Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Tender Mercies of the Lord

In the October 2004 General Conference. Two new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were sustained. Elder Dieter Uchtdorf, and Elder David A. Bednar. The two new Apostles were asked to bear their testimonies in the Sunday morning session of that conference. Elder Uchtdorf spoke first, and then there was a congregational rest hymn. Elder Bednar was to speak after the song was over.

Later Elder Bednar testified of a small miracle that happened during that rest hymn. This is how he described his experience:
“Then we all stood together to sing the intermediate hymn that previously had been announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The intermediate hymn that morning was “Redeemer of Israel” (Hymns, no. 6).
Now, the music for the various conference sessions had been determined many weeks before—and obviously long before my new call to serve. If, however, I had been invited to suggest an intermediate hymn for that particular session of the conference—a hymn that would have been both edifying and spiritually soothing for me and for the congregation before my first address in this Conference Center—I would have selected my favorite hymn, “Redeemer of Israel.” Tears filled my eyes as I stood . . to sing that stirring hymn of the Restoration.
Near the conclusion of the singing, to my mind came this verse from the Book of Mormon:

“But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).

My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi’s phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord,” and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.” (David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2005, 99)
Small Miracles
Small miracles, such as this happen all the time. They are very personal and individualized blessings that we receive from the Lord. They come in a very timely manner, and provide us just he help and support we need – just when we need it most. Such blessings might include: strength, protection, assurance, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts. All these are according to the tender mercies of the Lord. He knows us, he knows our challenges in life, and He knows what we need to get through them.

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless
Jesus instructed his Apostles that he would not leave them comfortless. He promised them that he would send them the Holy Ghost, but also that He would come to them as well.
We read in John 14:15-18
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Elder Bednar explains one way in which the Savior may come to us:
“Let me suggest that one of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through His abundant and tender mercies. For instance, as you and I face challenges and tests in our lives, the gift of faith and an appropriate sense of personal confidence that reaches beyond our own capacity are two examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. Repentance and forgiveness of sins and peace of conscience are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. And the persistence and the fortitude that enable us to press forward with cheerfulness through physical limitations and spiritual difficulties are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord.”

I had never thought of this scripture in this way. Think of the times in your life when you have been supported and sustained by the Lord, in a very personal way. Think of the joy you have received as you have repented and been cleansed of your sins through the power of Jesus’ Atoning Sacrifice.

Like the people of Alma the Elder, when they were laden with many burdens. Their prayers ascended up to the Lord. Instead of removing the burdens from them, the Lord strengthened them so that their burdens became light.

We read in Mosiah 24:15
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
Sometimes the answer to our prayers is not to make the challenge or trial go away, but to give us strength to endure what lies be for us.

The Iraq War Widow
Consider this example, of a wife and mother who recently lost her husband while he was serving with the military in Iraq. She was asked to speak in her stake conference. Elder Bednar recounts her testimony:
“In December of 2003. This stalwart sister recounted how, after being notified of her husband’s death, she received his Christmas card and message. In the midst of the abrupt reality of a dramatically altered life came to this good sister a timely and tender reminder that indeed families can be together forever. With permission I quote from that Christmas card:
“To the best family in the world! Have a great time together and remember the true meaning of Christmas! The Lord has made it possible for us to be together forever. So even when we are apart, we will still be together as a family.
“God bless and keep y’all safe and grant this Christmas to be our gift of love from us to Him above!!!
“All my love, Daddy and your loving husband!”
Clearly, the husband’s reference to being apart in his Christmas greeting referred to the separation caused by his military assignment. But to this sister, as a voice from the dust from a departed eternal companion and father, came a most needed spiritual reassurance and witness.”
Again, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite His tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.

Health Blessings
I have recently been a recipient of the tender mercies of the Lord. The last six months I have been faced with many health challenges. I was hospitalized for a week with a serious infection. I was on IV antibiotics at home for two months.

There were many who fasted and prayed on my behalf. My family and I fasted and prayed that my body might heal so that I would not be required to have surgery. Many people my ward, and in this stake have remembered me in their prayers. Some of my co-workers have prayed on my behalf. Even people whom I have never met, through the Internet, have prayed for me. I received priesthood blessings from my home teacher, and from the bishopric of my ward. I appreciate all the prayers and support that I have received. I want you to know that those prayers were answered. When I was in the hospital, the likelihood of having further surgery seemed like a foregone conclusion.

However, I recently underwent some medical tests, which indicated that surgery would not be needed after all. My family and I have rejoiced and thanked the Lord for our blessings.
I believe that this great blessing in my life is a direct result of the faith and prayers in my behalf. The Lord in his tender mercies, saw fit to bless and heal me, and has heard and answered our prayers.

The Lord Knows who you are – Yes YOU!

Elder Bednar relates a story of a priesthood leader who was prompted to memorize the names of all the youth in his stake ages 13 to 21. Using photos of the youth, he created flashcards that he used to learn the names and faces of every youth.
One night the priesthood leader had a dream about one of the young men whom he knew only from a picture. In the dream he saw the young man dressed in a white shirt and wearing a missionary name tag. With a companion seated at his side, the young man was teaching a family. The young man held the Book of Mormon in his hand, and he looked as if he were testifying of the truthfulness of the book. The priesthood leader then awoke from his dream.

Later at a priesthood gathering, the leader approached the young man he had seen in his dream and asked to talk with him for a few minutes. After a brief introduction, the leader called the young man by name and said: “I am not a dreamer. I have never had a dream about a single member of this stake, except for you. I am going to tell you about my dream, and then I would like you to help me understand what it means.”

The priesthood leader recounted the dream and asked the young man about its meaning. Choking with emotion, the young man simply replied, “It means God knows who I am.” The remainder of the conversation between this young man and his priesthood leader was most meaningful, and they agreed to meet and counsel together from time to time during the following months.

That young man received the Lord’s tender mercies through an inspired priesthood leader.

When we receive of these gifts and blessings, it is a witness and testimony to us that God really knows who we are, and what we stand in need of. It is a witness that he is personally involved in our lives, and wants to bless us so that we can succeed in returning home to him.

Again, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. We should not underestimate the power and the involvement that the Lord has in each of our individual lives.

Other examples of the Tender Mercies of the Lord
  • Being members of the church, and enjoying the blessings of the restored gospel
  • The scriptures
  • The priesthood
  • Temples
  • Living Prophets
Although these gifts and blessings are available to us all, they can bless our lives in very individual ways as we take full advantage of what they have to offer.

How can we Receive the Tender Mercies of the Lord

Now that we have talked about some examples of what the tender mercies of the Lord might be, let’s discuss how we can place ourselves in a position to receive these wonderful gifts and blessings.

Lets return to 1 Nephi 1:20, which we read earlier:
“But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, (And why are they chosen?) . . because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).
Those who are faithful and obedient are the chosen of the Lord. And the chosen are they who receive the tender mercies of the Lord.

