*I have not yet figured out how to view comments made on my articles when google+ comment is enabled. If you can tell me how to view google+ comments, please message me here: thepulsiphyer@gmail.com*

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Would You Give Up?

There are two places, at the moment, in the scriptures I can think of off the top of my head where the value of self sacrifice is directly and boldly emphasized. There are more but these two come to mind at the moment.

One of them is in the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 22.  King Lamoni's Father was being taught by Aaron and he was so convinced of the truth of the gospel that he said: "What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, ... I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy."

Imagine that if you can.  This man had possession of the entire Lamanite civilization and kingdom at his command.  According to the standards of the world today, he had it all; wealth, power, a family, and a reputation, command of the biggest army in the western hemisphere and here he is saying he'll give it all up at the drop of a hat if it means he gains the eternal joys of the gospel.  The majority of his people end up completely turning to the light of Christ and become, in some ways more righteous than the Nephites, who, contrary to the Lamanites, had the gospel of Christ ingrained in their society.  They rename themselves to reflect their change of heart and forever leave behind the ways of the world and never look back.

That's very similar to the idea of Obama forsaking his position, his job, his influence and everything else in his life (also being in command of the largest army in the western hemisphere) to receive the light of the gospel in it's fullness and never look back.

The other example I want to point out is in Luke 18: "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich."

There you have it, straight from the Lord's mouth.

So now, the question to be considered is, do we have the faith to give it all up for Him?  Do we have the faith and trust in His plan for us and our happiness to give up all worldly "pleasures" and turn completely to Him and His plan to exalt the human family?

If God's prophet invited us to leave our homes and move to a specified place permanently, not telling a soul where we are going, leaving our homes our possessions and everything of a non-spiritual nature behind for the sake of building the Christ's kingdom and preparing for the coming of our Lord, would we do it?  I have a feeling something like that is not far in the future.

I read an article a few days ago by someone who, as far as I remember, was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He was talking about many members of the church, with our standards regarding music, movies, etc.  He mentioned how many of us refuse to listen to music that has even a tiny bit of bad language or an inappropriate beat/intensity or message, but yet we will be just fine with watching a movie that has a tiny bit of the same.  Hypocrisy? I think so!  I am guilty of this myself and have now made a goal to shift my desires so that 1) I'm not attracted to movies like that and 2) get rid of those movies that do have content like that, no matter the amount.  In the past I have used the excuse "but the message/moral of the story in the movie is the important part, so I can ignore the killing and language and suggestive themes to focus on the good message of the movie."  This is a copout.  I will not be doing that anymore.  That garbage is not necessary to depict to make the same point.  My wife and I have made a plan, to start out, to not watch our Adam Sandler movies anymore as well as get rid of them as we replace them with either edited versions or the otherwise good ones or other more praiseworthy movies.

Just today we were teaching an investigator with the Sister Missionaries and we went over the Law of Tithing and coffee and the Word of Wisdom came up.  We were testifying of the fact that, regardless of our understanding of the temporal dangers of coffee (or lack of understanding), we know that God knows better than us and He has, through His prophets, counselled us to abstain completely from coffee and all related products in any form.  We got talking about making sacrifices in order to gain greater blessings from God and I made the investigator a deal.  Pop is probably my one of the hardest things for me to say no to when it's present or being offered.  While pop is not something that will render someone unworthy to enter the temple, it's something that, in all reasonable truth, isn't good for us.  I made them a deal that if they completely give up coffee for a month that I would completely give up pop for a month.  We shook on it and then I wondered if I could do it.  I have to be honest it's going to be hard for me, but I have faith that the rewards will be well worth it.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn.  The Lord is the source of all of our blessings and I honestly just want to follow His counsel to be as the salt of the earth; by living my life in a way that invites others to partake of the joys available through the Atonement of Christ by living like Him as well.

As time goes by and the proximity of His second coming becomes more obvious we will be invited and asked by God to leave more of the world behind; to change our condition of heart and truly forsake every last bit of the natural man in us to gain, with all of those who will as well, the unfathomable (to us), and lasting happiness and peace of His perfect love.

I'm going to give all my efforts to qualify for this.  Will you join me?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Heaven Has Not Come Too Close

Truman Madsen made some great observations about Joseph Smith's first vision of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  He said:

"...it hadn't ever occurred to him, when he went in the grove, that all of the then influential churches were in error.  Notice that the question he put - when he recovered himself - the question he put was not 'is there a true church in the world?'  The question he put was which church is true.  He assumed at least one had to be.  There answer was all the more striking and stark, therefore: 'join none of them.'

Another interesting point about the background is that he had been struck.  In fact, he said, 'no passage of scripture ever came more strongly to a soul than mine by reading the bible [paraphrasing, referring to James 1:5]'.  We think we know that reverend George Lane was the man who first recommended [to Joseph]... that one do that, and even that specific passage was mentioned in some of reverend Lane's sermons.  He was a Methodist, and he was associated with the revival of which I have spoken.  We can't prove that he was this person; but Joseph later describes this person who was, he says, identified with the aforementioned religious excitement.  I can't imagine - and this to me is poignant - that at age fourteen, full as he was of the glory, the remarkable experience and the excitement of it... [Joseph] went to this man, told him what had happened; and you remember, his response was instantly 'Oh, no. That could not be of God. Those sort of things don't happen anymore.' So, to recommend that one lacking wisdom ought to go and pray, 'Let him ask of God', fair enough.  But, the answer seemed, to this man, too much. Heaven came too close.  And it's almost as if, I repeat, the boy - pure minded, spontaneous, even a little unrestrained, as teenagers are - should have been struck instantly.  In the moment of, 'Wow!  It worked!  You told me to do this.  I did it" and the response is 'Shucks boy.  It's all of the devil.'

...[Joseph] learned early that to testify, even to hint, of divine manifestations was to stir up darkness and to call down wrath.  And that continued, until there were bullets."

The reason I mention this small part of Truman's lectures is that, when it comes to testifying of the divine power, aid and transformation in the hearts of many from the heaven in our day, I think I can relate, even if it's in a very minute way, to Joseph when he said "There has been great difficulty getting anything into the heads of this generation.  It has been like splitting hemlock nuts [a really tough nut] with a corner dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle [something you would use to drive in a wedge]."

I speak my thoughts here in this manner to emphasize how strongly I feel about this subject matter.  So many times people throughout the world today, sometimes myself included, even among Latter-Day Saints, look for extensively established rules and boundaries for events, experiences or epiphanies of a spiritual or divine nature to the point where they are in the same mindset of the children of Israel when they received the law of Moses.  They want things spelled out in such intricate detail that they forget the reason behind it all in the first place.  They forget that God's power is not limited by our understanding of it.  He will never communicate with us in a way that we have not sought and are not ready for, but it's not because He can't do it.  It's because He loves us and doesn't want to overwhelm us in our weakened and ridiculously spiritually crippled state we are in relative to Him.

