How You Can Reach Me

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 Approaches

As I was reading in my copy of Preach My Gospel today, I read through Chapter 8, which focuses on “using time wisely.” While perusing, I thought to myself, “What am I doing with my life? Am I doing what’s going to be most important in the long run? What am I going to do to make 2010 better than 2009?”

I had made a list of goals of things that I wanted to accomplish in 2009. Here’s how the list went:

1. Finish my mission strong.
a. I feel like I accomplished this, though much of the credit goes to my companion, and those around me
2. Find a job, and stick with it when I get home
a. Complete.
3. Do well in school.
a. Well, “well” is all relative, isn’t it?
4. Start dating again
a. Success!
After realizing that I had accomplished, or at least come close to accomplishing all of them, I felt pretty good about the year. I think that I have a penchant for focusing on the negative, and not realizing that success is a road to be traveled on, as well as an ultimate destination. King Benjamin writes about this in Mosiah 4:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

It’s SO important that we not only have goals, but that they are planned in “wisdom and order,” so that they can be done in the way that the Lord has set. Joseph B. Wirthlin once taught that we should “create inspiring, noble, and righteous goals that fire your imagination and create excitement in your heart. And then, keep your eye on them. Work consistently to achieve them.” Just as important in goal planning is find a goal that will make you want to work consistently to achieve it, I’m going to figure out how to accomplish these goals.

I finally arrived at several, simple goals for myself for 2010. They go as follows:

1. Get above a 3.5 GPA each semester, through doing the proper reading, note taking, and studying to earn the grades I want.
2. Update this blog every week. (I know that this one will be difficult. Any suggestions for topics would be greatly appreciated.)
3. Visit Portland at least once, through working enough to have the means to do it.
4. Keep in better touch with people that I care about, outside of facebook, which is kind of cheating. I will do this through calling one person each Sunday.
5. Read my scriptures every day. I’ll do this by reading them in the morning, rather than at night, when I’m tired and want to go to bed.
6. Go to the temple once a week. I just have to make the time. 52 visits to the temple in 2010.
7. Home teach every month, by setting up appointments, and teaching lessons that I would want to receive.

Now that I’ve committed to this, I will do my best to work consistently towards achieving them. I’m encouraged by words written in Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel: “Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you…you cannot [do this] without His help. With a desire to please God, recognize your weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.”

And by the words of Henry B. Eyring: “The urge to rise above yourself is a recognition of your need for the Atonement to work in your life, and your need to be sure it is working. After all you can do, after all your effort, you need confidence that the Atonement is working for you, and on you.”

I know that it is. I know that if I want to accomplish these goals, and I work consistently towards achieving them, I will be able to do it.

Happy New Year!

Christmas Presents

All of my life I have looked forward to the Christmas season. Family traditions, breaks from school, trees, lights, songs, and skiing have filled my Decembers with memories that I cherish. But as I reflect this year on the Christmas season, I remember more than anything, how I’ve felt throughout these Christmas seasons. In Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch is surprised to find after his night of plundering the town of Christmas gifts, decorations, and food:

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

I grew up wondering how the Grinch hadn’t stolen Christmas. I didn’t realize that Christmas didn’t mean cookies, trees, presents, and families. But as I further contemplate the meaning of Christmas, I realize that it is all about gifts. Gifts that we give to each other, not sweaters, fruitcakes, and books, but what the Savior implored us to do, that “[our] joy may be full…This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” The feeling behind the giving is what’s most important.
The most important gift that we have ever received is the Son of God Himself, from His Father: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He gave His Son so that we could return to live with Them, so that we, as imperfect beings, could be re-united with a perfect God.
As a Christian, I love to reflect on this glorious news. But I wonder what I can give to Jesus for what He has done for me. I cannot repay Him. This was taught by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon:
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

