Friday, December 13, 2013

Wonderful to Me

I love learning!  It makes me feel powerful, having all of this knowledge at my command.  I used to only feel that way about secular things, but now, I've learned to feel that way about the gospel too.  It seems the more knowledge I gain, the more I want.  I like the way it makes me feel.
Learning about the life and ministry of Christ has helped my testimony grow, and I love that our last three lessons covered the Atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, just in time for Christmas and the chance to celebrate His birth once more.
Let's start with the crucifixion.  What I didn't know is that, while on the cross, Jesus once again felt the pains of Gethsemane, but even stronger.  While He was physically being tortured, He was also suffering all of our pains.  Folks, what love the Savior must have for us.  I'm so glad to know that He will always be there for me, with whatever is going on in my life.
One of the great beauties of this gospel is that you never have to be worthy to come to Christ.  He is the one that makes you worthy.  He has overcome both physical and spiritual death for us.  I can't imagine what it will be like to meet Him again one day.  The more I study and learn about Him, the more I can feel His love in my life, and I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Yes, I Know That My Savior Loves Me

I feel like it's been forever since I've written!  And I will be trying to pick back up again with our Savior's atoning sacrifice.  I'm warning you now: there is no way I will be able to do this the justice it deserves.  And, as I've been learning, the more I try to understand the Atonement, the more I realize just how very far away I actually am from doing so.  Here we go.
As you probably know, Jesus has never sinned.  Because of that, He's also never experienced the things that follow, namely guilt, shame, remorse, feeling unworthy, sorrow, horror, solitude, and so forth.
That is, until now.
He fell on His face.  He needed an angel to come and comfort Him.  He asked not to do this, but finished it anyways. He experienced every emotion, every sensation, every feeling, both good and bad, up to the point of spiritual death.  That sounds exhausting.  Why would someone ever want to do that?
Because it was all for you.
That's right, you right there, looking at this here screen.  It was for you.  Because Jesus Christ loves you.  He suffered every negative feeling you could ever think of so that one day, you wouldn't have to.  He loves you so much that He wanted to give you a chance.  A chance to return to live with a Heavenly Father who wants you to be with Him so much, He was willing to send the Only Begotten to die for you.
I suppose one of the best ways this can be summed up is here in this lovely children's song.  Enjoy :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

I Thank Him Reverently

Have you ever come across something in your day that made it so much brighter?  That one little thing that happened that, for whatever reason, totally made your day?  Sometimes I find that little thing in the scriptures.  That one little verse that really makes my heart smile.
For example, John 16:33.  "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  The Savior tells us this right before Gethsemane happens.  I don't know about you, but if I knew I was about to experience suffering beyond comprehension, I probably wouldn't be too sympathetic toward other people and their problems.  Yet the Savior is still so compassionate.  What an example.
In the next chapter, Christ gives the intercessory prayer.  It's John 17, and I highly recommend you read it.  And specifically pay attention to the way that Jesus prays.  Because that was one thing that really struck me.  The way Jesus talks to Heavenly Father is still respectful, but He prays like He is actually talking to someone face to face.  His relationship with His Heavenly Father is so strong.  I think the most wonderful part is that I know I'm capable of having a relationship like that too.  I already love the relationship I do have with Him, but I know I should still work to develop it.  It's like any other relationship here on earth; it takes genuine time and effort.  But I still feel so lucky knowing that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me.
As we get closer to the time of the Garden of Gethsemane, I'm just amazed at the love that both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us.  One of my absolute favorite songs is "My Heavenly Father Loves Me."  I ask you to really listen to it, because it is wonderful, beautiful, and true.  You can listen to it here:
Folks, your Heavenly Father loves you, whether you like it or not.  There's no denying that.  I hope you can feel His love like I have in my life.  Because it's there.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

For Those Days

I know I say this pretty much every time, but I’ve found another new favorite parable.  The parable of the talents.  Basic summary: a wealthy man gives his servants each a certain number of talents.  One gets five, another two, and another one.  When the master returns, he asks the servants what they’ve done with their respective talents.  The first had earned ten, the next four, and the last had buried his.  I guess I’d never consciously thought this, but a common misconception is that the man who ended up with ten talents is the most righteous.  However, this is not true.  In Matt. 25:15, it says that the master gave “to every man according to his several ability.”  I’d never picked up on this phrase. 
For those who don’t know, I play the piano, the organ, I sing, I do ballroom dance, and I’m currently attending BYU.  That’s more than the average 19 year old is up to, I guess you could say.  Throughout my life, people have commented that they were impressed with how naturally talented I was.  This always bothered me, because I certainly wasn’t born with what I have.  This did not just “happen.”  I’ve spent many hours working to get to where I am now.  And now I’m glad I did (Yes, mom.  You were right that I would thank you one day.)   
I like that this gospel makes us work hard.  How boring would it be if you just got the short straw and there was nothing you could do about it?  This gospel is about helping us become better.  We are meant to find happiness.  You develop whatever talents you have.  Not much will be sweeter than hearing, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt 25:21). 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Reins of Jesus

