Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions for 2014

The start of a new year is the time when I reflect on the events of the past year and whether goals set at the beginning of the year have been achieved. I ask myself questions such as:

  • Where did I do well and where did I fall short and why?
  • What could I have done better?
  • What needs to change in this coming year?
This exercise then leads to another round of goal setting.

As I have done my evaluation of 2013 and thought about plans for the coming year, the words of Amulek, spoken over two millennia ago, have guided my thinking. He said that, "if we do not improve our time while in this life,then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed" Alma 34:33,emphasis added). His wisdom has caused me to think a little differently about what I want to do in 2014. I don't want to just tackle a list of desirable projects. At times in the past, my goal setting has been more like constructing a bucket list of good ideas rather than an effort to really focus my life.

In 2014, I want to focus on just a few really important areas. I want to become a better

  • Disciple of Christ,
  • Husband,
  • Father, and
  • Grandfather.
These are the most important areas of my life and the ones that have eternal significance. If I can improve in each of these areas in 2014, I will count this year as a success. I will have become a better son of God. I will have improved the time allotted to me.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

The beautiful carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," is about the coming of Jesus and the blessings which His birth brings to me and the whole human family. The carol, "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful," is about my coming to Jesus. His coming can give me hope, but to receive it I must seek and come to Him as did the shepherds and the wise men. The words of this beautiful carol, composed by John F. Wade in the eighteenth century, are,

Oh, come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
Oh, come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God,
Glory in the highest;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n.
Son of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Jesus' miraculous birth, exemplary life, and unselfish act of atonement are the pivotal events in all of human history. Amulek declared,

"For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made." (Alma 34:9)

Prophets prophesied of His coming. An angel announced His birth while a choir of angels sang in the heavens. Has there ever been a more anticipated or celebrated yet humble birth?

For me, "O Come All Ye Faithful" extends an invitation to symbolically journey to Bethlehem and worship the Only Begotten Son of the Father just as the shepherds and wise men did centuries ago. Years after His birth, Jesus made this invitation when He said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
I owe Jesus the hope I have for Eternal Life with my Heavenly Father. He is worthy of my adoration, worship, devotion, and discipleship not just as I celebrate His birth today but every day of my life.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

One of my favorite Christmas carols has become "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". With beautifully moving verse, this carol teaches of the reasons we have to rejoice in Jesus' birth. The words of the carol are,

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

These beautiful words teach about the atoning mission of Jesus Christ and why I have reason to rejoice in His birth. Without Jesus, I would be in bondage to sin, doomed to hell, and exiled from God. But with Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary, He paid the price of my sins and ransomed me. He swung open the doors of hell to enable me to escape the captivity of sin and be forgiven though repentance. In the words of Isaiah, Jesus "was wounded for...[my] transgressions, he was bruised for...[my] iniquities: the chastisement of...[my] peace was upon him; and with his stripes...[I am] healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

Because of Jesus, the dark shadow of death does will not permanently hold my body captive in a cold grave but I have the promise of a resurrection or the reuniting of my body and spirit. Abinadi taught,

"For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished. But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead" (Mosiah 15:19-20).

Jesus was the first to be resurrected and the rest of Heavenly Father's children, including me, will follow.

Christ's teachings and example gives me the way to return to my Heavenly Home. He is the only way home (John 14:6). It is only through His gospel and His "merits, mercy, and grace" (2 Nephi 2:8) that I can return home to live eternally with my Heavenly Father.
The prophet Alma prophesied of Jesus' birth and taught about His atoning mission. He said,

"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem...she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:10-12)

I am grateful that Emmanuel, the promised Messiah, even Jesus the Christ came to earth. He has given me every reason to rejoice. He has given me the peace found in hope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Innkeepers, Shepherds, and Wise Men

I love everything about Christmas. The sacred music, beautiful decorations, bright lights, giving of gifts, and cherished traditions create a special spirit during this season of the year. Most of all I love the message of Christmas. The story of the first Christmas reminds me of the importance of the Savior in my life. To me the message is that through Jesus' miraculous birth, exemplary ministry, and atoning mission, I can find peace, goodwill, hope, and eternal life along with all of God's children.

While there are many things to be learned from the story of Christ's birth, there are three events from that first Christmas that teach me important principles for my life as I strive to be a disciple of Christ.

