Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Message

The gospel's greatest beauty lies in its simplicity. Many attempt to overcomplicate the message in their own minds, because humans enjoy doing so, but it is not necessary. Our message is this:

God is our loving Heavenly Father who desires His children to become like Him. He established a plan "to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39). The Plan of Redemption has been given to righteous men, who God calls as prophets, by His own mouth and the mouths of angels through all time, who then declare this supernal plan to the rest of God's children. What is this plan?

"IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life" (The Family). The Plan was an impossible one, save there was a Savior provided for us. Among the spirits, "there stood one...that was like unto God" (Abraham 3:24). Jesus accepted the Father's invitation to save us all, and we accepted Him as our Savior.

Under the direction of the Father, Jesus created all that was created. "The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him" (Doctrine & Covenants 93:10). This creation gave a place for which God's family to obtain bodies and experience. Adam and Eve were placed upon the earth as the first people.

When placed into the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were sealed together as husband and wife. God, further, gave them two commandments: "[thou shalt not eat of] the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Moses 3:17) and "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Moses 2:28). In this state, "they would have had no children" (2 Nephi 2:23), but God left the path open for them to choose to leave their Edenic state into a fallen world where they could have children. Thus, the Fall of Adam and Eve allowed that their family could grow.

Shortly after the Fall, "the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Moses 5:58). What was the gospel that was preached to the children of men? "[Jesus] came into the world to do the will of [His] Father, because [His] Father sent [Him]. And [His] Father sent [Him] that [He] might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that [He] had been lifted up upon the cross, that [He] might draw all men unto [Him]" (3 Nephi 27:13-14).

The Savior came to the world to perform the Atonement. As he bled from every pore, not only did He ransom you from your sins, and feel your struggles, He also allowed for a little thought of blessing to happen. "The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness, also called the plan of salvation, was a plan created for families" (Julie B Beck).

Without the Atonement, all ordinances would be in vain. The Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness, is this: Jesus Christ came to the world to bind families together. The power of sealing was allowed as He suffered in a way we cannot understand. We may not know all the reasons why, but we know Families are Forever, through "him that redeemed us" (Behold, a Royal Army).

Come, accept His sacrifice today through the gospel ordinances. He loves your family, and wants you in His.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Send forth the elders of my church" (Doctrine & Covenants 133:8)

Over the past several months, I have begun to see a bit of a cultural shift (I guess that'd be the right term) among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that has really begun to bug me. I've begun to see tons of blog posts about how we shouldn't be judging people who haven't served missions. I get that some are unable to serve due to health or other circumstances. However, the message in these posts are different: it is that no young man who has not served a mission is to be under any condemnation. It gives the message to those on the fence that a mission can be just not for them.

President Kimball once said, "I was asked a few years ago, “Should every young man who is a member of the Church fill a mission?” And I responded with the answer the Lord has given: “Yes, every worthy young man should fill a mission.” The Lord expects it of him. And if he is not now worthy to fill a mission, then he should start at once to qualify himself. The Lord has instructed, “Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and them upon the Jews.” (D&C 133:8)."

 I really do not care what the excuses are being propagated to make those who choose not to serve feel good about themselves. It is a priesthood responsibility to bear the gospel to all nations. In Institute, I learned that the missionary department is estimating that we need 96,000 missionaries to cover India alone: we have 88,000 missionaries. There is no way we can do it without getting more of the young men to go out and live up to the measure of their ordination to the holy priesthood.

There is no greater duty we have than to engage in the work of salvation: we cannot keep losing more and more young men as they desire not to go on missions! Making these excuses amounts to fighting against the Kingdom of God rolling forth. Imagine if you can convince one young man to not go on a mission. How many lives would go untouched simply because he was not there where he was supposed to be? How many souls will be on his head, because someone convinced him through cunning means that it was unimportant to serve?

"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" (Jeremiah 16:14-16). This is the most important work! The more hunters and fishers we have, the more of God's children, even the whole house of Israel can be gathered again. Without the missionary work, we will cease to see the miracles.

Stop making excuses! And, "Send forth the elders of [His] church" (Doctrine & Covenants 133:8)!

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Receive the Holy Ghost" -Doctrine & Covenants 130:23

It is very common to hear that the time someone felt the spirit the strongest in their lives was on their mission. Some have said that it is because there is an added need for the spirit because they are on the front-lines for the souls of men. I do not doubt that one bit, but we all can be on the front-lines of this war if we choose.

I think the bigger reason missionaries carry the spirit around in greater abundance is because they ask for the spirit to be with them: constantly! In every prayer I said on my mission, at some point I asked for the spirit to be with us. We would pray in the morning by ourselves, then as a companionship, then to start personal study, when personal study ended, to start companionship study, when companionship study ended, over breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each time we left the apartment, each time we were about to go into a lesson, at the start of each lesson, at the end of each lesson, when we didn't know what to do, when we did know what to do, when appointments fell through, and so on. In short, we were praying all day every day, each time asking that we could go forth "armed with [His] power" (Doctrine & Covenants 109:22). We would ask for His spirit to be with us, that we could preach the gospel to all people.

In essence, we were constantly following the direction, "the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith...And all this ye shall observe to do" (Doctrine & Coevnants 42:14-15). In other words, by constantly asking for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we had the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Can we not all do the same thing in our "normal" lives?

Think of the words of the sacrament prayers:

"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine & Covenants 20:77)

"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this [water] to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine & Covenants 20:79)

We are promised as we strive to remember Him, we can always have His spirit to be with us. We are also told that the spirit will be given us by the prayer of faith. How do these two match up? Simple: we are promised we can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, as long as we remember Christ, and ask for the Spirit to be with us.

I make no hesitation in promising that if you ask for the spirit to be with you throughout the day, and are praying every opportunity you get, that you will feel the spirit more strong in your life, and will be led and guided more often by the spirit. I invite each of you to ponder how you can "receive the Holy Ghost" and allow Him to stay with you (Doctrine & Covenants 130:23).

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Freedom at Pi-hahiroth

In Exodus 14:1-3, "the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in." Migdol and Baal-zephon are both mountains found near the Red Sea, one to the north and one to the west of Pi-hahiroth, with the Red Sea to the East, leaving one way in and one way out.

For 400 years, the children of Israel had lived in bondage to Egypt. Why were they there so long? Joseph had saved all of Egypt, yet they were put into bondage. How often do you have the feeling that you are in control of your fears, just to be forced to face them and be ruled by them again? Once bound by the fears once thought tamed, you begin to feel comfortable in knowing that you will be afraid of commitment, of opening your mouth, or of any other thing.

The Lord always wants to deliver you, but you must face your fears. It doesn't matter if you are afraid to open your mouth, it matters that you face that fear and trust God. When the Lord delivers you, He will bring you to your Pi-hahiroth, where there is no escape, and you are faced with a choice: either you can let your fears take you back to Egypt or you can face them.

In facing your fears, the Lord does not leave you unaided. He does not require that you face your Pharoah alone. As Pharoah comes and leaves you trapped, He will send His spirit. It will not be anything miraculous, it will be a gentle nudge towards the path you did not see. He will lead you to the edge of the Red Sea, and He will open your way.

Your fears will follow you, there is no doubt about that. New anxieties may arise from having the walls of water on both sides of you, and you're sure that it will collapse and destroy you, but you press on, trusting in God. When you arrive on Sinai's shores, you have escaped your fears, but a lingering thought may come thinking that the sea is still parted, but at that point, the Lord will allow you to see "the waters cover...[your] enemies: there was not one of them left" (Psalms 106:11).

Remember what the Lord has done for you, and never look back at your fears: never allow them to enslave you again.