In Doctrine and Covenants we read:
D&C 121:34-34
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men . . “
Ultimately we determine, by our faith and actions, whether or not we will be chosen. It is up to us. The Lord stands ready to bless our lives in many ways, but we must come unto Him, on His terms, to receive those blessings.

Now think of the times in your own life when the Lord has visited you, and blessed you with his tender mercies in your hour of need.

Be sure to offer your thanks to the Lord, and express your gratitude for the gifts that you have already been given.

Live so that you may remain close to the Lord and be obedient that he may be able to bless you abundantly with his tender mercies.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Abide In me

The following is the text of a talk I gave on May 21, 2006

Being One With Christ
(Doctrine and Covenants 50:43.)
43 And the Father and I are one. I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.

It is the Savior’s desire that we be one with him, as He is one with the Father. Being one with Christ brings safety to the soul.

How can we become one with Christ?


- Obedience to His commandments is one of the ways we become one with Him.
- Our obedience shows our willingness to follow his will, rather than our own will.
- Christ is ever our great example. Many times during his ministry, he stated that he came not to do his own will, but the will of His Father.
- The ultimate example he set was when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed:

(Mark 14:36.)
36 . . . Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Later, in modern times, Christ would say:

(Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19.)
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

The Spirit of God
As we are more obedient to the Lord’s commandments, we will be entitled to a greater portion of the Spirit of God.

With the Sprit of God, we are able to receive more enlightenment and understanding.

The Spirit will move upon us to help us know what part of our lives we need to improve upon next.

As we heed the impressions of the Spirit, we will repent, and the Spirit cleanses and sanctifies us. We become more holy, and more like the Savior.

Doing the Work of the Savior

As we become more obedient, and our lives more in harmony with the will of the Lord, we will find ourselves doing His work.

We will be a better examples and a shining influence to our family, friends and associates. We will become an influence for good.

As we do missionary and temple work, we bring the opportunity of accepting the gospel to many souls.

The work of the Savior is to draw all men unto Him, that they might be able to take advantage of his atoning sacrifice, and come join him in the Kingdom of our Father. As men come unto Christ, the work and glory of the Father is advanced: To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

As we do the work of the Savior, we will become more like him. We will find our hearts filled with charity and love, which is the pure love of Christ.

Partaking of the Sacrament

Each week, as we attend our meetings, we have the sacred opportunity to partake of the sacrament. Partaking of the sacrament is another way that we can become one with Christ.

As mortal beings, each of us is in constant need of repentance. We each make mistakes, and sins throughout the week. As we humbly partake of the sacrament, with repentant hearts, we can be cleansed of our sins and mistakes, and receive the promise of having his Spirit to be with us.

As we repent, and partake of the sacrament, we come unto Christ. We cast our burdens upon him as we repent of our sins.

I know of no better way to develop a personal relationship with the Savior, than through the process of repentance. As we realize how we are dependent upon him to be forgiven, and as we feel the healing of forgiveness come into our lives, we can feel of his love and of his power lift us up.

Members of the church who do not regularly attend church and partake of the sacrament miss out on the cleansing and healing power of the sacrament.

Sins and mistakes tend to accumulate in their lives. Without the cleansing power of the sacrament, it is easy to drift away from the things of the Spirit.

Without the presence of the Sprit in our lives, good and evil becomes less distinguishable. The philosophies of men become more persuasive, and it is easy to lose our way.

Learning Through the Things we Suffer

Part of the Savior’s education was learned in the things he suffered. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
“And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8–9).

Each of us has trials and tribulations in our lives. They can come in many forms. It could be financial setbacks, a wayward child, or a loss of employment. We also might may have health challenges. These challenges are placed in our path that we may learn and grow from them, just as Christ did from the things which he suffered.

Orson F. Whitney, who said:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (as quoted in “Tragedy or Destiny,” p. 6).

Our Dependence On the Savior

We are dependent upon the Savior for everything.

Sometimes in our pride and arrogance we think that we have done great works on our own.

However, without Christ, we are nothing.

No matter what our accomplishments, no matter what accolades we may receive, no matter how wealthy or famous we may become – without Christ, they are of no avail. Regardless of any earthly success we may achieve, it will all fade away when we leave this life.

If we have not come unto Christ, and covenanted with him, we will find that all our earthly accomplishments will be meaningless. And we will find that we will have missed out on those things that mean the most – those things which bring eternal happiness and joy.

In fact, we are dependent upon Christ each moment of our lives. King Benjamin put it this way:

(Mosiah 2:21.)
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
Without the Savior:

- The world we live in would not exist.
- We would live, and die, but never would rise again from the grave. We would then be subject unto Satan’s power for eternity.
- We would not be have any way to be cleansed from our sins, and could never again return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
- Eternal families would not be possible.
- The reason for our hope and joy would be lost.
- The Father’s plan of salvation would have been frustrated.

The True Vine

Jesus has been likened in the scriptures to the true vine. For us to grow and flourish in the gospel, we need to be attached to the true vine.

Elder Bernard P. Brockbank said:
"Jesus Christ is the vine and all who sincerely want to become godlike, prepared to live with their Heavenly Father in his kingdom, must receive their strength and power from the Savior. No man cometh unto the Father but by and through Jesus Christ.
The nonproducing branches on the vine, some lost in the darkness and sin of the world, some weak and sick from the blight of evil, some branches fluttering in the winds of worldly pleasure and disrespect for the power to produce godlike fruit through the divine vine, having disrespect for Jesus Christ and for the Father and for their commandments, will be pruned from the vine. They will be cut away from their source of divine nourishment and their chance to become godlike. Pruned away from their divine opportunity, as a child of God, to partake of the light and divine way of life, their chance to live with God was foolishly dissipated away. They failed to feed on the living bread of life.
All of God’s children are branches on the vine; all have the opportunity to partake of the life, example, and commandments of Jesus Christ and to become like him." (Bernard P. Brockbank, “God’s Way to Eternal Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 116)
Abide for our Own Sake, and for our Posterity

Not only is it important to our own salvation to abide in Christ, it is also critical to those who follow. As we live the gospel, we create a legacy for our posterity to follow. Many of them will follow in our footsteps, and receive the full blessings of the gospel, with all of its saving covenants and ordinances.

On the other hand, if we fail to endure to the end, and set a poor example for our posterity, many of them will be deprived of the blessings that could otherwise have been theirs.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Said:
“He who picks up one end of the stick, picks up the other . . . When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we board the Good Ship Zion and sail with her wherever she goes until she comes into that millennial port. We stay in the boat, through squalls and stills, through storms and sunburn, because that is the only way to the promised land. This Church is the Lord’s vehicle for crucial doctrines, ordinances, covenants, and keys that are essential to exaltation, and one cannot be fully faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ without striving to be faithful in the Church, which is its earthly institutional manifestation.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Abide in Me,” Ensign, May 2004, 30)
I hope and pray that we all will maintain our connection to the true vine, which is Jesus Christ, that we may endure to the end, and become one with Him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More Purpose And Meaning In Life

In a recent post, I mentioned in comments that my marriage had brought more purpose and meaning to my life. Téa asked in comments if I would elaborate more on what I meant by this.

