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.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to Become Spiritually Rich

To start off this week, I wanted to share a really cool thought that my Book of Mormon professor shared with us.  I don't know about you, but sometimes when I'm saying my prayers or reading my scriptures, my mind won't exactly be very focused and it will start to wander off to other places.  Before I know it, I won't have any idea what the page of scripture I just read was talking about.  My teacher suggested that next time that happens, pay attention to what your mind wanders to.  It can often be a problem or situation that should be brought to Heavenly Father.  Bring it up to Him in your prayers.  He is your Father and He wants to help you.  Because He is the Almighty, He already knows what's going on in your life, but He loves you so much that He wants to hear it from you.  Try it!  Please!  It's a really spiritually uplifting experience, trust me :)
Now, to the good stuff!  I want to share an analogy with you that my teacher shared with us.  Imagine a picture of a gold mine.  When you go digging for gold, there are three steps you should go through:

  1. Dig: You first have to gather some dirt that could potentially have pieces of gold in it.
  2. Sift/Sort: Once you have your dirt, you must search through it to find any little nuggets and separate them from the dirt.
  3. Fashion/Shape: All those little flecks of gold can together be melted down and formed into something more useful, like a piece of jewelry.
Now, to bring it back to us in our day.  
When we read and study our scriptures, we should follow that same process:
  1. Dig: Read your scriptures every day.  Make it a part of your daily routine.  
  2. Sift/Sort: Find doctrines and principles that are buried in the scriptures.  
  3. Fashion/Shape: Find ways that it can apply to your life right now.  
Using this process, we can become spiritually very rich!  Sometimes is will be easier said than done, but nothing worthwhile is easy.  Progression, not perfection!
One scripture in the Book of Mormon that's one of my personal nuggets is this: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth is mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."  
Now, I've added the bold to some of those words for a reason.  This verse teaches us a when/if principle.  The devil will come after you.  No matter what, it's happening, there's nothing you can do about that.  However, it's your choice whether or not to build on a firm foundation to protect yourself from the storm that's headed your way.  Now, when we talk about this verse we need to remember the difference between scaring and preparing.  The reason we talk about the devil and his attacks is so you know you have a reason to prepare.  There's no need to be afraid!  With Christ on our side, we will protected.  This doesn't mean that we won't get hurt, but because of your solid foundation on Christ, you can be healed.  
Finally, remember this:
See that??  You are in the scriptures!!  How cool is that??
Now get ready, here's another one:
Make the script yours!  Make it personal to you!!  I can testify that when you do, it can be such a testimony builder and it will make you spiritually so much stronger!  But don't just take my word for it. Try it for yourself and don't be afraid :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Forward with Faith, not Backward in Fear

Toward the end of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon, there are three commanders in the Nephite army: Helaman, Gid, and Teomner.  They are trying to take back the city of Manti from their enemies, the Lamanites.  However, they are incredibly outnumbered and low on supplies.  The odds aren't looking so good for them.  But they don't lose faith.  They immediately turn to God during this time of trouble.
This chapter should set the example for what we should do in our daily battles.  As verses 10-11 say, "Therefore we did pour out our souls to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.  Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him."  When things get tough, get down on your knees and pray, then get up and work.  This doesn't mean that we should only include God in our lives and pray to Him during times of trouble.  He is our Heavenly Father, and He loves us more than we know.  Because He is our Father, He wants to hear from us in both the good times and the bad.  Give God your faith and He will make it enough.  Move forward with faith, not backward in fear.
When we have trials, we have two choices of how to react.  They can either make us better or bitter, depending on our attitude and our willingness to learn from it.  Notice that the only difference between these words is one letter, and, conveniently enough, the negative one focuses more on "I."  When things get tough on the Nephites, it brings them closer to the Lord through their choices and strengthens their faith instead of them choosing to be bitter and focusing on themselves.
Sometimes it can feel like this life isn't fair.  How can God let awful things happen to such good people?  Even though God is almighty, people still have their agency, or their ability to make choices.  Even though He gives us commandments that He has asked us to follow, God cannot control what choices we make.  It was a part of His plan to send us to live on this Earth.  However, justice is an eternal principle.  So, yes, this life isn't fair.  But the next life will be.  Although it may not seem like the wicked are being punished at this point in time, their time will come.  This is time to make sure that you are on the Lord's side.  We already know the outcome of the war between good and evil.  Good will triumph.  Always.  But the question remains, whose side will you be on?