Everyone is in a different place of spiritual understanding.  We all have unique perspectives, which is why the Savior counselled us to not judge or compare one of us to another.  But please.  Let's not make the mistake of assuming that just because we have not experienced (or have) some sort of amazing, uplifting spiritual thing in our hearts or even with our eyes or ears, etc., that someone else can't or shouldn't be at a spiritual level we don't think they are.  Each of us need to be seeking to develop an individual, personal, deep, loving relationship with our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ through obedience to His gospel as taught by His prophets and the scriptures in our day.  Each of us is at a different point in that journey.

I know what it's like to feel excited and have my heart and mind enlightened by another's testimony of God's truth.  I know what it's like to feel that horrible doubt and uncertainty when my faith is severely challenged and I have no one to turn to but Father in Heaven for answers.  I know what it's like to doubt everything good I've ever heard and wonder if any of it is true.  I also know what it's like to collapse inside and just lay myself at the Lord's will, feeling broken, begging to have some kind of answer and assurance of what is true, what I should believe, what I should do.  I also know what it's like to have those glorious moments of reassurance in my heart, when the Holy Ghost communicates to my mind and heart and testifies of truth in such a way that there is no room for doubt left.  I know what it is like to have those moments where there is not the least shadow of doubt of God's love and plan, to have that sharply contrasting, deeply soul satisfying, feeling of relief as a result of faith filled prayer and obedience to His commandments, where I can think, as Joseph probably did, "You told me to do it.  I did it and it worked!"

I also know that many of these moments have come when I have heard some individuals share beautiful spiritual experiences they have had with and/or from heaven.  Some of those experiences have even included visually seeing and/or audibly hearing angels, deceased ancestors, or even the Savior Himself.  I have felt the Holy Ghost testify to me of their truth.  I have wondered at times whether or not some of the things that I feel or come to my mind are just me or if it's really the Spirit speaking to me.  I think most, if not all, of us have experienced that at one point or another.  But I know now what impressions from the Holy Ghost are like better than I ever did before.  I know that He has testified to me of truth, truth about doctrine and stories of divine manifestations.

The Lord has been taking more and more frequent steps in hastening His work in our day.  There are always angels on the other side of the veil doing the Lord's work.  I know for myself that many people today have seen divine beings, heard audible words of strength and comfort from the Lord and/or His servants on the other side and I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm to me, as clear as could be, that He does send and allow us to experience these types of things when the situation warrants it.  Said the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. about himself, "...God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them."

How easy it can be to assume, after having our own wonderful spiritual, faith building experiences, that someone else, however they appear to us, can or cannot have the same kind of divine aid or understanding or even much greater than what we have.  We must be careful not to fall into this trap.  Our job is simply to believe in and seek to become like the Savior and set the best example we can, to repent and change and let Christ be the one to determine the spiritual capacity of another, to let the Holy Ghost guide us in what we say to or withhold from others rather than our own mortal perceptions of them.  Only those who are called as judges, those whose calling is to give spiritual insight and direction about personal matters, are entitled to the discernment needed for such things.

One of the companions I had on the mission, Elder Tyers, said it very well, "the moment we take [even] our greatest strength and think we are better at it than another, pride kicks in and we start to sink."

Bottom line?  As opposed to what the man by whom Joseph was mocked said, heaven has not come too close.  There's no such thing.  And if you think Heaven is already really close, it's going to get a whole lot closer in the next few years.  Most of the public, and even many members of the church, don't really understand how close it's going to get in the next few years.  The only variable part in the equation is how ready we are for what Christ would show us.  Let's use the scriptures as our guide and not make the mistake of assuming what the Father and the Son will or will not do for someone else.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

We Are Not Trying To Convert You

This one goes out to everyone who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Anyone who has served a full time mission for the said church or has invited a friend to listen to them has probably heard something like "they/you aren't going to try to convert me are they/you?"

Yes, there are many people who are afraid that we are trying to induct them into some creepy secret society of cultists who make blood sacrifices or something weird like that.  Many of these are the same people who think Mormons grow horns, baptize corpses, slaughter babies, enslave women or that Joseph Smith magically pulled the Book of Mormon out of a hat.  While these people are just as mis- or uninformed as someone who knows absolutely nothing about our faith, they still deserve the correct answers to their questions.  Herein I will focus on the question I posed.

That straight up answer? No, we are not trying to convert you.  Nothing of the sort.  Here's what we ARE trying to do.

One of the church's missionary resources, Preach My Gospel, makes it clear that the purpose of missionary work is to "invite others to come unto Christ...".  We consider ourselves successful each time we invite someone to learn about our beliefs regardless of the response.  Because our beliefs are centered on Jesus Christ and His example throughout His entire life was to invite others to come unto Him and have the happiness He enjoys, we try to do the same.  God gave each of us the ability to choose and we celebrate that gift given to all of His children by allowing people the chance to either accept or reject our message, His message.

This can be taken from two angles (or more, but I'll specify two).  The first is this.  Since we find life's deepest, permanent and most pure joys as we live our religion it would be absolutely selfish of us to keep that joy to ourselves and thereby deprive others of the opportunity to have that same happiness in their lives.  If you reject that invitation, for whatever reason, that is your right.  Some of us may be hurt or disappointed that you are not interested in what we have.  Many of us continue to invite in different ways even if you say no the first time.  Please do not misunderstand this.  We do not want you to feel pushed or overwhelmed.  Many of us are too afraid to loose your friendship to not care about what you think.  The main reason most of us continue to invite you to "come and see" is because we have seen the exponential increase of joy and peace our faith has caused in millions of different lifestyles and perspectives.  We cannot even pretend to see life from your unique point of view, but we know the difference the Lord's church can make in any life or culture, so whether or not you accept our invitation, we consider it selfish to just give up after one attempt.

Another angle from which to consider our invitations to learn more about our faith is this.  The culture of the Latter-Day Saints is so saturated with it's own jargon that the stronger our faith in Christ, the more our conversations are dominated by terminology associated with His church.  If we didn't invite you to learn more about our faith, much of our conversations would sound like greek to you and we LOVE being your friend, so we try to keep it from being an awkward conversation by keeping you in loop.

So where does the concept of conversion come into all of this?

The role of the Holy Ghost is to, because of Christ, comfort, purify, warn, and change/convert the heart to Christ.  We are not the Holy Ghost and since that is His and His role alone, we are not only not trying (or at least, shouldn't be) to convert you.  We are completely incapable of doing so anyways.  Conversion of the heart to the truth, whatever that truth is, is a spiritual process, not an audible, visual, physical or social process.  It can only be caused by the Holy Ghost and can only take place in the mind and heart.  We can say, show and do things, speak truths to you and set examples for our standards in ways that you can physically sense; and the Holy Ghost can confirm the validity of those things to you, but even He cannot rob your of your ability to choose whether or not to accept it, even when He confirms it in your heart, and neither can we.  It just can't be done.  Even God Himself won't coerce you.  It's a choice only you can make.