Both my wife and I were older when we were married. Each of us were in our mid-thirties. It was a first marriage for both of us. We each had completed our education, and were working full-time. We were supporting ourselves, and were living in our own apartments at the time we met. Both of us had served missions for the church as well. I went to British Columbia, Canada, while she went to Detroit, Michigan.

Each of us had experienced spiritual challenges in our lives, and had eventually overcome those challenges. It seemed that we each needed to go through a refining process before we were ready to meet each other. It wasn't until we both had learned to more fully trust in the Lord, and submit ourselves to His will, that we were fully prepared to meet each other.

Being older, we also came to know what it meant to be a single person in a church and culture that emphasizes marriage and family. There were many times of discomfort, as friends and relatives would inquire as to why we hadn't married yet. My standard response became, "Because no one has asked me yet!" I think church leaders, at least on the General Authority level, are much more sensitive to this now than the way it was 20 years ago -- and that's a good thing.

I remember, as I was single, that I didn't quite feel whole. That there was a part of me that was missing. I had a longing emptiness inside that I couldn't fill on my own. As I met, fell in love with, and married my wife, I found the empty portion of my heart filled with my love for her , and her love for me. Finally I felt whole. I had always wanted to have someone I could love, and share my heart with, and shower my love upon, and finally she came into my life.

As we dated, I received may promptings of the Spirit. Many times I heard the still, small, voice tell me that this woman would be the love of my life. That she would love me, sustain me, bring me children and be an eternal companion to me.

Finally, at my grandfather's urging, we attended the temple together. I don't know if I have ever had a more powerful manifestation of the Spirit than on that day. We had completed our session in the temple, and were sitting together in the Celestial Room. I held her close to me, and at the same time, I was praying in my heart if this was the right person for me to marry. I received a powerful manifestation of the Spirit that seemed to come to me in waves. All of the promptings that I had received before were re-emphasized, accompanied with the fire of the Holy Ghost. From that moment on, I knew that this is the person I would marry. I later learned that my then wife-to-be was having a similar experience.

We practically floated out of the temple. We didn't want to go home right away. We didn't want the feelings we were experiencing to end. I remember walking around the temple, hand-in-hand, just looking at the flowers and landscaping, and continuing to drink in the feelings of the moment that we were experiencing together.

Four months later from that experience, we were married for time and all eternity. Our life together had begun. After our courtship and marriage, we discovered that there was more to Love than we had ever before considered. Suddenly a whole new dimension of love had opened up to us. Later, as children came, additional dimensions of love were revealed to us as well. I'm sure that as our lives progress (both on earth, and eternally), that we will learn of yet more hidden facets of love which will come into view.

Now there was more meaning in life. Now we had the power to obey some of the first commandments ever given to mankind. Now we could be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth. Now we could raise souls up unto the Lord. Now we could help build his kingdom, by building our new little family. Now we could experience the love of a parent, and gain insight as to how our Heavenly Father must feel about us. We would experience heartache and troubles along the way too. But so too, does our Heavenly Father grieve over his children. All these things bring us experience and wisdom, and help us to grow and become more like our Father in Heaven.

Before meeting and marrying one another, we most just tried to make it through each day. We tried to do good, and tried not to do any harm. But mostly, our lives were focused on ourselves.

After marriage, we now had purposes other than taking care of ourselves for which we were responsible. Now I had the responsibility to not only just support myself, but my wife and family as well. Doing a good job at work wasn't just to gain accolades, or advancement. Doing a good job at work was now consecrated work, with the purpose of fulfilling my sacred responsibility to provide for my family. So too for my wife. As the children came, they became her sacred responsibility to teach and nurture. Eventually she would leave the work force to be a full-time mother. Her time too, was consecrated for the building up of our family, and in turn, for the building up of the Kingdom of God. Each of our efforts at home, at work, and in our callings took on a deeper meaning.

Now we were partners with God, in bringing about His work and His Glory -- To bring to pass the Immortality and Eternal Life of man. By entering into the covenants of Eternal Marriage, bringing souls into this world, and raising them in righteousness -- we would be doing our part to assist Heavenly Father in His Work -- To bring to pass the Immortality, and Eternal Life of our family.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Choices We Make

Inter-Denominational Lesson
Copper Hills Youth Center
January 22, 2006

This is a lesson I gave at the Copper Hills Youth Center, which is a residential treatment center for troubled youths. This was a non-denominational church service for the residents there. As such, only scriptures from the Bible are to be used in the lesson. We are allowed to teach LDS doctrines from the bible, however. You can read about my thoughts concerning my vist to the treatment center here.

Here is the lesson plan I developed and used in the services:

Garden of Eden
  • How many of you remember the Bible story about the Garden of Eden?
  • Who was in the Garden of Eden? (Adam and Eve)
  • They lived in a state of innocence. There was no death, and there was no birth.
What commandments were given to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden?

Read Scriptures
Genesis 1:27-28
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,

Genesis 2:17
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

They were given two commandments in the Garden:
  • Bring Children into the world
  • To not partake of the forbidden fruit (Tree of knowledge of good and evil) – If they were to partake of it, they would surly die.
Read Scripture
Genesis 3:4-5
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
  • What happened in the Garden of Eden?
  • Satan came to tempt them.
  • Satan told them that they would not surly die, but that they would become like God, knowing good and evil.
  • Eve partook of the fruit, and then gave it to Adam, who also partook of it.

What were the consequences of partaking of the forbidden fruit?
  • They became mortal, they would eventually die.
  • They were now able to have children – so that each of us could be born.
  • They now knew the difference between good and evil.
  • They learned that there would be consequences for their actions

The Promise of A Savior

After leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were promised that one-day a Savior would be born. The Savior would counter-act the effects of the fall of man, when he was cast out of the Garden of Eden:

The Savior would take upon himself the pains and sins of the world.
  • Because of this, he knows what it feels like to have problems and afflictions in life. He has experienced them all personally.
  • Because of paying the price for all of our sins, we can be forgiven and cleansed of our sins, upon conditions of repentance.

The Savior would lay down his life for each of us, and take it up again, as a resurrected being.
  • Through his death and resurrection, the way has been opened for all those who have lived on earth, to one-day be resurrected too.

Through the Fall and the Atonement, God has:
  • Provided a way that we can come to earth and receive physical bodies.
  • Created an environment in which we can be agents unto ourselves, and make our own choices, whether to do good or evil.
  • Through the Atonement a way has been provided to obtain forgiveness of our sins and mistakes.
  • Provided victory over death through the resurrection of Christ.
Good Vs. Evil

With the fall of Adam and Eve both good and evil forces were introduced into the world. It’s like there are two armies, one good, and one evil.
  • Who is the head of the Good Army?
  • Who is the head of the Evil Army?
  • Who will eventually be the winner in this battle?
  • Jesus will win. It’s not really even a close fight. Christ and his forces will eventually overpower Satan and his army, and banish them forever!