The first of these events took place on the crowded streets of Bethlehem shortly before the Savior was born. Luke records,

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed . . . And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . . To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1 -7, emphasis added).

The phrase,“there was no room for them in the inn” has always peaked my curiosity. I wonder why there was no room in the inns of Bethlehem for Mary, Joseph, and the yet to be born Son of God. I think about those scriptural accounts where some humble man or woman was inspired to care for one of God's servants. Amulek was told by an angel to care for Alma. A widow was commanded to provide for Elijah. Why wasn’t an innkeeper told to prepare a more fitting place than a stable for the birth of the Son of God? Perhaps the Spirit did try to whisper to someone but he was too busy conducting business to hear the promptings telling him to prepare a place for his King’s birth.

Unfortunately, unless I am careful, I am no different than the innkeepers. My life can become so caught up in my daily routines of life that I may fail to let Christ in. When He knocks, do I let Him into my life or am I so busy that I turn Him away?

President Thomas S. Monson said,

“Before we can successfully undertake a personal search for Jesus, we must first prepare time for him in our lives and room for him in our hearts. In these busy days there are many who have time for gold, time for shopping, time for work, time for play, but not time for Christ.

"Lovely homes dot the land and provide rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, playrooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no room for Christ." (Thomas S. Monson, "The Search for Jesus," Ensign, December 1990)

In the beautiful poem, "A Prayer for December," the poet offered this prayer:

Dearest God, please never let me,

Crowd my life full to the brim.

So like the keeper of Bethlehem’s inn,

I find I have no room for Him.

Instead let my heart’s door be ever open,

Ready to welcome the newborn King,

Let me offer the best I have,

To Him who gives me everything. (Author unknown)

At this Christmas season, I pray that I may rededicate my life to always inviting Him in, to truly knowing Him, to always hearing His voice, and to doing His will. May I never crowd Him out.

The second event took place with the shepherds on the plains of Judea when the angel and the heavenly hosts announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds. Again Luke records,

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy . . . . For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away . . .the shepherds said one to another, Let us . . . go . . . unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which . . . the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen [it], they made [it] known abroad . . .” (Luke 2:8-17).

As I contemplate this account, I wonder why the angels appeared to the shepherds. Why wasn’t the Savior’s birth announced to the powerful religious or political leaders of the Jews? After all He was the King of the Jews. Why the shepherds? Maybe it was to the shepherds because they were humble, meek, and submissive and not only would they hear and accept the message but they would also act upon it. Perhaps angels did announce the Savior's birth to many others, but as with the innkeepers, they were also too busy. Maybe it was just too inconvenient or it didn’t fit in with their beliefs and traditions, and they chose not to listen or perhaps they procrastinated doing something with the message and missed their opportunity to worship the Christ child.

There may also be another reason why others are not mentioned. Luke says that the shepherds after visiting and worshipping Jesus went and “made it known” to others. They went and testified of what they had seen and felt. They shared their sacred experience with someone who recorded it. Perhaps, there were others who visited the baby Jesus but they kept silent and didn't speak of it so it was never recorded.

For me there is much to be learned from the shepherds. I learn to be humble, to listen, to go when the Spirit speaks, and importantly to testify. After I have made room for Jesus in my life, after I have sought Him and let Him in, after I have gained a testimony of Him, I need to tell others both through my actions and my words that I believe and accept Christ.

The final event took place some time later when the wise men came seeking Jesus. Matthew records,

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem . . . there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem . . . . And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2: 1 - 3, 9 - 11)

It's interesting that these seekers of Jesus were called “wise men”. Our traditions refer to them as three kings, but all Matthew says is that they were wise men. These men who knew of the prophecies about Jesus' birth were undoubtedly watching for the signs of His birth. Maybe they even heard heavenly choirs and heeded the message of an angel. While the innkeepers of Bethlehem, King Herod, the religious leaders of Judea, and others may have been caught unprepared, they were ready. Having seen the Star, they went searching for Him. When they found Him, they gave Him the gifts they brought. But these worldly gifts of wealth were no where near the value of the goodness of their lives. I am sure they had prepared by giving gifts of sacrifice, love, obedience, and devotion. These were the gifts and treasures of eternal significance that insured them a place at the cradle of the recently born King.

