Friday, May 12, 2017

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen?" -Isaiah 58:6

It's inevitable. Every month, as the first Sunday of the month rolls around, a countless barrage of memes comes pouring out of every Mormon memes page about how awful Fast Sunday is. I get it! We as humans like bonding and laughing over things that make us unique. I know this post is not going to be something trendy that goes viral, but this is rambling I need to get off my chest.

Fasting is not a thing on our checklist. It is not shared misery. It is not something we try to avoid by breaking the emblems of the sacrament slightly larger than normal. It is a sacrifice. It is a time to develop mastery over our natural appetites. It is a time to grow nearer to God. It is a time to seek revelation.

I just find it ironic that the very thing that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for with fasting: "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." The memes and comments about hunger pains and the jokes are the modern version of disfiguring our faces so people know we fast, and it's a collective issue that HAS TO STOP!

If youfeel like these memes describe you too perfectly, I recommend studying Isaiah 58. When you truly catch the vision of the fast, you come to know how it feels when this promise is fulfilled: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward."

Is not this the fast you have chosen? If it is, wonderful! If it isn't, I exhort you to study the doctrine until fasting becomes a glorious, blissful experience for you.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"This Secret Combination...Among You" (Ether 8:24)

It's no secret to anyone who has read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ that secret combinations are incessantly discussed by the authors. While many have thought this means that a secret society is undermining the whole of society, while reading in 2 Nephi today, I had a thought of an alternative meaning to this warning.
Wherefore, for this cause, that my covenants may be fulfilled which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh, I must needs destroy the secret works of darkness, and of murders, and of abominations. Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
These verses come in the midst of a longer discussion on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus, for the Atonement's covenants to be fulfilled, the Lord "must...destroy the secret works of darkness". While I do not doubt there is some very real connection to Gadianton robbers filling the judgement seats, we also know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is to work from the inside out.

What secret combinations have you established within yourself?

What secret oaths have you made with yourself? What secret signs have you made with yourself? In short, what are the things you do that keep you in the dark?

In the physical world, we understand light is more powerful than darkness. But in the spiritual world, we often bind ourselves down by false covenants to ourselves. We refuse to enter the light but sink further and further into the pits of darkness.

Obviously not every secret is an act of a secret combination. Throwing a surprise party is not going to cost you eternal salvation. But when the webs of deceit bind you from others. When you close yourself off from human interaction and become a slave to hell, you have in essence formed a secret combination. To get a false sense of "power and gain" from the secret is the issue; "when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination...among you" (Ether 8:23).

Anything done in the dark to get power or to get gain is guilty of a secret combination: Dishonesty to get gain or power; Pornography in all its devilish forms gets the gain of sexual gratification; Manipulating others by hiding  your true identity online and having them do whatever thing you desire.

I plead with all who do works in darkness, as Isaiah of old, "come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord" arm in arm to our salvation (Isaiah 2:5).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Zion

The last couple of weeks, I've been pondering the topic of Zion. References to the holy city and God's people who dwell there fill the scriptures. The Lord again and again commands us to build up Zion, to seek for Zion, to establish Zion, and to let Zion's glory rest upon us.

We call ourselves "the Stakes of Zion", and historically called Utah "Zion" (though some missionaries from Utah lift up themselves in pride on being from "Zion"). We sing, "Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God", "Let Zion in her Beauty Rise!", "And Ephraim be crowned with his blessing in Zion". In short, the culture of the church focuses on Zion as an entity, but are we really focusing on becoming Zion? Are we focusing on preparing ourselves to receive Zion?

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."1 And so great was the faith of this people that Enoch, the prophet, was endowed with the power of the Lamb to lead "the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him."2 This people was blessed with such great power, and great strength, because they sought to receive the character of Christ in word and deed, until they became purified and made holy, "for this is Zion—the pure in heart."3

In the latter days before the Savior's return, we must prepare the earth by establishing Zion, and preparing ourselves to receive Enoch's city. God himself taught what needs to happen for this preparation to be complete: "Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments."4 

The wisdom of man cannot accomplish this feat. Man's wisdom has tried to establish a utopia again and again and has failed again and again. There is no way to establish Zion while one relies on the arm of the flesh. "Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself."5 Without utilizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it is completely impossible to establish and maintain the cause of Zion. Without earnestly applying that atoning blood to change, grow, and take upon us the image of Christ in our countenances, we cannot create Zion, yet that is precisely what the Lord commands.

