Saturday, December 31, 2011

Declaring vs. Doing

Unfortunately for Michael Scott, declaring bankruptcy is not as easy as merely yelling the word "bankruptcy." He probably was confused when someone told him that if he would only declare bankruptcy, his problems would go away. The real problem, though, arose in Michael's misunderstanding of what it meant to "declare" bankruptcy. In reality, declaring bankruptcy is a lengthy process, requiring dozens of forms, consultations, and court hearings. It is something that takes a lot of work and is hardly a passive or easy process.

The same principle applies in our spiritual lives as well. There are some in the world that would say all that is necessary is to say that you believe and that will suffice. Christ spoke against this lack of responsibility when he said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21)." In addition to "declaring" our willingness, we also have to "do" the will of the Father. So what is the will of the Father? When speaking to the people in the Americas, Christ said, "And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day (3 Nephi 27:19-20)." There is a way to become clean and it is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He has asked that we but have faith, repent, be baptized, receive and follow the Holy Ghost, and follow his commandments to the end. Or in other words, "the will of the Father." At times it may not seem like the easiest process, but the gift of becoming clean and pure is worth any sacrifice we may have to make in our lives.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Will You Give This Christmas?

It's Christmas time was again! Every year when December rolls around, I get excited for the season and the joy it seems to bring into everyone's life. One of the most often questions asked this time of year is, "What are you getting someone for Christmas?" Even though the focus of Christmas may change over the years, the concept of giving has always remained at the heart. When most people think of the first Christmas gifts given, they usually think of the 3 wise men and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In reality, however, the first gift given was the gift of our Savior given by our Heavenly Father that first Christmas night. The immortal words of Isaiah still resonate today, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)." Truly this was a day that generations of men and women had faithfully waited for. A day when the Savior would come, and with his life and his death, open the doors of salvation to all of God's children.

So, what will you give this Christmas? Why not give the one of the greatest gifts we can: to give of ourselves. As we give of ourselves in service and love to others, we are following the example of Jesus Christ and giving as he would give. We feel the spirit of Christmas in abundance and then realize that it is in fact, the spirit of Christ. As President Monson states, we more fully understand Christmas when we but drop the last syllable and recognize Christ as the purpose of it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Golden Rule...and birds

Growing up I was taught, as were probably most of you, what is called the "Golden Rule." In short the Golden Rule is as follows: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Seems like pretty good advice if you ask me. If I don't want people to mock or degrade me, then the best thing I can do is avoid that behavior towards others. When our Savior Jesus Christ was teaching his apostles, he shared this important point. He said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34)." Christ's life was the ultimate example of love and service. His commandment to the apostles was that they follow his example to love, encourage, lift, and edify.

One of my favorite examples of acceptance and tolerance growing up was the Pixar short film "For the Birds." In it we see those who mock, bully, and degrade and how they will eventually end up.

Our little blackbird friends could have learned a great lesson taught by the Lord in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Moroni was praying to the Lord because he was worried that those who read the book would mock his writing. In response the Lord said, "Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness (Ether 12:26)." The promise given to Moroni is valid for us as well. If we are meek and humble, the Lord will not let others take advantage of weakness. He is willing to make our weaknesses strengths is we will but seek his help. The flip-side is true as well. If we seek to mock and take advantage of others, the Lord will show what "fools" we are. In the end we can gain a valuable lesson from the scriptures and these birds: loving and accepting others will produce the greatest happiness and least embarrassment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Families and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

"The most important of the Lord’s work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home." -President Harold B. Lee

I'd always heard this quote said by many people as I grew up but now I have really come to understand it's importance and magnitude. I have met my fair share of broken families and it is sad to see the lack of confidence and hope in the future. In today's world, many people may neglect marriage, thinking that it is either outdated or unnecessary. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ however, we understand that marriage and family life are just as important and essential now as they ever have been.

While giving an address to young adults in 2001, Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, "The Restoration is a light of hope in this dark world. Not only does our Church offer the clearest vision about family history but also about future eternal families. These doctrines then shed a unique light on our present, everyday family ties." What is it about the Restoration that makes all of this possible? In the year 1836, as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the prophet Elijah returned to the earth and restored the power to seal on earth and in heaven. With this authority established, men and women can be sealed together as families for time and all eternity in temples of God. What an incredible blessing! I believe that everyone on this earth would accept the possibility of being with those they love forever, if they only knew where to find it. The Lord taught Joseph Smith that their are many in the world "who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it (D&C 123:12)."