We know who will win. The question is, whose side will we be on?

Making Choices

Each of us has two forces acting upon us. We have the Light of Jesus Christ, which leads us to do good things.

On the other hand, Satan and his followers will try to get us to choose evil.

Each of us has been given a gift from God to decide for ourselves what choices we will make.

We will always have our freedom to choose for ourselves what our actions will be.

He will never take that choice away from us.

What happens to us when we make a good choice?
  • We know we will choosing to follow Jesus, and be on his side.
  • We will feel good about ourselves
  • We know that what we are doing is pleasing to God
  • We will be happy
What happens when we choose to do evil?
  • Our conscience feels bad
  • We get in trouble
  • We will have to face the consequences of our bad decisions.
  • We will be miserable.

When we are trying to choose good from evil, we always need to remember that if we choose good, we will find happiness. If we choose evil, we will find misery.

The choice is always yours to make.

The Temptations of Christ

After Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, he went into the wilderness to commune with God. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.

Near the end of his fast, Satan came tempting him:

Read Scripture
Matthew 4:2-4
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Imagine how hungry you would be if you hadn’t eaten for 40 days and nights!

What was Satan trying to get Jesus to do?
  • He is trying to get him to give in to his bodily appetites.
  • One way Satan tries to get to us appeal to the things that are pleasing to the body.
  • He wants us to use, or abuse our bodies in ways they were not intended to be used.
  • One of the main responsibilities we have in life is to learn how to control our bodies, so that we use them in the way that God intended.

What was Jesus’ response to the devil’s temptation?

He said that it was more important for him to keep God’s commandments, than it was to satisfy his hunger right at that moment.

Eventually he would end his fast, and eat. But it would be on his terms, not on Satan’s terms.

Read Scripture
Matthew 4:5-7
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

How is Satan trying to tempt Jesus this time?
  • He is appealing to Jesus’ pride.
  • He wants Jesus to show off to others so he can prove how important he is.

Does Satan ever try to tempt us in this way?
  • Do you do things that you think will be impressive to others?
  • Do you do things because you think they are cool?
  • Show others how cool you are?
  • Do things to please others so they will accept you.

Who should we really worry about pleasing?
  • If we are pleasing to the Lord, does it really matter if we please others?
  • Eventually all our friends, and those that we were trying to impress will fade away, but the Lord will be there always and forever.
  • One day we will have to stand before God, to be judged of how we have lived our lives here on earth.
  • Satan’s big lie is to get you to forget about doing what is pleasing to God, and get you to do things that that might seem important right now, but will be of no worth when we stand to be judged of God.
Read Scripture
Matthew 4:8-10
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

What is Satan trying to tempt Jesus with this time?
  • He promises power, fame, fortune.
  • He is trying to get Jesus to fall down and worship the false gods of this world – the riches, treasures of the world, like friends and others, will also fade away after this life is over. Worshiping a false god of any will prevent us from having the joy and happiness that we might have otherwise had.
Read Scripture
Mark 8:36
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

  • Remember that there are two forces in the world, good and evil.
  • It is always up to us to choose which side we will follow
  • There will always be consequences to our choices, whether good or evil.
  • We can gain strength by starting to do good things. Good things will become easier and easier, as we gain more experience in choosing to do good.
  • Remember that we will have to one-day stand before God to give an accounting of our lives.
We are not alone in this fight. God is always there for us. The Light of Christ shines forth throughout the earth. There is no place so far away, that God cannot reach you. He is always there to give you guidance, and lead you back to Him.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Helping Youth Prepare For Missionary Service

Plant The Idea to Serve Very Early In Life
Preparing a son or daughter to go on a mission, is a lifelong processes. Waiting until a young man turns 18 and then suggesting that he go on a mission is way too late to begin. Going on a mission, and eternal marriage should be taught and looked forward to from early childhood.

Elder Marvin K. Gardner gives an example of this from his life:

As I look back now, I can see a lot of things dad and mother did—sometimes subtly and other times not so subtly—to help us get ready for our missions. They made missionary training a natural part of life.

That’s how they got their eight sons to help out with the washing, the ironing, the cleaning, and the cooking. (Our little sister came last.) It was all good experience, they kept telling us—experience for marriage, yes. But first, experience for the time we’d have to fend for ourselves on a mission.

That’s how they kept us from getting too serious with a girl too soon. During high school, it’s best to date lots of girls instead of just one, they said, to avoid the possibility of having to choose between marriage and a mission.

That’s how they got us to save our money instead of spending it all the minute we made it.

I’m not saying that dad and mother brought up the word mission every time they corrected us or tried to get us to do something; they didn’t have to. A mission was only one of the many things they were helping us prepare for. But they helped us see that preparation for a mission was good preparation for the rest of our lives. That’s why I never thought dad and mother had one-track minds stuck on missionary work. That’s why I don’t remember ever feeling pushed or coerced to serve a mission. We all expected to go on a mission just like we all expected to . . . get married in the temple. (Marvin K. Gardner, “What Parents Can Do … Before the Call Comes,” Ensign, Dec. 1979, 7)

It was much the same in my home, as I was growing up. When my two brothers and I turned 19, each of us expected to go on a mission, and were looking forward to it. Each of us made our own choice to go; we were not forced or pressured to leave. However, the idea of going on a mission just seemed to be natural part of life. And it was!

Obtaining a Knowledge and Testimony of the Gospel
With the recent changes to the missionary discussions, missionaries no longer memorize discussions. Instead, they study and learn gospel doctrines and principles in five basic lessons, and create individualized lesson plans for each investigator, or new convert. In order to teach effectively, each missionary needs to know the gospel himself.

Parents need to emphasize the importance of studying the gospel in their own homes, years before the mission call comes. Regular family scripture study and home evenings can go a long way toward helping children learn the gospel. Family scripture study also helps reinforce the scriptures as a prominent part of our daily lives. Attendance at Sunday meetings, seminary, and youth activities should also be encouraged by parents to help youth people learn the gospel for themselves.

Perhaps the single most effective tool for learning the gospel, and gaining a personal testimony is the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith once said that:

“. . .the Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding its precepts, than by any other book. (History of the Church 1:461.)

We all know the promise contained within the Book of Mormon itself, that if we will study it, ponder, and pray to know the truth, that the Holy Ghost will manifest the truthfulness of what is contained in the Book of Mormon to our hearts and minds. (See Moroni 10:3-5)

Recording For Future Playback
Our minds are wonderful things. All the studying we do, both before and during our missions is indelibly recorded in our brains. The power Heavenly Father has given our brains to absorb and retain information is one of the reasons that we must be careful about the kinds of words and images we view. Sometimes as mortals – especially when we get older – we have a hard time recalling all the information that has been stored in our minds.