I don't know about you, but I like knowing stuff.  It feels cool.  It gives me almost this sense of power.  Plus, I know that this crazy brain of mine is all I get to take with me at the end of my time here, so I might as well make it a good one.
As we've been studying the scriptures, I've gained so many new little nuggets of knowledge.  I never realized how much Atonement symbolism is in the New Testament.  Of course I knew that the Atonement was the most important part of it, but I never realized just how many places you could find it, whether explicit or discreet.
For example, the triumphal entry in Matt 21.  I never knew this story very well, for some reason, but now it holds beautiful symbolism for me.  Jesus rides into Jerusalem on an unbroken donkey.  First of all, a donkey is the most lowly creature.  Second, because this donkey was a colt, it was unbroken.  It was a miracle that that donkey didn't get spooked and start bucking once he was surrounded by people shouting, throwing clothes in front of him, and waving palm fronds in his face.  This is no coincidence, that's for sure.  The Savior has taken the reins, and He will steer the donkey where it needs to go.
So it is with us.  If we can let the Savior take the reins in our lives, He will take us in the right direction.  He will keep us on the path that we need to be on, helping us get through our daily struggles.  This is something I have a bit of a hard time with.  I'm very independent.  I can do lots of things by myself, and I really like it that way.  I like knowing that I can manage my own life.  However, as I've approached the doorstep of this period of big decisions, it's more crucial now than ever to really trust the Savior.  This has been tough for me, and I need to have greater faith that I won't be led astray.  I certainly can't do this alone, no matter how hard I try.  Let's work on this together, shall we?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rolling Stones

If your life has been anything like mine, you probably ran into an immature boy or two or a few hundred.  I'm sure there's also been one of those boys who chose to share the shortest verse of scripture ever written as a spiritual thought.  That shortest verse happens to be John 11:35, and it has now become one of my new favorites.
So here's the background story on this verse.  Lazarus, one of Jesus's friends, gets sick and passes away.  The Jews believe that the spirit lingers around the body for three days.  But by the time Jesus gets there, it's already been 4-5 days.  Mary and Martha both tell Jesus that if He has only gotten there sooner, Lazarus wouldn't have died and they start to weep.  Cue John 11:35
"Jesus wept."
The shortest verse in words, but the longest in meaning.
He doesn't just get teary-eyed or let out a little sigh.  He weeps.  Why?  I think there are several possibilities.  He could be demonstrating the scripture that says to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  We also weep about things we care about.  But I think the answer I like best is that He can feel our mourning and sadness.  He understands the sufferings inside our hearts, and I think He sincerely wants us to be happy.  It pains Him when we are in pain.  He loves us so much!  
Now on with the story.  Jesus asks some of the others to move the stone.  He certainly could have done it Himself, but I think He wanted the focus to be on the rising Lazarus.  But this also makes a beautiful Atonement symbol.  In our lives, sometimes we do bad things.  Sometimes our choices turn out to be not so great.  But if we want to get on with our lives, we must be the ones to move the stone blocking the way of the Savior.  There is no stone big enough that can block you from the power of the Atonement.  Once we let Him in, He can bring us back to life.  He can restore us and help us return to a happy and healthy life.
Guys, I believe this is true.  I really do.  But that's not going to make one bit of difference if you don't do anything about it.  This is a gospel of action!  As was stated in one of my favorite movies: "Life's not a spectator sport.  If watching is all you're gonna do, then you're gonna watch your life go by without you."  Right now is the time to turn that life of yours around.  Let Him in.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Someone Else's Shoes

Most likely, you've heard the phrase that you have to walk a mile in someone's shoes before you really know them.  Well, I've found that it really enhances my scripture study if I try to do that.  The story comes more to life when you think of each character as a real person, with thoughts, feelings, wants.
For example, let's talk about when Jesus feeds the 5,000.  Jesus told the disciples to feed the people.  Andrew then said "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9).
Now imagine you are that little boy.  You have these few loaves of bread and two little fish.  Maybe you need to sell them to make money for your family, maybe you earned them today for your pay and that is all your family has to eat.  Whatever the case, it was all this little boy had.  And the Savior asked him to give it up.  That probably took quite a bit of faith from that lad.  The boy gives the food to the Savior, and once everyone has been fed, there are twelve baskets leftover.  I like to think that the boy got to take some of that home, ending up with more than he started with.
This story is so powerful because if we give all that we have to the Savior, fully trusting in Him, He can leave us better off than before.  He can give us so much more than we could obtain all by ourselves.  I just love the Atonement!
Here's another one for you.  Peter comes to Jesus, possibly frustrated about something.  He asks, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  til seven times?" (Matt. 18:21).  Jesus replies that we should forgive seventy times seven times.  Does that mean we should a little notebook in our back pocket to keep track of each time we're offended?  No, probably not.  Then the Savior goes on to give the parable of the man who owed a 10,000 talent debt.  Fun fact: that's equivalent to about 150,000 years of labor, so in other words, it was a debt that could never be paid.  It came time for the man to pay up, but of course he didn't have the money.  But the lord forgave the man his debt.
Later, this man went and found his fellow servant who owed him 100 pence (about 100 days labor) and demanded payment.  When the fellow servant couldn't pay up, the man had him thrown in prison.  When the lord found out, he asked, "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?" (Matt. 18:33).
Jesus has agreed to take your sins upon Himself.  He owns your sins and debts.  But this is also true for other people as well.  Because Jesus owns other people's sins and mistakes, we must forgive people when they trespass against us.  Let go of the issue, and let the Savior step in to resolve it.
The Atonement is such a beautiful thing, not only in what it's capable of, but in the fact that it applies to everyone!  The Savior is there for YOU!!  He knows you and me, loves you and me, and He wants the both of us to trust in Him.  He wants nothing but the best for you.  And all you have to do is agree to follow Him.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