As a missionary for the Lord, I am sent to help people find the truth and the happiness associated with it. I am sent to declare to the world that the relationships we enjoy here on earth, can continue forever. Through the priesthood of God once again restored to the earth, it can happen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bible Quiz

Be sure to check out the recently added "Bible Quiz" page of my blog. It contains various multiply choice questions based on accounts given in the King James Version of the Bible. It is an open book quiz so feel free to look up any of these accounts in the Bible. If you do not have a copy of the King James Version, you can use a free online version found at Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brandon Flowers (yes of The Killers)

When I first saw this video I asked the same question that many people ask, "How can you be a rock star and live your faith as well?" I think that Brandon is an excellent example of those who follow God while still being themselves. It is also inspiring to see how he is also able to enjoy a family life as well.

It is so true that the gospel really is for everyone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us how to come closer to Christ and keep his commandments. While it is true that there are some things that God may require us to change in order to be in harmony with his standards and commandments, there are also many ways in which we can still maintain our individual status. I believe that God created us all as individuals and gave us different talents and abilities. In this life it is up to us to develop those talents to bless our own lives as well as the lives of those around us. Some may be talented with music, others with teaching, and yet others with serving. It is by sharing these talents that we show God how grateful we for the things we have been blessed with.

For more videos of people who live their life while living their faith visit

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor

I think that this video truly captures the spirit of what Christ meant when he said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matt 22:39)." To see an entire community come out to help and support this family in their time of crisis is absolutely incredible. After I watched this, I immediately thought, "Do I do enough to help those in need around me?" While some people may have readily visible needs such as this family, other are more subtle. For some the hurt is emotional or spiritual and can rarely been seen with the physical eye.  When we are baptized into the Church of Christ, we promise to take upon the name of Christ and help those around us. As representatives of Jesus Christ we seek to bring all men to his feet so that he can heal them through the power of his atonement. He called out to all of the weary when he said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28)." He has offered the invitation, now it is our responsibility to lift ourselves and others into his out-stretched arms. Remember the words of King Benjamin, "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17)."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Most Important Pearl of All

In the world of pearls, it seems like there are limitless options. When you go to a jeweler you have the option of white, black, pink, round, oblong, salt water, fresh water, and everything in between. These pearls are each the result of an oyster coating over and over again some foreign object it finds lodged inside its shell. Each one is appraised beforehand to determine how much it is worth and at what price it can reasonably be sold. Each year people travel all over the world in search of the biggest, best, and most expensive pearls to sell to their customers. To many that pearl would represent an achievement in their lives and a sign of their wealth.

In the scriptures, a reference to a pearl is made to illustrate the kind of wealth we should seek. In Matthew 13:45-46, the Savior likens the kingdom of heaven to a "pearl of great price" that a merchant man gives everything he possesses to obtain. The Lord was instructing his listeners that his gospel, or the way to the kingdom of heaven, was worth anything we may be required to give up. To the rich young ruler Christ said that if he would give up his treasures and follow him, then he would be able to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:20-22). In most of our lives, the Lord requires us to offer are desires and our sins to him. He asks us to stop doing those things that are contrary to the commandments and follow him. To some it may be quitting an addiction to cigarettes or alcohol. For others it may mean foregoing Sunday activities in order to worship him in church. No matter what the sacrifice may be, Christ has always promised that the reward, or pearl, would be worth far more than anything we may have given up.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flip-flops and Scorpions

Although I've never actually been stung by a scorpion (we don't have many in Idaho), I imagine it to be a fairly painful experience. As a young boy, Elder Kearon knew exactly what to do and what precautions to take in order to avoid being stung by one of these. However, like most of us, he disregarded those precautions because of casualness in his behavior. We see instances like this all around us. We all know that by obeying the speed limit we reduce our risk of being in a serious accident, yet how many of us speed anyway? We know that wearing our seat belts may very well save our lives, yet how many of us neglect to buckle up?

The same principle applies to our spiritual lives as well. It may not be a scorpion, but it may be a sin or addiction that we are taught to avoid. Our parents or leaders may spend hours discussing ways to properly protect ourselves from these dangers, but in the end it is our decision whether or not we will follow their council. One such "scorpion" may be drug abuse. My parents always warned us of this danger and told us that if we would surround ourselves with good influences or good friends, we could protect ourselves and put on those "shoes." I've tried to follow council such as that throughout my life and have luckily been able to avoid many of the pit-falls that claim much of today's world. It may not always be convenient or even popular, but if we'll just put on our shoes, we'll be protected from the stings in life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Latter-Day Saint Temples

In many places that I have visited, the most beautiful buildings are often the temples. The one in this picture is the Palmyra New York temple and is one of my particular favorites. Sitting atop a small hill, it seems to stand as an ever-lit beacon calling for mankind to enter and partake of its blessings. Sometimes I encounter people who are curious about temples or may wonder why we even have them. The simple answer is that a temple is literally the House of the Lord and we come closer to him by being in it. A temple is a place where we can enter into covenants with God and receive greater blessings at his hand. But without questions, the greatest blessing that comes from temples is the opportunity to be sealed as families for time and all eternity. Many marriages in the world today are "til death do we part," but in the temple, couples and families are able to make their relationships eternal. No more will the sting of death discontinue a family, rather it just relocates a few members until all are once again reunited in heaven. In this video, based on a talk by Elder Nelson, members talk about temples and their love for them:

