Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Salt, the Light and the Leaven

As we come to the end of another semester here at Utah State University and other universities wherever you are the students will be moving on to full-time careers and others on to graduate school. This is an exciting time for students that are graduating. They have been working for this day for four years or more and now the day has finally come. The future is looking bright, jobs are on the rise and opportunities are all around us if we know where to look.

One thing to keep in mind when you are choosing your career or graduate school is where can I serve the Lord’s Kingdom the best. Service needs to be something that we are willing to do wherever we go. There are three parables that Jesus taught that I would like to talk about today. The first is found in Matthew chapter 5 verse 13

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Here the Lord is asking us to be different than those around us. We are to look and act different and not blend in. If we fail in this then we are going to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Brother Drew Eagar recently spoke at a BYU-Idaho devotional about being the salt of the earth and the responsibility we have as members of the church:

“So it is with us. When we allow ourselves to lose our distinctive flavor, the Lord can no longer use us to attract his children to his gospel. When we become indistinguishable from the world that surrounds us, we become less effective instruments in the Lord’s hands. This happens when we look the same, dress the same, speak the same, act the same, think the same, and entertain ourselves the same as the rest of the world; we have lost our flavor and the Lord cannot effectively use us for his purposes.

“Elder Robert D. Hales said, “As Latter-day Saints we need not look like the world. We need not entertain like the world. Our personal habits should be different. Our recreation should be different.”1 As the world moves further and further away from the standards the Lord has set, we have the opportunity to hold our own course, to set ourselves apart, to be different. The Lord needs us to be different so others can sense or “savor” that difference and desire to follow.” (“Of Salt, Light and Leaven”, Drew Eagar, BYU-Idaho Devotional Talk, March 4 2014)

The next parable that Christ taught his disciples was to be the light of the world:

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We are asked to be two types of light to the world. The first is to be a city on a hill. One that all can see. How many time have you come out of Sardine Canyon at night and see the lights of Cache Valley shining and in the midst of all those lights is the Logan Temple standing on the hill calling us home. It is a reminder of the covenants that we have made there and calling us to return and renew those covenants.

The other light is the candle that gives light to all in the house. It is this type of light that President Boyd K. Packer spoke of in the October 2012 General Conference. He spoke of two lights that help guide ships into harbor safely. He spoke of the light that comes high on a hill from the lighthouse. The other light is the lower light that guides the ships safely to shore. He said:

“A light on the hill above the beach and a second lower light marked the narrow passage. When a boat was maneuvered so that the two lights were one above the other, the boat would be lined up properly to pass through the dangerous rocks that lined the passage.” (“The Atonement”, President Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, October 2012)

Brothers and sisters the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the restored Church is the light represented by the bright light on the hill from the lighthouse. We are the lower light that helps guide those that are lost and struggling to find their way to safety. The light of the gospel calls to everyone and it is through our examples and testimonies that we help others find their way safely home to Heavenly Father’s kingdom here on the earth and eternal life as families.

The third parable that Jesus taught is found in Matthew 13:33:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto aleaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

If you have ever made bread, you know that it only takes a little bit of yeast to help the loaf rise to it’s full potential. Without the yeast the bread will remain flat and not what it is intended to be. Bro. Eagar in his BYU-Idaho talk spoke about our part as the leaven:

“The first and most critical element that allows leaven to function effectively is to be in the loaf. How can the leaven lift, if it is not in the loaf? Many of us might think, during these times of increasing evil, that we should take our families and hide out in some small town in Idaho, surrounded by other Mormons. But remember, the world needs us.

“M. Russell Ballard gave us this great guidance regarding the topic:

“In spite of all the wickedness in the world, and in spite of all the opposition to good that we find on every hand, we should not try to take ourselves or our children out of the world. Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven,” or yeast. We are to lift the world and help all to rise above the wickedness that surrounds us…

“The Lord does not need a society that hides and isolates itself from the world. Rather, it needs stalwart individuals and families who live exemplary lives in the world and demonstrate that joy and fulfillment come not of the world but through the spirit and doctrine of Jesus Christ.(“Of Salt, Light and Leaven”, Drew Eagar, BYU-Idaho Devotional Talk, March 4 2014)

I hope that the students that are graduating will take what you have learned here from Institute and the service you provided in your wards as well as your studies at the University and go out and be the salt, the light and the leaven. I hope you will be a influence for good in your homes, your neighborhoods and in your careers. Remember that to be the leaven, you must be willing to be in the world. Take that job in another state, go to graduate school somewhere that you are needed. It may be hard to leave your families and go into the world, but that is exactly what the scriptures tell us to do. We are to leave our fathers and mothers and become one. You will have many blessings come as you go out in the world and serve diligently.