Any Latter-Day Saint who, in their mind and heart, is actually trying to convert you and overbearingly persuade you to join the Mormon church is doing it all wrong.  Please be patient with us.  We are all still learning to be Christlike.  So many of us have grown in our love for the Savior so much that we feel like we could just yell it from the rooftops if it didn't make us look like a lunatic.  If you feel overwhelmed, scared or worried by us, remember that we are all at different places in our spiritual journey in coming to know the Savior and some of us are more socially adept and conversationally savvy than others.  We love you.  We really love you.  Most of us try so hard to live the best we know how in staying the course to repent and come to know and become like our loving Savior.  We strive zealously to make use of His Atonement.  Sometimes we get defensive if we feel, even by misinterpretation, that our faith is being mocked, rudely challenged or ridiculed.  We are always seeking for peaceful conversion about our Savior and Heavenly Father and Their plan.  We care about Him so much that when someone is unkind or irreverent when they speak of our faith in and relationship with Him, it hurts, just like it would anyone else.

But again, please remember.  We are not trying to convert you.  We are incapable of doing that.  If someone seems like they are trying to do so, be patient with them.  It's simply a misdirected effort to share the goodness we have with you or a reflection of our misunderstanding or ignorance of your perspective.

We would be and are utterly overjoyed when our friends and family see the joys of our faith as we do and decide to join with us, so we just keep trying, as kindly, humbly and happily as we can, to invite you to "come and see".

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beautiful Ironies

Irony: "An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning."

My goal in this post will be to illustrated how, much of the time, ironic truths are the most beautiful and joyful.  In support of this idea, Alma, Paul, and Christ Himself have declared that being temperate (balanced) in all things is a quality of a perfected individual.

To start out, the stories of Ammon and King Benjamin are powerful examples of fantastic leaders because of their humility, desire to serve and get right in, up close and personal, with those they serve.  They were such amazing leaders, given charge over so many people because of their understanding of the people they lead.

In the show Undercover Boss, the chief officers of companies like 7-Eleven, Great Wolf Lodge, DirecTV, Subway, the Chicago Cubs, Retro Fitness and ADT go undercover, disguised as someone else, to work with the "little guys" to see how things really work and what the real problems are with those who actually work first hand with the public.  I think this is also a great example of that concept.

*The only way to truly be an effective leader is to understand, on a first hand basis, those they lead by serving them.*

Another great factual paradox or irony is the truth that those who are the most humble, who do not seek or desire power and authority no matter the reason are those who receive it the most.  The Savior taught this effectively in His sermon on the mount: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."  Why else would the the Father and the Son choose Joseph Smith, an everyday, ordinary farm boy with little to no formal education or social expertise, to restore Their church?  The same thing applies to Jesus' apostles, Moses, Enoch and so many others throughout secular and religious history.

When Moses was called, he replied with "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."  His awareness of his overwhelming weakness made him exactly the kind of person God would choose to lead others.  Enoch responded to his call to be a prophet with: "Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?"

These two, however, were two of the most powerful leaders, with the support of the Savior, in the history of the world; and it was because of their humility, meekness and their focus being completely on other good things when they were called.

Continuing on, I have personally come to see, in my own life, that the more I have my focus on simply doing good, being kind and seeking humbly to be a force for good in whoever's life I can has resulted in more attention and opportunities to do so.  As much as I have not done that, I have received less attention and been ignored more.  The point in my mentioning this is to illustrate the concept that those who don't seek for recognition and attention, but rather go about doing good completely selflessly, will actually get more recognition than they expect and will find more joy in such.  I had a concern for a while about my gifts, talents and individuality being diminished by not trying to, even tactfully, get attention.  Even if the reason I sought for attention was good, what I was not realizing was that, as Elder Maxwell said: "there is more individuality in those who are more holy."

Something that has, as well, become an increasingly more joyful and fascinating truth is that, while we are "less than the dust of the earth" as a result of our being the most disobedient of all of God's creations, He considers us His greatest creation.  We are the only of God's creations with the capacity to become like Him, through Jesus Christ.  We are His children.  We are of the race of God and, therefore, naturally have inherent in us limitless potential if we choose to take the course of action that will lead us to that possibility.  His love for us is greater, despite our nothingness, than anything else in the universe!  Feel free to take a second to let that sink in.

The most beautiful irony of all is that the Greatest of all of God's children willingly sunk to the lowest state that any man had or would ever go to, and now, because He overcame that state, He can make us equal with Him if we follow Him.  Christ is the perfect example of all of the previous ironies I mentioned.  He was the single most submissive, meek, virtuous, humble man of God's children who ever lived, entirely focused on simply serving selflessly, never asking for personal attention for His own sake, always redirecting praise He received to His Father.  Now look at what He has become because of that.

He is the Alpha and Omega, One with the Father, the One through whom our salvation is made possible, the King of Kings, Lord or Lords, the Master, the Servant and I can think of none of God's children who has more of His individuality and worth enhanced than our loving Redeemer, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

Beautiful ironies indeed. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Got Questions? 9 Ways to Get Answers to Your Toughest Questions.

Face it, learning is a part of life.  True, many of the lessons we learn come more easily than others, but sometimes we come upon situations or circumstances that cause us to seriously consider life's deepest and most meaningful questions.  I think it's safe to say that everyone, at some point, questions things like the existence of God, the role and validity of Jesus Christ, the role religion and family play in society, what constitutes good and bad and more.

Here are 9 things I have noticed about the process of finding answers that has always worked for me and I can personally guarantee will work for anyone with an open mind, based on my own experience.

1. Pray.  God is the source of all truth.  To the majority of all religious or otherwise spiritual individuals today, this isn't an issue up for debate.  We know from whom all truth comes to us; and our Father in Heaven loves us and is only waiting for us to ask and ready our hearts for the love and truth. He so eagerly seeks to give us, to teach, show and help us comprehend the truth piece by piece.  Keep in mind the critical nature of the triality (see ending note) of that statement.  He wants truth to be a part of our understanding as well as the very core of our being, our very nature.  Never feel that God is not interesting in showing and revealing all truth to you as you are ready to receive it.  All we need is to ask for it and He will prepare us to receive it if we don't resist Him.

2. Meditate.  Why else would the Savior command His people to "...ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand..."?  Our mortal minds are so weak compared to His.  He understands that many things He teaches us will take some time for us to wrap our minds around.  As we make a habit on consistently focusing our thoughts on His gospel and how we can better live and understand it our comprehension of the love and truth of it all will come, in our mind and hearts.