As a missionary, we strive to bring people to Christ by helping them receive the gospel and enter into their first covenant, baptism. But baptism is hardly the end of the road, rather it is the beginning. The most beautiful blessings our Father in Heaven has to offer us are available as we make and keep covenants in his holy temples. The blessings of eternal life with those we love are available if we will always keep the temple in our sights and strive to receive the blessing therein.  For all those who have not yet attended the temple, continue working towards that goal so that one day you may receive that blessing. For those who have been to the temple, continue to go back. As we return to the temple often we learn, grow, and understand more of our Heavenly Father's plan for us. God has given us a piece of heaven on earth, let us all take advantage of it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Illiteracy, It Hurts

As you can probably tell from this poster, illiteracy can sometimes hurt. Because that poor penguin couldn't read the words or understand the symbols, he was left with a bruised head and a bruised ego. In the United States the literacy rate is 99% meaning that only 1% of the population cannot read or write. Compare that with places such as South Sudan with a literacy rate of only 27%. Imagine that, 1 out of 4 people can read a sign, a document, a book, or anything else written!

In an April General Conference address, Elder Christofferson presented the idea of another kind of illiteracy: scriptural illiteracy.
Many people may be able to read, but are they taking time to read the scriptures? Many people may read the scriptures, but do they really understand and apply what they read? One of my favorite things that the video below points out is that the Lord has given us greater access to the scriptures than any other time in history. Therefore, how great is the importance of our study and learning from them. Back in William Tyndale's day, getting access to the word of God was either expensive or illegal. To have him give his life to provide the rest of England with the scriptures, obviously shows us how important they were to him. As a missionary, I've been blessed with the opportunity of studying the scriptures everyday. Back home I enjoyed them, but now I've developed a love of them. Before I could see that it was a good thing to do, but now I see that it is one of the fastest ways to invite the Spirit into our lives and come closer to our Heavenly Father. If we'll just put in the time with them, we will understand how much of a blessing they are and how grateful we are to have them. We will come closer to our Savior and literally change into the kind of person he would have us be. I can promise this because I've not only seen it in my life, I've seen in the lives of those around me. God does live and He's given us the road map to our lives, if we'll only read it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Crossword Puzzles

Last year while I was at college, I spent time in between classes working on solving the crossword in the local paper. I always loved doing it because it was a challenge to see if I could work my way around the puzzle figuring out how things fit together. At times I would get frustrated because it seemed like there was no possible way that "pood" is a word and therefore all my other words must be wrong too. When I would see the solutions the next day, I would find that not only is "pood" a word (it's a Russian weight) but I would also be surprised at how simple some of my missing answers were. Apparently I would spend hours over thinking the clues when in reality the answers were simple, clear, and made sense.

Just as with crosswords, it can seem as if our lives are one big board full of empty squares that we have to fill in. When we work on it alone, it may seem that none of it makes sense or we may miss the meaning all together. Luckily, however, we have the solution key: the scriptures. Through the holy scriptures, God has given us the answers to the questions in life as well as the path we should follow. As we read and apply them in our lives today we can see how things like "grace", "faith", and "repentance" work together in the puzzle of our mortal lives: 


Even though it may seem hard at times, I know that if I'll just turn to the answers, I realize that it isn't nearly as complicated as I thought. God loves each and every one of us and has shown us the path and "key" that we should follow if we are willing to seek his word from the holy scriptures.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Am I Gone?...No, You're Home

This funeral home has possibly one of the best names I've ever seen: Amigone. Many people who go there for the loss of a lost one may wonder that same questions, "Are they gone?" Speculation about life after death is something that I believe everyone thinks about at some point in their life. Sometimes the death of someone close or one's own personal illness can prompt these kinds of thoughts and feelings. One of the reasons why I love the Bible and Book of Mormon is because they teach me about this life and the life to come. By reading the words of prophets of old, I am able to more clearly understand God's plan for me and what I should do in this life as well as after I die. One of the biggest things I learned is that life is not the end, it is merely another step in our Heavenly Father's plan. Just as Jesus Christ died and was resurrected, we will also receive perfect resurrected bodies after we die. The sacrifice of Christ allowed all men to be saved from death and be raised to immortality. In addition to conquering this physical death, Jesus also allowed us to overcome our own weaknesses and return to God once more. By keeping the commandments of God and repenting of our sins, we are able to once again live with our Heavenly Father and enjoy peace and happiness in His presence. When I think about things that way, I realize that far from being scary, death is actually a wonderful opportunity for us to progress back to God.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nuclear Weapons

