Saturday, April 19, 2014

In Times of Death

When people in our lives die, we all ask questions of the meaning of life. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where are we going? What is the purpose of life? In times like this I am grateful for my knowledge of the Lord's Plan of Salvation.

Our existence did not begin with birth nor does it end with death. Before this life, we lived with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We did not have our bodies, but we were beings of spirit, and so was Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father, however, has a body of flesh and bones. We learned and grew and progressed as much as we could, but there was much we needed to learn to become like our Father. He presented this plan to us, and we each accepted it. The plan would only work if a Savior came to redeem us from Spiritual Death (or separation from God) and Physical Death (or separation of our spirits from our bodies). Jesus Christ was chosen to be the one who would save His people. 

The Prophet Abraham saw this: "Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;" (Abraham 3:22-24). 

Jesus Christ created this earth, under the direction of the Father to give us a time where we could be out of our Heavenly Father's presence, so we could prove to ourselves who we are. We are here to realize our divine potential. To make it a test, and to require us to walk by faith, we were sent through a veil which caused us to forget our pre-earth (or premortal) life.

God placed Adam and Eve, two of His children, on the earth in the Garden of Eden. They were created in God's image with bodies of flesh and bones. They were still in God's presence, and He provided for all their needs. However, they lived in a state of innocence, much like a little child. They were given moral agency, or the freedom to choose between good and evil, but they lacked the knowledge. But "they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin" (2 Nephi 2:23).

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was placed before them, and they were commanded not to partake of the fruit. Obeying this commandment would have allowed them to remain in the Garden of Eden, but they could not grow and progress if they remained. Satan tempted them, and they partook of the fruit of the tree, and became mortal (subject to both spiritual and physical death). This was part of God's Plan so that we all could be born and gain a fulness of joy. "Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given" (2 Nephi 2:25-26). 

So we all got the opportunity and the blessing to have life here on earth. Our purpose in this life is to have true joy through keeping the commandments of God, to prepare to return to God's presence, and to get a body. For us to prepare to return to the presence of God, trials and challenges were placed in our lives. We were also placed on this earth as mortals, subject to both physical and spiritual death. On top of those, we are also capable of sin, because we yield to the temptations of the devil. We cannot overcome our sins, or death, alone. We need a Savior. 

The prophet Alma taught of the sacrifice of the Savior, his Atonement: "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12). He knows exactly what you are going through, but He also has the capacity to help you through your trials. 

He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He himself said, "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" (Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-19).

Several weeks ago, I wrote a very short poem about this:
Every thorn borne by you and me
Was upon the head of the King on the tree.

Through the Savior's Atonement and His Gospel (the way we allow the Atonement to become fully operable in our lives), we can become clean from sin. Through exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance (or changing our lives to be brought in harmony with God's laws), baptism and making other covenants (covenant means 2 way promise between God and man), receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, we enable ourselves to lay hold upon the grandest fruits of the Atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. He triumphed over Spiritual Death through His suffering in the Garden and on the Cross, and triumphed over Physical Death, as He burst forth from the tomb in wondrous splendor, and because He lives again, we all will live again some day!

What happens in between death and the resurrection? The righteous who accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted into a state of happiness, where they are free from the sorrows and cares of the world. Then they are called and commissioned to go forth to those who did not receive the Gospel (either from rejecting it or by not having the opportunity to hear it on earth). They are "taught faith in God, repentance from sin,vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (Doctrine & Covenants 138:33-34).

They are taught the same things our missionaries teach over here! But they cannot do the work of being baptized or receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, as those both require bodies. That is why we build temples. In these sacred buildings, ordinances are performed for people who have gone ahead, as well as families are bound together for time and all eternity. 

When the Savior returns again to earth, our spirits and bodies will be brought forth triumphant from the grave. He won the victory, we reap the rewards. We will each be brought before God. "For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts" (Doctrine & Covenants 137:9). We will all be immortal, but Eternal Life is different than immortality.

Those who have repented of their sins, accepted the gospel and kept the associated covenants are cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive Exaltation, which means that they will live together with their family for all eternity. They will dwell with God in the Celestial Kingdom, the glory of which is most often associated with the sun.

Those who did not accept the gospel, but live honorable lives will live in a place called the Terrestrial Kingdom. It is compared with the glory of the moon.

Those who continued in their sins and did not repent, and are wicked still at the beginning of Christ's millennial reign on earth, will live in a place called the Telestial Kingdom. It is compared with the glory of the stars. This kingdom is far better than anything we can get on this earth in mortality. 

Whenever I think of this plan of redemption, this plan of happiness, I am reminded of two scriptures. With Paul, I say, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). And with Jacob, I say "O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect" (2 Nephi 9:13).

I testify that the Plan of Salvation is true, and that Death is not the end of our lives! We only go on ahead in our progression. I testify of the reality of the holy resurrection, and of its power to bring all of us forth from the grave. Finally, I testify of the Savior's Atonement, which makes the entire plan possible. I testify that He is the central figure of all of creation, and that He will always remember us: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hand" (Isaiah 49:16).

For those who would like to learn more please visit: Mormon.org - The Plan of Salvation & Ask the Missionaries! They can help you! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What I hear without Hearing Aids

So, I was ill today, and couldn't hear, or bear to put in my hearing aids, so I listened into a conversation a bunch of guys from my YSA ward were having in the lobby, and this is what I heard:


How do you know the quorum of the twelve? I have to count them. Do it! Dude! I turned in the French Toast. That smelled bad. I ate a dog! That would have been so good, but Kam and Brody did it. Why is that girl up there? Meet me in my town house. The Constitution nation! Procrastinators unite tomorrow. I honestly don't want to eat a duck. I don't want to look at my Suzie lotion. What a colsh song you playing! You said Saratov! You said Sarahaving! Erik wants a duck. Guuuuuiiiiiillllllteeeeeeeee! Here, don't have it. You actually got diagnosed with Brody cancer? I know...I'm talking with a guitar. You got skills today! I have to poop! Ah yeah! There's a room of females reading scriptures wearing black and white in a Trojan scene, with Bud light. I was like playing the piano...*screams*

Sunday, April 6, 2014