3. Stay humble.  I don't care whether someone is completely incapable of speaking, reading, writing or communicating audibly or visually with another human being or on the other end of the spectrum, a genius, a member of Mensa or something to that effect.  There is always something about which each human being, on an individual and collective basis, understands little to nothing.  There is always some area of life that someone is going to understand exponentially better than you.  In the case of God, He understands EVERYTHING so much better than us that it surpasses our capacity to fathom just how far ahead of us He is.  There are many things that, from a mortal perspective, we just are not going to understand, period.  But isn't that the beauty of it, that even at the level He is, He still remembers and perfectly comprehends what it's like to be in our circumstances and lovingly wishes to bless us in our efforts to come to know Him?  He doesn't look at us from an attitude selfish of "man you people are so ignorant and far below me, you have no clue how much you are missing", but rather, a loving and kind "I'm not nearly as concerned with how far you have to go as much as I am with how far you want to go and what I want to give you whenever you are ready for it." As long as we keep that in mind and acknowledge how little we really know compared to Him and keep our hearts tuned to Him, our potential will remain limitless.

4. Seek with intent.  If someone were to ask a psychologist how to have a successful relationship and then choose not to follow their advice, there wasn't a point in asking the question in the first place was there?  (I'll get to the idea of not following opinions blindly later)  The same applies to asking God, or anyone far that matter, for answers.  If you want to know the truth about something but are not willing to let that truth effect your perceptions or behavior, maybe you weren't ready for the answer in the first place.  So if you want to know truth, you'd better be prepared to accept it when it comes and live by it, no matter how it may contradict what you thought was right.  The process of trial and error will always eventually get you where you need to be so long as you are perfectly honest with yourself.

5. Get facts from the source.  I've said this many times before in different places, but if you wanted to know about black history, should you go to the KKK to find out?  If you wanted to learn to play the piano, should you go to a school of business to learn?  Should you go to a Pentecostal church to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?  Should you go to someone who is not God or sent by God to learn about Him?  Obviously not in all cases.  If you want to learn about black history, ask a professor of the subject.  If you want to learn about how to play piano, go to a school of music.  If you want accurate information about the LDS church ask the LDS church!  If you want to learn about God, ask Him and search His words via prophets, ancient and modern!  It's really not any more complicated than that.

6. Use reasoning.  God has counselled us to use our minds and powers of reasoning and not just accept one mans opinion of something because it sounds legitimate.  He has given us the ability to seek out all perceptions or perspectives of a subject matter, test them and reason through them in our minds and then, when we have come to the best answer we can find, take it up with Him and ask.

I remember a very effective illustration of this point made, possibly unintentionally, by W. Cleon Skousen in this talk:

"...in Sunday School they talked about the terrible suffering of Jesus on the cross, I would say to my teacher, "Who wanted that anyway? Who was all that suffering for? Who is it to satisfy?" And my teacher would reply, "Well, it was to satisfy Heavenly Father." That didn’t answer my question. It seemed that if Heavenly Father wanted us to come to the earth, after we repented, all he would have to say was, "Come on back. You did the best you could." Why do we weed all this suffering? And all my life, at least until I went on my mission, I asked those questions.

So one day I was riding along with President Widstoe, who was in charge of all the European Mission. I was only 17 when I was called on my mission, and I thought that this was my chance to ask Brother Widstoe all these questions that had been on my mind since I was a little boy and so I asked him. "Who told you to ask me that question?" And I said, "It’s my question. Nobody told me to ask it."

So he said, "This is the most profound question of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it shouldn’t be answered until people are at first capable of wondering about it so they can understand the answer. So I’ll share the answer with you over a period of time." (And if you’ve never wondered, you can stop reading right here.)

"That’s great!" I said and started getting out a pen and paper. "If you’ll just give me the scriptures, I’ll write them down." He started to tell me, "One scripture is in the [Doctrine and Covenants], another is in the Book of Mormon." "Aren’t you going to give me the chapter and verse?" "I wouldn’t deprive you of the pleasure of finding them yourself." "

He nailed it right there!  Is it not such an incredible feeling when you struggle to find an answer to something for a considerable amount of time and finally find it in it's purest form, or work on something really difficult and you finish it to find it's perfectly done, just the way you intended it?  I would rather have the deep satisfaction of knowing that I worked my heart out or put every bit of my heart and soul into finding an answer and then finally see things clearly from a divine perspective than having something spoon fed to me on a silver platter and having nothing to show for it.  What a waste!  I want the pure joy of having my heart and soul transformed from my search for truth.

7. Test the truth.  How can you more effectively and surely know what is true than to see the effects of it first hand in your own life?  I can't even begin to know the truth of what it feels like that have cancer, how to win an international competition, manage a large company, to suffer the loss of a child.  I may be able to understand these things from a second hand perspective, from careful tutelage, but that's where my perspective ends unless I experience it first hand.  I still don't comprehend truths of these things fully and can't claim to until I've experienced it myself.

What I can say, absolutely, that I know from first had experience is the benefits and blessings of paying tithing in the Lord's church, the joys of pure honesty, the validity of the healing and transforming effects of the Atonement of Christ, the joys in the process of mastering an advanced piano piece, getting a complex segment of Javascript to work perfectly, just to name a few.  Why?  Because I tested these things myself, of my own will and choice, and I've got something to show for it.  There's really no feeling in the world quite like that.

8. Learn to recognize the Holy Ghost.  One person may feel it differently from another, but truth is only fully understood when it is known first hand in the mind and heart.  It takes practice over a lifetime to truly understand the language of the Spirit, but always remember that The Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) "bears witness of the truth... so deeply that no earthly power or authority can separate him[ or her] from that knowledge" (President James E. Faust, April 1996).  Another way to look at it is that truth not only seems and appears correct, it feels correct and is eternally and constantly provable.

I know, from the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is our personal loving Savior, that God loves us, that His plan for us is perfect, and that the Book of Mormon is true, that it's truly another testament of Jesus Christ, that I have a responsibility to spread goodness with my gifts in music and that honesty is always the best policy no matter what among other things.  It's harder to forget or be complacent with truth as long as it's a part of who you are in your heart.

9. Want it.  If you really want to know the truth, not only will it be sweeter to you, you will be more likely to get it.  As we seek for knowledge with a humble heart and desire to have it and use it for good God will engineer our circumstances to bring that truth to us in it's purest form.  He has told me that, through the exercise of my faith, I would receive good answers to questions and problems that need solutions throughout my life.  I want it.  He knows it.

I will forever seek His help and counsel to me in all things.

After all, He is the source of all truth.

Notes:
Triality definition: a union or junction of three; threeness; a word invented after the model of duality.

visit the link, search for "triality" and click the JPEG link next to "Century Dictionary"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Memories

Bear with me on this one.  It's going to take me a bit longer to get to my point on this.  I'll start with a few examples that lead to it.

