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.