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.