Sunday, November 22, 2015

God Doesn’t Do Random

There have been times in my life that have shown me that our Heavenly Father is aware of us and will provide help when needed. Many times that help comes as the Lord sends someone to provide the needed help. On on occasion while living in Ridgefield, Washington I was out of town on business and my wife was home with our three young children and she was pregnant with our fourth. My wife had some clothes in the dryer and she went in to check to see if they were done and she heard a thumping noise. She opened the door to the dryer and saw that the clothes were all bloody and there was a horrible smell coming from the dryer. Somehow while she was putting the clothes in the dryer she was distracted for a moment by one of the children. She did not notice that the cat had jumped into the dryer probably looking for a warm place.

Most people would probably have thrown out the clothes, but not my wife. She knew we did not have the money to buy new clothes. She took the clothes out of the dryer and put them in the bath tub to soak, hoping that she could get the blood out of them. She then took a bucket of water and bleach and tried to clean up the mess in the dryer. She had another bucket that she used to throw up in when the stench got too strong for her. There was a knock at the door and crying she went to see who it was. It was our Bishop. He had the feeling that he needed to stop by and see how we were doing. After some jokes about calling the humane society and knowing easier ways to kill the cat; he was able to calm her down and comfort her. He made some calls and got her the help she needed and things were cleaned up, the clothes were saved and the dryer lasted for many years.

As tragic as that was at the time – we never did tell the kids what really happened to the cat; we now look back and laugh at the thought of my wife kneeling by the dryer trying to clean up the mess all the time trying not to throw up in the other bucket. This and other experiences are cherished reminders of people that have been there when we needed them.

Speaking to the students of BYU-Idaho, Derik Taylor, tells of an experience he and his family had while on a river rafting experience. Their family had thought they were going on a “family friendly” float down the river, but it turned out to be category 2-3 rapids on the Snake River. Derik had experience with white water rafting and when he realized where they were he helped his family prepare for the dangerous rapids called the “lunch counter”. As he was coaching his family on the techniques to use, a couple of kayaks came up close and asked it they knew what they were doing. Derik assured them he knew what he was doing but was afraid of someone falling out of their raft into the river. The kayakers said they would stay behind them to help if they needed it. One of the kayakers paddled up to another outfitter and told the guide what was going on behind them. They were told to follow the outfitter in front that they would guide them through safely. Derik continues:

These people were trained professionals and knew exactly how to run the Hoback. However, they didn’t jump in our boat and take over. They let us do the work and struggle through each rapid. It wasn’t easy but the only swimmer we had was my dear wife Amanda and the only reason she went out was because she was paddling so hard that she let her foot slip out of the pontoon to get more leverage.

As a family, we survived a very trying experience. One we will never forget. Personally, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost guiding my every command. In that moment, I remembered something about rafting that I hadn’t thought about in 15 years. We hit every rapid just as we should and skirted around others in the safest way possible. And in the gospel, I don’t believe in coincidences. Those kayakers were angels sent from Heavenly Father at the right moment to give us the comfort and security we needed. In the end, we didn’t need their assistance in rescuing swimmers, but they provided sound guidance and security knowing that there was someone there to pick us up if we fell. In my family we have a saying that “God doesn’t do random.” Our Father in Heaven knows us so well and He wants us to be happy in this life and come home to Him in the end. He will give us every chance He can to right the ship and make it home. (“Creating a Family Legacy”, Derik Taylor, BYUI Devotional, August 11, 2015).

I do not believe that it was just chance that the people that helped Derik’s family were on the river at the very moment that they needed them, or that our bishop just happened to stop by at the time that my wife needed help. Heavenly Father has promised help when we need it:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in 
time of need. (Hebrew 4:15-16)

I know that God doesn’t do random. God and his angles are watching over us and that sometimes those angels are individuals that he has prompted to know when we need their help the most.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hold to the Rod

There is a song in the LDS Hymnbook titled “The Iron Rod” (Hymn 274) some of the words are:

While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation's pow'r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev'ry hour.

Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
'Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
'Twill safely guide us through.

