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."