I ask that you pray each day for an opportunity to help someone in some way. It does not always have to be gospel related, it can be brining someone a smile, a kind word, a helping hand. Just find someone to serve each day and you will be the influence your Heavenly Father has asked you to be.

I testify this is the Lord’s Church and that he is the head of it. I testify that Joseph Smith did see Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, that he did translate the Book of Mormon by the power of God and that it is the word of God. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s Prophet and mouthpiece today and if we follow him and the other general authorities we will always be on the right path. Never do anything that will separate you or your family from their teachings.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He Is Risen

Today is Easter Sunday. I love reading the scriptures about our Savior’s last few days, how he suffered for our sins and was crucified. But most of all I rejoice in the scriptures that tell of his resurrection and the accounts of those that have witnessed his resurrection. I love the comfort that words of the Hymn “He Is Risen” give. The first verse says it all:

He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days' prison;
Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory.
(Hymn # 199)

I remember as a youth attending the Methodist Church, we would attend sunrise services on Easter morning and watch the sunrise as we read from the scriptures of that first Easter morning when Mary and the others came and saw the empty tomb. While the disciples ran to tell the others Mary stayed behind; it was then she saw the risen Lord for herself:

11 ¶But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:11-17)

What a wonderful witness for Mary, there was no doubt left for her. Later when the disciples were talking about how the resurrected Lord had appeared to the Apostles, Thomas said that the only way he could believe was if he could touch the nail prints in the Lord’s hands and thrust his hand into his side. The Lord suddenly appears again and speaks to Thomas:

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:27-29)

Many today, like Thomas, doubt that Christ lives and will only believe if they are able to handle him and see. But we live by faith and must rely on the Holy Ghost, which testifies of the Father and the Son. I am one who knows by the witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ does live today. He has overcome death and because he did, we will also. That is the promise that the scriptures give:

19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:19-22)

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Lord’s Prophet on the earth today, shares his testimony of that first Easter morning:

At the last moment, the Master could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. His lifeless body was hurriedly but gently placed in a borrowed tomb.
No words in Christendom mean more to me than those spoken by the angel to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when, on the first day of the week, they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord. Spoke the angel:
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?
“He is not here, but is risen.” 12
Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.
The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 13
I have read—and I believe—the testimonies of those who experienced the grief of Christ’s Crucifixion and the joy of His Resurrection. I have read—and I believe—the testimonies of those in the New World who were visited by the same risen Lord.
I believe the testimony of one who, in this dispensation, spoke with the Father and the Son in a grove now called sacred and who gave his life, sealing that testimony with his blood. Declared he:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” 
The darkness of death can always be dispelled by the light of revealed truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” spoke the Master. 15 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” {“He Is Risen”, President Thomas S. Monson, General Conference April 2010).

I add my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ, our Savior, suffered for our sins was crucified, died and rose again after three days. I know that through his atonement we can be forgiven of our sins and be clean. I know that because Christ was resurrected all of Heavenly Father’s children will be resurrected. It is a free gift to all men, women and children. What a glorious message of hope Easter brings. I invite you to watch this 13-minute video of Easter and for those who would like a real spiritual experience watch the second video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing Handle’s Messiah (2 hours and 47 minutes).

Your comments and questions are welcome

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Called to Serve

Today was the culmination of a process that has taken seven weeks to accomplish. On March 16th and March 23rd I wrote about some promptings that came the evening of February 23rd. I talked about recognizing and responding to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I wondered at the time I received those promptings if they were my thoughts or if indeed they were from the Lord. Today I was sustained as a Bishop for a married student ward here in Logan, Utah.