However, the Holy Ghost has a key to unlock our minds. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, all that we have previously studied and learned can become available to us as we teach the gospel. One of the special functions of the Holy Ghost is to bring all these things to our remembrance. (See John 14:26)

If we have diligently studied and learned the gospel, the Spirit will bring the things we learned back to our remembrance, just in the moment they are needed in teaching situations. I know this was the case with me when I was on my mission. A scripture, or a concept would just pop into my head at the most opportune moments. I learned that this was Spirit prompting me to teach the things that the person I was teaching needed to hear – at that very moment.

On the other hand, if we have not sufficiently prepared ourselves, the Spirit will have less within us to work with, and we will not be as effective of a teacher as we might have otherwise have been.

Help Youth to Recognize the Spirit
Having a good working knowledge of the gospel is important. However, having a personal witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel makes for a far more powerful and effective teacher.

Investigators can sense whether or not you really believe what you are teaching. When you teach with the spirit and with a personal testimony, you teach with power. Power that communicates spirit to spirit. Power that will cause hearts to soften and change. When you teach with the spirit, you will see miracles happen as people hear the voice of the Lord, through you, and make the necessary changes in their lives to come unto him and be baptized. There is no greater work.

As parents, one of the greatest things we can do is to help our children learn to recognize the presence of the Holy ghost. Take the time when you have your family scripture study, or home evenings to point out moments when the presence of the Spirit can be felt. In fact, helping children and youth learn to feel the promptings and impressions of the spirit may be even more important than the subject matter that you are teaching at the time. Because once a person learns how to receive light and knowledge from the Holy Spirit, the key to the knowledge of all things is then opened up to them.

Using “Preach My Gospel” in the Home
A little over a year ago, the updated missionary manual “Preach My Gospel” was introduced. This manual contains mission rules, missionary study materials, as well as the concepts of the gospel that they are to teach investigators and new members. Missionaries are to create individualized lesson plans for each investigator or new convert.

Unlike previous full-time missionary resources, Preach My Gospel is available to any leader or member of the church through the church distribution center.

Speaking of “Preach My Gospel”, Elder Richard G. Scott, in the April 2005 General Conference said:

[Preach My Gospel was] developed primarily for full-time missionary use. [However], this material has also proven to be most beneficial for parents who want to help children prepare for a mission. Young men and women as well as some couples are using the resource to get a head start before entering the missionary training centers. Some priesthood leaders have confirmed its worth in preparing Aaronic Priesthood brethren for missions. (Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Preach My Gospel,” Ensign, May 2005, 29)

You might be interested to know some of what is contained in Preach My Gospel. Here are a few of the chapter headings:

  • How do I study effectively and prepare to teach?

  • How do I recognize and understand the Spirit?

  • What is the role of the Book of Mormon?

  • How do I develop Christlike attributes?

  • How do I use time wisely?

  • How do I find people to teach?

  • How can I improve my teaching skills?

Family Home evenings could be based on Preach My Gospel, and each family member, as they are old enough, can take turns in teaching from its pages. This will help them become familiar with what missionaries do, and how they live, as well provide opportunities for every family member to prepare and teach lessons. Being able to stand up before a group, and make a presentation is an invaluable skill for missionaries.

Practical Living Skills
Practical living skills are also important for a young man, or young woman as they enter the mission field. Things like basic cooking skills, how to do laundry and household cleaning, and even a little bit of basic sewing – like how to sew on a button. Other practical skills like budgeting, time management, and goal setting are also great preparation for a mission. Many of these skills can be learned throughout their lives from daily chores and responsibilities around the house.

So kids -- when your parents ask you to do the dishes, or clean up your room, they are not only wanting you to do your chores, but they are also trying to help you prepare for your mission as well. While its true, parents could do these chores themselves, they are actually unselfishly trying to help you prepare for your mission, and for your life later on after you leave home!

These practical life-skills not only prepare youth for their missions, but for when they go off to college, and later when they get married and begin new homes and families of their own.

Physical and Mental Preparedness
Spiritual preparedness, and the ability to take care of oneself on your own are important ways to prepare for a mission. However, we also need to prepare ourselves physically and mentally as well.

One thing you will find, is that missionary work is hard, strenuous work – both physically and mentally! A missionary’s day begins early in the morning, at 6:30 am, and their whole day is filled with scheduled activities until 10:30 pm. It takes a lot of energy to be a missionary. Being in good physical condition is important to be being able to keep up with what is expected of you.

Likewise, good mental health is also important for effective missionary service. One problem many missionaries struggle with is homesickness. It is good for youth to occasionally spend some time away from home. This can come in the form of scout or young women’s camps. Spending a few days away from home with grandma and grandpa, or an aunt or uncle when school is not in session is another way to learn about being away from home. Time spent away from home, while going to college also his an excellent way to learn how to function on one’s own, while still being able to call mom or dad on a regular basis, or come home for the weekend if you are close enough to home.

When a young man or woman enters the mission field, it is time to leave the thoughts of home, school, and girlfriends behind. Time serving on a full-time mission is consecrated time. When we agree to missionary service, we are asked to serve with all our hearts, might, mind, and strength. If a part of us is still so wrapped up in life back home, we cannot fully focus on our missionary responsibilities, and we are not able to give the full measure of service that is required.

Teaching our children how to deal with discouragement is also another way in which parents can prepare their children for the mission field, and for life in general. Missionary work is filled with many ups and downs. There are many great and marvelous experiences to be had. However, we know that there is opposition in all things, and along with those highs, will be some low moments as well. We cannot expect every moment of our mission, or of our live to be one continuous high. Young people need to learn how to deal with discouragement, and how to continue pressing forward, with faith, even in the face of adversity.

Discouragement comes to all missionaries at one time or another. It is not the same thing as depression. Individuals who are prone to serious states of depression or mental illness, who have previously required counseling and medication should consult with their priesthood leaders prior to submitting an application for missionary service. The application must include an honest history. If medication has been prescribed, it should be continued while serving in the mission field. (See: S. Brent Scharman, “Preparing Your Future Missionary,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 17)

The Example of Parents
A tradition of missionary work also plays a strong roll in preparing children for missionary service.

If one, or both of the parents has served a mission, parents should regularly share their missionary experiences with their children. When personal experiences are shared with our children, missionary work becomes that much more real to them. If you kept a missionary journal while on your mission, you might want share some of your journal entries, photographs or other memorabilia with your family as part of home evening lessons from time-to-time. Be sure to share your testimony along with your reminiscences. This will help create a legacy and tradition of missionary service in your family, which your children can look forward to carrying on themselves.

The example of how parents live their everyday is also powerful in preparing children for missions. As children see you keeping your covenants, attending your meetings, fulfilling your callings, and supporting priesthood leaders, they will know that you are putting the Lord first in your life. They will see that you have chosen to make the sacrifices necessary to follow the Lord. This example will be a great motivator for them when they too, must come to grips with the sacrifice that is being asked of them, and consecrate two years of their young lives on the altar of the Lord.