Monsters Inc.

In this movie, we could compare Randall to the adversary, Waternoose to one of his followers, Sulley to our Heavenly Father and Mike Wazowski to the Savior.  How?  Who made the machine designed to force the screams out of children, who convinced Waternoose that the only way for the company - compare to God's family - to succeed was to kidnap children and suffocate the screams out of them - compare to taking away our agency - to keep things going?  They would have run out of children eventually anyways, so the plan was destined to fail in the long run.  Once they sent Boo - compare to God's children - to her bedroom in the end - compare to our mortal life - and shredded the door - compare to the Fall of Adam and Eve - thus eliminating all foreseeable possibility that Sulley would ever see her again, who was it that went to find all the missing pieces and inflict injury on himself willingly - compare to Christ's suffering in the Atonement - so that Sulley could see Boo again?  Remember how the door he opened to see her again in the end was only operable if every single piece was there?  Remember how only a complete, infinite atonement, wrought by Someone who had, of His own free will, paid our price for sin, is sufficient to compensate for our fallen natures?

X-men.

Magneto could be compared to the devil because his plan was to force mutant abilities on every human being without their consent, similar to satan wanting to force us to obey.  In the end the movie points out how that plan would have failed because humans who don't have those genes are killed by the effects of the transformation, similar to us not being changed into a godly state and thus not being able to endure or live in the presence of God if we just obeyed mindlessly with no faith.  Wolverine could be compared to the Savior because only he had the ability to save Rogue's life by giving her his power long enough to save her, knowing the effect it would have on him, that it could have killed him.

Liar Liar

No matter how hard Fletcher tried to have success with his career, no matter how many times he tried to make promises to his ex wife and son, which he always broke, he learned that honesty and willful, loving promises that he keeps is the only thing that would repair and reunite his family.  Similarly, the only thing that ever had a chance to reunite any of Heavenly Father's family was love and honesty, coupled with eternally unbroken promises between us.

Bruce Almighty

Well, if you've seen the movie, it's not hard to see parallels all over the place in this one.  If you haven't seen it click here.

Ratatouille

I'll make this one short. The phrase "anyone can cook" is parallel to the fact that any mortal can live and change to become the kind of person that is worthy of the inheritance God has prepared for them.  There are others in this one, but I'll move along.

In a previous entry, I also made a comparison to gospel parallels in Stranger than Fiction.  To read it, click the link, press Ctrl+F and type the name of the movie.  In another entry, I illustrated gospel parallels to the Green Lantern movie.  Again, to read about it, click, Ctrl+F, "Green Lantern".

Good heavens.  I could go on typing literally for days, maybe even weeks, pointing out the parallels to God's plan and the Atonement of Christ in movies, music, books, magazines... you get the picture.

So why did I not title this one "Parallels to the gospel"?

Why do you think so many areas of life are just teeming with these kinds of metaphors?  Why do so many of these kinds of things have so many of those legitimate comparisons?  How is it that from atheist to protestant, from born again Christian to agnostic, from authors to playwrights to producers to artists, anyone who ever produced a work of any kind has included, intentionally or not, however subtle or obvious, parallels and echos of God's plan with and for us, including and especially the reality of His Son Jesus Christ and His sacred role in that plan of love?

I think what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said about hearing testimonies of Christ illustrates the answer very well.  Said he, "...when you declare the truth, it will bring an echo, an unconscious memory to the [listener], that they have heard this truth before—and of course they have. A ... testimony invokes a great legacy of testimony dating back to the councils in heaven before this world was. There, in an earlier place, these same people heard this same plan outlined and heard there the role that Jesus Christ would play in their salvation.  The fact of the matter is [they] are not only hearing our testimony of Christ, but they are hearing echoes of other, earlier testimonies, including their own testimony of Him, for they were on the side of the faithful who kept their first estate and earned the privilege of a second estate. We must always remember that these [people] were among the valiant who once overcame Satan by the power of their testimony of Christ!"

Why else would these kinds of themes so undeniably and utterly saturate the whole of modern experience and imagination, the minds and hearts those who put their work and energy into these great reminders for everyone?  Because deep down, they remember it too!  They crave it, they try to recreate these memories, whether they mean to or not because, in the depths of their heart and soul, however aware of it they are or are not, THEY. WANT. IT. BACK.  Everyone, somewhere inside, craves the love of our Heavenly Father in their lives.

Why do you think so many of the great prophets, including the Messiah Himself, felt so strongly for the people to whom they ministered?  I think it's possible that they were also aware of these memories in them and wanted to awaken those memories and help them remember how to return to our Father and inherit all that He has in store for us, to fill the void in their souls many are not even aware is there in the first place.

It's little wonder, therefore, that Helaman said the following to his sons, Nephi and Lehi: "And now, my sons, 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. [emphasis added]"

I love having even the smallest reminders of His love for us.  I'm not as good as I want to be at keeping those memories fresh, but when they are there, even only if for a small moment, I'm home; and I'll do whatever it takes to make it back to live with Him and have nothing but sweet memories to be with me forever.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Who's on the Lord's side?

The Lord's church is becoming harder to ignore and the demand for information about the church is continuously becoming greater. This talks about how mankind is becoming less and less ignorant of the church's existence and wants to know more about it.  In it, Michael Otterson, managing director of the church's public affairs department, said "We tend to get calls asking us just to comment on things all the time now."

It looks like the general public seems to be craving, more often now, the position of the Lord's church on current issues facing society.  It makes sense, though.  When people see a certain group or people generally thriving more and happier than everyone else, they want to know why. According to Linda Davidson, "The church has become more visible, more familiar, more accepted – especially among those who help shape public opinion."  As an example of this, a huge number of law makers and other voices on both sides of the LGBT community in many states throughout the U.S. have celebrated Utah's recent legislation, encouraged and sanctioned by the church, for fairness regarding LBGT rights in harmony with religious freedom.  In fact, according to the article I mentioned at the beginning, "the nations major newspapers described the “Utah Compromise” as a "landmark bill" (The Washington Post), a "golden mean" between religious freedom and gay rights (The New York Times) and as Utah showing "the way on gay rights" (The Wall Street Journal)."

There are a huge number of other things the have drawn attention, both positive and not, to the church and will continue to do so.  Meet the Mormons, Mitt Romney, and The Book of Mormon musical are just a few.

The three fold mission of the church is to 1) Perfect the saints 2) Proclaim the gospel and 3) Redeem the dead.  When we really get down to brass tacks, our responsibilities in each of these has been repeated and reaffirmed adamantly by God's prophets since the beginnings of the church, but with all the increased public attention on those of Heavenly Father's children who know His plan of happiness for us, our ability to hide from the public is growing exponentially more difficult.  I would venture to claim that within the next 5-8 years, there will be a very small relative percentage of people on this planet, who have not at least heard reference to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

So what does this mean in regards to us as members of the church?