I don't know about you, but I love those "feel good" sorts of stories.  I like having my dear little heart warmed, like the way that soup gets your insides all toasty and comfortable.  I always thought the story of the Good Samaritan was this way, just a nice, happy story to show us that there are good people in the world.  While that is still true, the meaning is so much deeper than that. 
This parable comes about when a lawyer, otherwise known as a scribe, asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life.  In return, Jesus asks what the scriptures say, and the man says that we must love God with all our heart, might, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus says that the man should go and do this, but the man then asks who his neighbor is.  The story of the Good Samaritan is Christ's response.  
The story begins, "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho..." (Luke 10:30) with the word "man" also being in italics in the scriptures.  As it would turn out, anytime a word is in italics in the scriptures, that means it wasn't in the original Greek manuscript.  So we can totally substitute ourselves into this story.  I like making the scriptures personal to me, because it's much more meaningful when I do and I'm able to answer the "So what?" question.  
While this man was going on his merry way, he fell among thieves.  Now, I must ask, what do thieves do?  They take the good things that we have, and only leave bad things behind.  To make this personal to us, we can substitute devils for thieves.  Satan will only leave you hurt and with bad things where the good things used to be.  
A couple people passed by this man, a Jew, on the side of the road.  But then a Samaritan came.  I didn't know this, but a Samaritan is someone who is part Jew and part something else.  The Jews considered them an unclean people, so they didn't like them very much.  The Samaritan stops and helps the man, binding up his wounds and taking him to an inn to rest.  
Symbolism time!  A Samaritan is part Jew, part something else, right?  Well, if you think about it, the Savior also happens to be part Jew, part something else!  I don't know about you, but I don't believe in coincidences.  As we go along our path in life, sometimes we will get beat up and torn down.  But the Savior will always stop to help us, nursing us back to full spiritual health.  He just asks that we "Go, and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:37).  
This is definitely something I need to work on, because I know how it feels when other people stop and help me.  Just last week, I was walking home and I was feeling a little defeated.  The week had been long, this next week will be even longer, and just several other big things were weighing in on my mind.  As I was walking into my complex, a guy was sitting on the sidewalk tying his shoes, about to go on a run.  I'd never seen him before.  He asked how I was doing, and I said I was alright.  He then asked if I'd had a tough day, and I nodded.  He told me not to worry, and that things would get better for me.  He knew everything was going to be alright.  I don't know who that boy was, and I haven't seen him since.  But he was my good Samaritan that day.  It didn't take him a lot of time or effort, but he helped me get on the road to recovery.  This was such a simple, real deal, everyday life example for me.  I hope I remember to pass on the good favor, not just from him, but from my Savior.  Let's get out there and do some good.  
By the way, if you just happen to have 5:45, I highly suggest that you watch this video I just found.  It's a good one :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Finding Peace

I'm sure there's been a time in your life where you felt like there's no possible way you can get everything done or that nothing seems to be going your way.  If that's the case, this post is for you! If not, don't worry, just live a little longer.
As a college student, I feel that way more often than not sometimes.  I'm trying to balance all the things I need to do, plus those I want to do, as well as those I should do, and there's hopefully an occasional bit of sleep thrown in there somewhere.  I really hope I'm not the only one who's dealing with this situation.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I know that I always have the Savior there to help me out.  In Matthew 11: 28-30, it says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Now, I'm going to be perfectly honest for a moment.  I didn't totally know what a yoke was at first.  For those who were in my same predicament, it's a piece of wood that's used to hook up two animals, usually oxen, to some sort of cart so they can pull it.  It looks like this:

In this scripture passage, Christ is already hooked up and ready to pull.  He so desperately wants to help us with our burdens, but we have to let Him.  We have to join Him as we press on.  Now, I don't know about you, but having my soul find rest sure does sound nice every once in a while, so let Him into your life.  I promise, it will be well worth it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pyramid up to Perfection

Sometimes I really wish there was a "Life's How To" book.  I'm at the point in my life where the most important decisions I'll be making that will affect me for the rest of my life are being made.  Right now.  Where should I live, what career should I pursue, whom should I marry, so forth.  All within the next five years, just about.  Stressful much?
But, I'm SO glad that at least I have a "True Happiness How To" book.  You might be more familiar with its other name, the scriptures.  One of my favorite chapters has got to be the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.  In this chapter, Christ gives us what's known as the beatitudes.  In order, they are:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now, I want you to think of these as a sort of spiral staircase.  Each step leads up to the next, guiding you on your ascent to perfection.  But if you notice, the blessing promised for both the first and last is the same: "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  This makes a beautiful cycle for us to follow, giving us a step by step guide to not only live righteously, but to consequently be happy.  They guide us as we try to become like our Savior.  
I would love to focus more on each idea, but that would make this post much too long, so I shall conclude with one final idea.  In Matt 5:48, Christ commands us to be perfect like our Heavenly Father.  I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty tall order to me.  I have always struggled with being a perfectionist, partially because of my personality, partially because I did ballet for ten years.  It has gotten better recently, but for a while this was a hard scripture for me to read because I didn't fully understand it.  But I've recently read an article that talked more in depth about this scripture.  We don't have to be perfect now, but we do have the capacity to become perfect later.  Part of the deal is that we do the best we can, and then we rely on both the Savior's ability and willingness to help with the rest.
I'm still learning to have more trust and faith in Him, but I can tell you this: it's worth it.  The more I embrace His teachings and strive to be like Him, the more joy I feel in my life.  
All it takes is one step...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Gift to Your Soul

