion person. Then when Zion has been established in two people, it becomes a dwelling-place of Zion in a family setting or an assembly of Zion in a friendship setting. Now, think of the power of one person with Zion in them to change the lives of people. Now, think of if there were two? Ten? One hundred? A Thousand? A Ward? A Stake? A Church?

Truly, if we each held fast to our covenants to establish Zion by bearing one another's burdens, the world would change. The Saints of God would be "armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory" (1 Nephi 14:14). The day will come that "every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety" (Doctrine & Covenants 45:68). Zion, as a place, cannot and will not be established until Zion has been established in our hearts. 

For "the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them" (Moses 7:18). For Zion to be established, we must be "united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom" (Doctrine & Covenants 105:4). The only way we'll EVER be able to get to that level of unity is if we help one another bear the spiritual burdens each one of us have that they may be light.

I am not saying to flaunt your sins before the ward so everyone will help everyone else. What I am saying is when someone says something that's offensive, and they meant it, bear it with dignity: you will then be bearing another's sin. When you have good friends, let them know about your worries, your struggles, and your pain: they are more than willing to help bear your burdens, and if you help one another, you are loving one another as He has loved you.

I promise, in the name of the Lord, that bearing one another's burdens will bring the feelings that the Redeemer had in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Cross of Golgotha. By the Spirit, you will come to see men and women as He saw them in the Garden on that night. And when you see someone the way the Savior sees them, you find that it is impossible not to love them.

I testify that bearing one another's burdens will make us more like the Savior each time we do it, until that perfect day, "when he shall appear, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2).