To me, the thing that sticks out the most is the message we are sending as more attention is drawn to us, or in other words, the example we set.  Remember what our Savior, Jesus Christ said to His followers, "I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men."  We have been given a responsibility to be as a pleasant savor to the earth, especially in the last days.

For members of the LDS Church, if you haven't already been asked by a friend, a brief acquaintance, or even a complete stranger what we believe or something similar by now, it won't be much longer.  If you have, were you ready to respond?  Was your testimony and faith in the truth of Jesus' gospel and the church that espouses it firm and sure enough to give a heart felt, personal, authentic, kind, assertive answer?  If you have not been approached in this manner yet, consider Bishop Causse's words, "Is [the gospel] Still Wonderful to You"? He has provided an amazing, wonderful suggestion to keep us from getting apathetic or too used to the gospel.  He said "We should be never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel". The writer Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”"

Keeping the gospel in our view as a precious, wonderful, joyful, beautiful thing consistently is something that has been key in my continuous desire to set a better example every day and be able and anxious to invite others to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."  I also love how Robin Williams put it, something close to "When expectation turns into appreciation, the world changes instantly."  Trust me, I know from experience that the way you view something changes it's effects in your life.  The more you love the Lord and others, the easier life becomes, not because of how things do or don't change around you, but because of your ability to perceive things and people as they really are.

Because the world's awareness of the church is changing it's members must - MUST - be sending the right messages about it's head, our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, and what He has asked of us.  Being reluctant, timid, doubtful or unsure about sharing the doctrine, teachings and example of the Savior will send the wrong messages about Him and His church to the world.  The time has come when confident, first hand testimonies, born of the Holy Ghost and proved by our choices, will be the only thing that will successfully show the world the true joys and blessings of following our Father's plan completely.

Things are going to get bad, really bad, and really good too and REALLY soon.  As the chasm between Christ's true followers and everyone else widens, mediocrity will become less and less of an option until you are either completely on His side or you are completely not.  Jesus has promised that His true followers will be sufficiently protected, provided for and experience the deepest peace and joys of eternity, but He can only guarantee that for us, regardless of our external circumstances, if our hearts are tuned to Him constantly.  Those who are truly on His side will be heavily persecuted, but as President Russell M. Nelson said, "If you're not being persecuted, you need to repent."

I know that He is our Redeemer and Friend, the Savior of the world.  I know from experience that God, our Father in Heaven, loves us.  I'm sticking to His plan at all costs because He has shown me how much better I can be and given me a small idea of the joyous wonders He has in store for me if I do.  I don't understand everything about it all, but I know He does.  *Edit [June 22, 2015]* I invite all who read this to always be looking for ways to go way out of your comfort zone spiritually.  Do something the bring yourself closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and complete obedience to His gospel frequently, something really hard, something that builds your faith in ways you never imagined possible.

Christ is coming soon, very soon.  If you are not ready for it now, you don't have very long to prepare.  Please, come to know Him - better.*End edit*

I mess up and sin a lot, but He's committed to me all the way, so I'm committed to Him all the way.

Who's side are you on?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Unsung Heroes of the Book of Mormon

I have probably read the Book of Mormon cover to cover almost 20 times through now.  Something I have repeatedly noticed more with each time through is the value of those who are mentioned minimally but yet are powerful examples or types of Christ.  So to those who we don't talk about much, who never asked for attention but deserve it, this one's for you!  Lets get started!

Pahoran.  How else do I start this than by saying Pahoran demonstrated more patience than possibly any other person (except maybe Nephi son of Lehi) in the Book of Mormon aside from the Savior.  If you look in Alma chapter 60, Captain Moroni spends the entire chapter verbally thrashing Pahoran about things for which he was innocent.  He spews out several accusations that were unwarranted and flat out mean.  Now, take a look at what Pahoran says in the next chapter "in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free." WHOA!  It would have been so easy for Pahoran to say something even as non-aggressive as "I would really appreciate it if you would not jump to conclusions.  I am sad about your situation" and doesn't even do that!  We are told by the prophet Moroni that "charity is not easily provoked" and Pahoran exemplifies that fabulously!

Zoram.  Zoram had been living around, serving and working for Laban, a wicked, lazy, covetous man of high social status in Jerusalem.  When Nephi, a complete stranger to Zoram, comes to him disguised in his masters clothes, he doesn't seem to suspect anything.  What a surprise it must have been to him when he discovers that Nephi is not Laban.  He is suddenly struck with fear and tries to run, realizing for sure that Nephi has probably killed Laban and likely feels an urge to sound the alarm.  But what is even more surprising, and reflects Zoram's true character as well, is when Nephi tackles him and says, in summary "Look, you've been in bondage to Laban for too long.  Come with us and be free."

Remember, he doesn't have the slightest clue who Nephi is, has no idea where he will end up and is suddenly faced with a decision to either trust a complete stranger and leave his home and any family without a word, never to return, or to go back to his comfort zone where he has, as far as he knows, a much higher chance of survival.  He still chooses the former and goes with them having faith in only what Nephi has told him on the spot!  Talk about a pivotal moment of choice between faith and what is comfortable.  Because of Zoram's faith based choice to go with them, the civilization at the center of the history of the Book of Mormon was not pursued or destroyed and today we have that many more beautiful stories of the power of the Lord and His ability to heal and save us.

Lamoni's wife. This lady, by Ammon's own admission, showed more faith than any Nephite during her time.  Similar to Zoram, she had been living and comfortable with wicked traditions of Lamanites her whole life.  Then Ammon comes along and, through kindness and service, convinces Lamoni to listen to the gospel and He is converted and becomes what appears to his people as dead, but is in more of a catatonic state, though Ammon knows better.  So when this woman, who is so unfamiliar with what Ammon has been teaching their people, hears a promise from a Nephite, someone they have been taught to hate, that her husband will rise the next day, it really is a miraculous decision of faith that she believes him.  I think that is a fantastic example, by the way, of what having the Spirit with us can do to persuade even those who hate us.

No wonder Ammon said "Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites."  He is saying that about a queen whose people had been a blood thirsty, violent, indolent society!  To me, this is a HUGE example of faith in the Lord's servants and is a great example for us to follow!  She ends up, with her husband, facilitating the transformation of their people into a virtuous, Christ-like people who end up being more pure in heart than most of the entire Nephite civilization when all is said and done with that part of the Book of Mormon.  Clearly, this woman is awesome!

