Sunday, January 30, 2011

Proceed with Caution

Nasty California Fog.

Driving around town here has been crazy lately. Never in my life have I had to drive through, or even really deal with fog. At first it was pretty sweet, just another new adventure for my companion and I to experience. However, it didn't take long for me to realize how dangerous this natural phenomenon could be. My morning drive had gone from a menial, mundane occurrence to a dangerous journey in which I had to pay close attention to everything around me preceded with caution.

The whole experience brought a scripture to mind. The first prophet in the Book of Mormon, Lehi, speaks of a prophetic metaphorical dream that he had, in which he describes people moving forward on a path that leads to the tree of life. While thus traveling, they were set upon by an ominous fog that was a critical challenge to their progression. His son Nephi writes,

"And it came to pass that there arose a amist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were blost."

Later Nephi defines the mist of darkness as "the temptations of the devil" (1 Nephi 12:17). This is where the revelation came to me...

How often are we traveling on the road of life, and the path gets foggy and we have a hard time seeing our way through? With even the slightest bit of temptation, a normally easy journey can become quite difficult. Our destination that was once so clearly seen becomes hazy and sometimes not visible at all. It is true that when the temptations of the devil enter our lives, it can be hard to stay on the path of righteousness, and get to where we want.

Jesus Christ himself said,"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and apray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him."

Just like driving in the fog, when going through life we have to watch and pray continually. We must be vigilant and observant to any danger that could and will likely appear. We have to make sure that we are always being careful that we are staying on the pathway we want to be on, otherwise we wont be able to make our way through the thick fog. When we are watchful, making sure to pray and read our scriptures daily, we will receive guidance from our Father in Heaven through the Holy Ghost and be able to wade our way through the thick darkness and reach our ultimate goal of eternal life. If not, we run the great and all too fatal risk of being tempted and led astray by our adversary. Because our Heavenly Father is interested in our own personal happiness and our final destination, he has prepared a way back onto the path when we get lost. We can, through atonement of Jesus Christ, turn back and land safely on that path so we can continue. I testify, as one who has seen the thick fog of temptation close in, that if we go to Him in prayer, and ask for help, He will lead and guide us. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Latter-day Leaders

The Prophet and his counselors,
Henry B. Eyring, Thomas S. Monson, and Dieter F Uchtodorf

As missionaries, my companion and I spend a lot of time in the car driving to and from appointments. When we are not talking about the people we are working with, we usually like to turn on the cd player and listen to something. Recently, we have switched from classic Mo-Tab (the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) and instead have been listening to talks given by leaders of our church. As I was listening intently to the inspired words of one of my favorite Apostles, Elder Bednar, I was prompted to thank the Lord for the blessing it is to have such guidance.

It is such a blessing to be led and guided by men who are called and inspired by God, namely the Prophet and his Apostles! It is proof to me how much Heavenly Father loves His children. As part of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the reestablishment of His church, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith how His church was and should be organized. In congruence with the New Testament, the Lord revealed that His kingdom should be led by Prophets and Apostles. In a letter to the early saints who lived in the city Ephesus, Paul explains very clearly how the church of Jesus Christ was organized. He wrote,

"And are built upon the foundation of the aapostles and bprophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief ccorner stone;"

First and foremost, these men have been called of God and are ordained to be special witnesses of Christ, but they are also inspired to give living guidance for the challenges that we face in today's ever changing world. It is comforting to know that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ includes the same organization of the primitive church (or the church that Christ himself established) which allows God himself to inspire these leaders, and tell them what dangers they should counsel us to avoid. Living guidance and continuing revelation is necessary with the challenges of today's world. In recent years prophets have spoken on the importance to get out of debt, start a food storage, and avoid rampant dangers such as pornography and illegal drugs. What a blessing it is for us to have such guidance from God today!
Here is an interview with the same apostle before mentioned, David A. Bednar, in which he talks a little about his special commission and calling.

I know that the Lord has once again restored His gospel and church through the prophet Joseph Smith. Since Joseph Smith, we have been led and guided by special men, called of God and ordained to be Prophets. Every time I listen to them speak, I know and can feel that they are teaching what Jesus Christ himself would teach us these days. How thankful I am to have such a wonderful blessing from my Father in Heaven.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Gift of Hope

We have been meeting with a man named Eugene for a while now. When we first met with Eugene, he was down-trodden and lonely, humble and broken. To put it lightly, Eugene had nothing going for him. He would sit at home and wallow in sorrow, finding excuses not to leave. He couldn't find it in himself to trust anyone, and thus separated himself from the world. I could feel the sadness inside of this man, I could feel how much he deeply wanted change. He needed hope.. for himself, for the world around him. It was such a blessing for me to be a part of helping Eugene find that hope he was looking for.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Light of Life

