Sunday, January 26, 2020

Enduring Joy

What brings you joy? Pictures of rainbows, or sunrises? Seeing a soldier surprise his family when coming home? Maybe children playing together and having fun? Maybe it is eating that favorite dessert? There are many things that bring us joy, but what is joy and do you have it? If someone asked you to describe joy, how would you respond?

Seeing pictures like the ones described above on Facebook or Instagram make us smile and we feel joy, but then we see another post that we disagree with and the joy is gone! Is joy only found on our good days, or is it possible to feel joy while we, like Alexander, are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

President Kevin Worthen, President of Brigham Young University, recently spoke about “Enduring Joy”. In his address President Worthen quoted from a talk that President Russell M. Nelson gave in 2016, he said:

“We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!
“My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
“When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.” (Joy and Spiritual Survival)
President Worthen suggested that one of the purposes of this life is to learn how to experience the type of joy that our Heavenly Father experiences. “This much seems clear from revelation,” he said. “Joy is not merely a temporary emotion, but rather a more permanent and constant condition” that comes from living according to God’s commandments. “Although one cannot experience “a fulness of joy” during mortality, President Worthen explained that “one of the purposes of this life is to develop our capacity for joy.” Cultivating joy now will result in a corresponding increase of joy in the next life.
We can experience joy, even on bad days. President Nelson said that we can “feel joy regardless of what is happening – or not happening – in our lives”. If our lives are Christ centered and we love God and others as we would have them love us, then we experience the enduring joy that helps us get through the tough times. President Worthen cautioned that if we are not feeling joy during a bad day, we should not think that we have failed:
Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking that you are failing in your quest for joy because you have tough days,” President Worthen said. “All of us do.”
President Worthen shared six principles about enduring joy:
  1. “We need to recognize, and constantly remember, that our ability to have joy in this life — and in the eternities — is not dependent on external circumstances.”
  2. “We should recognize and remember that enduring joy, constant joy, does not mean uninterrupted bliss and a life free of challenges. Suffering and adversity are part of the eternal plan, a part of the process by which we come to develop enduring joy.”
  3. “Recognize and remember that true joy, enduring joy, … ultimately comes only through keeping God’s commandments.”
  4. “Repentance is a critical part of experiencing enduring joy.”
  5. “Recognize and remember that joy is a principle of power [that] can increase our ability to stay on the covenant path.”
  6. “We begin to have joy when we focus on Christ.” (Enduring Joy)
One example of someone that was experiencing this joy was Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Nephi’s brothers were trying to kill him and so Nephi took his family and those who would follow him and they fled into the wilderness many days. Nephi then said that they “lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5). I would think that having my brothers try to kill me would qualify for a bad day and yet Nephi described their life as happy.

So, the next time you have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, you don’t need to go to Australia like Alexander wanted to do. Instead, turn to Christ and lose yourself in service to others. Enduring joy is possible “regardless of what is happening – or not happening –in our lives.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Why Do We Need the Scriptures?

Many have given their lives so that we can have the scriptures. William Tindell wanted everyone to have The Bible and read it and he was burned at the stake because he translated The Bible into English. How many lives were lost while attempting to preserve the writings of the prophets so we could read them? I am grateful for all the those who wrote their prophecies down and for those who preserved them for us today.

Nephi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon said that his purpose in writing was: “the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved”. (1 Nephi 6:4)

Mormon and Moroni dedicated their lives to abridging the records that had been kept for a thousand years so that we could have the scriptures known as the Book of Mormon. Moroni warned us that one day we would have to face him if we rejected his writings. He said:

“then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things. . . And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.” (Ether 12:39, 41)

How much time do we spend in the scriptures? When we do read them, are we reading them like we do a novel, or do we study hungering to learn everything we can from them? Nephi suggested how we should study the scriptures when he said:

“ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:20)

One of my new goals for the year is to feast upon the words of Christ found in all our scriptures and the modern prophets. We live in the dispensation of the fullness of times and have living prophets to guide us through troubled times. I testify that as we take time daily to feast on the words of Christ, we will be protected from those who would have us stray from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What a blessing it is to have all the scriptures that have been preserved by God for us. What are you and your family doing with the scriptures?

