Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Night Is Darkest Before Dawn

"The night is darkest before dawn" has rung true on my mission. I know that it was after the most difficult and trying times that the greatest blessings came. I know can recognize that when I am struggling there is light just around the corner. I get excited when trials come my way because I know that Satan tries us before the big moments in our lives.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in a talk that, "It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our lives." This is important to remember so that we are prepared for those times. We should anticipate them so that we are ready when they come. Understanding this principle will help all to never lose their footing. This is how our faith grows.

He goes on to say, "I wish to encourage every one of us regarding the opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose." We should never give up. Paul says in these moments to "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" We should continue to do the will of God and exercise our faith.

This is so true for everyone who is investigating the Church. Satan does not want them to make these important steps in their life.  Elder Holland speaks directly to these precious souls when he says,"Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had." This church is true. The adversary is real, and he wants us to be miserable like himself. We cannot let him lead us away from the things that we know are true. If it felt right at the moment, it is right now. God will guide us and he will help us to face our challenges.

We should always maintain our confidence in our spiritual choices. Listening to the spirit will help us to fill our lives with light. This will enable us to resist temptation. The Lords counsel to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery applies equally to us today when he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak apeace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witnesscan you have than from God? And now, behold, you have received a witness" (D&C 6:22-24). Do not let your guard down, but always be watchful. "Pray always lest ye be tempted"(3 Nephi 18:15)

It is our duty to make those big decisions and endure to the end. I know that the Lord will assist us as we rely on him.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Conversion: By Small Means

Lately my mind has been focused on what a miracle conversion is. I have often wondered what brings about true conversion. As I've thought about this topic I've reflected back on my own life and my own conversion to the Gospel. The first thing that I have come to understand is that conversion is a process. It requires repeatedly applying the Gospel throughout life. It is the only pattern of behavior, however, that will lead to absolute peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come. The Savior has said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Conversion is so important. The consequences of conversion are eternal. I'd like to relate some experiences from my own conversion and give some tips on simple things we can do to help our friends become converted to the restored Gospel.

I remember walking out of the Bishops office a few years ago with my mind set on never coming back to Church again. It felt completely hopeless and a bit frustrated. I was asked to change, but I wasn't ready to do it. I never thought once, that I would even be able to. My bishop, however, had left me with a list of scriptures that he asked me to read. A few nights later, my circumstances left me by myself in my dorm room dusting off the Book of Mormon. As I made that decision my life began to change.

I began to read the Book of Mormon every night, I started to pray often, and eventually I mustered the courage to come to Church. Through these simple means I came to know for myself that Jesus is the Christ and that he lived and died for my sins. I'm grateful for that, and I have never lost those habits. My conversion is a direct result of these simple steps. In order for one to be truly converted they must repeat this behavior. Everyone can come to know that Christ lives today and that he has restored his church onto the Earth as they pray with sincerity, read with real intent, and worship in Church at every opportunity.

I know that as we strive to help our friends and family to develop these small habits they will experience true conversion. They will be baptized and the effects of the Atonement will be felt fully in their lives. There is no other way. We have the keys and authority to do such. No one else can give them this but us.

I'm so grateful that the way is simple. We need to have faith in the converting power of the gospel. In order to gain that faith true conversion must be felt in our own lives. This kind of conversion is expressed in our desire to share what we have with others.

This was illustrated in Lehi's dream of the tree of life. "And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the afruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the bwhiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great ajoy; wherefore, I began to be bdesirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was cdesirable above all other fruit." (1 Nephi 8:11-12)

I know that the fruit of the Gospel is delicious above all other fruit. It is up to us to share that fruit with others and help them along the conversion process, which in reality requires a lifetime of following Jesus Christ. It has to start somewhere though. Be the instigator to change the lives of those you care about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Can I Know?

I have found in my life a constant struggle to recognize Gods influence. It is consistent with God's plan for it to be this way. This is because it is given to man to choose. "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should aact for himself. Wherefore, man could not bact for himself save it should be that he was centiced by the one or the other" (2 Nephi 2:16). I think that I often lose sight of this. However I'm so grateful for it. God trusts me to make right choices. That's some serious responsibility right there. However, sometimes I don't have confidence in myself to make the right decisions. How can I know if I am making the right choice?