While walking down the streets of Buffalo one day I passed a church that had this sign: "This church is a nuclear weapons free zone." I found the sign quite amusing and immediately began to speculate about how many church goers brought nukes in order to necessitate this sign. I laughed at thoughts of people in their Sunday best with a Bible in one hand and a nuclear weapon in the other. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that there was a lesson to be learned from this sign. This church obviously felt it was necessary to protect itself from things brought inside just as we should screen what we allow in our minds and in our bodies. There seems to be an endless supply of "nuclear weapons" in our lives today including drugs, alcohol, and pornography. These can and will destroy our bodies and spirits if we allow them to enter and dwell in our bodies, minds, and lives. Prophets of God have always warned us to respect our bodies and guard our minds against the evils that surround us. In D&C 121:45 the Lord tells us to let "virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly." By doing this I am able to keep my mind and thoughts pure and be more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It will always be a life-long process but as I work on screening the "nuclear weapons", I know that I will grow closer to my Heavenly Father and become who He would want me to be.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Growing the Hottest Jalapenos

Recently I have helped to start a small backyard garden. A friend of mine offered to give us some of his small jalapeno plants which started me thinking, "How do you get the hottest jalapenos?" After asking some people and looking around, I discovered something I didn't expect, the hottest jalapenos come from stressed plants. I learned that if you want hot peppers, you need to occasionally deny the plant water. By doing this the peppers take on a very hot flavor. Only by doing this can farmers produce the exceptionally hot varieties that are desired the world over.

After learning this, I realized that we are a lot like pepper plants. Our Heavenly Father is the farmer and he knows better than we do what will allow us to achieve our full potential and produce the best "peppers." At times we may not understand why we aren't getting everything we think we need (water) when in reality it is that denial that makes us exceptional. We could content ourselves with being an average plant, but with God's help we can become what he would have us be.

(If you enjoyed this story also read Elder Christofferson's talk from April General Conference)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Preventing the "falls" in our lives

The Fence or The Ambulance
Joseph Malines
‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done.
But their projects did not at all tally:
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day.
For it spread to the neighboring city:
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is alright if your careful," they said,
"and if folks even slip or are dropping,
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below-when they're stopping,"
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old man remarked, "it's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, cried he.
"Come neighbors and friends, let us rally :
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley."
"Oh, he's a fanatic." the others rejoined:
"dispense with the ambulance Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could:
no, no! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why would people of sense stop to put up a fence?
While their ambulance works in the valley?"
But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

I have always loved this poem because it talks about the difference between preventing problems and fixing them. The teachings of Jesus Christ were aimed at prevention in order to help us avoid the pitfalls of life. These principles were taught to me by my parents and I am grateful for the influence they have played in my life. One "cliff" that I remember is the trap of drugs and other addictions. Yes I could see how close to the cliff I could get before falling or I could erect a "fence" far from the cliff to eliminate danger. Choosing instead to erect the fence, I made my own personal rule that I would not be around people or situations were drugs were present. By putting up this safeguard I was able to avoid those dangers and the pain that would have occurred from those actions. Applying this principle here and in other instances has helped to save and protect me throughout my life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recognizing God Everyday

All too often I'm afraid that I go throughout my life and never recognize all of the blessings that God has given me. How many times have I ended a day and asked myself, "How have I seen the hand of God reaching out to me?" I'm afraid I haven't asked that nearly as often as I should. It is at this time that I would invite anyone reading this to take a moment of introspective reflection and try to see where God has reached out or blessed them today. How have you seen or felt of His love or mercy? As I think of my day, I think of a time when someone said a kind word when I was in need of encouragement. I also think of when I would walk past someone and sincerely feel a desire to help them and everyone else around me. All of these feelings are God either blessing me or helping me to view others as my brothers and sisters. As He reaches out His hand to me, I hope that I will be able to in turn reach out my hand to lift someone else. After listening to President Eyring talk and testing what he said, I am amazed at the many ways that I have been influenced by God. Before, I always thought that God would occasionally help or lift me or that He would occasionally use me to help those around me. But now I realize that He gives me those opportunities every day, if I will take them. Please take this time to reflect on how your life has been influenced by God. By doing so you will draw closer to Him and understand how deeply and personally He loves and cares about you. We are all His children and as such receive the blessings of His power on a very personal and daily basis.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing at the Lord's Pace

