Sunday, November 24, 2013

Live in Thanksgiving Daily

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the U.S. I would like to spend some time today on the subject of gratitude. The scriptures tell us that expressing gratitude is important. In Psalms 92:1 it says:

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:”

And in the Doctrine & Covenants 59 we are told:

Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

The Prophet Alma tells us that we should:

"worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." (Alma 34:38)

Why is gratitude so important? President Thomas S. Monson helps us understand why when he said:

We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”  (“The Devine Gift of Gratitude”, Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, October 2010)

Here is a poem that expresses in a humorous way many of the things I am thankful for, the author is unknown, but I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do:

“The Things I am Thankful For”

I am thankful for my wife who hogs the covers every night, because she is not out with someone else.
I am thankful for the child who is not cleaning his room after being told to do so, but is watching TV because that means he is at home and not on the streets.
I am thankful for the taxes that I pay because it means that I am employed.
I am thankful for mess to clean up after a party because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.
I am thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means that I have enough to eat.
I am thankful for my shadow that watches me work because it means that I get to stand in the sunshine.
I am thankful for a lawn that need mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means that I have a home.
I am thankful for all the complaints I hear about the government because it means we have freedom of speech.
I am thankful for the parking spot I find at the far end of the lot because it means I am capable of walking and have been blessed with a car.
I am thankful for my huge heating bill because I am warm.
I am thankful for the Lady behind me in church who sings off key because that means I can hear.
I am thankful for the pile of laundry and ironing for it means I have clothes to wear.
I am thankful for weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day for it means that I have been capable of working hard.
I am thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning because it means I am alive.
I am thankful for too much email because it means I have friends that are thinking of me.

As we join our family and friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday, I hope that we will take the time to express our gratitude for the privilege of being part of a family, living in a free country where we can worship openly and where we can enjoy such wonderful food and friendship.

I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ who paid the price for my sins and has redeemed my soul. I am grateful to a Heavenly Father who provided us with the opportunity to come into mortality and to prove ourselves worthy to return to him and live with our families forever. I am grateful for those who continue to provide me with employment, in addition to providing a good living they give me a sense of purpose each day, an opportunity to serve my co-workers and help them fulfill their responsibilities.

I am grateful for my four children and nine grandchildren who have taught me the meaning of finding yourself as you lose yourself in service to others. And lastly I want to thank my eternal companion for standing with me for 38 years. Without her I would not have become the person that I am. Without her I would be lost in a world of selfishness and loneliness, but with her I have come to know what the Lord meant when he told Adam and Eve that they should be one flesh (Genesis 2:24)

Thanksgiving and gratitude are attributes that we need to have with us always, not just one day each year. It is more than gathering around a table that is heavy with food, it is a life filled with appreciation for all of God’s children and the beauties of this marvelous place we call our home. We need to show our gratitude for the rich diversity that surrounds us each day. We should live in thanksgiving daily.

Below is a video of President Monson’s conference talk “The Devine Gift of Gratitude”. I hope that you will take the time to watch it and learn from it.

Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Today I have family here visiting and have been saving this post for such a time as this. I hope you enjoy the message it has for us all.

GEORGE CARLIN (His wife died early in 2008... and George followed her, dying in July 2008). Isn't it amazing that George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's – could write something so very eloquent...and so very appropriate.

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.  

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.   We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.   We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...
Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.  

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.  

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our Advocate with the Father

An advocate is someone that pleads in another's behalf; an intercessor. In a court of law our advocate is our legal representative that represents our cause before the judge or jury. They make sure that our rights under the constitution are upheld and protected. There is another advocate that we have that is far more important than in a court of law. That advocate is the one who will plead our case before our Heavenly Father, the creator of all to allow us into his kingdom. The scriptures tell us who that advocate is. The Apostle John tells us:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 John 2:1)

Since the only person that lived a perfect life without sin was Jesus Christ, the rest of us need him to be our advocate with the Father. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord explains in more detail what the Savior will do as our Advocate before the Father:

Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—

Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life. (Doctrine & Covenants 45:3-5)

To illustrate how the Savior will advocate for us, I would like to share a story that I found that puts this into perspective. I do not know who wrote the story, but I appears to be a 20 year old women.

The Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Guys I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. Then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.
A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at my Brothers". Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents."I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.
Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't mattered now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self‑pitying sigh.
Then, I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. Then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear‑filled eyes.
No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then, as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No! Please, not Him! Not here! Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?
Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things; but He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name wouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so “alive”. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how
He did it so quickly; but, in the next instant, it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on the door. There were still cards to be written. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."John 3:16 My "People I Shared the Gospel With" file just got larger. How about yours?

What a blessing it is to have our Savior, Jesus Christ, plead our cause before the Father. I know that because of the sacrifice that our Savior paid for us in Gethsemane and on the cross, we can have our sins washed clean and we can stand before the Father with the understanding that our Advocate knows us personally and is pleading for the Father’s mercy so we can live with them forever as his children.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living After the Manner of Happiness

As I was reading the scriptures, I came across a verse that said: “men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25). In another place the Prophet Nephi said that they “lived after the manner of happiness.” (2 Nephi 5:27). These scriptures had me wondering if I was happy and if I found joy in the life that I was living? What does it mean to live after the manner of happiness?

President Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that two of his grandchildren that were planning their weddings asked him for some advice on what they needed to do to be happy. He said:

“Heavenly Father has made each of us unique. No two of us have exactly the same experiences. No two families are alike. So it is not surprising that advice about how to choose happiness in family life is hard to give. Yet a loving Heavenly Father has set the same path to happiness for all of His children. Whatever our personal characteristics or whatever will be our experiences, there is but one plan of happiness. That plan is to follow all the commandments of God.
“For all of us, including my grandchildren contemplating marriage, there is one overarching commandment that will help us to meet the challenges and lead to the heart of a happy family life. It applies to all relationships regardless of circumstances. It is repeated throughout the scriptures and in the teachings of the prophets in our day. Here is the Bible wording of the Lord’s advice to all who want to live together forever in loving happiness:

‘Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
‘This is the first and great commandment.
‘And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

“From that simple statement it is not hard to summarize all I have learned about what choices lead to happiness in families. I start with the question, “What choices have led me toward loving the Lord with all my heart and soul and with all my mind?” For me it has been to choose to put myself where I felt the joy of forgiveness through the Lord’s Atonement.” (“To My Grandchildren”, General Conference Address, October 2013)

From that we learn that happiness and joy come from first in loving God, our Heavenly Father with all our heart, might mind and strength and second loving and treating others as we would like to be treated. When you think of those two commandments you do realize that it encompasses everything. It is no wonder that the Savior said: “One these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. If we love God first we would not do anything that would go against his commandments. If we follow that love by treating everyone else the way we would like to be treated, there would be no crimes of hatred, robbery, covertness, adultery, murder, or other social sins and misdeeds. The world would not have war, hunger, poverty or struggle for power and domination. There would be more tolerance, kindness, charity, and appreciation for each other.

Families that lived these two commandments would have more peace in the home. There would not be spouse or child abuse. There would be more love expressed and kindness shown. There would be less divorce and the home would truly become a heaven on earth.

Is this type of life really possible? It sounds impossible, or is it? The scriptures record that two groups of people actually did achieve this level of happiness. One was at the time of the Prophet Enoch who lived a few generations before Noah. Enoch and his people were blessed for the way they kept the commandments and treated each other. The scriptures record this about them:

“…the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.

“And 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.

And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.” (Moses 7: 17-19)

The people of Enoch were so righteous that the entire city was taken up into heaven to dwell with God. We also learn that the fate of those who were left behind was to die in the floods that would cover the earth because of the wickedness that was on the earth.

The second civilization to enjoy the happiness that can come from total obedience to these two commandments is found in the Book of Mormon. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior visited the people living here in America. He taught them to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the higher law, as he tried to teach the people in Jerusalem before his death. The people in Jerusalem did not believe and subsequently were destroyed while the people here in America listened and where all converted to the Gospel. Of this people and the type of lives they lived the scriptures tell us:

“… that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. (4 Nephi: 15-16)

These people were so converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that their peace lasted for two hundred years. During those two hundred years they had peace and prosperity in all the land. They were united in keeping the two commandments to love God with all their hearts, might, mind and strength and they loved their neighbors as much and treated everyone with the same love that they had for God.

Both of these examples were thousands of years ago, is it possible to find such happiness today? I believe that it is. The blessings of obedience to those two commandments along with the other commandments will bring the same blessings to us today as it did to those of yesterday for God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; he does not change. The Lord promises us if we obey we will be blessed:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 130:20-21)

Elder Marlin K. Jensen, of the Seventy, speaking to the students of Brigham Young University on this principle had this to say:

“Since first making my personal discovery about living after the “manner of happiness,” I have thought deeply about the principles involved and about how timeless and universal they are. The same patterns and elements of daily life that enabled Nephi and his people to be happy 560 years before Christ work equally well today. They fit comfortably at every stage during our lives and in every culture. In a time when “diversity” is so frequently touted as something desirable, it is interesting to note the uniformity and unchanging nature of these principles. Perhaps every purveyor of “new lamps for old” ought not to be heeded.
“These principles of happiness can be lived virtually without cost. It’s almost as if Nephi’s brother Jacob were speaking to this issue as he extended the invitation, “Come, my brethren, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (2 Ne. 9:50). This should tell us something about the very minimal role material things play in a happy life.” (Living After the Manner of Happiness”, BYU Devotional Address, September 19, 1995)

I know that we can all find true happiness and joy in this life as we keep the commandments of God, especially the two great commandments. I have seen it in my own life and the lives of many others. When we obey the commandments of God we are truly happy and when we stray off that straight and narrow path, we only find misery and unhappiness.  The world will only find peace and happiness as we accept and keep these commandments and as we do we too can live after the manner of happiness and have joy in this life and eternal life with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Your questions and comments are always welcome.