Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prayer and Scripture Study

I have been reflecting lately about my commitment to follow my Savior Jesus Christ. This was sparked primarily by Church on Easter Sunday. As a missionary Easter took on a different meaning to me. Each week as I partake of the sacrament I am reminded of his sacrifice. I truly appreciated his suffering and death on the Cross. This made me feel at peace knowing that he has felt as I have felt. It is such a great expression of love. Easter this year reminded me not just of his sacrifice but of his Ressurection. He overcame all things, including death. This brings me joy knowing that if I follow him to the end I too can overcome all things. I can be held, "guiltless before my Father" at that day when I will stand before Christ to be judged (3 Nephi 27:16). That is the hope that keeps me going.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Vacaville Saints

Well since I am leaving Vacaville tomorrow I have decided to write today about the people of Vacaville who have been angels in my life. Miracles have happened every day. I list only a few of the many that I have been blessed to witness and be a part of in my short stay with the Vacaville Saints.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Can I Know?

"We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost."

As missionaries this witness from the Holy Ghost is the central focus of our teaching. We teach with the hope that "power of the Holy Ghost" will carry our message "unto the hearts of the children of men" (2 Nephi 33:1). One way this happens is when those we teach seek earnestly to know the truth of what we teach by asking God. "No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer"(PMG 39). He is the author of all truth.

Jesus taught "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."(Luke 11:9) The invitation is there. All who seek to know of truth can find answers. The only requirement is that they ask of God. "In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts. Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. (PMG 39)" I have felt such feelings in my life. As we dilligently seek we will learn to recognize the answers to our prayers. God will teach us.

"As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration. Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him." (PMG 39)

We have a unique message for the world. God has reached out in love to restore His gospel through a living prophet. This is true. I testify that it is. I have come to know for myself that God and Jesus Christ did indeed appear to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. I know this because I have asked God. I have read the Book of Mormon. I know that it is true. The Spirit has born witness to me of this truth. I invite everyone to do the same and I promise as a servant of Jesus Christ that you will have the same results. God will hear your prayers and you will know for yourself. You will desire to know all you can about the Restoration.

Do you have the courage to ask, seek, and knock?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Broken Bow

Why do bad things happen to good people? Now that is a question for the soul that I have often pondered to myself. Do bad things happen in my life? You bet they do. Daily. I'm so grateful for these experiences. I know that they all happen for a reason. Everyone goes through difficult times. However, what we do because of them defines who we are. When it comes to trials, there are no accidents. I take comfort knowing that we will not be tried above that which we are able to bear (1 Cor 10:13). As I studied the scriptures this morning I discovered the answer to that question of the soul.
I was reading in the Book of Mormon about Nephi and an experience he had while he was traveling through the wilderness with his family. Back then there were no Safeways nearby so they had to hunt and forage for their food. The way they hunted was by bow and arrow. No guns or lazer scopes back then. Nephi had the best bow though. His was made from "fine steel". His brothers bows were pretty worn out. They relied on the use of his bow to get food. Without his bow they were stranded in the wilderness without any way of getting anything to eat. One day while hunting something unfortunate happened. Nephi broke his bow.

Why would God allow that to happen? Now they cant get any food and they'll starve. Was he doing anything wrong? Not at all. In fact the family was doing everything right. They followed the Lord when He told them to leave Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2). They went back to retrieve the plates (1 Nephi 3). They left all their posessions behind to follow the Lord. Something bad had happened to good people.

Nephi reccounts how they reacted "And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord." (1 Nephi 16: 20) On the other hand, here is how Nephi reacted: "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?" (1 Nephi 16:23). Nephi was then shown where to go to obtain food and he "did slay wild beasts" and obtained food for his family.

We have two choices when responding to bad things. One is to murmur and complain. The other is to buckle up and act. We decide what happens as a result of the trials that are placed in front of us. Had Nephi and his family all murmured and complained they would have perished in the wilderness. However, because Nephi chose to remain calm and did what he could with what was given the family lived to reach the promised land.

