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 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.