During my time as a missionary here in Western New York, I have enjoyed trying to grow various plants. I first started out growing seeds from an orange I had for lunch and then later I tried many things ranging from mangoes to starfruit. I was always so excited when I would see the plant peek above the soil and start to grow. From this I could tell that the rest of the seeds I planted must also be able to sprout, and sure enough they would. During the next couple of days, I would marvel at the rapid growth the small seedling would make as it started unrolling leaves and gathering sunlight. After about a week, however, I would notice that the rate of increase would slow until it seemed as if the plant was doing nothing at all. At this point I would just place the plant in the window and leave it to its own devices. Slowly but surely the plant would continue to grow and develop. Through these experiences I have learned one important lesson: the plant grows according to its own timetable, not mine. As I thought about this, I was reminded of Alma's comparison of faith to a seed. He said, "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your hear, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves -  It must needs be a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me (Alma 32:28)." Just as Alma invites us to experiment by planting the seed of faith in our hearts, I also experimented with the seeds I would plant. The first indication that the seeds were "good" was shown when they sprouted. After that, I had to continue to water the plant but also realize that I could not dictate how fast it grows. So it is in our lives as well. We can have faith in Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith, but we must wait for the Holy Ghost to teach us line upon line, precept upon precept, until we grow and become the tree of which we are only now seeds. Our potential is far greater than our current condition and if we will but allow ourselves to learn and grow at the Lord's pace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Blessing of Attending Church

One of the questions that I am repeatedly asked is, "Do I have to go to church?" or "Why is it important that I go." When I hear questions like this I often think, "You never have to do anything." As with all things we are never forced into anything, we are left to choose and then accept the consequences as they come. In the case of attending church services on Sundays, it isn't that I have to go, it's that I get to go. The importance of this commandment to worship on the Sabbath Day was made clear to the Moses. In Exodus chapter 20 the Lord says, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (verse 8)." The opportunity to come and worship my Heavenly Father one day a week is a gift that I will always cherish. The last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon, Moroni, included a few words about the members of Christ's church in his day. He said, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus (Moroni 6:5-6)." One of the central focuses of their services was the partaking of bread and wine, or the sacrament. In our day as well, the sacrament is the center of our Sabbath Day worship. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we meet every Sunday to partake of the sacrament and remember our Savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us. As I do this from week to week, I find myself spiritually recharged and ready for the week ahead. As I learn about Christ and direct my thoughts on Him, I am able to refocus my life on His teachings and dedicate myself to following Him. I am also better able to handle life's trials and hardships when I remember to make church attendance a priority in my life. At times it may not be easy or convenient to go to church meetings, but I can promise that the blessings you will receive will far outweigh whatever sacrifices you made. Heavenly Father is eager to bless those who will serve Him and keep His commandments. I would invite everyone to take a minute and leave a brief comment about blessings they have seen in their lives from making church attendance, the sacrament, and Sabbath Day worship a priority in their lives. By doing so, I hope that we will be able to help and strengthen each other as we recognize the blessings in our own lives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Prophet Joseph Smith

Listening to these members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints bear there testimonies of the prophet Joseph Smith brings the Spirit into my heart. The story of Joseph Smith is one of love and compassion from our Father in Heaven. Just as God had called prophets anciently to lead and direct His children, He again reached out in the spring of 1820 and called a prophet to the earth. Through the revelations given to Joseph Smith, we are able to more fully understand Christ's sacrifice for us and how that shapes our lives today. Through Joseph Smith the power of God, the priesthood, was once again restored to the earth after its absence since the time of the Apostles. With this power and authority, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was once again restored to the earth in its fullness. This church is not just another church talking about Jesus and His life, it is His church established once again with the power and authority necessary for salvation. What a blessing that is for all of us! Because of this, I know that as I live faithful to the commandments and my covenants with God throughout my life, I will be able to return to Him and live in His presence forever. As they explain the life and mission of Joseph, I love how they talk about being able to relate to him. I can testify that I feel the same way. Just like all of those people, I also had questions and sought answers to the seemingly endless supply of problems in life. I have found answers to those questions through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am eternally grateful for Joseph Smith and the sacrifices he made to give me this blessing. As I read and pray about the Book of Mormon and many other teachings of the Prophet, I can feel the Holy Ghost confirming to me that the words are true. This message of truth and happiness is what I strive to share with those around me as a missionary. I can promise everyone that if they will read the Book of Mormon and sincerely pray about it, then they will receive the same witness that I have. And when we come to know that the Book of Mormon is true, we will also know by that same spirit that Joseph Smith was a true prophet called of God. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma spoke of this same witness when he said, "And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me (Alma 5:45-46)." With Alma I leave my testimony of the Book of Mormon, that it is true and that it was translated by a prophet called of God, Joseph Smith. I know of these things because I have had the Holy Ghost testify to me of their truth and divinity.

What is the Holy Ghost?

