Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Am the Light

One morning this week I was in the Logan Temple before going to work and the thunder outside was so strong that we could hear and feel the thunder inside the temple. When I left the temple and headed to work, the rains we coming down hard and the thunder continued to rumble. That evening the rains had stopped but the clouds were all around the mountains and the lightning was continuously striking all around it was a beautiful sight.

This past Friday (September 17th) was homecoming for Logan High and every time Logan scored they shot off fireworks. They must have doing well because the skies were full of fireworks and could be heard for miles. I was coming home from a program where the speaker spoke of The Lord Jesus Christ coming to accept the Kirtland Temple as his house in a glorious vision on Sunday April 3, 1836.

We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. (Doctrine and Covenants 110:2-4)

The Lord has said many times that he is the light of the world:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:21)

The experiences from this week with the lightning and thunder and the fireworks reminded me of the scriptures that my wife and I read the night before. It was the account of the destruction in the Americas at the time of the death of the Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. The account reads:

And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year (after the birth of Jesus Christ), in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.

And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.
And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.

And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.

And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.

And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land. (3 Nephi 8:5-7, 17-22)

The account says that many cities were burned or sunk into the waters or were covered by mountains and that it was the more righteous that did not perish in the storms that night. It must have been a terrifying experience for the survivors to go through. During the three days of darkness they heard the Lord’s voice speaking to them commanding them to repent and turn to him. He said: “I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (3 Nephi 9:18)

But what they experienced soon after was a life changing event. The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the people gathered at the temple. They saw someone descending out of heaven and they thought it was an angel, but he stretched forth his hands and said:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. (3 Nephi 11:10-11)

Everyone there was able to personally go and touch the nail prints in the Lord’s hands and feet and they were taught by him for many days. The change in the hearts of the people was so great that they had peace for nearly 300 years.

The Lord promised that he will return again in glory. We believe that time is not far off, that the Lord’s Church was restored to prepare the earth for that second coming. The Lord told his ancient apostles that the condition of the people before his second coming would be similar to the time when Noah lived and the people were destroyed in the floods. Speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord described what would happen just prior to his return:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.

Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. (Doctrine and Covenants 112:23-24)

Sounds a lot like it was in the Americas at the time of his death. There will be lightning and thunder and earthquakes, maybe even fireworks all around us. Then probably because of the destruction there will be darkness, the scriptures say the stars will fall from the sky, the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon shall not giver her light (Matthew 24:29). In the end the Lord will come in glory and his light will shine forth in the darkness and everyone will see him and know that he is the Savior of the world and those who are righteous will have the opportunity to live with him for a thousand years and enjoy peace. I hope that my family and I will qualify to be a part of that glorious experience.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Chosen One

In the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Hermione and Harry are in the library and Romilda Vane is staring at Harry. Hermione said: “She is only interested in you because she thinks you are the chosen one”. Harry said: “But I am the chosen one”. That is when Hermione slaps Harry on the head and Harry says: “Sorry….kidding!”

Harry, and many others, thinks he is the chosen one because of a prophecy revealed in the previous book – “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. The prophecy made by professor Trelawney speaks of the coming of a boy that would have the power to vanquish Lord Voldemort. Professor Snape overheard part of the prophecy when it was given to Dumbledore and he then told Voldemort. Circumstances lead Voldemort to believe that Harry was the boy the prophecy spoke of which lead to the death of Harry’s parents and the attack on Harry. The events of Harry’s life were shaped because Voldemort saw what he wanted in the prophecy and that interpretation set in motion a course that eventually fulfilled the prophecy.

You probably have heard someone speak of your generation as the chosen generation. President Gordon B. Hinckley speaking of the youth of the church said:

“I have great confidence in our young people as a whole. I regard you as the finest generation in the history of the Church. Each time I have stood before such a group, there has come into my mind the great and prophetic statement made by Peter of old. Said he: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9.) Truly, my dear young friends, you are a chosen generation. I hope you will never forget it. I hope you will never take it for granted. I hope there will grow in your hearts an overpowering sense of gratitude to God, who has made it possible for you to come upon the earth in this marvelous season of the world’s history.” (“A Chosen Generation”, Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference April 1992)

President Hinckley made those statements in 1992, when my children were in high school. In a General Conference talk in April 2014, Elder Randall Ridd, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency had this to say of your generation:

“you have probably heard before that you are a “chosen generation,” meaning that God chose and prepared you to come to earth at this time for a great purpose. I know this to be true. But this evening I would like to address you as the “choice generation” because never before in history have individuals been blessed with so many choices. More choices mean more opportunities; more opportunities mean more potential to do good and, unfortunately, evil. I believe that God sent you here at this time because He trusts you to successfully discern among the mind-boggling choices available.” (“The Choice Generation”, Randall L. Ridd, General Conference, April 2014)

Dumbledore once told Harry that it was not his abilities that determined who he was but it was his choices. The same is true for you, what will determine if you really are the chosen generation will depend on the choices you make now and everyday. President Hinckley gave this challenge:

“You cannot afford to do any of those things which do not square with the precepts, the teachings, the principles which the God of heaven has set down because of His love for you and His desire that your lives be rich and full and purposeful.