Abish.  She is one of the best examples of quiet but amazingly strong faith in the Savior I know of in the scriptures.  Her situation is slightly similar to Zoram and Lamoni's wife, but with a significant difference.  Though she spent most of her life living among the debased traditions of the Lamanites, Mormon mentions that her father had been converted to the Lord years before Ammon ever got there.  She had been living in a society where EVERYONE else - seriously, EVERYONE else (as far as we know), around her was indulging in destructive traditions and yet she stayed faithful to the Lord, confidently and quietly, waiting patiently for the Lord to work His miracles among her people.  This serves as a classic reason why the Book of Mormon was written for our day.  There are still millions of people, unable to openly, safely practice Christianity because of those who are being used as the devil's puppets to try and stop or slow the Lord's work.  Obviously they will not win in the end and Christ will overcome all, but Abish is a great example to those who are going through the same situation.  She was at least important enough for Mormon to mention her by name.

Zeezrom.  There is a reason repentance is emphasized so much in the Book of Mormon and I have a feeling that Mormon told the story of Zeezrom in order to emphasize the cleansing and transforming effect the Spirit of God can have on anyone, even apostates from Ammonihah.  Zeezrom was a citizen of the said city and was a prominent lawyer in the area, expert in the craft of language and manipulation.  The miracle of his story is the transformation that took place.  He tried hard to manipulate the words of Alma and Amulek but, of course, they had the Lord with them and he was confounded.  Zeezrom was caught in his flagrant dishonesty and manipulation and was convinced of the power of God, but, so he thought, possibly too late.  He tried to amend the mistake he made but the crowd rejected him and he fled, seeking to repent of his sins, but by that time the people were dead set against Alma and Amulek and put them in prison.

Zeezrom was so tormented by his fear that they were going to kill them because of his mistake that he had become quite ill and was close to death when he heard, later on, that they were not dead and were in Sidom, where he he fled.  They had been delivered by the power of God.  Naturally, upon hearing of this he sends for them and they heal him.  Similar to Alma the younger, after his repentance, he turns to the work of the Lord and many chapters later, assists in future efforts to reclaim the apostate Zoramites in Antionum.  It has been said that every verse, every last word of the Book of Mormon is there for a reason, to teach us something.  Obviously, Mormon saw Zeezrom's story as important enough to include.

Zeniff.  After Nephi (the first one) separated his people from the Lamanites originally, they were told by the Lord to go even further and they ended up finding the people of Zarahemla and the last of the Mulekites.  Well, one of Zeniff's friends wanted to go back in inherit the land of Nephi where they had first gone after separating from the Lamanites and there was a huge fight about how to go about it and they came back to Zarahemla.  Zeniff, by his own admission, was overzealous to reinherit that land.  But when the group he was with fought, once again wanting to attack and just try to take them over, Zeniff says "but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed" and makes a treaty instead.  He was able to see the good in a people who hated his and make every attempt possible at peaceful negotiation.  What a great example of "love your enemies."

Gideon.  Oh man I love this guy!  He is awesome. When the Lamanites had attacked and taken over the land of Nephi where wicked king Noah (son of Zeniff) had reigned, Gideon was a major contributor to helping piece things back together and making peace with the Lamanites as well as delivering them (Nephites) from bondage later.  After they returned to Zarahemla he was martyred by Nehor for standing for the truth.  In doing so he sealed his testimony with his blood, making him, in my eyes, a great type of Christ.

Zenos and Zenock.  These two prophets are mentioned in a few places.  There may not be specific experiences or stories included about them, but the fact that one or the other (or both) are quoted by Nephi son of Lehi, Jacob, Alma the Younger, Nephi son of Helaman and Mormon in their testimonies of the Savior, some of them multiple times, tells me that they were fantastic Christ-like examples.  Why else would multiple other prophets use their testimonies to emphasize their own?

Aminadab.  He's only mentioned once, but, once again, the fact that he's mentioned by name by Mormon means, to me, that we need to pay attention to him.  When Nephi and Lehi (sons of Helaman) went to preach repentance to Lamanites in the land of Nephi, they were put in prison.  After many days they went to kill Nephi and Lehi while they were in prison and were shocked to find out that they were "encircled about as if by fire" and given divine protection.  The prison shook at their words and everyone fell, paralyzed by fear and darkness surrounded them as Nephi and Lehi began speaking with angels.  Of all these wicked Lamanites, one, who was actually an apostate Nephite, Aminabab, noticed the light around Nephi and his brother through the darkness and called everyone's attention to it.

All of the sudden everyone is super eager to figure out what is going on and how to get out of this terrible darkness (in all ways imaginable).  This is where Aminadab shines.  He remembers what he was taught in his youth, realizes what must be done and all of the sudden goes into missionary mode.  He says "You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you."  Bam!  What a huge change!  Because of Aminadab's invitation, they did exactly as he said and "the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire."  Many more miracles followed.

Jesus Christ.

Whoa!  Hold the phone!  Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, an unsung hero?!  How dare I say that?!

Ok maybe I'll amend that to undersung hero.  Jack R. Christianson was right when he said "most of the world doesn't care about coming to Christ".  Even many Christian's today, though they have good intentions, don't truly understand the role of our Redeemer in our lives and I, of course, am still on my way to understanding as completely as I want to.  I should say undersung hero because He still does not get the recognition and respect He deserves from mankind as a whole.  Nearly every Christian value or standard is being torn down, fought against, hated, misunderstood, unknown or feared by most of the world's population.  Christ and his followers have been the subject of more unjust ridicule and mockery than any other being who ever lived on this planet at the hands of those who disagree with or misunderstand Him and His gospel.

Yet He loves every last one of us with an infinite love that can never be dimmed, snuffed out or diminished in even the most minute conceivable way.  He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Light and the Life of the world, the Only Begotten Son of God, our Elder Brother and our Friend.  No one deserves more praise, honor and veneration than He does and yet no one else has ever been treated the exact opposite as much as He has.

As for me and my family, He is and will always be the most central figure and the most influential person for us for this life and all throughout the eternities.  He is always welcome and He needs to be more welcome, more loved, more obeyed, more sought than anyone else by everyone who ever has, does or will live in all of God's family.

I know He loves me I love Him and look forward to the day when He comes again, and this time it won't be in the lowly circumstances of His birth.

It will be as the most hailed, honored and loved being on earth, the way it should be.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blessings of #LDSConf

This article has become my most viewed entry over conference weekend, which fits, considering it's Easter weekend as well.  Jesus is the single most influential, powerful, loving person who ever walked this earth.  I love that Easter was a heavily covered topic in LDS General Conference.  In light of that fact, the purpose of this article is to emphasize what I see as the central truths He has brought to our attention once more through His prophets this weekend.