I need to be similarly prepared to receive Him. I must love, sacrifice, be obedient, and devoted so that I will be ready whenever my call to serve and worship Him comes.

As I reflect upon these events of long ago, I have much to wonder about. I believe if I can learn the lessons of the first Christmas and let Him into my life and heart, bear testimony of Him as the Shepherds did, and worship Him as the Wise men then I will be ready, as the Shepherds and Wise Men were ready, to worship Him not only during this Christmas season but throughout the whole year.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Light of the World

“[Jesus Christ] is the Light of Bethlehem, born of Mary, His mortal mother, and His Father, Almighty God. . . . He is the Light of theAtonement fulfilled in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Golgotha, who took upon Himself the sins of the world, that all mankind mayobtain eternal salvation. He is the Light of the empty tomb, the resurrected Lord with a glorified body of flesh and bone, who broke thebands of death and gained an everlasting victory over the grave. . . . He is my Light, my Redeemer, my Savior—and yours.” (Robert D. Hales, “Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light,” Ensign, May 2002)page83image3156

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


"How difficult it is for any of us to forgive those who have injured us. We are all prone to brood on the evil done us. That brooding becomes as a gnawing and destructive canker. Is there a virtue more in need of application in our time than the virtue of forgiving and forgetting? There are those who would look upon this as a sign of weakness. Is it? I submit that it takes neither strength nor intelligence to brood in anger over wrongs suffered, to go through life with a spirit of vindictiveness, to dissipate one’s abilities in planning retribution. There is no peace in the nursing of a grudge. There is no happiness in living for the day when you can 'get even.'" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Of You It Is Required To Forgive," Ensign, June 1991)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Achieving Unity

The following is a wonderful story told by President Henry B. Eyring on achieving unity in our relationships, particularly marriage:

“It is only with the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can hope to be equally yoked in a marriage free from discord. I have seen how that companionship is crucial for felicity in a marriage. The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time. Our goal is to live together forever in the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior.

“My father and my mother were very different from each other. My mother was a singer and an artist. My father loved chemistry. Once at a symphony concert, my mother was surprised when my father stood up and began to leave before the applause began. My mother asked him where he was going. His response was, in all innocence: 'Well, it’s over, isn’t it?' Only the gentle influence of the Holy Ghost got him there with her in the first place and brought him back to concerts time and time again.

“My mother lived in New Jersey for 16 years so that my father could support the family by doing research and teaching chemistry. To her it was a sacrifice being separated from her widowed mother and her unmarried sister, who had cared for her in the old family farmhouse. They both died while Mother was far away in New Jersey. Those were the only times I ever saw my mother cry.

“Years later my father was offered a job in Utah. He asked my mother, again in all innocence, 'Mildred, what do you think I should do?'

“She said, 'Henry, do whatever you think is best.'

“He turned down the offer. The next morning she wrote him a letter that I wish I still had. I remember that she told him, 'Don’t open it here. Go to the office and open it there.' It began with a rebuke. He had promised her years before that if he ever could, he would take her to be near her family. He was surprised by her expression of irritation. He had not remembered the desire of her heart. He immediately sent a message accepting the job offer.

“He said, 'Mildred, why didn’t you tell me?'

“She said, 'You were supposed to remember.'

“He always spoke of that choice to move to Utah as his own, never as a sacrifice of his professional career. They had received the miracle of becoming one. It would have been better if Dad had been reminded by the Holy Ghost of the promise he had made years earlier. But he did allow the Holy Ghost to soften his heart so that her choice became his." (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/to-my-grandchildren?lang=engce)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Nephi’s Psalm

One of my heroes is the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi. For me, he is an example of steadfast faith and resolute obedience. His declaration “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:7) characterized his life. No matter what trial or tribulation confronted him, he never wavered in his determination to follow Heavenly Father. He is a stellar example of a true disciple.

