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.