One way I can know that I am following God's will if I am keeping His commandments. When I sin the answer is pretty simple. The gospel is easy. We must have faith in Christ, repent, partake of the sacrament (or be baptized), and let the Holy Ghost sanctify me. In this way I can be forgiven and know that I am following God's will. Be careful however to overcomplicate things. In the Book of Mormon we can see the effect of that through the story of Lehi and his family. 

In this account Lehi was led through the wilderness over to the America's by a golden compass called the Liahona. As long as they were righteous and kept the commandments the spindles on the compass pointed the course they should follow. Unfortunately however, "Because those miracles were worked by asmall means...They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey." (Alma 37:41) Since the way for them to be guided was so easy they began to be slothful and they halted their progression. We too should not slip because of the easiness of the way.

The way to judge is simple: if it is good and inviteth to follow Christ then it is from God, if it is bad and enticeth to do evil it is of the Devil. So how can I tell if I'm being guided? If I am moving closer to God. Mormon teaches us this principle. We read: "Wherefore, all things which are agood cometh of God; and that which is bevil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to csin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do agood continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and benticeth to do cgood, and to love God, and to serve him, is dinspired of God." (Moroni 7:12-13) Simple enough?

I'm thankful for this counsel. Through it I can find hope as I strive to make correct decisions. Even though some decisions are hard, God will support us as we strive to find him in our lives. I know that when we follow God we become happier and we can see his influence in our lives. Through these results we can know that something is from God. As we live the gospel we see the progress of our journey. In order to know for yourself, you must do it.

I invite everyone to come unto Christ and find out for yourself that these things are true. Joseph Smith was a prophet. Jesus Christ lives today. He is our Savior and Redeemer. There is life after death. Only through the Gospel can we experience the fullest measure of joy in this life and eternal life in the next.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

There is Hope Smiling Brightly Before Us

The recent tsunami that hit Japan causes us to despair. It is difficult to see such destruction. Nature isn't always kind. With so much death and turmoil it is easy to get discouraged and suffer a loss of hope. This event didn't just affect those who passed away in the crashing wave. It affects us all.

Other events in our lives may cause us to lose hope. Whether it be a death in the family or even as simple as failing an exam. For me it is my own individual weaknesses. I lose hope because I doubt that I have the ability to help others. I lose hope because I doubt that I can overcome a difficult event in my life. Loss of hope affects us in many ways. Without hope we lose faith. We can become selfish and our life begins to spiral downward.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Almost Is Not Enough

Right before I came on my mission I found out that I had Celiacs disease. The only cure: don't eat food containing Gluten! I did just that. I gave up Gluten in my diet, or so I thought. I have recently discovered that my Celiacs disease restricts me more than I thought. I couldnt believe all the stuff that Gluten is in. At first I was reluctant to eliminate all the foods I was supposed to be avoiding. I have already given up everything that I used to enjoy and now I was asked to give up even more. It was difficult to act even though I was promised that I would feel healthier once I kept the diet. I didnt feel like my health was too bad anyways. I was feeling great. At the constant nagging of my companion, however, I was convinced to go all the way.

The results were not immediate. I woke up the next day and felt the same as I normally did. If it werent for my companion I would have quit right then and there, but I kept living the diet. After a couple of days my health began to improve. I began to feel more energized and the complexion in my face began to change. I could think clearer and it was much easier to concentrate. Because I went Gluten free all the way I have been blessed with great health and I'm much happier.

There is always something more we can be doing in life to draw us closer to our Heavenly Father. While on this earth we all suffer from spiritual Celiacs. We all are alergic to sin. Whenever we make a bad choice we poison ourselves and our spirits are grieved. The cure: stop making bad choices because "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10)

When I go shopping for food I dont buy food with Gluten in it. Common sense right? Similarly one way to avoid sin is to not surround yourself with temptation. If you place yourself in a situation where you will be tempted you are in essence shopping for food that you are allergic to. That doesnt make much sense does it? So don't move yourself into a position where the adversary has home court advantage.