One of the most beautiful passages in all of the Book of Mormon is a psalm written by Nephi. This psalm poetically teaches about the need to repent, to trust in God, to remember His goodness, and to seek His grace. Nephi wrote these passages at what must have been a very tender and troubling moment in his life. Lehi, Nephi’s beloved father, had recently died and Nephi was facing increasing persecution and dissension from his rebellious brothers, Laman and Lemuel. His poignant psalm begins with a deeply sorrowful description of the remorse Nephi feels for his sins. I wonder if an angry exchange with his brothers may have precipitated these agonizing feelings. He writes,

“O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins…” (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

Nephi uses pain laden language—wretched, sorroweth, grieveth, and groaneth—to describe the remorse he is feeling. He clearly is tormented by sin, but he refuses to wallow in his sins and the pain they have caused him. Instead he turns to God and recalls his many great blessings. He says,

“… Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” (2 Nephi 4:19-25)

Remembering his blessings is the balm that seems to sooth Nephi’s troubled soul and leads him to appeal to God for the mercy promised to the repentant. He writes,

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?  Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul…Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” (2 Nephi 4:26-30)

But Nephi does more than just appeal for mercy, he prays for the strength to overcome his trials and temptations. He prayerfully writes,

“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road! O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way--but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” (2 Nephi 4:31-35)

I love the words: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.” Trust is born of faith. From his earliest days, Nephi’s faith led him to have absolute trust in God and now, at this moment, he trusts that the Lord will grant his appeal for mercy and strength because He has done so in the past.

I am grateful to Nephi for writing so personally about the joy that can only come through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The passages of this psalm have comforted me throughout my life. Heavenly Father has blessed me just as He blessed Nephi. I trust that if I have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and repent then Heavenly Father will also grant my appeal for mercy and I will find relief and joy. This gives me hope.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

“I, The Lord, Remember Them No More”

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. I am thankful for His Atonement. Because of this supernal sacrifice, I can repent of my sins, be forgiven, and have the hope of Eternal Life with my Heavenly Father, Christ, and my family. 

Paul taught, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Nonetheless, we can repent of our sins and be redeemed (Mosiah 27:24). Repentance is the divine principle of change. It’s turning away from our sinful ways and embracing a new way of life that’s aligned with God. When we repent, we feel deep sorrow for our wrongful behaviors and commit to change. We seek forgiveness from God in order to become spiritually clean. With our changed life, comes the comforting blessing: “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42, emphasis added). The Lord made a similar promise through the prophet Ezekiel when he said, 
 “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” (Ezekiel 18:21-22). 
We can find relief in the promises that He will neither remember nor mention our sins when we sincerely repent. Imagine, we can put the past behind us and look forward to a new life free from the effects of sin. The Lord also promised that, “He shall surely live, he shall not die.” While we will all experience death someday, the Lord is saying that we won’t suffer spiritual death or be cut off from the presence of God if we repent. We can live in God’s presence throughout eternity. 

Isaiah described what happens to our sins as we repent. When the Lord forgave him of his sins, Isaiah wrote,
 “ Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged" (Isaiah 6:5-7, emphasis added). 
What a beautifully symbolic description of the way the Lord removes or purges the effects of our repented of sins. Purge means to cleanse or purify. The seraphim are symbolic of the Holy Ghost whose ministry it is to purge, cleanse, purify or remit our sins from us through the Atonement of Christ. When the Lord looks upon us after this purging, He no longer sees our sins staining our soul; we are cleansed through the Atonement. This may be why He doesn’t remember our sins or mention them; we have become clean, and He no longer sees them. 

 Having our sins removed, we no longer feel guilt and shame. Perhaps the only guilt we feel is that we no longer feel guilty. Isaiah made this promise to the House of Israel, "Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth..." (3 Nephi 22:4, emphasis added). This is our promise also. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can heal the sinful soul and swallow up that awful feeling of shame and sense of reproach. 

Many ask the question: If the Lord doesn’t remember my sins, then why do I? 

The prophet Alma provides valuable insight into the process of repentance, forgiveness, and this very question of remembering our past sinful acts. 

As a young man, Alma attempted to destroy the church of God (Mosiah 27:8-9). While he was going around trying to tear down the church, an angel appeared to him and told him to repent and change his ways or else he would be destroyed (Mosiah 27:11-17; Alma 36:11). Torment and guilt racked Alma’s conscience as he realized his precarious spiritual standing. This awful pain continued until the moment Alma pleaded for mercy and asked for forgiveness. He then felt redemption through the Atonement (Mosiah 27:18-26). He completely changed his life and he went on to become a great prophet and witness of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. 

