Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Things I've Learned: My Testimony

Well, the last two years have come to a close. My service as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has come to an end. That, however, doesn't mean that my testimony of the Church or its truthfulness has diminished. Here is my testimony for all of you!

Over the course of my mission I was able to read the Book of Mormon at least 3 times. Each time I opened its pages and truly began to search, instead of read, to discover, instead of scan, to internalize, instead of simply learning the words, I found that the Spirit, The Holy Ghost, would testify to me in its quiet way that the book was true. I know that The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ and that it teaches and testifies of Him, His love for us, and His plan to bring us all home again one day. The Spirit is one who will lead you into truth, we are taught that by the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:4-5). Through my study I came to know the consequences of choosing wrong and the blessings that come from choosing right. I learned the feelings that accompany righteousness are true and lasting happiness, peace of mind and heart, love for others, a desire to share the good we have, and a life full of purpose and direction because we know where we came from and where we have the potential to go after this life.

I learned that the consequences of sin consist of remorse of conscience, an empty heart, fear, pride, anger, lies, and every other negative thing that pulls us away from our Savior. I came to recognize the times in my life when my actions were filling me with these negative feelings and realized that it was the time to repent and to change from the fear to the peace, the anger to the kindness, the empty heart to one that can love. I know for a fact that The Atonement of Jesus Christ works. I know that it can change, not only your actions or feelings, but your very nature and disposition. It can change you so that the evils you once desired no longer have a hold on you and that the pride that ruled your life can be changed to humility as you follow the counsel of the Savior to follow Him.

I know that Christ lives because I have felt and continue to feel His influence in my life. I know that the peace I have found is only because of Him and what He has done for me. The changes in my desires, my thoughts, and my actions have been dramatic to say the least and to say that I did all of that by myself would be as false as trying to convince you that the sky isn't blue. Men can change behavior but only the Savior can truly allow us to change our nature. The Atonement removes the consequences of our past mistakes as we take them to the Savior in repentance, and it is through that repentance, that turning to God, that we are able to rebuild, restart, and become reacquainted with the things of righteousness in this life.

I know that the man I am now is a product of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I am grateful for how far that He has allowed me to come thus far. I know that God loves us, that His son Jesus Christ died for us, was resurrected, and now lives to guide and direct His church on the earth today. I hope you know that He loves you. He can change you if you'll let Him. I leave that with you in His name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Family Story

A Wise Father

There once was a man who had many children. This man was also the most powerful, perfect individual that ever lived. As the perfect Father, he wanted for all of His children to grow up and be worthy of the inheritance that He had to offer. As His children grew and prepared to leave home He gathered them together for one last family council. There He put forth the plan, requirements, and potential challenges that lay ahead for His children as they progressed through life away from home. Being a perfectly loving and wise Father, he knew that not all of His children would be able to live up to what was asked of them to receive the inheritance He wanted to give them.

A Noble Son

The firstborn Son of this family was very close to his Father. He wanted to see the success of His brothers and sisters just as his Father did. He prepared himself and went to the Father of this great family and offered a plan so that the rest of His children would have a greater chance to come back Home. His plan was talked over, debated, and eventually chosen as the best way to make it back.

The Plan Unfolds

Just as the Father predicted, His children, once away from home began to wander and forget the things that they had been taught. They began to rebel and they began to lose hope in ever making it back to the loving but just Father who had so plainly set up the way back to Him.  The firstborn Son came and was the only one who was able to fill all the requirements, make all the steps, and qualify for the inheritance that the Father had hoped to give to all. Thankfully this elder brother after receiving all that his Father had to give, turned and offered to each of His brothers and sisters the chance to share with Him.

This Son knew that the Father was justified in refusing His goods from the rebellious of his children. After all, He had told them of the consequences of their misdeeds. However now that the Son had access to all that the Father had, He was able to lay forth a set of conditions upon which He would share His inheritance with each of His siblings who would do what He said to do. The Father was just, the Son was merciful, they both were full of wisdom and love. They opened the door to each child to find his way back Home.

We Are the Children

The Father in this story, is God. The Firstborn Son is our brother and Savior, Jesus Christ. The children are each and every one of us. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us could have done what our Savior volunteered to do so that if we would follow Him we could return Home one day. Our Savior has promised that if we follow Him, have faith, repent, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and keep all of His commandments as best as we can, He will open the doors of Heaven to us. Not because we filled a checklist, not because we scored high enough on a test, but because our Savior loves us and is willing to forgive us of our mistakes and to save us from our sins.

I know that our Father in Heaven loves us, that His son Jesus Christ was chosen to be our Savior and Redeemer. We follow Him and our good actions stem from our relationship and love for Him and His work. I know that He loves us. I know that He watches over our stumbling steps and does all He can to helps us get back to Him. I know Christ lives. I leave this with you in His name. Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Faith and Works: Keeping Life Balanced

There seems to be a notion among many religions that Mormons are "working their way into heaven" which is the source of many negative and incorrect rumors, thoughts, and philosophies regarding Mormons, faith, and works. The hope that I have in writing this article is to dispel any misconceptions that any may have about the role of faith and works in each of our lives.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." 

This scripture lays it out pretty plainly that it is the grace of Christ that saves us "through faith" and that salvation can't be accomplished by our acts. The work that Christ did for us, none of us could ever do for ourselves. It also tells us that we were created to follow Christ in His good works. The Savior is our perfect example "who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). We were told by Him that the way to show Him our love was to keep his commandments (John 14:15).

Many wonder to themselves "If we are saved by grace and it is a gift from God... Why do those Mormons think that they need to do so much? They go door to door, they have 3 hours of church on Sundays, they serve those around them, and so many other things. Do they feel that faith isn't enough?" Not at all. It is our faith that motivates us to do all the things that we do. I'm sure that nobody told Paul to sit back and relax and just have faith. He was following the commission that Christ had given to the Apostles to preach the gospel. He took it upon himself to exercise his faith in that way. He helped others gain faith in Christ. That is the same mission that our proselyting missionaries are out doing today. Their entire purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost into their lives. They don't serve to mark something off of some sort of checklist that will get them to Heaven.

Lets look at James 2 for a moment where it has this to say: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). Let's cross reference this to the Savior's great sermon on the mount where He said:

 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven... Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock... And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand" 
(Matthew 7:21, 24, & 26 italics added).

All these scriptures, along with others, are the basis for why Mormons seem to be preoccupied with works when, to us, we are only trying to do all the things that Christ has commanded us. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Which commandments? All of them. Of course we aren't going to be perfect, that is why He came "to save the world from sin" (3 Nephi 9:21) He commanded men to repent and be baptized, He commanded us to love our neighbors, He commanded to preach the gospel, and on and on and on. His words and commands never cease. He has given us many things to work on in this life that will help us to become more like Him and it is our faith in Christ motivates us to become like Him. 

No matter what good things we accomplish in this life, we cannot for a moment think that we are making our own path into heaven. Christ made the path, Christ made the rules. We follow Him, His commandments, and His example. That is the way to salvation through His grace. I hope this has cleared up any questions any may have about why our church seems to "work" so much.

I know that obedience to God's commands is the way to happiness with Him in this life and in the next, I know that when we have true faith that we will desire to do good to others as He would, for this is how we show Him our love. I know Christ lives. I know He speaks today. I know this because I have exercised my faith and done my best to follow Him. I know that as we find a balance of faith and works we will be happy followers of our Savior Jesus Christ. For He is the way to Salvation. I leave this with you in His name, Jesus Christ. Amen.