Everybody likes to receive gifts.  Of course I know that you have a good heart and you like to give gifts more than receive them, but let's be honest for a moment here.  Everyone likes to get a present every once in a while.  But I can't imagine being the mother of a two year old and receiving gifts like gold, frankincense, and myrrh in their behalf for their birthday.
But let's remember, this was no ordinary toddler.  This was the Son of God.  I never really understood what some of these gifts were until this past week.  Gold is, of course, a gift for kings.  Frankincense is a type of incense that they would use in the temple, representing the prayers of the people as it went up to the heavens.  Finally, myrrh is an anointing oil and embalming agent that was very costly.  This shows us that the wise men not only knew who the child was, but what He would grow up to do and become. Christ is the King of Kings.  He is our intercessor with our Heavenly Father when we pray.  He will later be crucified and lay in the tomb for three days, anointed with oils until He is resurrected.  This symbolism amazes me!  The wise men knew how important this little child was.  They knew how He would be the Savior for each of us.  I think that is incredible.
Now we are going to fast forward about 30 years.  One of the first events of Christ's ministry that we talked about in class was when He cleansed the temple.  He reminds everyone that this was His Father's house, a very sacred and special place.  Now, in First Corinthians, Paul also tells us, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Let's connect these two statements for a moment.  If Christ can cleanse the temple, and we are the temple of God, wouldn't that mean that He can clean us?  Why yes, it does.  He can help us cleanse ourselves so that one day we can return to live with our Father in Heaven.  He wants to do it!  He wants to help you.  We just have to let Him in.
Do yourself a favor.  Give yourself a little gift.  Today.  Right now.
Let Him in.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Though an infant now we view Him...

I don't know about you, but Christmas has got to be my favorite time of year, no question.  I love the lights and the delicious food and the music and the pretty snow outside.  Everyone is so loving and generous.  My family has quite a few traditions that happen around this time, and, of course, one of the best ones is that on Christmas Eve we sit by the tree and my dad reads the Christmas story in Luke 2 about the birth of the Savior.
Each time that this time of year rolls around, I can't help wondering why we can't be like that all year round.  Not the lights, presents, and eating our weight in sugar cookies part, but the part where we remember the birth of our Savior and the great joy and hope that comes with it.
I'm sure you already know the story, or are at least familiar with it, so I'll just brush over any basic details.  Let's begin with the story of Zacharias.  He is married to Elisabeth, and they are getting old and have never been able to have children.  Zacharias is at the temple and an angel appears to him.  Cue Luke 1:13 "But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John."  Just as a reminder, this little baby will grow up to be John the Baptist.  Do you think it's possible that Zacharias was praying at this exact moment for a little baby boy?  Maybe, we don't really know.  Do you think he expected it to happen at this point?  I highly doubt it.  He and his wife were getting old.  Nevertheless, the angel said that his prayers were heard.  I'm sure there were many times when he went to the temple to pray for a child.
Well, why did the Lord wait until now for this miracle?  I'm guessing you've heard the phrase "Thy will be done."  The Lord has a specific plan for each of us with great things in store, but one of the aspects of that statement that I'm still learning to appreciate is "Thy timing be done."  Not just what, but also when.  It's a tricky thing to learn, trust me.  But it's part of having faith.  And nothing feels better than knowing that you're heading in the right direction and when things turn out so much better than what you had originally planned for yourself.  Just hold out a little longer.
So this introduces us to John the Baptist.  About six months later, Mary is visited by an angel and told that she will be the mother of the Son of God.  I must say, I can't begin to imagine what it would feel like to have that responsibility.  I can't help wondering if she knew the prophecies that had been made about her and the Savior's birth.  Just the thought of knowing that a prophecy in the scriptures was specifically about you seems like such an overwhelming, yet glorious thought.  What an example.
Now, Mary is pregnant, and she and Joseph go up to Nazareth to be accounted for in the census and then taxed.  They went into Bethlehem, which means "house of bread."  How fitting that the Savior, the bread of life, would be born in the house of bread.  Simple, yet profound.  I love that.
Finally, one last thought.  I've come up with a new motto of sorts.  Both Zacharias and Mary questioned the angel how their respective miracles were going to come to pass.  The angel gives us one of my new favorite scriptures, Luke 1:37, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."  Folks, I believe that statement.  Your Heavenly Father is a God of miracles, both large and small, public and personal.  What miracles the Almighty will have in store when you rely on His will and timing.  What a miracle that sweet little baby Jesus was, a baby that would grow up to be your Redeemer not just on Christmas, but everyday, every season, and every moment of the year.
Last thing.  I love music.  Especially Christmas music.  And I may or may not have been listening to some whilst writing this Christmas post in September. But my most favorite Christmas song is called "Angels from the Realms of Glory," from which this post's title comes.  This particular version I'm sharing with you is the words of "Angels from the Realms of Glory" to the tune of "Angels We Have Heard On High," arranged by Mack Wilberg and performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  You can say it's a little out of season if you want, but this song and its message is beautiful anytime of the year.  It gives me goose bumps every time without fail.  Trust me, it's worth the four minutes and forty-nine seconds.
Never forget that at this point in time, though we may view Him as an infant, He shall fill His Father's throne.  Don't forget to enjoy the "spirit of Christmas," the timeless love of Christ.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Remember Who You Are"