Twenty five years later, Alma recounted his experience to his son Helaman. Although the years had passed, he still remembered his sinful past and what he had done. The Lord had not wiped his memory clean. He was able to recount the struggle to repent. He described the pain, torment, and suffering that his sins had caused him. He related how the Lord had forgiven him. He told Helaman, "And now I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more" (Alma 36:19, emphasis added). He no longer felt the anguish of conscience, distress, and spiritual pain. Joy replaced guilt and shame. He could recall the pain he had felt at the time but it was a non-painful memory for the Spirit through the Atonement of Christ had removed the torment and pain caused by the anguish he had felt twenty five years earlier. 

It is not a realistic expectation that after having repented and been forgiven that we will forget our sins. The memory of Alma’s past enabled him to testify of power of the Atonement. It is the same for each one of us. We can also testify of the blessings of the Atonement. We can vividly testify that we can be forgiven and the guilt, shame, and reproach can be removed. By remembering we can also learn from past mistakes so that hopefully we won’t fall into the same snares again. Perhaps this is why are memories aren’t wiped clean when we are forgiven. 

I am thankful that I can repent and move forward.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Receiving Revelation

In April 1971, Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk at General Conference entitled "The Lord's People Receive Revelation." His words inspire and challenge me to be more in tune with the Spirit such that I may receive the things of God. The following is an extract from his address:

"When I was a mission president in Australia, I once said to those of my missionaries in Tasmania: “Tomorrow we shall climb Mt. Wellington and hold our missionary meeting on the top. We shall there seek to commune with the Lord and partake of his Spirit.”
"We made the climb, and while on top of the peak we visited a television broadcasting station. A bright young man explained to us in words I had never heard, and using principles I could not and do not understand, how the sounds and scenes of television were broadcast into the valley below.
"That night, back in the city of Hobart, my two young sons and I sat before a television set that was tuned to the proper wave band, and we saw and heard and experienced what had been described to us in words.
"Now I think this illustrates perfectly what is involved in the receipt of revelation and the seeing of visions. We can read about visions and revelations in the records of the past, we can study the inspired writings of people who had the fullness of the gospel in their day, but we cannot comprehend what is involved until we see and hear and experience for ourselves.
"This Tabernacle is now full of words and music. Handel’s Messiah is being sung, and the world’s statesmen are propagandizing their people. But we do not hear any of it.
"This Tabernacle is full of scenes from Vietnam and Washington. There is even a picture of men walking on the surface of the moon. But we are not seeing these things. The minute, however, in which we tune a radio to the proper wave band and tune a television receiving set on the proper channel, we begin to hear and see and experience what otherwise remains completely unknown to us.
"And so it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting.
"Joseph Smith said: “The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” And, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Deseret Book Co., 1968], p. 328.)
"Moroni said: “… by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5.)
"The Comforter knoweth all things; he is commissioned to bear witness of the Father and the Son, to reveal, to teach, and to testify—and he is broadcasting all the truths of salvation, and all the knowledge and wisdom of God, out into all immensity all of the time.
"How this is done we do not know. We cannot comprehend God or the laws by which he governs the universe. But that it does happen we know because here in the valley below, when we attune our souls to the Infinite, we hear and see and experience the things of God." (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/04/the-lords-people-receive-revelation?lang=eng)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Lord, I Believe"

Following Jesus' feeding of the five thousand, the apostles boarded a boat and started across the Sea of Galilee while Jesus went into the mountains to pray. As they were crossing, the sea became "tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary" (Matthew 14:24). In the midst of this peril and their ensuing fright, the apostles saw Jesus walking on the water towards them. Jesus said, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid" (Matthew 14:27). Upon recognizing Jesus, Peter said, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" (Matthew 14:28). Jesus beckoned Peter to come to Him and Peter stepped out of the boat and briefly walked towards Jesus. But soon the "boisterous" waves frightened Peter. In the midst of the ferocious storm, Peter's doubt overcame his faith and he began to sink. He cried out, "Lord, save me" (Matthew 14:30). "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matthew 14:32). I wonder whether, when Peter saw a wave come crashing towards him, he looked back at the boat rather than staying focused on the Savior and thought that it was safer in the boat than walking towards Jesus. Did his doubt cause him to lose focus on the Savior?