1.  God's standard on marriage and family is still not changing.  President Packer, Sister Burton, Elder Perry and Elder Christofferson made that abundantly clear on Saturday.  As The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, "Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity... individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

As this blogger to eloquently noted (even if it was about a different subject matter), there are only two sides to the coin of truth, God's side and the world's side, truth and error, respectively.  No matter what the world says about the way they want marriage and family to be defined, it will never change how the Lord has defined them.  Both are gifts from Him with the sole purpose of bringing His children back to Him and making us more like Him.  Neither can happen effectively in any setting other than a Christ-centered home and family, united in their commitment to love each other, the Savior and Father in Heaven.  Please stay on the right side of the coin.  As Elder Bednar so clearly taught, "Jesus Christ the only source of enduring peace".

2.  Missionaries.  Not just full time missionaries.  Returned missionaries, member missionaries, future missionaries, basically, all members of the church.  The Lord has spoken through Elder Ballard.  He reminded us that 10+ years ago the bar was raised for missionary work.  Said President Hinckley in 2003 "The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called … as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. … We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel".  Elder Ballard gave us unmistakable counsel to extend that raising the bar to the rest of us.  He did a sort of personal interview with all of us and asked us some important soul searching questions that we really should be taking more and more seriously as the second coming of our Lord grows closer.  To review them, are our habits with scripture study (different from reading, mind you), praying in the morning and evening, fast offerings, thoughts of our Savior and the Atonement, Sabbath observance, honesty, chastity and time management a reflection of a disciple of Christ?  If not we have some changing to do and we have to start now, for the sake of our own happiness and salvation, among other things.

4.  Responsibility of priesthood holders.  Elder Soares made some key points about defending truth.  He told a story of a deacon who opposed peer pressure.  This young man was invited to view pornography on his friend mobile devices.  He boldly told them of the dangers of pornography and encouraged them to stop, but was ridiculed for his decision.  He did not, however, let this ridicule effect his choices.  As sensitive a subject as pornography is, if a young deacon, subject to the burden that we all know changing hormones can be, as possibly inexperienced as he may be with the weight of the role of a priesthood holder, can fearlessly stand up to immature friends regardless of the consequences, no other priesthood holder on this planet has an excuse not to either.  If we expect to receive the divine help inherent with the calling of priesthood we need to be living and defending truth as worthy priesthood holders would.  I know the truth of this from my own experience, on both sides of it.

5. What you're distraction?  We all have weaknesses for different distractions in life.  We are all pulled in the wrong direction by one worldly influence or other from time to time.  But, the distraction I'm addressing here, which has been addressed probably hundreds of times by other bloggers around the world, is technology.  In fact, after reading this, I challenge you to go and spend at least an hour or two doing something that builds your spirit and strengthens your character away from an electronic screen.  Yes, there are many good uses of technology that strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Elder Teixeira made specific mention of making use of resources on lds.org and subscribing to church accounts on social networks to aid in bringing the Spirit of the Lord into our homes.

With the internet being such a ubiquitous thing in the world today, we really have no excuse to not be using these precious resources to strengthen our relationship with our Savior, increase our testimony of and experience with Him and His Atonement, invite His Godly love into our lives, and continually increasing our spiritual stamina in a world constantly striving the drag us down.  But please, don't rely solely on technology for this.  Elder Pearson nailed it when he said "Heeding those who do not believe in Christ will not help you find Him.  Searching #spaciousbuilding for knowledge will not lead you to truth.  It's not posted there.  Only the Savior has the words of eternal life.  Everything else is just words."

Take a physical copy of your scriptures or other gospel literature and a pen or pencil, go to a quiet place to study, ponder and pray, indoors or out, and make use of the Atonement by seeking for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  He will enlighten and transform you for Jesus sake, your own good and the good of others.  There is no risk of temptations on the internet like pornography, mindless distractions or contention to detract from our Savior if you are unplugged from it and focused on Him.

6. Choose sensitivity over apathy.  I absolutely LOVED the title of Bishop Causse's talk, "Is it still wonderful to you?"  In the Book of Mormon, one of the biggest mistakes Laman and Lemuel made was allowing the effect of the Holy Ghost wear off, to the point where they were "past feeling, that [they] could not feel [the Lord's word]" in their heart.  To keep the joys of the gospel with us, it takes constant, daily work, because of the pull of the world in the other direction.  Life is going up a down escalator.  If you're not running up faster than the world is pulling down you're either sinking or getting nowhere and just uselessly tiring yourself out.  We have to "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers [us]", stay all amazed at it and become continually more amazed at it every day so obedience can become easier and our joy in it can become more untainted, pure and full.  I can't speak for her, Elder Brent H. Neilson's sister who left the church for a time, but I imagine she may have fallen victim to this mindset and years later, when she came back, was re-amazed at Jesus' love and His gospel.

Elder Holland gave us his powerful testimony of the Savior as well, showing His amazement at it as well, given with a parable of the two rock climbers.  When we are more aware of the healing, saving, changing, loving reality and effects of the victory of Christ that is His Atonement, we will have more capacity to take a leap of faith by obeying, repenting and changing and trust the Lord to not let our hands slip on loose gravel on the edge.  I know He won't.  My wife and I have taken that leap in our own lives in repentance and obedience and we have felt Him catch us and save us from falling many times by sending people into our lives to accomplish His purposes.  As long as we have stayed "all amazed" we have seen and experienced the saving and enabling power of His atonement first hand.

7. Stick to the plan.  Elder Raphael E. Pino said "Understanding the plan will help people keep the commandments, make better decisions and have the right motivation."  Lets face it, our perspective of life and the eternities shapes everything we think, say, believe and do.  Elder Pino made a brilliant analogy of looking at things close up vs. far away.  When we often times look at the gospel from a close up perspective, focusing on just one tiny detail of the God's plan, it can seem unpleasant or difficult to understand until we back up and see the whole thing as it really is.  The opposite is true of the standards of the world.  Up close they can look appealing, but when you really step back and see their effect on society as a whole, it's obvious what the better choice is.

Elder Hales comments about religious freedom being threatened is a great example of the obvious effects on society of obedience to our loving God's plan vs. selfish disregard to it.  As we follow Elder Anderson's council to look for and be grateful for the hand of God in our lives, backing up to see His plan of happiness as it really is, the magnitude of the rewards He has for us will become that much more obvious and the right choice will become unmistakable.

___________________________________________________________________________

I was practicing the guitar chords for the primary song "He Sent His Son" using the gospel library app today and was reminded of why I love it so much.  God did not just send us here and say "good luck! I'll check in with you when you're done and see if you've lived perfectly." What He did was send us here with a message of "I love you and I know you're going to mess up, but I'll make it obvious how to get back to Me.  I'll provide you with a Savior to rescue you from your sins and show you how to live and become like Me.  He will only live 33 years in mortality, so I'll communicate with prophets as well who are living in the same mortal perspective as you and share His life and example with them. That way it will be easier for you to recognize the help I send."

Prophets are one of the most merciful blessings we ever received from our Father in Heaven.  That's the way I see it.