Sunday, August 25, 2013

Go and Teach All Nations

Today in our sacrament meeting we had two young men that have been called by the Lord to serve missions for two years that spoke to us prior to leaving on their missions. One will be serving in Argentina and the other in Peru. I sat there thinking of these young men and how they have traveled their own pathways to faith and why they have chosen to accept the call to go on a mission for two years at their own expense. I remembered the commandment the resurrected Savior gave to his Apostles just before he ascended into heaven. It is found in several of the gospels in the New Testament. The one in Matthew says:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nationsbaptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. “ (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is a daunting commandment. Is it really possible to take the gospel message to all nations of the world? I answer that question with another question – If it were not possible would the Lord have given the commandment in the first place? I do not think he would ask us to do something that is not possible. The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon gives this testimony:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (I Nephi 3:7)

As members of the Lord’s Church we take this commandment to take the gospel to all the world very seriously. Every worthy young man knows it is his priesthood duty to give his time in helping fulfill this commandment, though not all choose to serve many do. Many young women and senior couples also make the choice to serve full-time missions and go wherever they are called.

I have watched the two young men who spoke in our ward meeting today since they were toddlers. I know their parents and have admired them as they taught their children the gospel and helped them develop their testimonies. Most young men and many young women have life long dreams of serving as full-time missionaries. Both of these missionaries talked about always having a desire to serve and now their opportunity to serve was here for them. They have been called and are about to go forth to serve. Our meeting house was packed full of their friends and family who came to hear their testimonies and message as they are now called to join the 75,000 plus missionary force that are currently serving throughout the world in 405 missions. As of 2011, the LDS Church had established congregations in 169 countries. The Book of Mormon has been translated into 109 languages and as of April 2011 there has been 150 million copies of the Book of Mormon published since it was first publish 181 years ago. The gospel has not quite made it to all the world but our work is not finished. The Prophet Joseph Smith made this statement about the growth of the church:

"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." (History of the Church 4:540).

So we will go on until the Lord’s command has been fulfilled. Each week the best and brightest of our youth join the ranks and go forth to bring their message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and they do it with faith and courage.

The closing hymn in our meeting today was titled “Go Forth with Faith” and it says:

1. Go forth with faith to tell the world
Of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Bear witness he is God's own Son;
Proclaim his wondrous word.
Go forth with hope and courage strong
To spread the word abroad
That people of all nations
Are children of our God.
2. Go forth with love to tell the world
The joy of families—
That we may be with those we love
Thru all eternity.
Go forth to serve and do your best
With no thought of reward;
Then you shall know the boundless joy
Of serving Christ, the Lord.
3. Go forth with pow'r to tell the world
The gospel is restored,
That all may gain eternal life
Thru Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Go forth to preach his glorious truths
Of peace, of joy, and love,
That all who heed his holy word
May praise the Lord above.
Text: Ruth M. Gardner, 1927-1999. © 1985 IRI
Music: Lyall J. Gardner, b. 1926. © 1985 IRI

Today our ward has added two great young men that will serve with all their hearts, might, mind and strength. They go out as young men, but they will return as servants of the Lord ready to take their place as future leaders of the church. I add my prayers along with their family and friends that they will be valiant in their testimony of Christ and they will return safely and with honor. They with the thousands of other missionaries will bear witness of the Savior Jesus Christ and the restoration of his gospel in these latter days. They will be able to say to those that they meet “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I unto thee.” (Acts 3:6) and then they will reach down and lift them up to a better life in Christ Jesus.

Your Comments and questions are welcome

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Choose Joy

I love the Harry Potter books. All growing up my family and friends called me by the name of Harry Potter, so it was natural that when I a friend introduced me to the series by J.K. Rowling; I immediately fell in love with them.

There is a quote from the 2nd Harry Potter Book, the Chamber of Secrets that helps us understand what we need to do to find this lasting happiness. Harry is talking to Dumbledore. Harry said that Voldemort told Harry that he was really like him (Voldemort). Harry asked Dumbledore if that was true. Dumbledore replied:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Dumbledore to Harry, Chamber of Secrets, page 333)

So it is in the choices that we make everyday that determines who we are and our happiness. We must choose joy and not give into temptation of hate, anger, or jealousy. These only lead to misery and the captivity of the devil.

