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.