Nor can you afford to idle away your time in long hours watching the frivolous and damaging programming of which much of television is comprised. There are better things for you to do. The world into which you will move will be terribly competitive. You need to increase your education, to refine your skills, to hone your abilities so that you may fill responsibilities of consequence in the society of which you will become a part.

And so I invite you, every one of you within the sound of my voice, to think for a moment upon why you are here under the divine plan of your Father in Heaven and of your tremendous potential to do good during the life that He has given you.” (“A Chosen Generation”, Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference April 1992)

I recently listened to a talk given by Jane Clayson Johnson at BYU-Idaho Education Week. She quoted President Monson’s formula to guide you in the choices of your life: “Number one, fill your minds with truth. Number two, fill your hearts with love. Number three, fill your lives with service. “(“Eternal Learning”, Jane Clayson Johnson, BYU-Idaho Education Week, July 2015). Sister Johnson told the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and when King Nebuchadnezzar built the golden idol and commanded that everyone should bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and were cast into the furnace and were not harmed (Daniel 3). She said that while we probably won’t face such trials:

“We must stand alone if we need to. We have all made a covenant to be witnesses of God at all times, in all things, and in all places. It is now time to double down on the gospel, put it front and center in our lives, ask the Lord to help us seek, recognize and stand up for truth. As in the days of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon we must pitch our tents with the door towards the temple, away from the world physically and metaphorically, open our heart, open our doors towards the temple and allow the words of the prophets, words of truth to flow inside.” “(“Eternal Learning”, Jane Clayson Johnson, BYU-Idaho Education Week, July 2015)

Sister Johnson said there is something amazing about filling our minds with truth, it fills our hearts with love – the second thing President Monson said we should do. She told the story of “Sarah” who in a fast and testimony meeting told of how she had made the decision to leave the church and when she was leaving the chapel another sister saw the look in her face and she said hi to her. Sarah ignored her and walked out of the chapel. “Laura” followed her out to the sidewalk and down the street. Sarah said as she cried, “I feel I just don’t belong here”. Laura hugged the girl she barely knew and said “it is easy to lose each other, but I don’t want to lose you”. Sarah told the congregation in that testimony meeting that moment was a life changing event because of the love that was shared that day.

We need to look around and notice those that are struggling with heartache, illness, depression, loneliness. Jesus commanded us to “Love one another, as I have loved you”. There are no exceptions in that commandment.

Sister Johnson told of another experience they had in San Diego. They were on the beach when a group of Navy men, up early for training exercises, came running by. They were sweating buckets. They passed by strong, disciplined, focused. Then they saw another group. One soldier flanked on each side by two others. The one in the middle was having a hard time getting through the exercise. The two on each side had their arms around the young struggling man encouraging him and never leaving his side.

As brothers and sisters in the gospel we need to be aware of those around us that need our help and be willing to give of our time to provide the help that is needed. The third choice President Monson said we need to do is fill our lives with service. Sister Johnson said:

“We are here to help each other, whether it is to help someone struggling in the gospel, inviting them back to church or a band of brothers who will not let their brother fall, love carries us. The Savior said every commandment hangs upon the principle of love.” “(“EternalLearning”, Jane Clayson Johnson, BYU-Idaho Education Week, July 2015)

Service is at the center of home and visiting teaching. Home and visiting teaching is much more than a single visit each month. Many look at other members and think that they have such good lives, but if you get to know them you will find we all have struggles that we are dealing with. We are all at different levels with our testimonies and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be loving and patient with those that have weaknesses that are visible to all, even as we struggle with our own weaknesses that might not be obvious to those around us. We must love our neighbors that are not members of the church and accept them as children of our Heavenly Father, even if they don’t have any interest in the church. Show them the fruits of the gospel by being friends and inviting them into your home and participate with them in their family activities.

I have said many times that the mission of the student wards is first to be a buffer between your testimony and the philosophies of men that are taught across the street (Utah State University as well as other institutions) and secondly to help build members that are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and committed to the law of consecration. When you leave this ward we hope that you will be willing to go wherever the Lord will send you and that you will be willing to serve in whatever calling is extended to you. Service in God’s kingdom is essential for your growth and will bless you and your family in so many ways.

One of the things that we need to remember about being the chosen generation is that we must never let that go to our head. The reason that Hermione slapped Harry when he said “but I am the chosen one” was because he was boasting about it. We must never become prideful about our membership, our callings, or our professional achievements. Pride was always the beginning of the downward cycle that lead the Nephites to destruction.

We must be steadfast and immoveable in keeping the commandments of the Lord and have a love of all men. We must let virtue garnish our thought unceasingly, then shall our confidence wax strong in the presence of God. (D&C 121:45)

I testify that God lives, he loves us, he knows us individually and is aware of our struggles. He will be in the details of our lives if we allow it by our obedience. I know that Joseph Smith did see our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, that he translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. It is a second witness for Jesus Christ. President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet today. Be loyal to those who lead the church, they are called of God. I know that our Heavenly Father is aware of each of us. I have had several experiences where the promptings have come a times when members have needed to know that he cares and is aware of their struggles. His love for us is eternal and unending.