Christopher Moore, the Director of LDS Philanthropies of BYU-Idaho, spoke to the students at BYU-Idaho about an experience he had as he visited a potential donor. When he arrived at the home of the couple he was met at the door by the husband and he gave him a coat and asked him to follow him. He spent the day working with him on his farm. They moved his washer and dryer; they worked in his garden and pruned trees. They talked about his life. He and his wife never were able to have children, but they did have 25 foster children some of them they adopted. At the end of the day he wrote out a check for a donation to BYU-Idaho and as he was writing out the check Brother Moore said he could not help but think of the hard life he had, but they seemed so happy and so willing to serve. Chris asked him how he and his wife were able to stay so positive. The man smiled and simply said: “Brother Chris, I choose joy”. (“I Choose Joy”, BYU-Idaho Devotional Address, February 26, 2013)

Choosing joy over other negative emotions will help us be worthy of the Holy Ghost to dwell with us and bring us closer to the Savior Jesus Christ.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Council of 12 Apostles, said of joy:

“One of the greatest of all God’s revelations is Father Lehi’s teaching that “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws. The opposite of joy is misery. Misery is more than unhappiness, sorrow, or suffering. Misery is the ultimate state of disharmony with God and his laws.

Joy and misery are eternal emotions whose ultimate extent we are not likely to experience in mortality. In this life we have some mortal simulations, which we call happiness or pleasure and unhappiness or pain. In the midst of these emotions is suffering. Some suffering comes from our own sins or those of others, but much suffering is simply an inevitable part of the mortal condition, like an accidental injury.” (“Joy and Mercy”, General Conference Address, October 1991)
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi tells of a vision he had of the Tree of Life. He says:

10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one chappy.

 11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

 12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirableabove all other fruit. (The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 8:10-12)

Later Nephi, Lehi’s son, tells us that the fruit of the Tree of Life represents the love of God, his son Jesus Christ. (1 Nephi 11:21-22) It is only through the Son of God, the Savior of mankind that we can find true joy. Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the voice of gladness to all we can experience the joy of redemption and forgiveness.

Another experience Brother Moore talked about to the students of BYU-Idaho was when he was called to be the stake president of the Rexburg, Idaho Stake. He said he tried to go to sleep the night before he was to be sustained but he could not sleep. He got up and started pondering why the Lord would call him to this position. As he was sitting there pondering and trying to think of what to say to the members the next day, his four-year-old daughter came out of her room and sat on his lap. Wiping her eyes he looked up at him with a look that said: “here I am, now what are we going to do?” He told her of his problem and that he was going to have to speak tomorrow to the people. He asked her what he should say. Brother Moore said:

“She thought for a moment, she scratched her head, she thought hard and then it came to her. She said: ‘I know, tell them about Jesus’. She then took his face in her hands and said: ‘you know dad, he lived, he died and he lived again’. As she fell asleep she said again: ‘tell them about Jesus’. (“I Choose Joy”, BYU-Idaho Devotional Address, February 26, 2013)

It is my testimony that true Joy can only be found in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we accept him as our Savior and follow his example of service to those who need us, we find the joy of those who become his sons and daughters.

Only then can we live after the manner of happiness that Nephi described. (2 Nephi 5:27).

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lordchoose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

In choosing to serve the Lord, I choose Joy.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

For the past two weeks I have talked about faith, particularly faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have traveled the road that Peter the Fisherman took to become Peter the Apostle. We discussed the principle that faith involves action. It leads us to test the things of the spirit. We show faith in him by walking into the darkness when we are not sure of the path or direction that we should take. Last week I said that because of my experience on the path to faith that I no longer doubt that God is real and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I also said that I have stumbled and fallen and have had to get up and dust myself off and get back on the path of faith. We all are human and subject to the laws of this mortal life. Sometimes because of our natural tendencies we allow thoughts into our minds that cause us to doubt our faith. When this happens we think that we are weak and not worthy of the spirit to dwell with us. But doubt is a natural human tendency and we need to learn how to deal with it.

In the Gospel of Mark there we read of a man that had a son who was possessed of an evil spirit. He brought his son to Jesus’s Disciples and asked them to heal him but they could not heal him. The man brought his son to Jesus and asked if he could heal his son. Christ said:

23 …If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mark 9:23-24)

We are all like this father sometimes in our lives. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but we still have doubts about other things. Doubts are good if they lead us to sincerely ask, The Father in the name of Jesus Christ for our answers. It is not evil to doubt unless we let doubt continue to grow in us until it pulls us off that path of faith. Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, said this about our doubts:

“All of us have come face-to-face with difficult, even desperate hours, when with tears we have fallen on our knees and pled as did this father, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
Just as the Savior stood ready to help this father whose son was “sore vexed,” 2 so is He ready to help our unbelief today so that with faith we can survive our mortal struggles and “come off conqueror.” 