Contrary to the beautiful skies and fair wind I had that morning, thick darkness surrounded me, which seemed to hang in the air around my head. I looked up and try to orient myself using the heavens, yet the familiar guiding lights above were no where to be found. The ship began to pitch and yaw as the waves heaved against the side. With the fog creeping above the water line onto the vessel, my heart began to race. Visibility was low, and in the moment of my greatest need I felt alone. Trusted orientation tools were rendered useless due to the present conditions, so I cast them aside. I felt like my bearings up to that point had been correct, and  should be headed exactly where I need to be, but the sting of doubt was nagging at my mind. 'Was my last calculation really correct? Did I correctly changed my latitude to account for the distance traveled?'  A voice in the back of my head told me that conditions ahead are worse, not better, yet there was no possible way to turn around. Supplies were completely gone after the already long and strenuous journey, but safe harbor was just ahead. Courageously, I pressed forward, tentatively trusting in my past judgement. Somewhere off in the distance I could hear violent crashing noises as the waves slammed against the jagged rock face of the shore. The rocks were close, and with no way to guide the ship the result could have been devastating. With the given conditions and dangers present,  I realized hope of relying upon my own skills was gone, and without guidance I would be lost to the world.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

He Who is Mighty to Save

It seems like a constant theme in my life recently has been change. I feel like I have been prompted to change a ton of things in my life, and its been kind of a daunting... Not that I don't want to change, it's just hard to implement sometimes. I felt like I wasn't making all the 'fixes' fast enough... I'm not gonna lie, it was kind of getting to me. In the midst of all this inner turmoil, I turned to the scriptures and found a little gem that will stick with me forever,

"Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is amighty to save.
 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in aprayer unto him."

I love how Amulek calls Christ mighty. Honestly, He would have to be "mighty to save" to do anything with a wretch like me, like I sometimes feel. I know I am doing all I can, and trying really really hard, but sometimes I feel like It just isn't enough; that no matter how hard I try, I just wont qualify for what the Savior requires. While pondering about this, I picked up a book given to us by a member of our ward and started reading. This time it really sunk in... By the mouth of two witnesses right?

"The "good news" of the gospel is good news to me not because it promises that other people who are better than I can be saved, but because it promises that I can be saved- wretched, inadequate, and imperfect me. And until I accept that possibility, until I believe Christ when he says he can bring me into his kingdom and set me on a throne, I have not really accepted the good news of the gospel" -Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ

The second time around, everything really fell into place for me. Mr. Robinson is right! Christ came for people like me, people who aren't perfect. The whole human race and I are all in this boat together, and the only one who can plug the hole at the bottom and keep us all from sinking into the deep ocean of spiritual abyss and nothingness is Christ. Que deep breathe and sigh of relief... To all those who have felt, or are right now feeling like I did, Amulek has the key! When we feel inadequate, call upon God, and humble yourself so that you can know what you need to do!

I add my testimony to that of Amulek's that Christ is mighty to save, that despite my personal weaknesses He can and will help me overcome. That although I have a lot wrong with me, and a lot of things I need to be better at, I'll be Ok. All we have to do is stay humble, listen to the Spirit, and move forward, constantly trying to improve, and we have His promise. Now all I ask is that you all bear with me as I try and overcome my weaknesses!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Change is the Only Constant!

Change is an essential part of life. It has been said that the only constant in life is change. What a wonderful and beautiful idea that is. Truly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is centered completely around change. Through it, Heavenly Father takes raw materials and shapes them to become what He wants for them. Someone recently gave me a C.S. Lewis quote that changed the way I looked at myself.

C.S. Lewis is the man!
 “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

That's powerful! C.S. Lewis understood well what change through Jesus Christ is all about. He understands that as we leave our old selves behind, God will change us, and shape us into what He wants us to be. As children of God, our eventual goal is to become just like Him. There is a beautiful analogy made in the Bible, it says...

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a aglass the bglory of the Lord, are changed into the same cimage from dglory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18

I love the imagery of Paul! What a great gift, to give our will to the Lord, so that one day, we can stand in front of the mirror and see his image staring back. In fact the prophet Alma says this is a great way to tell if we are true disciples, followers of Him, when he says,

Christ being baptized
"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye aspiritually been bborn of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty cchange in your hearts?" Alma 5:14

As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite you to come unto Christ and be born of God, and experience this mighty change of heart spoken of by Alma. When we are reborn through Christ, or baptized, we become a new person. We promise to always repent, or change, to become more like Christ. I have personally witnessed that when you do, your countenance will change, and you will see yourself in a whole new light. You will begin to understand exactly who you are.