How You Can Reach Me

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Monday, August 16, 2010

God is the Great Compensator

Levi Ashton Cox was a remarkable LDS pioneer. After returning home to England from military service in India, he was exposed to the Church through his mother. Levi met and married his wife Susannah and was soon thereafter baptized. It took many years, but his wife also joined the Church after a blessing from the LDS missionaries confirmed to her the truthfulness of the Restoration. Several years later, they emigrated to the United States. While traveling via train from New York to Nebraska, all of their possessions caught fire in the train’s boxcar. Left with very little, the family traveled to Salt Lake City, and then later to Idaho. After a lack of farming success in Idaho, Levi and his family moved to Muskrat Springs, in what is now Hooper, Utah. Several of Levi’s neighbors obtained a grant to build an irrigation canal to Muskrat Springs. Levi and his wife prayed about settling in Muskrat Springs permanently, and felt impressed to stay and farm there. Levi agreed to dig his share of the ditch, in order to bring water to his farm. The shares were 16 ½ feet wide and 5 feet deep, with several yards being divvied up as labor, for the right to access to the canal.

Actually digging the canal is when things became difficult. In the boxcar fire that burned their belongings en route to Nebraska, Levi lost his shovel and all other digging equipment. The Cox family faced a difficult decision—leave Muskrat Springs, or somehow come up with the financial means to purchase a shovel. In their destitute condition, Levi and Susannah decided to pawn her wedding ring to raise funds.

Pawn her wedding ring. I can’t imagine the anguish and the long walk to the store where they sold it. I can’t imagine how the shop owner felt, nor how Levi felt looking at the short spade (not even a full-size shovel) gained from the pawning of the cherished ring.

But he did dig the shares, built a farm, raised his children, and lived his life. He performed in plays, he sold some groceries on the side, and did everything possible to make a return on that precious investment. Some years later, Susannah passed away, leaving a legacy of faith and sacrifice that the community remembers today.

Several years after Susannah had died, Levi went back into the store, probably looking to purchase some tools or groceries. The shopkeeper asked him if he wanted to purchase the ring that he had pawned decades before. The shopkeeper had been saving it for those many years, waiting for Levi to come back into the store and buy it back. In what I imagine was a tender moment, Levi purchased the ring back, and gave it to his daughter. The ring remains a prized possession of the family today, who still reside in Hooper, Utah.

What can this story of faith and sacrifice teach us about the Gospel? It teaches us that we don’t know what lays in store for us. It teaches us that we can overcome things that we can’t control. It teaches us that when we don’t know what to do, the Lord will lead us in what to do, though what He requires may not be easy.

But I believe more than anything, it teaches us that the Lord is always there in our sacrifice. I believe that the Lord will never require us to do something for which
we will not be rewarded.

The Lord has said, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29)

He has also said “If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters…and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb…if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-7)

When Levi pawned the ring, he could not have expected the ring to be available to reclaim decades later. It was probably something that he did not think about much anymore, a sacrifice that had paid off many times what it had cost in effort and money. The shopkeeper had been holding the ring without being asked and without expectation of reward. But he was able to bless Levi by giving him exactly what he wanted, to unexpectedly restore what Levi and Suannah had sacrificed at such great emotional cost. It reminds me of what was taught by Elder Joseph B. Withlin:

“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28)

Levi was compensated for his sacrifice and effort, just as each of us will be, provided that we sacrifice with an eternal perspective, with a view of the end from the beginning. If we recognize the eternal compensation when it comes, our effort will not truly be sacrifice, but just a step in building faith. The trial will become a defining experience, and looked back upon with joy. Today’s sorrows will become tomorrow’s triumphs.

Monday, August 9, 2010

He WANTS Us to Succeed

You know, it’s a fascinating thing, that our prayers are answered. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy commands us to pray to Him, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Not only did He create us, He has an active part in our lives, and wants to know how we feel and what we want from our own lips. I was thinking about how He wants to hear from us, and He is willing to give us feedback when we ask for it.