The Holy Ghost, sometimes referred to as the Holy Spirit, is the gift and guide given to us on this earth to direct our lives. Although the Holy Ghost fulfills many roles, two of the roles I would like to focus on are confirming truth and providing guidance. Speaking of this first role, Christ said to the apostles, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26)." As we read and learn from the scriptures, it is the Holy Ghost that actually teaches our minds and our hearts, not the words we hear. By having the Holy Ghost enter our lives, we are able to feel him confirm the truth of what we are being taught. How can we tell when the Holy Ghost is speaking to us? The first thing we have to remember is that the Holy Ghost speaks in a still, small voice, not a loud one.  As the video points out, unless we are trying to listen to it and understand the feelings it brings, then we will be unable to comprehend its message. When we have "tuned" into the voice of the Holy Ghost, we will feel its presence through feelings of peace, comfort, love, enlightenment. As we learn to pay attention to these thoughts and feelings, we will allow the Holy Ghost to help guide us and protect us from danger. In  the increasingly wicked world of today, what a blessing it is to have this heavenly partner. The Lord taught this principle when he said, "And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good - yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit (D&C 11:12)."  The Holy Ghost will teach us how to live and choose in our daily lives as well as teach us the words of God. We should always be striving to qualify for this companionship in our lives. We do this by focusing more on Jesus Christ and striving to live his commandments. As we do this we will receive this divine blessing promised from the Savior himself and more fully walk in the light of his love.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Civility and Charity

This video, called "The Civility Experiment", really helped to open my eyes about the ways we view and judge other people. Like Arabelle, I'm sure that at times I have been guilty of judging people and situations long before I know the facts surrounding them. We all get caught up in talking about how to be kind, how to be humble, and how to be Christ-like; only to turn around and contradict our words with our actions. This form of hypocrisy is something that I believe we all continue to work on throughout our mortal existence. It is not a behavior that can be changed over night, rather, it requires consistent attention on a day to day basis. In the end, our goal should always be to develop the Christ-like attribute of charity. Charity is spoken of in many different scriptures and each gives added insight into this virtue. In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, we get a wonderful description of one who has charity, it reads, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Every time that I read this scripture, it brings to mind the ultimate example of charity: Jesus Christ. When we study his life, we find that it is filled with love and service towards his fellow man. In short, it may be said that when one has charity, they view and treat those around them the same way Christ would. This is what happened in the video when Arabelle spoke with the homeless man. As she spoke and associated with him, she was able to view him as a person instead of viewing his outside condition. When Christ went around Jerusalem healing the lame, the leprous, and the blind; he looked on the inward man, not the outward appearance. As we live our increasingly busy lives, we are continually confronted by people who may be physically or spiritually sick. We must teach ourselves to focus on who they are, not how they appear to us. I can promise that as we will begin to do this, as we strive to pattern our lives after the life of the Savior, we will bring light and happiness to those that we come in contact with. We will build new friendships and have a greater love for those around us, or in other words we will begin to nurture the seed of charity in our own hearts.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What Happens When We Die?

This is probably one of the biggest questions that roams the mind of the human family today. For us in this mortal existence death may seem like a finale or end to the happiness we enjoyed here but in reality it is just the beginning. After our time here on earth is done, we go to the Spirit world waiting for the day of our resurrection. The Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, spoke of this time when he said, "Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection - Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life (Alma 40:11)." What a glorious knowledge to know that all men will be taken there to await their resurrection and judgement. The scriptures also tell us what we will be doing during that time. The righteous will be "received into a state of happiness (Alma 40:12)" where they will rest from their cares. The unrighteous, on the other hand, will be taught the gospel that they did not receive here on earth. The Apostle Peter tells us, "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (1 Peter 4:6)." This is one of my favorite things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since God loves all of His children, He provides an opportunity for all to receive the gospel whether in this life or the life to come. As I think of the friends and family I have known who have passed away without the blessings of the Gospel that I enjoy, I am happy to understand that they have been taught the things I know and have been given an opportunity to accept them. This time in the Spirit world, however, is not our final stop in the plan of our Heavenly Father. After our time in the Spirit world, we receive the blessing of the resurrection and are judged according to our life on earth. If we have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, kept His commandments, and repented of our sins through His Atonement, we will be able to live again in the presence of our Heavenly Father. What a blessing to know that there is life after death and that our loved ones who have passed away can still receive the Gospel and return to our Father in Heaven. I testify that the by following the laws and ordinances of the Gospel we can receive this happiness now and in the life to come. I know that Joseph Smith did restore Christ's Church again to the earth in these latter days and restored the Priesthood authority necessary to act in God's name here on earth. I am grateful for the blessings the Restored Gospel has brought into my life and encourage all men and women everywhere to experience it as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Service, a sanctifying experience