But what I do know is that He wants us to come to Him, for “[His] yoke is easy, and His burden is light.” He wants to come to Him, and give Him the things that we cannot take away from ourselves, either by the sheer challenge of it, or because we are mortal. He asks us to humble ourselves, and to GIVE to Him the things in our lives that bring us down. He will take them. Jesus is never disappointed by what we give Him; He is there continually to take whatever we can find within our humility and faith to give Him. Think of paintings of the Savior. Never will you see Him with His arms folded, or His back towards those in the painting, but with His arms stretched towards us, or holding us close, or teaching us how to become more happy.
So how can we come to Him? How can we put our burden upon Him, and walk more confidently on the straight and narrow path? I would recommend what my Sunday School teacher advised to my class last Sunday: write down what we have to give to Him, and just give it to him. Don’t take your gift back (that would be rude), but remember your gift that you gave to the Savior when it becomes a problem, and remember that you can’t take back something that you gave to Him.
After this lesson on giving to Jesus, I decided to give my grudges to Jesus. I decided to give to Him the things that I had tried to overcome myself, prayed, pleaded, and worked for, but had not come to realization yet. My experience has been wonderful. I want more than anything to forgive this grudge that has been the source of pain, spiritual stagnation, and negativity that has plagued my life for far longer than it should have. And I feel like I have given it to Him. Whenever I start to dwell on the unfairness of life, the seemly lack of justice in how I feel I have been wronged, or blame persons for things that have not gone as planned in my life, I remember that I have given my anger, spite, and bitterness to the Master, who loves the gift that I have given Him more than anything. My gift to Him adds to my testimony of His healing power. I can feel the difference in the lat 24 hours. I can feel the difference that I know this healing will continue to have in the coming weeks, and years. All because I gave my Elder Brother and Friend a gift that He so desperately wanted.
I know that the Savior’s greatest gift is that we can return to live with our Father, our Savior, and our families. I know that the Atonement that makes this possible, is the only thing that makes this possible. Let us live this Primary hymn this season, and as we give to others, let us remember to give to Him, and to ourselves.

Give what is in your heart
Give away, Give away
Give what is in your heart
And your heart will ever live

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

Early in the Savior’s ministry, after passing through Samaria to Galilee, he came upon the pool of Bethesda. This famed pool was rumored to heal the first person who stepped in “after the water was troubled.” There was a multitude of people watching and waiting for their opportunity to be the first inside the troubled water. Among them was “a certain man…which had been an infirmity thirty an eight years.” When Jesus saw him in his pitiable condition, knowing of the long wait that this man had been waiting, he approached, and asked a simple question: “Wilt thou be made whole?”

The question is simple. The implications are great. The question is not, “can I make you whole?” or “do you have the faith to be made whole?” it was all on this invalid to decide whether or not he should be made whole. In this story, we find a powerful teaching of Jesus: I can do anything you can imagine. Will you let me do it?

When we are in the repentance process, we can oftentimes find ourselves as Paul wrote, “with Godly sorrow.” We feel guilt and remorse for the things that we have done. The Prophet Alma wrote his feelings when in the midst of the repentance process:

“I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”

“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.”

What vivid imagery! Alma is truly in the depths of despair, wishing that “Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds [!]” Literally afraid of God, who demands justice, Alma wished that he would cease to exist, never to think or act, and never to have to account to his Creator.

Haven’t we all felt this way? Feeling ashamed of the things that we have done? Perhaps not to the point that we wish that we would “become extinct,” but that we would never have to account to our Father in Heaven for the things that we have done. I know that I have. I somehow forget that through believing the Savior’s invitation to “come unto me, all ye that…are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Because of pride, and being ashamed of my acts, I will procrastinate coming to the Savior. I somehow put my worries of what others will think, or what my Father in Heaven will think as I come to Him in prayer. These thoughts, though not rational, nor in harmony with what we know to be true, are oftentimes what we turn to when faced with the decision to face our consequences and the need to change our charted course.

It’s in these times of intense introspection that we must remember that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” I think that we often focus so much on the need for justice in the repentance process that we forget that it is all a part of a Plan of Mercy!

I’ve seen by sad experience that we can believe that because Jesus is perfect, we can never be perfect. We see Him as this lofty goal that we aspire to…but that we can never reach. We also don’t want to be around those that we see emulating His teachings and Gospel, because we feel that we don’t measure up to their faith or works. We stop reading our scriptures, attending church, and even avoiding those that we love, and are close to.
In times such as these, we must remember that it is promised in the Doctrine and Covenants, “[His] angels [are] round about you, to bear you up.” He has sent those around you to bless you life, whether it be in the form of friends, family, bishops, stake presidents, home teachers, and the rest of the fellow Saints around you. Those that can show the love of the Savior are not limited to Latter-day Saints, but to all those that show His love through their concern and love for each of us in our moments of despair. This is a wonderful promise from the Savior, that “[He] will not leave you comfortless, He will come to you.”