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than mere belief.  Faith is a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” 5 “Faith always moves its possessor to … physical and mental action.”  “To have faith in Jesus Christ means to have such trust in him that we obey whatever he commands. There is no faith where there is no obedience.” 

Faith comes from hearing the word of God and is a spiritual gift. 8 Faith increases when we not only hear, but act on the word of God as well, in obedience to the truths we have been taught.(“Help Thou Mine Unbelief”, General Conference Address, October 2001)

Even though we all have doubts, we need to plead with our Savior that he will help us with our unbelief or doubts so we can turn them into testimonies of increased faith. Even Peter had doubts and times of unbelief but he was able to finally overcome those doubts as he worked through his darkness and finally was able to come into the light of the gospel as he walked his pathway of faith by being obedient to the Lord’s commandments. So we must double our efforts to live the gospel and keep the Lord’s commandments when doubt comes to us. President James E. Faust, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, gave this council:

“I would like to bear a humble testimony to those who have personal struggles and doubts concerning the divine mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many of us are at times like the father who asked the Savior to heal his child with the “dumb spirit.” The father of the child cried out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” To all those with lingering doubts and questions, there are ways to help your unbelief. In the process of accepting and rejecting information in the search for light, truth, and knowledge, almost everyone has—at one time or another—some private questions. That is part of the learning process.

Sustaining faith can be the ultimate comfort in life. All of us must find our own testimonies.
A testimony begins with the acceptance by faith of the divine mission of “Jesus Christ, the head of this Church; and the prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. The gospel as restored by Joseph Smith is either true or it is not. To receive all of the promised blessings we must accept the gospel in faith and in full. However, this certain faith does not usually come all at once. We learn spiritually line upon line and precept upon precept.” (“Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief”, General Conference Address, October 2003)

So doubts are ok and part of the process we go through on our personal pathways to faith. President Faust made an interesting observation when he said: “The gospel as restored by Joseph Smith is either true or it is not.” He also said that we “must accept the gospel in faith and in full…We learn spiritually line upon line and precept upon precept”. We cannot expect all knowledge to come to us at once. We come to understand spiritual things as we need to know and as we struggle with life. When doubts come and we seek our answers through the scriptures and the writings of the prophets and follow spiritual principles our knowledge and testimonies grow and doubt is thrown out until another experiences causes the process to start again.
One caution though is that what sources do we go to when doubts come and we have questions that need to be answered. We need to remember that the world does not understand spiritual things and that the spirit will not always strive with man. When a person gives into doubts and allows the prince of lies to enter into their hearts, the Spirit of the Lord will leave them to the buffetings of Satan. They are not a good source for truth about gospel principles. We need to seek our answers from the scriptures and from the writings of those that know the principles and have tested them. We should not be seeking to find the “truth” from those whose mission is to destroy faith and pull us off the path of faith. A Book of Mormon Prophet tells us how to distinguish between good and evil when we are seeking the truth, he said:

 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

 18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

 19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.” (Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:16-19)

Then Moroni gives us the ultimate promise and challenge:
“ And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest thegtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.” (Moroni 1:4-5)

So to have doubts is ok, in fact it is good to question as long as those questions are proven by following the spirit that leads us to Christ and not away from him. We must seek truth from the proper source and we can know if the source we go to is good if it leads us to Christ and not away. Then we must be willing to go with faith into the darkness and with an obedient heart seeking a testimony of the truth. If we are sincere and we pray to the Father in the name of Christ the truth will be manifest to us. That is the promise that Christ has given us. And when we have tested that truth and been give the answer by the Spirit our faith is once again perfect in that thing and we can move further down the pathway of faith until another doubt raises its head and we start the process over again.

Over the years I have overcome my doubts through this process and now I can say that I know myself that God lives and so does his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that the gospel as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and that we have living prophets again on the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. I know Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today. Of these things I have no doubt, but I still have doubts and am working through them every day.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pathway to Faith, Part 2

Last week I talked about faith and what is and how Peter the fisherman became Peter the Apostle through his path to faith. Before I tell you what my path to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was like, I would like to discuss another principle related to faith. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar:
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26; emphasis added).