Be Involved in Member Missionary Work
All of the things we have talked about thus far, are important, excellent ways in which to prepare our youth to serve missions. All of these things are quite useful and necessary.

However, if I were to choose one single way, that you can best prepare a child for a mission, it would be to become missionaries now!

If you, as a family are actively seeking out missionary opportunities, and inviting your friends and neighbors to be taught the gospel in your own home, you will provide the opportunity for your children to see real missionaries in action!

Having the full-missionaries frequently in your home, as they teach a neighbor or friend brings a powerful spirit into your home. What better preparation for a mission is there than actually seeing the change of conversion come over a friend or loved-one as they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a powerful influence it will be on your children as they see investigators enter the waters of baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Let your own children study and pray, and gain their own testimonies of the gospel, right along with the investigators who are being taught in your home.

The spirit and the example of the full-time missionaries will also rub-off on your whole family as well. If your home is filled with the spirit of missionary work, your children will be also. They will have tasted of that sweet spirit the gospel brings, and have a desire to share it with others. And when the time comes, it will be their desire to serve a full-time mission, and declare the glad tidings of the gospel to all who will hear.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Greatest Battle

The following is a talk given at the Utah Boy's Ranch on January 1, 2006. The audience was mostly comprised of young men between the ages of 10-18. Most of them do not have a strong foundation in the Jesus Christ. It was my hope to help them gain a better perspective of who they are, and why they are here on earth.

The War In Heaven
Long ago, at the council in heaven, we each chose to follow the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven, losing forever their ability to obtain physical bodies for themselves.

Because we chose to follow Jesus, we gained the privilege to come to earth and obtain mortal bodies. We were all excited to obtain these bodies and looked forward to the new experiences having a body would bring. We were charged with the responsibility to take possession of our bodies, and make it our servant. We are to respect our bodies, yet our spirit was intended to be the master over our bodies.

Satan, of course was not happy about any of this. He wanted to overthrow Heavenly Father, and to defeat Jesus. That is why the first battle of the war in Heaven was fought, which resulted in Satan being cast out. (Satan’s plan was foiled.)

Garden Of Eden
Having lost that battle, Satan next tried to defeat Heavenly Father’s plan in the Garden of Eden. He thought that by getting Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit, that he would foil Heavenly Father’s plan. What actually happened, however, was the Fall of Adam opened the door so that all of Heavenly Father’s spirit children who remained in Heaven, could come to earth to obtain physical bodies. (Satan’s plan didn’t work as he expected in the Garden of Eden.)

Lucifer Vs. Christ in Mortality
Later, Jesus was born, began his mortal ministry, and was tempted of the devil. He tried to appeal to Savior’s physical appetites, and to his pride. Jesus saw right through what Satan was trying to do, and sent the devil away. Later, Satan planted hate, fear and jealousy into the hearts of evil men. They had Jesus arrested on false charges, and had him crucified. Once again, Satan’s plan was foiled. The very purpose that Jesus came into the world was to lay down his life for all mankind, as a sacrifice for sin. By giving up his life, Jesus also was able to break the bands of death when he was resurrected. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, all mankind will be resurrected and live again. Through the atonement of the Savior, we may all be forgiven of our sins if we will repent. Satan’s plan didn’t work out too well that time either. – Are you sensing a pattern here?

Satan Vs. Joseph Smith
Later, in the spring of 1820, the 14-year old Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees to pray. Satan knew who Joseph was, and that he was to bring about the restoration of the gospel to the earth. The prophets have foretold that the gospel will go forth until it fills the entire earth. It will never again be taken from the earth, until the time when the Savior returns again in his Glory.

As Joseph knelt in the Sacred Grove, Satan tried to overpower him. Joseph felt that his life was in danger, yet he still pressed on in faith. Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to the prophet Joseph, and dispelled away the power of Satan. Through Joseph Smith, the gospel was restored. Once again, Satan influenced evil men to conspire to take away the life of the Prophet. But by then Joseph Smith had completed his work, the gospel was restored, and the church is now in process of filling up the whole earth, as was prophesied.

The Final Battle
As we can see, and various critical moments in the plan of salvation, Satan was there to try to defeat the plan. At every one of these instances, Jesus has won the battle every time. I’ve got news for you – it will always be that way. At some point in time, a final battle will be fought, and Jesus, and those who stand with him will win the war once and for all. Satan will be bound forever, and cast into that outer darkness where he and his followers will spend the eternities.

The outcome of this battle between Jesus and Satan is not in question. Jesus will win. The real question then becomes, on whose side will we be at the last battle. Will we be with Jesus, or will we be with Satan.

All of Satan’s attempts to foil the plan of salvation have failed thus far. Eventually that final battle will take place between Jesus and Satan will take place. But in the meantime, what is the battle front now?

The Battle For The Souls of Men
Satan is not just waiting around for the big battle to happen. He is actively recruiting people to come and join his side. The battle’s front, right now is an individual battle for the hearts and souls of mankind. That means that he is actively trying to get you and me to come over to his side. How does he do this?

The primary way that Satan will try to tempt us is through the flesh. Each of us is made up two parts: our spirits, which come from God, and our bodies, which come from our earthly parents. When we received our bodies, we were commanded to make our spirits the masters of our bodies. When we give in to the lusts, appetites, and ambitions of the flesh, we are allowing our bodies to control our spirits.

Most of the help that we will receive from Heavenly Father will come through our spirits, from the Light of Christ, and from the Holy Ghost. Satan will try to tempt us through our bodies, or through the flesh.

A key way we can know how well we are doing in our spiritual progress is to ask ourselves who is winning, the spirit or the flesh?

Me Vs. It
Elder Melvin J. Ballard describes the relationship between our bodies and sprits this way:
I should like to speak of spirit and body as “me” and “it.” “Me” is the individual who dwells in this body, who lived before I had such a body, and who will live when I step out of the body. “It” is the house I live in, the tabernacle of flesh; and the great conflict is between “me” and “it.” (“Struggle for the Soul”, Melvin J. Ballard, New Era, March 1984, p 32 – Talk Originally given May 5, 1928 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle)
Examine Ourselves
So, how does the battle go for you my friends? Each of us needs to take the time to occasionally examine ourselves, and see how our battle to overcome the flesh is going. Each week, as we attend sacrament meeting, we have a special time set aside just for this very purpose – when the sacrament is blessed and passed to the congregation.

During this time of quiet, we can look at our own lives, and our own behaviors, and determine whether or not we have yielded ourselves to the tempter. If this is so, then we need to repent and make peace with those we may have offended. We need to re-new our covenant to serve God, and to keep his commandments, as we do when we partake of the sacrament. If we do this, we can be cleansed and purified of our sins.

Once a month, we all have the opportunity to fast. This is a time when we have the opportunity to show our body just who is boss! Who will win? – The flesh, or the spirit. It seems like that as soon as we decide to fast, that our body begins to cry out in protest. It starts to whine and fuss with things like:

1 “My head will ache, my knees will quake, I shall feel faint; I cannot fast so long; I must eat a little.” Are you yielding? If so, we know who is winning that battle, and who is gaining the mastery.