Another wonderful promise of the Savior is that of the baptismal covenant, to all those who “are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in.” To all those that take upon themselves these promises and covenants, the full blessings of the Atonement of Christ are made available to them. Not to say that those who have not yet been baptized cannot access the Atonement, that is simply not true. But it is that through making the covenant to take upon yourself the Savior’s name, that there is a partnership between you and Jesus, a partnership to get you to return to Him and His Father in the Celestial Kingdom of God. You promise to be His witness, to do what He would do, say what He would say, and serve as He would serve. You promise to trust Him and His promises, make changes when you go off the safety of the Gospel path, and renew your baptismal covenants through partaking of the Sacrament. He promises you the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and that if you prove faithful in your promises to the end; He will give you Eternal Life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. This is beautifully outlined in Alma 7:11-16:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

This brings us back to the Master’s question to the invalid: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Will we come to Him, and use His glorious Atonement in our own lives? Will we accept His hand when it is offered? And will we “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men?” That is what we need to be made whole, to have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and then keep His commandments until the end. All in all, the answer to the question “wilt thou be made whole?” is the question, “will you go to the Master Healer?”

Comments please!

The Love of God

I'm going to keep working at this, but please tell me your thoughts on it. This is a rough draft, written in about a half hour...keep that in mind...

The love that our Heavenly Father is an incredible thing to ponder, let alone comprehend. As I've been in church, religion classes, serving as a missionary, in my quiet moments, and being amongst others, I can’t help but ponder the unsurpassable love that our Father has for us. The scriptures abound with verses proclaiming His love, and the love of His Divine Son:

John 15:13- “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

1 John 4: 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
The scriptures also tell us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” His Son is the greatest gift that mankind has received. Through Christ’s Atonement we, as imperfect beings, are reconciled to a perfect God. Through His suffering on the cross and in Gethsemane, He took upon Him the “pains and sicknesses of His people…He took upon Him death, that He [could] loose the bands of death that bind His people.”
His suffering was intense, it “caused God, the greatest of All, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit.” He took all of this for us. For each mistake and failure, for each sin, and every pain, sorrow, and disappointment that we would ever feel, He took it upon Himself. This is the love that God showed to us. This is the love His Son showed through His supreme act of sacrifice.
Our part of possessing this love is showing it to others. The same man who proclaimed “if ye love me, keep my commandments,” commands us to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” What a revolutionary thought! Far from the prior commandment and punishment of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” he later commanded his disciples to forgive those that trespassed against them, “even til seventy times seven [times]. This is something that needs to be focused on more, as we try and emulate the Savior. I find myself often reacting harshly to others, comparing my gifts and talents to those that are not blessed in the same way. As Joseph B. Wirthlin once wrote:
The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

As I was one day knocking on doors as a missionary, I spoke with a woman who was in a hurry to leave her house. In a frustrated outburst, she exclaimed, “why are you even here?” My gut reaction, my mouth opening before thinking about it, I said “because we love you.” The tone of the conversation changed at once. Her eyes filled with tears, as I prayed for the love of our Father to be felt through my words. I’ll never forget those tears, or the Spirit that the simple sentence, “…I love you” inspires.
Elder Wirthlin once wrote,

“Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.
We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.

The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter. The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

When most people think of the person they believe to be unreachable, and of who deserves Father’s punishments the most, many answer Adolf Hitler. While the ultimate fate of Hitler is unknown, a story about a dream an Apostle of the Lord, George F. Richards had. Elder Richards related in 1946 (scarcely a year since the fall of the Third Reich):

“I dreamed that I and a group of my associates found ourselves in a courtyard where, around the outer edge of it, were German soldiers--the Fuehrer Adolph Hitler was there with his group, and they seemed to be sharpening their swords and cleaning their guns, and making preparations for a slaughter of some kind, or an execution. We knew not what, but, evidently we were the objects.
But presently a circle was formed and this Fuehrer and his men were all within the circle, and my group and I were circled on the outside, and when we walked around and I got directly opposite to him I stepped inside the circle and walked across to where he was sitting and spoke to him, in a manner something like this, "I am your brother. You are my brother. In our heavenly home we lived together in love and peace. Why can we not so live here on the earth?"
And it seemed to me that I felt in myself, welling up in my soul, a love for that man, and I could feel that he was having the same experience, and presently he arose, and we embraced each other and kissed each other, a kiss of affection.
I think the Lord gave me that dream. Why should I dream of this man, one of the greatest enemies of mankind, and one of the wickedest, but that the Lord should teach me that I must love my enemies, and I must love the wicked as well as the good" (General Conference, October 1946).

May the Lord bless us to show the love that our Savior has for us. I know that the Lord loves us, and that He shows His love to each of us. Pray to feel it. I know that He will answer.
Make personal goals to go out of your way to be positive, to serve, and to love. Faith (and love) always looks to the future. It is strengthened by experiences in our past, our attitude in the present, and our outlook on the future.