Until we have been prepared in all things to become Zion, we will fail to be ready to meet our God. Until we love one another as Christ loved, we will fail to be prepared to welcome back Enoch's city. Until we help our brothers and sisters overcome challenges, the earth will fail to be prepared to receive heaven.

Let us strive to bring about Zion with each other each day, by acting with a little more love, a little more kindness, and a little more tenderness.

Friday, February 10, 2017

God Be With You Til We Meet Again

Erik Gray and I met at a picnic with our major on September 8, 2015. I saw this guy standing awkwardly as if he knew nobody around, and I felt I should go talk with him, but I felt weird doing so, so I decided to go about my duties of making sure the picnic was all set up. While I busied myself doing other things--important, necessary things, I might add--I was given the feeling again that I needed to go talk with him. I walked up to him right as another guy was talking with him about missions, so I mentioned I went to the Washington Everett Mission. He asked, "Did you ever meet Jeff Shearer?" Jeff was my last mission companion, so naturally, we got really excited, sent him a selfie, and began chatting.

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Though I was on the audiology side of things and he was on the speech side of things, we would tease each other and had much fun together.

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He and I (along with several other friends) went to see the lights at Temple Square.

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We saw The Force Awakens together on opening night.

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We attended Aggie Basketball games together.


He took my senior photos around campus.

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We had the opportunity to go to the April 2016 Priesthood Session of General Conference.

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We attended the Temple together frequently. He claimed that I loved the Temple the second most of anyone in the world, because nobody could love the Temple as much as he could.

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We had a blast doing random, fun things like swimming after we were already too tired to stay up.


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We went on random adventures together.

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We supported each other in our faith and in everything that we did.

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We ate at Pizza Pie Cafe, probably more often than we should have, but it was our thing to do (besides going to the Temple). And I introduced him to pepperoni-bacon Alfredo Pizza.

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For Christmas, I visited him, and it was a complete surprise to him, but it was so great being able to go see him.

On February 9, 2017, he and I had 159 days of daily contact via Snapchat, and even more via other means.

On February 10, 2017, he passed away at 6:45 AM surrounded by family. His life's motto was #YOLO, and never let anything get in the way of having an adventure. He was my best friend, and no person could ever replace him. His favorite scripture is what I'm sure he'd want all of us to know now, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Erik, I love you like a brother. And you were not just "like a brother"; you were, are, and always will be a brother. I love you man! God be with you til we meet again!

Monday, January 2, 2017

To Be Like Oliver Granger

I want to be like Oliver Granger.

I'm sure most people reading this have no idea who he is or who he was. According to President Boyd K Packer, "Oliver Granger was a very ordinary man. He was mostly blind having “lost his sight by cold and exposure” (History of the Church, 4:408). The First Presidency described him as “a man of the most strict integrity and moral virtue; and in fine, to be a man of God” (History of the Church, 3:350)."

While those attributes alone (besides the being blind part) are qualities I would wish to possess, one phrase in the Doctrine and Covenants: "when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord."

This is why I want to be like him. The Lord knew Oliver Granger. He knew that when Oliver made a mistake, when he fell, he would immediately rise again. Perfection is the ultimate goal, but none of us are there right now. We should each become like Oliver Granger, and rise again quickly, so we do not lose time bumming around Babylon.

Sure, we may not feel that we are doing a lot in Zion, but by sacrificing our summer homes in Babylon, and going to the eternal city, it is enough. The sacrifices we make of our time and our desires are more pleasing that what we actually contribute sometimes. Maybe you didn't help a sister you home taught with flooding because she never had an issue; maybe you never felt you contributed that much because you were called as the sacrament greeter; maybe you couldn't serve as an ordinance worker but you faithfully attended the Temple regularly. In each of these situations, you may not have done anything glamorous, you may not have any miraculous story come from the experience, but you still sacrificed, and these small sacrifices, mostly invisible, are what carry the church.

Yes, we are a church that needs apostles and prophets, bishops and patriarchs, relief society presidents and young women's leaders, but the church is also built on nursery leaders, faithful home teachers, and men and women who compassionately serve God's children without needing an official calling. And as we serve in seemingly unremarkable ways, we help bear off the kingdom triumphantly, and carefully prepare this earth for the return of our God.

You may not be a Nephi, but you can be a Sam. You may not be a Helaman, but you can be a Shiblon. You may not be a Joseph Smith, but you can be an Oliver Granger.