2 On the other hand, your spirit can say such things as: “You can do without these two meals; it will not hurt you. And though my head may ache and my body may feel faint, I will not die; I am bigger than you are, and once a month I will show you that I am master.”

What strength that will give you to resist tomorrow when some other craving arrives! It may be for liquor, tobacco, or some other craving of the flesh because you have already defeated the flesh as you fasted. Likewise, you can defeat the flesh in these other desires.

One of the blessings of fasting is that we will be given power to overcome the bondage of sin. (See Isaiah 58:6-11) Fasting is a powerful way to obtain mastery over the flesh.

The Light of Christ
Remember that you are not alone in this fight. Satan and his followers may be trying to tempt you to do wrong, but remember, that God is also sending forth his influence to help you overcome Satan. He does sending forth the Light of Christ, which is shed forth upon every person that comes into the world.

Sometimes the Light of Christ is called a moral sense, or our conscience, The Light of Christ will always direct us to make good choices, and to avoid evil, unless we subdue it, or silence it.

We are taught in that in order to be tested, there must be an opposition in the choices that we make. On the one hand we have the Light of Christ, which inspires us to do good; and on the other hand we have Satan and his followers, which tempt us to do evil. These two forces are set in opposition to one another. We are in the middle, between these to forces tugging at us in opposite directions. We have been given our moral agency are free to choose for ourselves which course we will follow.

The choice is always ours. The gift of agency, besides the gift of life itself, is one of the greatest gifts God has given his children. The Light of Christ is always there, calling and beckoning to us, we are free to respond to it by our own choice – it is never forced upon us. The greatest conflict that any of us will have is this inner conflict that each of us must battle.

Open Your Eyes
If you were to close your eyes on a bright, sun-shiny day, you would not see the light. The sun, however, continues to shine, anyway. The only reason you cannot see it is that you have closed your eyes; and by so doing, you have shut down your ability to perceive it.

The same is true with the Light of Christ. It continues to shine on forever, whether we have our eyes open – or not.

In fact, we couldn’t hide from the Light of Christ – even if we wanted to! We can, however choose to ignore what we see, or cloud our spiritual eyes and minds so much with disobedience and wickedness that we can no longer perceive the light.

The Light is Always On
Perhaps you know someone who has fallen into this condition of spiritual blindness. Perhaps it may even happened to you or me. It happens, even to the best of us, if we are not careful. We can lose the light we once had, and can fall into sin and transgression.

What if that has happened to you, or to someone you know. Be assured that the Light is still there. There is no depth so low, no darkness so deep, nor any place so far away that cannot be penetrated by the Light of Christ. God will never abandon us, no matter how far we may have fallen. The light, and life of his love is ever there. His arms are stretched out still. There is none that he will turn away, if we will but come unto him.

Come Unto Christ
Even in our darkest hour, when we may feel so unworthy, and so unwanted – know that our Savior, and his light are still there for you. It is Satan, and not Christ that tells you that you are worthless, unwanted, and unredeemable. Do not listen to him. Believe in Christ, that he is, and that he can save you. Follow the promptings of the light of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost.

Know that his power is great. For he is mighty to save. He has taken upon him the sins and pains of the whole world. He has suffered these things for all . . . that they might not suffer. He has broken the terrible bonds of death – that we may all live once more. He has triumphed over all things. And though each of us are weak and lowly, because of his love for us, he desires to draw all men unto him, that he may lift them up, and return them to the presence of the Father.

He as felt the pain and suffering of each one of us. He knows what your problems are, and what they feel like. And because he knows how it feels, he also knows how to heal us. He wants so very much to bring you unto Him.

The Lord knowing your pain, and knowing how you suffer, still leaves it up to you. The choice is always yours – and he will never take that choice away from you. He can bless and heal your life, but you have to be willing to come unto him, to believe in him, to repent, and to follow him by keeping his commandments.

If you do this, you will be healed. You will have won your own battle between the flesh and the spirit. You will be joined with the Savior on the winning side of the great and last war between good and evil. And most of all, you will have Eternal Life, in the presence of our Father In Heaven, where you will receive a fullness of joy for ever and ever.

One Step At A Time
Now, what can we do in our battle today. How can we take a step in the right direction today? I would encourage you to think of two changes to make in your life.

1. Choose one thing that you are doing wrong now, and stop doing it.
2. Choose one thing that you are not doing right now, that you should be doing.

Ask the Lord, in your prayers to help you know what these two things should be. Make a decision, and write it down. Commit to yourself, and to the Lord that you will make these changes. Work on them, stay with it. If you slip up, don’t be discouraged. Just renew your resolve to change, and keep at it. Eventually these changes will become second nature to you. Then you can select what you should work on next.

If you take it one step at a time, real progress can be made. At the end of this year, you will be able t point to some of the changes you have made, and see that you have made real progress.

Know that the Lord is pleased when we desire to repent, and change, and follow his will. He will bless you in your righteous efforts, and will help you to achieve your goals. You are precious to Him, and he wants for you to return to his presence, and live with him one day.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Light Of Christ

During the Christmas season, we commemorate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is interesting that one of the symbols we use in our celebration are Christmas Lights. Each of these tiny lights, can help us to remember Jesus, who is the Light of the World.

The Light of Christ is defined in the scriptures as:

- “the Spirit [which] giveth light to every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 84:46)
- “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:13; see also John 1:4–9; D&C 84:45–47;
D&C 88:6; D&C 93:9).
In the scriptures, the Light of Christ is also referred to in the following ways:

- “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (D&C 84:45)
- “the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18; see also Mosiah 25:24)
- “the Spirit of truth” (D&C 93:26)
- “the light of truth” (D&C 88:6)
- “the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:17)
- and “the Holy Spirit” (D&C 45:57)

Some of these terms are also used to refer to the Holy Ghost.

A Gift to All Mankind

Speaking of the Light of Christ, we read:

46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. (D&C 84:46-47)
There is a lot of meaning is packed into these two verses:

1. The Light of Christ is given to every person that comes into the world.
It does not matter what their race, religion, wealth, or social class may be. It doesn’t matter if they live in a free country, or a country dominated by avowed atheist dictators. It eveb doesn’t matter what they believe. The light of Christ is given to all of God’s Children, everywhere on earth. This gift has been given to all mankind from the time of the Garden of Eden, down to our present time, and will continue as long as the earth shall stand. There has never been a time on the face of the earth, when the light of Christ was not present. The Light of Christ still remained present, even during the deepest, darkest times of apostasy, when the fullness of the Gospel was not found on the earth. God has never abandoned his Children on this earth, at any time. His light has ever shone forth.

The Light of Christ existed before we were born, and it will be with us for every moment of our lives, and it will continue after we have died. It is ever there.