Well folks, I know it's been a while (a very long while, actually) but I'm once again writing on this here blog of mine! This semester I'm taking a class here at BYU on the New Testament that focuses on the first four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Now let's get down to business. This will seem random at first, but you must know that Disney's "The Lion King" is one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen it, you can skip this paragraph entirely, because you won't know what I'm talking about. In the movie, there's a scene where Simba, the main lion, is questioning what he should be doing with his life. (You can watch this scene here: He is the heir to the throne, but he doesn't feel worthy to take it. He meets one of his father's old friends, a monkey named Rafiki. Although Simba knows his father is dead, Rafiki claims that he's still alive. Simba follows him and has a sort of vision of his father, Mufasa. Mufasa says that because Simba has forgotten who he is, he has in turn forgotten his father. He says he must remember who he is, not only as a king, but also as his son.
This demonstrates a principle about the gospel that I love, which we find in Moses 1. The book of Moses was received in a revelation given to Joseph Smith. It's contains what the book of Genesis from the Bible was supposed to have originally. Over time, parts of the Bible were lost for various reasons. So Moses is the fullness of the book of Genesis. Moses 1 is the prologue to the story of the creation.
Now, back to this principle I mentioned earlier. In Moses 1:1-3, it says that God appears to Moses face to face and identifies Himself. Then, verse 4: "And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease." Now, I've added italics for a reason. God identifies Moses not as a servant or inferior, but a son, which is such a personal and loving relationship. This in turn means that we are each a child of God. We are each a son or daughter of the Almighty. I think that is so incredible.
I want to make another related point with verse 4. As the saying goes, sons will usually turn out just like their fathers. So, if we are the children of God, shouldn't that mean that we have the ability to one day become like our Heavenly Father?
Yes. Yes, it does.
Just like Simba in "The Lion King," by remembering who our Father is and who we are, we can amount to such great things!
One last point. In verse 33, Heavenly Father says, "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten."
Perhaps, by chance, you have heard of the Hubble telescope. It's a very high-powered telescope that can take high-resolution pictures of far off parts of space, including this picture here:

This is only one little corner of the universe, but each of those tiny spots of light is a different galaxy, each full of many different lands, each with people just like us. "And [Moses] beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof." (verse 29). There are other children of God out there! They look like us, feel the same emotions we do, have hopes and dreams like we do.
So I guess this brings two questions to my mind. If the worlds are really without end, how does God keep track of all of them? Verse 37 says, "And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine." These are earths full of His children. He knows each one of them, including you. He loves each with a most perfect and pure love.
Second and final question. Out of all these innumerable worlds that are out there, why was I put on this specific earth? Well, Heavenly Father knew that this earth would be the most wicked. So he sent His most faithful and valiant children. (That's you). I think just knowing that Heavenly Father trusted me to come here and not give up is so incredible. He has faith in YOU! You can do it! Don't give up on your faith just yet.

"Remember who you are. You are my son/daughter... Remember."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Seeking the Christ

Recently, there's been some things I've been a little discouraged about.  I just have no way of knowing if it'll work out the way I would like!  And I'm definitely a planner and I like having at least a 2 1/2 year plan or so.  That gives me a sense of security.  So having that uncertainty just plain bugs me...
But this week I've been learning the power and importance of hope.  "And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak concerning hope.  How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?  Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope." (Moroni 7:40, 42).  Faith and hope must go hand in hand.  They build each other up.
But remember, "And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart."  (Moroni 7:43).  But that's often easier said than done, right?  I've noticed that the harder I try to be good and follow Christ, the more I realize how far I still have to go.
How do we become like Christ?  Well, I know that charity if the pure love of Christ.  So what's charity then?  "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."  (Moroni 7:45).  For me, charity was a difficult concept to truly understand.  Now I want to connect two things for you.
Read the past scripture again, but replace the word "charity" with "Christ."
Isn't it amazing how much more powerful that is?  It's easier for me to wrap my simple mind around an abstract concept like charity when I can give it a form of embodiment.  Christ really did suffer long.  He was kind to all, even to those who didn't return it.  He spent His time among the poorest people, and as He hung on the cross, He asked the Father to forgive the people responsible for His crucifixion.  He is the ultimate example for us to follow.
If you're anything like me, that will seem a little intimidating.  The Savior was perfect, but I am far from it.  "And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written..."  (Ether 12:41).  Remember, seek and ye shall find, ask and it will be given to you, knock and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Storms of Life

Sometimes, it rains.  Maybe it will sprinkle.  Occasionally it pours.  But I don't mean like what happens to be going on outside right now, but on the inside.  In the parts of your life that you can't physically see.  
The Book of Mormon tells us the story of the Brother of Jared.  He and his people had to cross the ocean in barges to get to a land that God had promised to them.  "And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind... And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven before the wind" (Ether 6:5,8).  The Brother of Jared probably expected some wind, but a storm that never stopped?  Winds and waves that lasted for almost a year??
The Lord has been known to do this with us.  Sometimes, all we can see is the storm.  Our lives are being bashed by the waves of the sea.  We don't know if we're going to make it.  Yet, we must trust that God has a "promised land" for us.  He takes opportunities to push us toward something better.  And it will hardly ever be a gentle push.  I'm learning that the harder life gets, the more spiritual progress we can make, even though we can't see it.  
Trust me, it's not an easy lesson to learn.  The hardest part for me is my attitude about a problem.  "And they did sing praise unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord" (Ether 6:9).  These people were stuck on a boat in torrential rains for almost a year, and they were thanking the Lord!  In my opinion, I think it's ok to mourn.  It's ok to be sad or disappointed.  But keep your head up.  Don't give up on that promised land you're heading for just yet.  Trials are a time of learning and growing.  You can either turn to the Lord and grow closer to Him, or turn away, shaking your fist at Him in anger.  
For me, I would rather deal with short term storms than eternal punishment.  Of course, your options won't always be put so simply, but never forget that it's the little things that will make a big difference.  Scripture study, prayer, going to church.  Simple, yet they can be the difference between the straight and narrow path or starting to wander in spiritual darkness.  Hold on to those little things, that little bit of faith you have.  These little things are what will help you draw closer to Him during your storms and stress.
Finally, remember to hope.  Hope for that promised land to come.  Because God is your loving Heavenly Father, He will push you.  He will push you in a direction that will lead to such great happiness.  He doesn't want you to give up on the wonderful things He has in mind for you.  
"...wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which [He] hast prepared" (Ether 12:32).  