I invite you to take the time to watch the following video: “Scriptures Legacy”. As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

We Must All Be Born Again

A new year always brings the idea of new year’s resolutions. I have been making new year’s resolutions for many years, but they do not usually last very long. Some of my resolutions include eating better, exercising more, reading the scriptures more, and the list goes on.

New year images also include a new born baby. One of the many news stories for the new year is the first baby born on the first day of the year. We have hope when we see a new born baby; hope for the future of the child. A new born child is fresh and clean, and his parents are there to protect and teach the child everything she will need to know to succeed.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all start over like a new born child? Not that I want to repeat growing up or experience my rebellious teenage years; but how would it be if we could forget all our troubles and mistakes and start over? We can, through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused and asked if a man could enter his mother’s womb again? Jesus then explained that he was talking of a spiritual rebirth. President James E. Faust explained:

“Our first birth takes place when we are born into mortality. Our second birth begins when we are baptized by water by one holding the priesthood of God and is completed when we are confirmed, and then cometh a remission of [our] sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” (Born Again).

President Faust tells of a man that had polio for 22 years and was bed ridden. The missionaries taught him the Gospel and he wanted to be baptized. The man asked the missionaries to fast with him so he would have the strength to be baptized. On the day of his baptism the missionaries carried him to the car and to a bench in the chapel. When it came time for him to be baptized he said:

“Elder Peters and his companion picked up Atiati and carried him to the font. As they did so, Atiati said, “Please, put me down.” They hesitated, and he said again, “Put me down.”

As they stood in some confusion, Atiati smiled and exclaimed: “This is the most important event in my life. I know without a doubt in my mind that this is the only way to eternal salvation. I will not be carried to my salvation!” So they lowered Atiati to the ground. After a huge effort, he managed to pull himself up. The man who had lain 20 years without moving was now standing. Slowly, one shaky step at a time, Atiati went down the steps and into the water, where the astonished missionary took him by the hand and baptized him. He then asked to be carried from the font to the chapel, where he was confirmed a member of the Church.

Atiati continued to progress so that he gained the ability to walk only by a cane. He told Elder Peters that he knew that he would be able to walk on the morning of his baptism. He said, “Since faith can move a stubborn mountain, I had no doubt in my mind that it would mend these limbs of mine.”9 I believe we can say that Atiati was truly born again!” (Born Again).

In the Book of Mormon, we read of King Benjamin’s address to his people before he died. His message was so powerful that the people cried with one voice:

“we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:2-7)

The prophet Alma described how he repented of his sins and was born again:
“said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:24-26)

The process of spiritual rebirth is not easy, and it does not happen in an instant. It is a process of making the choice to follow the Savior’s example, of keeping the commandments and doing God’s will. Our rebirth may begin because of a spiritual experience as it did with King Benjamin’s people and with Alma, but if we do not have a change of heart and have no “disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” the process will not be complete, and we will not be perfected.

When King Benjamin’s people said that they had no more disposition to do evil, did it mean that they never sinned again? No, that is not possible. We are all imperfect beings and make mistakes. They meant that they would try to keep the commandments and live as God wanted them to live. As it was with them, so we must not expect to live perfect lives. When we sin or make a mistake, we must rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to wipe away our sins. We must pray daily for forgiveness and continue with our resolve to avoid evil and do good continually.

Years later, Alma asked the people that had been born again after hearing King Benjamin’s address: “if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)

This is a question we must ask ourselves each day. As we kneel in prayer at the beginning of the day, we should ask The Father to help us to “have no disposition to do evil, but to do good continually”. Then as we close the day we should reflect on our resolve and ask ourselves if we can “feel so now” – if our rebirth process is still on track. If we have failed in any way, we need to repent and rely on the grace of Jesus Christ to help us do better the next day.

As we begin a new year, my hope and prayer is that we will all strive for a new birth in Jesus Christ. I testify that if we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent of our sins everyday that his grace will be sufficient to raise us up, cleansed from all our sins and we will qualify to live with him along with our family.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.