Also, the longer I'm Gluten free the more I know what I can and cant eat. Thus, the longer you avoid sin the easier it is for you to make correct choices. Through experience we can learn right from wrong.

Before I choose to eat anything I first look at the labels to see if there is anything in my food that contains Gluten. Before you make any decision you should look to the scriptures and the words of the prophets. They are the labels for our lives. They teach us the commandments and how to live a happy life. Through them we can know what is good for us and what is bad for us. Aren't you grateful God put a label on life so we can see the ingredients! It would be foolish not to look at them. If in doubt, search the scriptures.

Reccounting my recent experience we sometimes may not feel the difference immediately. The commandments are the same way. Righteousness is a lifelong pursuit. The longer we live the commandments the stronger we become. Richard G. Scott of the 12 Apostles stated: "A consistent, righteous life produces an inner power and strength that can be permanently resistant to the eroding influence of sin and transgression." The longer I live my diet the better I feel. You may not feel the difference at first, but the blessings do come.

I'm so thankful that I've found out that I have this disease. I was sick but I didnt know it. So many people are sick and they dont know the cure. My whole life I ate things with Gluten. I lived with it. Life was good. Nevertheless, I still had Celiacs. Thats something I can never deny. Had I kept eating like that I would have suffered permanent damage. Everyone needs to know they are sinning. It is so important. If they dont find out they will suffer because they know not the truth.

For those who think they can choose to live only certain commandments you are damaging yourself spiritually. Gluten is Gluten no matter what it is in. Almost living the diet is not enough. I'm still poisoning myself. It is the same with Sin. It is so important to strive to live all the commandments. We forfiet the blessings when we choose not to live certain commandments.

I hope we all choose to live the Celiac way and keep the diet. Avoid sin. Choose to live righteously. I know that as you do you will be happy and you will recognize more and more the importance of keeping the commandments.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Come Follow Me"

Jesus Christ is such an important part of my life. I've realized as a missionary the impact His life has had on the world. He is the only Begotten of the Father. He is full of grace and truth. He is the Holy Messiah. As I look back on my life I am so grateful for this knowledge. I love Him for what he has done for all of us. I know that through Him I can be cleansed from my sins. Through Him I have received peace and happiness. I have a hope for eternal life because I know that through Jesus Christ I can return to live with God.

My relationship with Christ has grown as I have read the Book of Mormon. It teaches clearly what Jesus Christ has done for us and what he expects from us. Within the Book of Mormon is the "fullness of the everlasting Gospel" (Intro). It is taught so simply that no one can misunderstand. With this additional testament of Jesus Christ we know more fully that, "Without the grace and mercy made possible by His Atonement, we could not be saved from sin."( This doctrine is taught so simply within the pages of this book.

Recorded in the Book of Mormon is Christ's personal ministry amongst the people that lived in America. He taught His disciples there that, "No unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel." (3 Nephi 27:19-21) It is taught plainly there what we need to do to return to live with God.

Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon actually witnessed in vision the baptism of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem almost 600 years before Christ was born. He explains why this was shown to him, "for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost."(2 Nephi 31: 17) The Book of Mormon is flooded with simple doctrinal truths such as this.

We can learn through the scriptures that everyone needs to enter in at the gate by being baptized so that they can recieve a remission of their sins through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I'm so thankful to know the simplicity of the Gospel. Our decision to follow Christ must be coupled with baptism by authority in order for one to recieve a remission of sins! Jesus Christ taught the importance of this authority clearly when he visited the people in the America's. He also taught the manner in which people were to be baptized. We read:

"I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven. And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water." (3 Nephi 11: 21-26)

I'm so thankful to have the Book of Mormon in these last days to help me to understand what I need to do to be cleansed from my sins. I know that through Jesus Christ we can be cleansed from all sin as we obey His Gospel. The first step in that being repentance and baptism. That's the gate. That is where it all begins. No one can fully enjoy the blessings of Jesus Christ's Atonement until they are baptized by someone holding the authority of Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful to know that this authority is again on the earth. I'm so grateful for the infinite wisdom of my Savior and my Redeemer: Jesus Christ. The way to eternal life is prepared, the gate is narrow, and the path is straight.

To learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ click on this link.

To learn more about the authority to baptize click on this link.