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; emphasis added).

“Awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).(“Seek Learning by Faith”, David A. Bednar of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, From a satellite broadcast address to Church Educational System educators given on February 3, 2006)

Elder Bednar introduces an interesting point related to faith. When we are struggling with something spiritual, we must be willing to live the principle, or step into the darkness, before the testimony of the principle comes. It is only after we exercise our faith through obedience that the witness of the spirit comes into our hearts. As I look back over my life I can see this pattern often as I have made decisions that would take me on my path to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

My parents converted to the LDS Church before I was born. When I was two years old my parents moved from Provo, Utah where I was born, to Argos, Indiana. There I lived until I was 18 and left home for college. Belonging to the LDS Church in Indiana was not easy; we had to travel 30 miles to South Bend to find the nearest LDS Church. I was baptized when I was eight years old (the normal age for baptism in the LDS Church). But not long after that my parents stopped going to the LDS Church because of the hardship in traveling that far. We attended the Methodist Church during the next 10 years while I was at home.

There were times at the Methodist Church that I felt the spirit working on me, but it just did not feel the same. I remember having questions about God and Jesus that just did not feel right. I remember being taught in the LDS Church that Heavenly Father and Jesus were real with physical bodies and that we lived with them as spirit children of our Heavenly Father before coming here to earth. I remembered knowing that Heavenly Father loved us, his children, as much as he loved his children before Christ was born and after and because of that love there were prophets that he spoke to that testified of Christ’s birth and mission. Some of those writings ended up being published as the Old Testament. Some writings of the Apostles that were witnesses of the earthly mission of Jesus Christ became what we have in the New Testament. But we know there were other writings that were not included in the Old and New Testament.

Now I was struggling with the concept that God was not one person, but three. He was not a real physical person, but just a spirit that filled the immensity of space.  And to top those two things, he no longer had prophets on the earth that he spoke to so the heavens were closed; there were no new revelations to help us through life’s challenges. If God does not change, why would he change the way he communicates with his children? Why did revelation stop? Elder Hugh B. Brown, in a BYU Devotional said there could only be three reason for the change: 1) He does not love us anymore. That of course is not true, he loves all his children no matter when were born. 2) He cannot speak to us, he lost the power. That of course is blasphemous; he is all-powerful and cannot lose the power to communicate.  3) We don’t need him anymore. That is simply silly. There has never been a time when we need to have communication from God than now. (“Profile of a Prophet”, BYU Devotional, October 4, 1955).

I remember one time when I was in high school and there was a program where all the high school aged youth attended a meeting with a guest minister. He talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus and how we each needed to make the attempt to personally know our Savior. I felt the spirit that night and went home praying for answers to all the questions I had been asking. It was as if I was asking the questions that I talked about a couple of weeks ago in the primary song: “A Child’s Prayer”

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

That night as I prayed, I felt the spirit comfort me and I knew that he was really there and he did answer our prayers. It was as if he was answering me through the second verse of that song, he was telling me:

Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list'ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.

(Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938)

I knew in my heart that he was a real person, not just some spirit that was not comprehensible. He loved me and would answer my prayers. I had stepped into the darkness with faith that God was there and would answer me. I was filled with the light of his love and would never doubt that fact again.

Was my faith perfect? Not even close, it was still as the “faith of a child”, but it was there and it could grow. As long as Peter kept his focus on the Savior he could walk on the water, when he lost that focus he began to sink. As long as we continue to focus our lives after the pattern of our Savior, his spirit will continue to abide with us and strengthen us.

Now it was up to me to put that faith into action and test other things that would bring me closer to my Savior and be worthy of his love. Could I love my neighbor as myself? Could I be honest in all my dealings with everyone I came in contact with? Could I accept those who were not on the same path to faith that I was?

Would I stumble and fall? Yes, as we all do because of our mortality we fall short of the glory of God and are often unworthy of his grace. But his grace is sufficient to cover all our sins if we give ourselves to him and work to live worthy of that grace.

Throughout my life my faith has been tested, I have stumbled and fallen. But my pathway to faith has brought me to the point that I have no doubts that God, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ live, they are real, glorified physical beings. We are all children of Heavenly Father and once lived with him before coming here to earth. And were are here to prove that we are worth to live with him eternally. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that he gave his life that we could all be resurrected. I also know that not only will we be resurrected, but that all those who are worthy will be exalted and live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ with our families. Families can be together forever, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your Comments and questions are welcome.