2. Those who hearken (which means to listen, and to obey) to the light of Christ will be enlightened.
Inspiration and enlightenment comes to all those who will listen to the light of Christ. This enlightenment can come in many forms. It can come to the inventor, the scientist, the painter, the sculptor, the composer, the performer, the architect, and the author. The result of this enlightenment can produce great, and even inspired things for the blessing and good of all mankind.

Think of the advancements in science, medicine, communications, technology, and transportation that have come about in the last 100 years. Think of the great writers, composers, and artists who have been inspired by the Light of Christ to lift and inspire mankind to the glory of God. Think of the religious reformers who prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel. All of these have been inspired by the Light of Christ.

3. Those who continue to hearken to the Light of Christ, will be led back to our Heavenly Father.
As a person continues to listen and obey the Light of Christ, they will eventually be led back to the presence of the Father.

Think of 14-year-old Joseph Smith, who hearkened to the voice of the Spirit as he became interested in religion, and desired to know the will of God concerning which church to join. Remember as he was studying the scriptures how he was not only influence by the Light of Christ, but by his obedience to the light which he had already received, he was then moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost – which in turn led him to the Sacred Grove where he would receive his miraculous First Vision. There he would behold the presence of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and was given the answers to his questions, and was further instructed by them.

The Light of Christ, is also known as the Spirit of Truth. Those who seek after that spirit, and cling to the truths that they learn, will eventually be led back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

President Joseph F. Smith said it this way:

The Spirit of Christ “strives with … men, and will continue to strive with them [if they will resist the enticings of Satan], until it brings them to a knowledge of the truth and the possession of the greater light and testimony of the Holy Ghost.” (Gospel Doctrine, Deseret Book Co., 1973, pp. 67–68.)
Truth Vs. Error

The Light of Christ is not only given to us for enlightenment, and to draw us toward the Savior; but also is given to us to discern right from wrong.

Sometimes this manifestation of the Light of Christ is called a moral sense, or our conscience, The Light of Christ will always direct us to make good choices, and to avoid evil, unless we subdue it, or silence it.

Each person enters mortality to obtain a physical body, and to be tested. We are taught in that in order to be tested, there must be an opposition in the choices that we make. On the one hand we have the Light of Christ, which inspires us to do good; and on the other hand we have Satan and his followers, which tempt us to do evil. These two forces are set in opposition to one another. We are in the middle, between these to forces tugging at us in opposite directions. We have been given our moral agency are free to choose for ourselves which course we will follow.

Nephi said:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; . . . And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27)
The choice is always ours. Agency, besides the gift of life itself, is one of the greatest gifts God has given his children. The Light of Christ is always there, calling and beckoning to us, we are free to respond to it by our own choice – never is it a compulsory force upon us.

Moroni describes how the Light of Christ helps us to judge good from evil:
16 “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; . . . “ wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; . . .” (Moroni 7:16-17)
Moroni reaffirms the truth that the Spirit, or Light of Christ is given to every man, without exception. What is the way we are to judge good from evil? Moroni teaches that those things which lead us to do good, and to believe in Christ are good, and those which would lead us away from doing good, or believing in Christ are of the devil, and should be avoided.

Each of us has this ability to distinguish good from evil, if we will listen to the Light of Christ.

No Excuses

After establishing the power of the Light of Christ – which shows us the way to truth and righteousness, and then giving man his moral agency to choose good or evil for himself – man then becomes an agent unto himself. Fully free, and fully accountable for his actions while in mortality.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. (D&C 93:31-32)
Those who choose not to receive and hearken to the Light of Christ will be under condemnation. When the time of judgment comes, men will have no excuse that they did not know right from wrong. They will be held accountable because the Light of Christ had shown them what was right, but they still chose to do evil, -- choosing to sin against the Light.

Teaching By the Light Of Christ

Knowing that each of us receives the Light of Christ provides an opportunity for us as teachers. All of us are teachers, in one respect or another. Missionaries teach. Parents teach. Some of us are called upon to teach classes or to speak in church. All of us teach by our examples too, as we interact each day with those who are around us.

When we teach the truths of the gospel, the light of Christ is there to witness to the truth of what we are saying. When others see us living in harmony with truth, the Light of Christ resonates within them. Our teachings will have a familiar ‘ring’ to those who are listening to the Light. That light will lead them to further search for truth, and eventually will be led to the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Losing The Light

If you were to close your eyes on a bright, sun-shiny day, you would not see the light. The sun, however, 1 continues to shine, as always. The only reason you cannot see it is that you have closed your eyes; and by so doing, you have shut down your ability to perceive it.

The same is true with the Light of Christ. It continues to shine on forever. In fact, the Lord has said that:

12 [The Light of Christ] . . . proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—. (D&C 88:12)
We couldn’t hide from the Light of Christ – even if we wanted to! We can, however choose to ignore what we see, or cloud our spiritual eyes and minds so much with disobedience and wickedness that we can no longer perceive the light.

A Spark In The Dark

Perhaps you know someone who has fallen into this condition of spiritual blindness. Perhaps it may even happened to you or me. It happens, even to the best of us, if we are not careful. We can lose the light we once had, and can fall into sin and transgression.

What if that has happened to you, or to someone you know. Be assured that the Light is still there. There is no depth so low, no darkness so deep that cannot be penetrated by the Light of Christ. God will never abandon us, no matter how far we may have fallen. The light, and life of his love is ever there. His arms are stretched out still. There is none that he will turn away, if we will but come unto him.

Those whose minds have become sufficiently darkened may find it hard to believe in Christ, and that he is trying to reach each one of us.

In a recent Ensign article, Elder Boyd K Packer gives the following example:

“Man himself, with all his limitations, can convey messages through fiber-optic cables. A single tiny fiber of glass, smaller than a human hair, can carry 40,000 messages at the same time. These can then be decoded and turned into sight and sound and color, even motion. Man can do that.

A laser beam, where there is no wire or fiber at all, can carry 100 billion bits of information in a second.

If man can do that, why should we marvel at the promise that the Light of Christ is in all of us and that the Holy Ghost can visit any of us?
It should not be difficult, therefore, to understand how revelation from God to His children on earth can come to all mankind through both the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 8)
Even in our darkest hour, when we may feel so unworthy, and so unwanted – know that our Savior, and his light are still there for you. It is Satan, and not Christ that tells you that you are worthless, unwanted, and unredeemable. Do not listen to him. Believe in Christ, that he is, and that he can save you.

Know that his power is great. For he is mighty to save. He has taken upon him the sins and pains of the whole world. He has suffered these things for all -- that they might not suffer. He has broken the terrible bonds of death – that we may all live once more. He has triumphed over all things. And though each of us are weak and lowly, because of his love for us, he desires to draw all men unto him, that he may lift them up, and return them to the presence of the Father. And for this, all he asks is that we follow Him, and keep his commandments.


During this season of gift giving, let us remember the that the greatest Christmas gift ever given was when the Father sent his Only Begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. In return, the greatest gift that we can ever give is to love and serve God, and our fellow-men – the two great commandments.