Storms are a part of life's experience and moments of doubt may not be uncommon during such times. For me, the question is not whether I will experience such periods, but what I do during those times. Doubt must not snuff out my faith. I must carefully nurture my faith or doubt will grow and may cause me to lose focus on the one Person who can rescue me. Just like Peter I need to turn to the Savior saying, "Lord, save me”.

The faith to endure does not come as a single event. Rather it grows day by day as we nurture and nourish it. Alma compared growing our faith to the act of planting 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 heart, 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 that this is 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). I believe he phrase “if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord" provides an interesting insight into faith. While I don't presume to know precisely what Alma meant, to me it says that doubt is not uncommon in the process of growing my faith, but I must not allow doubt to prevent the seed of faith from germinating and I must be careful not to allow the poison of doubt to stunt the growth or kill the plant. Faith requires constant nourishment and protection. My experience is that as I continue to nourish my faith through study, prayer, and obedience during those moments of doubt my faith becomes stronger.

The tender account of the Savior healing a child afflicted with an evil spirit provides additional insight in protecting faith from doubt. In retelling this story, Elder Jeffery R. Holland said,

"On one occasion Jesus came upon a group arguing vehemently with His disciples. When the Savior inquired as to the cause of this contention, the father of an afflicted child stepped forward, saying he had approached Jesus’s disciples for a blessing for his son, but they were not able to provide it. With the boy still gnashing his teeth, foaming from the mouth, and thrashing on the ground in front of them, the father appealed to Jesus with what must have been last-resort desperation in his voice:

'If thou canst do any thing,” he said, 'have compassion on us, and help us.

'Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

'And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief' [Mark 9:14-21 and 22-24].

"This man’s initial conviction, by his own admission, is limited. But he has an urgent, emphatic desire in behalf of his only child. We are told that is good enough for a beginning. 'Even if ye can no more than desire to believe,' Alma declares, 'let this desire work in you, even until ye believe' [Alma 32:27]. With no other hope remaining, this father asserts what faith he has and pleads with the Savior of the world, 'If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us'' [Mark 9:22]. I can hardly read those words without weeping. The plural pronoun us is obviously used intentionally. This man is saying, in effect, 'Our whole family is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. Our son falls into the water. He falls into the fire. He is continually in danger, and we are continually afraid. We don’t know where else to turn. Can you help us? We will be grateful for anything—a partial blessing, a glimmer of hope, some small lifting of the burden carried by this boy’s mother every day of her life.'

“If thou canst do any thing,' spoken by the father, comes back to him 'If thou canst believe,' spoken by the Master [Mark 9:22].

“Straightway,' the scripture says—not slowly nor skeptically nor cynically but 'straightway'—the father cries out in his unvarnished parental pain, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.' In response to new and still partial faith, Jesus heals the boy, almost literally raising him from the dead, as Mark describes the incident [Mark 9:24-27]. (Jeffery R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe," Ensign, May 2013)

Those words, "Lord, I believe; help though mine unbelief" is a plea that applies to all of us at one time or another. Elder Holland shared the following three observations about this account:

“Observation number one regarding this account is that when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: 'Lord, I believe.' I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, 'If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you' [Matthew 17:20]. The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.

"The second observation is a variation of the first. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your 'unbelief.' That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle...

"Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of 'real intent,' pursued 'with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God' [2 Nephi 31:13].  I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief.” (Jeffery R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe," Ensign, May 2013)

I add a fourth observation about this account. The father did not ask "why did God do this to my son" or "why did God let this happen." These questions challenge God, fuel unbelief, and don't build understanding. Contrast these questions to asking "help me understand why this is happening". Such a pleas is not a  challenge to God but a faithful request to seek understanding.  Such understanding will strengthen our faith.

Carefully nurture, nourish, and grow your faith. Faith in Christ and His Atonement will sustain us and rescue us from the storms, whether minor or boisterous, of life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Building a Sure Foundation

In elaborating on the allegory of the good Shepherd for His disciples, Jesus likened Himself to the door into the enclosure where the shepherds kept the sheep. He said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9). With this metaphor, Jesus taught His disciples that it is only through Him and His Atonement that they or anyone else could receive the greatest blessing that God, our Heavenly Father, has to give--life with Him through eternity. At the last supper, Jesus taught this doctrine again when He said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Peter testified of the paramount importance of Christ in our lives when, after healing a lame man at the temple, he declared to the Sadducees and Jewish rulers, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). King Benjamin succinctly taught the same doctrine: "There shall be no other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent" (Mosiah 3:17). Likewise Paul said, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh..." (Hebrews 10:19-20). It’s clear it is only through Christ that I have hope of returning to live with our Heavenly Father.