When we come to realize the many blessings we have been given, we may ask ourselves, "How may I show my love to God in return for all I've been blessed with?" The Book of Mormon prophet, King Benjamin, taught us a way to show our gratitude and love. He said, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17)." Just as this video clip illustrates, one of the best ways to serve God is to serve those around us. Christ gave us this same principle when He issued the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This iconic parable came in response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Since we are all children of our Heavenly Father, we are commanded to help and lift those around us because they are all our neighbors. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we actively seek out opportunities to serve. By doing so we build the community and lives around us while building ourselves at the same time. Some of the greatest memories I have are not when I received a gift or honor, but rather as I gave of myself in time and effort to help someone less fortunate. As I think of the weeds I've pulled, the lawns I've mowed, and the wood I've split, I can't ever remember the exhaustion or soreness, only the joy that comes from service. In the world today there is a lot of focus on individuals and ways to achieve personal success. In fact it may be said that we live in a very "me" centered society. In the midst of this outlook, the God-given commandment of service stands even more important and prominent. By looking beyond your own personal needs and desires in order to help someone else, you set yourself apart from the world as a true Christian. In speaking of this Christian service James writes, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27)" In closing I would ask everyone to look more closely to those around them for opportunities to serve. By doing so we are able to, in the words of James, practice "pure religion" and "keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world. I know that service is ordained of God and will draw us nearer to Him as we follow this commandment. I also know that as we serve, the joy and happiness we draw from the experience will likely outweigh the joy of those we serve and by far overshadow any perceived discomfort we felt as we served.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Easter means to me

With the Easter Season almost upon us, I felt it most appropriate to take this time to ponder and reflect on the life and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ. Hearing these words spoken by Elder Holland awaken every soul to the realization of the divinity of Jesus Christ. The Spirit that is felt as we listen to an Apostle of the Lord speak to us, is awe inspiring. We must always remember, as Elder Holland pointed out, that because Jesus walked that path utterly alone, we don't have to. If we go through life suffering and wallowing in our own guilt and sorrow, it is because we choose to go it alone and not rely on the divine gift of the Atonement. Through His suffering first in Gethsemane and then on the cross He was able to not only take upon Him our sins, but also our sorrows and sufferings. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5)." Centuries before His coming, Isaiah saw and witnessed the path that Christ would have to travel. But because that path was trod and that price was paid, we are able to receive forgiveness and feel the cleansing power of His Atonement. Then to contemplate the wondrous blessing of the empty tomb on Easter morning. Christ, the perfect being, was able to break the bands of death and usher in the blessing of the resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)." Because of Christ all shall be resurrected and receive perfect, immortal bodies. That this gift extends to all, wicked and righteous alike, shows the infinite power and universal nature of the Atonement. With these things in mind I invite all to ponder in your hearts the true meaning of Easter this season. With the eggs, candy, and bunnies that surround it; seek to look through to the heart which is our Savior Jesus Christ. As we come to understand His sacrifice and what it means to us, we will feel the desire to draw nearer to Him and live by His side. Of this I leave my testimony that Jesus Christ indeed died for us and rose again three days later. I know that He lives, and loves each and every one of us. And because of that love we may live after death and enjoy the blessings He has bought with His blood in Gethsemane and His suffering on the Cross. I leave you these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Does God love me?

When we think about God we may wonder what our relationship is with Him. We may wonder if He even notices or cares about us at all. From the prophets, both ancient and modern, we find answers to this great question. The apostle Paul spoke of this when he was teaching the people of Athens, he said, "For in him we live, and move and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:28)." What wonderful truth is contain within these lines, that God is in fact the Father of our spirits. Imagine, then, the care and concern you exhibit towards your own children or that your parents have shown to you. I am here to promise you that God feels the same way. He loves you, He cares about you, and He wants to help you succeed in every aspect of your life. Speaking of this Father-child relationship, Christ said to the Nephites, "Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (3 Ne 14:9-11)." Since He loves us, He is waiting to bless us in any way that we will allow Him. In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 we are taught, "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundation of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." Yes God loves you, yes He is waiting and willing to bless you, but He cannot unless you are willing to obey His commandments and follow His ways. Just as an earthly parent cannot reward their child for bad behavior, our Heavenly Father cannot reward us for our sin and transgressions. Through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, however, we are able to learn about the will of our Father and repent to overcome our sins and mistakes. These commandments are contained in the holy scriptures and create a road map for us to follow as we seek to overcome our shortcomings and return to our Heavenly Father. His desire is for everyone of His children to once again return and live again in His presence. As an ordained representative of Jesus Christ, I am sent to declare this message: God loves you, and He wants you to return. I encourage everyone to recognize the ways God has shown His love for you and then show your gratitude in prayer. As you do so you will be able to feel His love and guidance more fully and abundantly in your life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How can I know what is true?