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Being a Human

I am very much human.  We all are.  I don't know about you, but there have been times in my life where I feel like superwoman, but others when I put my forehead in palm and mutter, "Stupid human..."  Turns out that's actually a part of being here on Earth.  Welcome to mortality, right?
Assuming that you're also a human and have had a similar face-palm experience at some point, then you've most likely met some people that have totally rubbed you the wrong way.  For some reason, they just drive you up the wall.  They can say things that seemed rude and hurtful.  In the Book of Mormon, Mormon is writing his last words.  He is one of the last of his people left and his enemies, the Lamanites, have been hunting for him.  He knows he will soon be killed.  We tend to value people's last words.  If you knew it was the last thing you would say, you want to make it important, right?  Mormon's last chapter that he writes is addressed to the descendants of the Lamanites, his enemies.
What does that mean for us?  In this chapter, Mormon invites the Lamanites to believe in Christ.  He knows that the Lamanites alive at his time won't accept the gospel, but he hopes that their descendants will.  He wants them to find true happiness.  Speaking of Christ, he says, "And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgement day hath it given unto to him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.  Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ..." (Mormon 6:7-8).
A few things about this:
  1. First,  just a reminder that Mormon is writing to his enemies.  The Lamanites have killed off almost all of Mormon's people, meaning his friends and family are gone.  Yet, he still wants them to find true happiness.  How can that be??  He should be infuriated!  This shows us that the more Christ-like you are, you become much harder to offend. 
  2. Next, this statement, if you look closely, it's a cause and effect statement.  Look at the part I italicized.  Normally, we think of repenting as the cause and being saved as the effect.  However, it should be the other way around.  We have such a great opportunity, to live in the presence of Almighty God!  That alone should motivate to try a little harder to be a little better.  
  3. Finally, look at the part I put in bold.  I know one big debate in religion is about the state of the Godhead.  They are separate, yet one?  How is that possible??
Jesus Christ gives us His own clarification.  In John 17: 11, 21,  and 22, we read, "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.  Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."
Now, have we become one big blob of matter?  Nope.  Are we ever going to?  No again.  This simply means that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one in purpose.  They are united in what They do, just as we should be.  We should unite ourselves with good people who believe in good things.  We are big fans of the buddy system here!  Find someone with a desire to do and be good and stick together.  Only if we are united as a group can we unite with God, becoming one with His purpose and will for us.  I don't know about you, but if I had to pick someone's intuition and will to trust and unite with, I believe that our loving Heavenly Father, God Almighty, sounds like a pretty wonderful option :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough

When you see a beautiful piece of art what do you do?  Do you sit there, just wishing with all your might that you could see the paintbrushes that created that beautiful work?  Do you dream of holding the chisel that shaped that piece of stone?  If you're like most people, probably not.  I'm guessing that you'll be thinking about the artist and the meaning behind the work.
When a chisel is made, there are a few steps it has to go through before it's as useful as it can be, creating the most beautiful works of art.  First, it has to be heated up in a fire and softened.  The blacksmith will blow the bellows, increasing the temperature.  The chisel is then shaped and sharpened.  A chisel can go through this process multiple times until it is ready for use.  
The Lord will frequently do this with us.  We will be put into the fiery furnace of affliction.  The bellows will blow, turning up the heat.  The Lord will then personally shape and sharpen us, creating a tool that He can use to carry out His work.  He is the artist, while we are His instruments.  The fiery furnace will not be fun, but it's necessary for us to become the best we can be.  The Lord wants to help us improve so we can spread the joy that the gospel brings and be an instrument in helping others become beautiful pieces of art.
In the Book of Mormon, Christ has come, bringing the peace and happiness of His gospel to the people there.  "There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."  (4 Nephi 1:17).  Another way to put that is that they were "un-ites."  Now, if you look at that word again, because they weren't divided into classes or groups, they were united!  I think that is so profound.  As we unite ourselves with Him, we will be united as a people, as fellow children of God.
As we go through that fiery furnace of affliction, it can be hard to keep that faith.  Even if it's with the fingernails of faith, hold on!  Please hold on!!  Don't give up.  This gospel is about hope.  Heavenly Father has a vision in mind for you and He is going to shape and refine you into something more beautiful and wonderful than you can imagine. 
"Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  (3 Nephi 12:3). 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Things at Eye Level