After going to bed on Sunday February 23rd I woke with the thought that I was going to be called as a bishop for one of the student wards. The married student stake that I serve in had a new stake presidency sustained earlier that day and two of the bishops were called to the new presidency, which meant they needed to find new bishops for those wards. My first thought when I woke with this feeling was that there was no way that they would call me to be a bishop in this stake because most of the bishops there had been a bishop before and I had not. I tried to dismiss the thoughts but they did not leave. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night without sleep but in prayer and meditation to know if I was worthy and up to the calling.

A few days later while attending the Logan Temple, the spirit confirmed again the call was coming. I also had another experience that confirmed the calling would be soon. That night I talked to my wife about my feelings and if we were ready to serve as a bishop. Her comment was that if it came we would accept it and give all we have to the calling.

The call was extended on Sunday, March 16th and they told me that I would be sustained on April 13th, which was a month away. I was reminded that we were to tell no one other than family members until it happened (and a couple of people that I was given permission to talk to). That was difficult to not say anything and admit that it did slip a couple of times (I guess I am still human after all). The 5th Article of Faith says:

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy,and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
Participating in the process that the visiting general authorities went through to call and sustain a new stake presidency was a great spiritual experience. I have a personal testimony that the new stake presidency was called of God by revelation and they then were setup apart to their callings by the laying on of hands by authorized representative of the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. I also participated with this new presidency as they sought to know who they should call to fill one of the bishop’s positions (not my call but the other bishop).

For those who are not familiar with the position of a Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is similar to a minister of other Christian Churches. A ward is a local congregation of members. Some wards are like the one that I will preside over that covers a small geographic area; others in areas that there are not many members the ward covers several square miles. Here in Logan, Utah we have student stakes (which are comprised of several wards) where only students at Utah State University that are married attend.

The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day saints do not pay their leaders we willingly serve in these callings for a period of time (three years for those called to serve in student stakes and wards). The call to serve comes from the Lord, who is at the head of his church, to the presiding authority. To serve as a bishop in our church the person has to be approved by the 1st Presidency of the church. The Stake President issued the call to me to service as the Bishop of the Logan Married Student 4th Ward and my two counselors and I were presented to the members of the ward for a sustaining vote. After being sustained, the stake president ordained me to the Office of Bishop and set me apart to serve as the Bishop with all the keys of the priesthood needed to perform the duties of my calling. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made this comment about those who are called to serve in the church:

“We have a great tradition of unselfish service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, one of the distinguishing characteristics of this Church is the fact that we have no paid or professional clergy in our thousands of local congregations and in the regional stakes, districts, and missions that oversee them. As an essential part of God’s plan for His children, the leadership and work of His Church is provided by His children who give their time freely for the service of God and their fellowmen. They obey the Lord’s command to love Him and to serve Him (see John 14:15D&C 20:19D&C 42:29D&C 59:5). This is the way men and women prepare for the ultimate blessing of eternal life.” (I’ll Go Where You Want ME To Go”, General Conference, October 2002)

Elder Robert D. Hales speaking on when is the right time to serve said:

“For every one of you the question will come in life, ‘When is the time to serve?’ The best answer I can give you is, ‘When you are asked.’” (“When Is the Time to Serve?”, Robert D. Hales, Ensign, February 2010)

King Benjamin in his final address reminded us the true reason for our service in the Lord’s Church:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

On of my favorite scripture dealing with priesthood leadership is found in the Doctrine and Covenants section 121. It says:

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile

 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

 44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

 45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

 46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

It is with a hope in my heart that I will be able to rise up to the stature the Lord expects of me as I take on this new calling as a Bishop over one of his flocks. It is my prayer that I will be able to follow the example of the Good Shepherd and truly be able to feed his sheep and his lambs.

Knowing that this call comes from him, I know that I will be able to call on him when I need his help and inspiration to know what he expects of me and how to best serve the members of the ward. I know he will continue to answer my prayers because he has done so in the past. I am grateful to know revelation continues to flow from the Lord to the Prophet and his other servants. I know that as one of the Lord’s “Watchman on the Tower” I have a great responsibility to watch for the enemy that would break down the walls and scatter the flock and warn the members of those who would destroy their faith.

I also know that I have been called of God, by prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority and that I have been given priesthood keys which will enable me to rise up and magnify the calling to which I have been entrusted.

Your comments are welcome.