In the world today there seems to be an endless supply of different answers to every questions. In the midst of this confusion we may find ourselves asking, "How can I know what is true?" The first source for answers to which we should always turn is our Heavenly Father. In James 1:5 we are directed, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbaideth not; and it shall be given him." Joseph Smith, following this divine counsel, sought God in prayer to discover the truth about which church was true. In response to his prayer he received a glorious vision of the Father and the Son that ushered in the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Priesthood authority necessary to establish His church on the earth again. Just as Joseph Smith, we can receive answers to our prayers as well. By sincerely asking God in faith, we are able to receive answers and understand what is truth. Another way to discern what is from God is given to us by Christ Himself in John 7:17. Speaking of His Father He states, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." The method is also described by the Book of Mormon prophet Alma when he said, "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words (Alma 32:27)." Both of these instructions invite us to do the same thing, live the commandment we are given and judge with the help of the Holy Ghost if it is true. I have followed this counsel many times in my life and discovered the truth for myself. When I live the law of tithing, for example, I pay attention to blessings, happiness, and increased presence of the Holy Ghost that comes as I live in accordance to that law. From these evidences I realize that yes, tithing is ordained of God and yes I will grow closer to Him as I obey it. I invite everyone to follow these courses of action to discover what teachings in the world are true. I promise that as you do so you will become more receptive to the Spirit as you seek its guidance and look for the answers to your prayers. The truth is out there and it can be found in the words of the ancient prophets contained in scripture and the words of a modern day prophet. As we live the words they teach listen to their counsel we will discover that they do in fact speak in behalf of God Himself. I know this to be true because I have prayed and acted on the words of Thomas S. Monson, current President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and prophet in these days. Of these things I leave my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How Can I Draw Closer to Jesus Christ?

As the Easter Season approaches our thoughts are often turned to the Savior and His sacrifice for us. Many of us may have asked ourselves, "What can I do to draw myself closer to Him?" In John 14:15 Jesus Christ Himself tells us what we need to do, it reads, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Only seven small words but in them are contained the invitation of Christ, keep my commandments. We may then wonder, "what are the commandments we are to keep?" On this subject the scriptures are full of instruction given to prophets anciently. From the Ten Commandments to the Sermon on the Mount the Bible is full of Christ's instructions to those who wish to be called His disciples. In John 13:34 we read, "A new commandment I give unto you , That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Loving God and your neighbor was always a central theme in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We show this love in a multitude of ways. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a man shows love toward his neighbor by physically saving him from suffering and nursing him back to health. We may also show our love through words spoken to those who are emotionally or spiritually hurt. By showing this love we draw nearer to Christ as we obey his commandment. In the Book of Mormon the Lord gave further commandments regarding his people. They were told to have faith in Him, repent, be baptized in His name, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 27:19-20). By doing these things, we are able to use His sacrifice in our lives. We are able to receive the cleansing power of His Atonement that allows us to be free from guilt, sorrow, and anger. Thus cleansed from these and our sins, we are able to once again enter the presence of our Heavenly Father and live with Him forever. What an amazing promise! The Savior waits with outstretched arms to all those who will seek his will and do it. I promise that as we follow the example and commandments of the Savior we will be able to stand by His side and traverse life's difficulties under His protective care. I have experienced His love and guidance in my life and I know that you can as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Understanding Who We Are

I believe that we are all guilty at one point or another of forgetting who we are and the divine potential that we hold. As missionaries one of the first things we teach people is our relationship to God. That he is literally the Father of our spirits is such an amazing concept that I think too often we fail the realize it's full significance. When we come to fully understand this parent-child relationship we come to better understand his plan for us. We realize that daily prayer is not an annoyance but the means by which we are able to communicate with our Father who longs so much to hear from us. We understand that the commands spoken through His prophets are not a list of restrictions but rather the instruction of a loving parent who is able to see the results of our choices much better than we ourselves can. We also come to realize that any feelings of worthlessness are not necessary for a son or daughter of God. We will respect our bodies more, cultivate our talents more, and increase our love for those around us. We will finally see that we are not the ugly duckling the world has declared we are but rather we are the spectacular children of God. When we realize our true identity and our divine potential we will finally realize who we really are.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Come What May and Love It

The council given to Elder Wirthlin as a boy is as applicable today as it was back then. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in life is that becoming angry, frustrated, or offended is my choice and not anyone else's. While there will be times in all of our lives that may cause us to become discouraged or even angry, we can always choose to find the good in every situation. We cannot always choose our trials but we can always choose our response to those trials. I have found that the trials in my life are easy to traverse when I focus of my Savior Jesus Christ. Through our suffering I believe we are drawn closer to him as we rely on the love, comfort, and peace that only he is able to supply. The trials and sorrows we face are in reality "forks" in the roads of our life. At each fork we are presented with a different direction to travel. We can choose the path of despair, brooding, and anger or we can choose the path of humility, happiness, and prayer. I especially enjoyed Elder Wirthlin's council on choosing to laugh instead of becoming angry. The world would be a very different place if people chose to be content instead of choosing to be angry. As stated in the video, we may not be able to enjoy the experience as it is happening but if we will rely on Jesus Christ and keep the commandments he has given us even when it is hard, then we will realize that he can lift us from our darkest moments. I promise you that if you will  approach your Father in Heaven in humble prayer that you will be able to feel the peace that comes from the Holy Ghost. The world has an endless supply of problems but as we learn to remember our Savior and continually strive to improve, then we will be able love whatever happens to come our way.