Prayer is an intensely personal thing. Our conversations with Deity may be brief or lengthy, articulate or disjointed, but they are all heard by God. Richard G. Scott has said, “Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. Actually, because He knows how desperately we need His guidance, He commands, "Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private."1
I have had many experiences with prayer, and I believe that there are 3 general answers that we receive from prayer. First, a “yes.” Second, a “no.” And third, a “wait.” While “yes” and “no” are the answers we are generally looking for, I’ve found that the third kind, the “wait” answer is the most common. I’ve found that it is also the most frustrating.

I feel that I am as susceptible, if not more susceptible to think about how things would be easier if I knew exactly what was going to happen. I have a firm faith that things will work out, I would just like a detailed outline of how and when things are going to happen. When talking with my dad on matters of personal advice, he said “I wish I had a telegram from God to tell you what to do, but I don’t. I just know that things work out how they are supposed to, and that we all spend a lot of time worrying about things that we can’t control or know.”
I’ve been feeling this a lot recently. This will be my first semester (Fall) in my major, and I wonder if I am doing what is right. Should I be a teacher? Can I really be successful as an author? Will dumb things that I have done in my past come back to haunt me as I try and be an example of a faithful example? Would anyone ever want to pay tuition to hear me teach? To these things I have no answer, other than it feels like what I should do. Does it make sense to me all the time? No. But each time I think of what else I could be doing, it always goes back to the feeling that I had last October: “you can do what you want. But you know what you love.”

Another feeling that I have had is that I don’t do enough. That I can be a better friend, example, family member, co-worker, disciple, student, and person. I think we all feel from time to time as if we are wholly insignificant in the eternal scheme of things, and that it would be easier to stop trying. Actually, I think more about how it would be easier to stop caring. Not measuring up wouldn’t hurt nearly as badly if I didn’t care so much. For instance, I don’t really care that I’m in the bottom tier of fencing or sewing sequins. But I really do care that I perform with all my heart in callings, that I get good grades, that I am a good friend. And so that’s why I think it kills me when I don’t live up to my ideal of what I could and should do.

Whilst pondering this last weekend on this very subject, I attended a homecoming of a dear friend from high school. I remembered how I felt in giving my homecoming, that I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to communicate how I felt about my mission, and my testimony. I wanted to do my best, and I wanted each person in the congregation to know that I had given everything that I had and more. I wanted no doubt in anyone’s mind that I had changed through hard work and the Atonement of Christ.

And then memories of each time I was disobedient, or made a mistake, or was unkind, or was late to a dinner appointment came to my mind. I couldn’t write down my feelings, it was too hard to focus on what had gone right, when there was so much that I had done imperfectly. Feeling crushed by my weakness and imperfection, I followed hitherto forgotten advice from my mission president, to pray to know that the Lord accepted my service, and that my efforts were received with happiness from the Lord who had sent me. I felt peace, and was able to organize my thoughts into an outline of what I wanted to say.

When the time came to speak, I don’t remember much of what I said. But I do remember looking into the tearful eyes of one of my best friends, as she gave me the thumbs up. And more importantly, I remember the words of the Savior that echoed back to me as I sat down, “well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Hearing those words echo back to me meant more than I can say. And they still meant much, nearly 18 months later, after being brought to my memory by the Spirit

I don’t say this to toot my own horn, or to say that I was exceptional. I say this because each and every one of else can receive the same assurance, that our efforts are accepted of the Lord. Whether it be for a sacrament meeting talk, or primary lesson, home teaching, or giving a blessing. The words can and will echo back to you. Those words will mean a lot, especially with our society’s focus on the negative, and to point out everything that doesn’t reach our standard of success. As my Sunday School teacher said yesterday, “if we base our success off of what we see as success in those we love and want to succeed, we will find ourselves happier, and know when we have succeeded more often.”

Steven Dalton once said that “when we look back on our service, we will remember the joys and successes of our services, we will forget what went wrong.” I find this to be true as time goes on, for myself. Time seems to heal all wounds, and today’s tragedies turn into tomorrow’s comedies. But when the sting of seeming failures seem to overwhelm, pray to know that the Lord accepted your efforts, regardless of the outward results.

I know that the Lord sent us here to be successful, and puts us in situations to be successful, if we will do what He asks us to do. I know that He will guide us by His Spirit if we will do what He asks. And I know that even if we have wronged or been wrong, He CAN and WILL make it right…if we will let Him.