Because Christ is the only way back to Heavenly Father and Eternal Life, Helaman counseled his sons, Nephi and Lehi, to, “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)

I love the imagery of building our foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ to help us weather the storms of life. I once worked on the 56th floor of the 57 story Key Tower in downtown Cleveland. When the winds blew off Lake Erie, the building would creak and sway but thankfully it never toppled to the ground. I’m grateful that the contractors dug deep into the earth and poured the buildings foundation on bedrock so that it would bear the weight of the building and keep it secure against all the elements. Similarly I must build the foundation of my life on the rock of our Savior in order to weather the storms and floods of life.

I have asked myself the question: "But how do I build my foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ our Redeemer?” The Savior provided the answer, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6: 46-49, emphasis added)

In answer to my question, it's clear that I need to: 
  • Come to Christ. I must seek Him, have faith in Him, trust Him, and come to truly know Him (John 17:3).
  •  Hear His words. I won't hear His voice if I don't put forth the effort to listen to His words. How can I listen? I hear His voice as I read and ponder the scriptures, study the   teachings of His prophets and apostles, and listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.
  •  Live what His words teach me. Listening and study will only make a difference in my life if I am willing to humbly submit my will to His and do what He asks me to do.
By following these practices and building my foundation on the rock of Christ, I can:
  • Be forgiven of my sins when I repent;
  •  Receive Christ's grace, which can change my heart and enable me to become someone I can't through my own efforts;
  • Be succored, aided, and supported by Christ in times of trial and need. 

I want these blessings for me and my family. I know that as I build my foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ, I can receive these blessings and one day inherit the greatest of all the gifts of God--Eternal Life (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Obeying the Commandments

Self-assessment plays a valuable role in our journey of becoming more diligent disciples of Christ. In such an assessment, we may find areas where we need to change, make course corrections, or even just stretch ourselves a little more. We can then set goals and make plans to incorporate the changes into our lives. In a talk by Elder L. Tom Perry entitled "Obedience to Law Is Liberty", he provided a way to evaluate ourselves as we strive to be more diligent disciples. The following is a thought provoking excerpt from his talk:

One way to measure ourselves... is by one of the oldest standards known to man—the Ten Commandments. For much of the civilized world, particularly the Judeo-Christian world, the Ten Commandments have been the most accepted and enduring delineation between good and evil.
In my judgment, four of the Ten Commandments are taken as seriously today as ever. As a culture, we disdain and condemn murder, stealing, and lying, and we still believe in the responsibility of children to their parents.

But as a larger society, we routinely dismiss the other six commandments:

If worldly priorities are any indication, we certainly have “other gods” we put before the true God.

We make idols of celebrities, of lifestyles, of wealth, and yes, sometimes of graven images or objects.

We use the name of God in all kinds of profane ways, including our exclamations and our swearing.

We use the Sabbath day for our biggest games, our most serious recreation, our heaviest shopping, and virtually everything else but worship.

We treat sexual relations outside marriage as recreation and entertainment.

And coveting has become a far too common way of life. (See Exodus 20:3–17.)...

A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father. His goal is our eternal happiness, and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy...

God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant 
son Corianton, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10)...

The Lord...revealed...the blessings promised...for being obedient to His commandments.
In Doctrine and Covenants 130 we read:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this 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” (D&C 130:20–21).

Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society. There are moral absolutes. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. These things do not change...

May we ever be a light on the hill, an example in keeping the commandments, which have never changed and will never change.  (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/obedience-to-law-is-liberty?lang=eng)

We can all do a little better in keeping these commandments. Jesus was the only person who perfectly kept all of the commandments. Each of us has room for improvement. As I think about Elder Perry's invitation to measure ourselves, the questions for me become:

·         How am I doing in keeping ALL the commandments of God not just the convenient ones?

·         Where can I do better?

·         What am I going to change to keep the commandments more diligently?