I want to share what my Book of Mormon teacher calls a life long learning overlay.  For when we study the scriptures, not just read them, but really study and apply, my teacher gave us a sort of method.
  1. Start at the general level.  What do the scriptures say?  What's going on in the story?  This is a great time to find "power scriptures."
  2. Next, take it to the "we" level.  How could this help the people close to you?  What can you and the people you associate with work on and do better?
  3. Most importantly, bring it down to "I" level.  How does this affect me and the way I'm living my life right now?  What can I do to try a little harder to be a little better?  At the grocery store, the items they want to sell the most are put at eye level.  The authors of the Book of Mormon have done the same.  You will often find the most important and meaningful things at "I" level.  Pretty cool, right? :)
Now I want to share a scripture with you.  It's found in 3 Nephi 22:7-8 "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer."  I know I've had times when I've felt like I've been forsaken.  The Lord will turn away from us because of wickedness, but He is anxious to welcome us back with open arms.  The key is we have to be standing there, facing Him, reaching out in return.
One way that we can turn to Him is by always showing our love and gratitude for the Lord and all that He has done for us.  There is a wonderful parable that James E. Talmage gave us.  It's called the Parable of the Grateful Cat.
A scientist was on a walk through the woods when he came to a pond.  There were two boys, one holding a picnic basket, followed by a mother cat.  Then one of the boys reached into the basket and pulled out a baby kitten.  He then threw it into the pond to drown.  Just as they were about to launch another kitten, the scientist stopped them.  He asked how they could do this to these poor kittens.  The boys explained that they had been told to drown the kittens because the family already had the mother cat and didn't need kittens as well.  The scientist asked if he could keep the kittens.  The boys said yes and handed him the basket. As the scientist began to walk away, the mother cat followed him.
The following day, the scientist had some distinguished guests at his home.  The mother cat walked in, holding a freshly killed, whole mouse in her mouth.  She dropped the mouse at the scientist's feet and walked back out.
Why is this story so meaningful?  Well, do you think the scientist felt incredibly honored to receive such a gift?  No, probably not.  Was he taken aback by the mother cat's generosity?  Not likely either.  But from the mother cat's perspective, that was one of the best things she could offer.  It meant so much to her, and she chose to give it up to her master out of gratitude for saving her babies.
Now, bringing it back to "I" level.  We are commanded to pay tithing and fast offerings.  Do we give up ten percent of our income because the Lord needs the extra money?  Of course not!  Because He is the Almighty and all-powerful, He could use whatever means He wanted to bring about His work.  But why tithing then?  When we pay tithing, we give up a little of what's precious to us.  It means something to the Lord because we are giving Him something that's valuable to us, just as the mother cat chose to give the scientist her freshly caught mouse.  He can then turn it into something much more valuable, such as a temple where we can make covenants with Him.  He has a way of turning things we give Him into things we desperately need.
Finally, one more simple way that we can show love to our Father in Heaven is attending church.
The official name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  My teacher dissected the name for us, and I found it incredibly powerful.

  • The: singular, there is only one
  • Of: shows ownership or possession
  • Latter-Day Saints: that's us! This sets this particular day and age apart
So, because the name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ("of" is in bold for a reason), Christ owns this church.  But look again, it is also our church.  We jointly own it with Christ.  But with that ownership comes great responsibility and work.  We must be working together with Christ.  Make that partnership the most successful one there ever was :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Greater Call

Unless you count piano lessons for some seven year olds, I have never had any experience being a teacher.  To be perfectly honest, I sometimes envy those who are asked to teach Sunday School classes or other spiritual meetings because they are so spiritually strong.  If you really want to know something, try to teach it to somebody else.  Those who teach others about the gospel must truly know and understand what they're talking about in order to teach it effectively. 
Now we have come to a worry of mine.  I really respect those who choose to serve missions.  They are so in tune with what the Spirit says and what Heavenly Father wants them to do and teach.  They always seem to know just what to say.  As I've been preparing to serve a mission, I can't help doubting myself.  How on earth am I going to teach people about what I've known my whole life in a way that makes sense to them and that they can understand and appreciate??
It's frequently said that when we teach about the gospel, we should teach like Christ taught.  Considering that He is the greatest teacher ever known, in my mind, that can seem a little intimidating.  This is the way that I thought teaching should be done:

What ---> How

Start with what you need to teach.  Learn and understand it to the best of your ability.  Then figure out what the best method is to prepare and present it. 
Although this way is fine and good, it's not the best way.
Now, if we turn to the scriptures, we find that Christ often uses parables when He teaches.  However, this is not always the case.  It depends on the audience that He is teaching.  After He teaches a principle, He gives us the reasoning behind it and why it's important.  With that knowledge, I want to modify the teaching strategy a little:

Who ---> Why ---> What ---> How

Our audience, the "who," should drive the rest.  It should be the foundation for everything else.  As my Book of Mormon professor said, we should be teaching people, not lessons.  Try a little harder to be a little better.
Finally, I want to share one of my new favorite scriptures.  "Behold, I am the law, and the light.  Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life."  I know that's often easier said than done.  But God won't give you a trial or temptation above what you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Christ knows you perfectly.  You go the direction you're facing, so make sure that direction is always toward Christ :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

He Lives, All Glory to His Name

I'm sorry this post is very long and a little late, but I have been SO excited to study this chapter!  Chapter 11 in 3 Nephi is my very favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon.  This is the chapter when Christ comes to visit the Americas after He has been resurrected.  I'll just highlight a few of my favorite points and hopefully I can do it justice :)
Quick summary: It's about a year after all the destruction happened because of the Savior's crucifixion.  The people gathered at the temple and they were admiring the changes that had occurred since then.
While they're talking, "...they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard..." (Verse 3).
I italicized "round about" because that gives us a horizontal implication.  They looked around at each other, trying to figure out what just happened.  If there is something that you don't understand, go straight to the source.  Go vertical instead of horizontal and pray to your Heavenly Father for answers.
Verse 5: "And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were toward the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came."
When it says that they "did open their ears to hear it," that wasn't a physical change.  In order to hear the voice of the Lord through the Spirit, we should open up our spiritual ears.  How do we do that?
Well, you have a heart.  Not just the one that pumps blood through your body and keeps your body alive, but the non-tangible one. The one that defines who you are, what you like and dislike, and that should be softened in order to feel the Spirit in your life.  Watch this:


In the middle of the word heart, you have the word ear!  In order to hear and understand someone, especially your loving Heavenly Father, you need to open your heart and be ready and willing to listen.
After He is introduced by both Heavenly Father and Himself as the Savior of the world, the people "fell to the earth" out of reverence and respect for their Redeemer.  That reaction is symbolic of Adam's and our own falls.  Christ then invites everyone to rise up and come to Him.  He is the only one who can redeem us and bring us back up after we fall, whether our fall is because of sin or a hard time in our lives.  He can lift us and help us along.
Verse 15: "And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come."
Once again, I've italicized those words for a reason.  Christ invites the people to come to Him and feel the wounds in His hands and side.  Not only does the whole multitude go forth, but they go one by one.  Because they went forth as a group, that shows us how infinite the Atonement is.  It's for everyone!  Every single person who has or will live on the earth.  I think it's more important, however, that we notice that they go one by one.  Not only is the Atonement infinite, but it's very intimate.  Each of those people had a different need.  Some would need the Savior to smile with them, others to cry with them.  He is not worried one bit about time here.
So, I'd like to pose the question, what do you need Jesus to be for you?  It will be different for each person, and it will change throughout your life, but He knows exactly what you're feeling.  He knows what it feels like to have your heart broken, to stub your toe really hard, to lose a loved one, or whatever the feeling may be.  He went forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.  He wants to help you!  He loves you so very much.
Now, on the other side of that, what does Jesus need you to be for Him?  I think after performing something like the Atonement, the least we could do in return is believe in Him.  Follow in His footsteps.  He wants to be your best friend.
Finally, I want to share this video with you.  This is a really beautiful slideshow of pictures of what the Savior's coming to the Americas might have looked like.  Please watch it!  It really touched me, so hopefully it will do the same for you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to be Free

In the book of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, there is great destruction on the land after Christ is crucified.  The list of catastrophes includes:
  • tempests
  • quakes
  • fire
  • storm
  • darkness
  • winds
  • floods
  • buried
  • drowned
Now, before all of this happened, the people went through what's called the pride cycle.  They would go through periods of righteousness and prosperity, become prideful and commit sins, and repent and try to do better.   They went through the pride cycle multiple times, but they had reached a point where the periods of repenting and righteousness were very short-lived or simply not there.  All of these earthly disasters were just an outward reflection of what the people had done inside.  This is what sin will do to you and your life. 
Now, if that's not enough to show you how important it is to always be trying to choose the right, maybe this will.  When we make choices, it will often be between something that will take you either closer to Christ, or more down the devil's path.  Here's something interesting about the devil's name:


Now, take away the first letter:


He is very evil, but you already knew that, didn't you?  Let's keep going:


He is vile and will do vile things to get you to follow him.


He should make you ill.  He hates you and wants you to be miserable, just like him.


If you follow him, you will end up in someplace not very happy.
Now, one more.  If you spell devil backwards, what do you get?


I think that's incredibly powerful!  Doing the opposite of what the devil wants allows you to live.  It will let you be happy and have such great freedom.  
Of course, we all mess up.  I certainly do.  Christ knew we would.  He loved you enough to perform the Atonement, giving you the chance to repent and live with your Heavenly Father one day.  Repent now and go through a little pain, instead of waiting and suffering for a very long time.  This gospel is about progression, not perfection. 
Choose to live.
Choose Christ!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hero in Disguise

This week, I want to share with you the story of an incredible hero.  One who braved entering enemy territory time and time again to deliver a message of good tidings.  His name was Samuel.  He was a Lamanite.  Most people don't realize why Samuel is such a great scripture hero.  Let me tell you why I think he is so incredible:

1.     In 3 Nephi 23, Christ is visiting the Nephites after His Resurrection.  He asks if the people recall Samuel and his prophecies and they reply that they do.  The Savior then inquires why Samuel’s prophecies haven’t been recorded, and the prophet Nephi remembers that they indeed haven’t been written.  Christ then commands the people to record Samuel’s prophecies.  The only other prophet who’s writings are specifically mentioned by Christ is Isaiah, so for the Savior to specifically point out those words of scripture, they must be pretty important.
2.     Samuel, as I have previously stated, was a Lamanite.  His words are the only words of a Lamanite that we have recorded.  All of the other prophets whose words we have a record of were Nephites. 
3.     His prophecies are incredibly specific.  Most prophecies will say something like “If you don’t do this, then this might happen,” or “At one point in the near future.”  Samuel says that in five years time, the promised Messiah will be born.  He gives specific signs of His birth and then of His death.  He prophesies that in less than 400 years, the Nephites, the wicked group he has been preaching to, will be completely destroyed. 
4.     Samuel is a sort of “nobody.”  We have no idea who he family is.  For every other prophet, it was Alma, the son of Alma, or something along those lines.  We knew whom he descended from, or at least who his father was. 
5.     He gives us some very deep doctrine, especially about the Savior and His role in the Plan of Salvation. 

Now, I want to delve a little deeper on that last point.  In Helaman 14:13, Samuel says that “And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.”  If we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent, through what He has done, not through our own efforts, we will be saved.  Back in the premortal life, Satan believed that we wouldn’t be able to use our agency to make the choices necessary to return back to Heavenly Father.  But Christ did.  Have faith in your Savior, because He had faith in you first.