The song was inspired by 1 Nephi chapter 8 where the prophet Lehi describes a dream he had of the “Tree of Life”. In that dream he saw a tree that had fruit on it that “was sweet, above all that I ever before tasted” (1 Nephi 8:11). He said there was a straight and narrow path (vs. 20) that lead to the tree and along the path was a rod of iron (vs. 19). He saw “numberless concourses of people that were moving along the path”. Those that were not holding fast to the rod of iron got lost in the mist of darkness (vs. 23), others managed to hold onto the rod of iron and make it to the tree and partook of the fruit but afterwards were ashamed and fell away. These individuals were ashamed because of the people in “a great and spacious building” (vs. 26-27) were mocking those who had partaken of the fruit.  Lehi said that those who did not fall away after partaking of the fruit were those that did not give “heed” (vs 33) to the people that were mocking them.

Lehi's Dream of the Tree of Life

We learn later (1 Nephi 11) the fruit of the tree represented the “love of God” (vs 22) and that the rod of iron was the “word of God” (vs 25). We also learn that the mists of darkness represented the temptations of the devil (1 Nephi 12: 17) and the great and spacious building represented the “vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men” (vs 18).

From these scriptures we learn that if we want to partake of the fruit of the tree of life (the love of God) we must get on and stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to the tree (we do that by being baptized by those having the priesthood authority). We stay on the path and get through the mist of darkness (temptations of the devil) by holding onto the rod of iron (reading and understanding the word of God). Once we make it to the tree and partake of the fruit, we must not give in to the mocking of those in the great and spacious building (those seeking to destroy religion and mock those who keep the commandments). One of the ways we can know if we are staying on that path that leads to the tree of life is if we sustain and follow the Lord’s prophets and apostles.

This weekend our student stake had stake conference. Our Stake President, Boyd Rowley, quoted from a talk that Neal A. Maxwell gave in 1978.

“But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).” (“Meeting the Challenges of Today”, Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional, October 10, 1978)

Elder Maxwell continued:

“President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”

Note that this talk was given in 1978, sounds like he was describing what is happening today. There are many members of the LDS Church that have let go of the “iron rod” and are getting lost in the “mist of darkness” and listening to the mocking of those in the “great and spacious building”. We also have a few members that have been influenced by the mocking and pointing finger from those in the great and spacious building and have become ashamed and have left the church (Salt Lake Tribune Article).

If you are questioning your testimony of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you find yourself disagreeing with the Lord’s prophets and other church leaders. I would ask you to consider the following questions. When was the last time you read the scriptures? When was the last time you fasted and prayed to your Heavenly Father asking him if you are on the right path? When was the last time you attended church or the temple? When was the last time you raised your hand to sustain the church leaders both general and local? If you have not been doing these things you have let go of the iron rod and are getting lost in the mist of darkness and are giving in to the mocking of those who want to destroy your faith. I invite you to come back on the straight and narrow path that leads to the tree of life, hold onto the iron rod and heed not the mocking of the world. Then you will have the opportunity to partake of the fruit of the tree of life and see the light of Christ burn in you again.

President Rowley also quoted from a talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson in 1979. Speaking of our day he said that “God has held (the members of the Church) back to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord.” President Benson then said:

"All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power, with the greatest mass murderers of all time living among us. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth. And the showdown is fast approaching.

"Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good pick up new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions that show where our support will go. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will finally win. What remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this fight—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last-days, foreordained mission?" (“In His Steps”, Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Devotional, March 4, 1979)

Again it seems that President Benson was looking to our day. Just a few days ago terrorist killed 129 people and wounded 352 people in Paris (CNN Article). From January 2015  to November 13, 2015 there have been 289 terrorist attacks (Wikipedia Article). It sure seems that we are living in the days of the devil’s power and mass murders.

The Lord has said that his prophets will always know what is coming and they will tell us what we need to do to stay safe. If we follow the prophets and apostles, stay on the straight and narrow path, cling to the iron rod, and ignore the mocking of the world we will be able to make it through the challenges that face us. Once we have the opportunity to taste of the fruit of the tree of life we will come to know the love of God and understand the blessings God has in store for us.

I welcome your comments and questions.