Yes bad things happen to good people. How they react is what defines them as good people. There is opposition in all things. Just because we choose the right does not mean we are exempt from trial and sorrow. We are however entitled to divine help and will recieve it as we act in faith to overcome adversity. Through our trials we are refined.

I bear my testimony that the Book of Mormon answers the Questions of the Soul. I know that it is the word of God as is the Bible. I know that through it we can recieve guidance in our own lives and we can overcome our trials. I know that it testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. Through him we can overcome all things.

Order a free Book of Mormon for yourself so that the questions you have in your soul can be answerd.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Greatest Test

I've been hearing a lot from the youth in our ward about this standardized test they have to take this week. Their teachers have been cramming all the material in their classes to prepare them for it. The purpose of this test and any test for that matter is to measure how much students have been learning. A good student prepares dilligently through study and paying close attention in class. A poor student will neglect any work and will show up to the test unprepared. You can guess who will score higher. This is because one put the time in and the other did not. The scores of the tests would thus measure who prepared and learned more.

However, if each student was allowed to have their teacher there with them to help them answer each question things would be a little different. Both would pass with flying colors. Would the scores of this type of test show which student learned and prepared more? This would not be an adequate measure and the purpose of the test would be null and void.

This life is like a test. It is a time given for men to prepare to meet God (Alma 34:32). In this life we are separated from the presence of God. We do not remember our life with Him before we came to Earth nor do we remember our purpose here. We are meant to walk by faith. This is necessary for our growth. This allows for us to learn and progress. A righteous person prepares and studies in order to be ready for the next life. He searches for truth and does all he can to know the will of his Heavenly Father and to understand his purpose here. A wicked person on the other hand chooses not to prepare. They spend their time on worldly pursuit where "moth and rust doth corrupt" (Matthew 6:19). Those who prepare will be happier in this life and will recieve eternal life in the life to come (John 17:3). Those who do not prepare however will forfeit those blessings because they put off the spirit of God (Alma 30:42). If it were any other way the test would be null and void. God would cease to be God (Alma 42).

I know that God has a perfect plan. I testify that this life is the time for men to perform their labors. We are here for a reason. Truth is at our fingertips. There is no excuse for not knowing the things of the Lord. The scriptures are laid before us. We have a prophet for our day. The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. We know what is at stake and we know what Christ expects of us. No one is blameless. With Alma I caution: "And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:33-34)" Let us be like the good student who does all he can to prepare rather than the poor student who doesn't study. It will be worth it when we all stand before Christ to be judged. We will then recieve an accounting of what we did while on our mortal probation.

Good luck on the tests this week Vanden!! I hope ya'll score high. You're all such great students and good examples to me. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fasting and Prayer

The scriptures are full of miracles. I love reading in the Gospels how Christ healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, and the blind to see. Even more miraculous was when he raised Lazarus from the dead. I love in Acts when Peter and the Apostles baptized thousands on the day of the Pentecost. I love reading the stories in the Book of Mormon how Alma the Younger baptized thousands of saints in the surrounding Nephite cities. Even more miraculous was when the Sons of Mosiah baptized thousands of Lamanite converts. These people had been immersed in sin and without God for centuries, yet through the faith of these men the hearts of the Lamanites were changed. I admit that in the past I have wondered where these miracles are today.

All these miracles were wrought by faith (Ether 12, Hebrew 11). Moroni taught us that "the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust." However he extends this promise, "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth (Mormon 9:20-21)" These miracles do happen today. They can happen in our communities and in our families. God is no respector of persons. He works according to the faith of his children.

Our friends can become converted to the gospel. Our communities can embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ. We must act in faith.

There is a story in the Gospel of Mark about a man who was possessed with a devil. The disciples of Jesus tried to cast him out, but they could not. Christ upon seeing this rebukes the evil spirit and commands it to leave. Afterwards his disciples approached him and asked: "Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:28-29)" I know that one way miracles are wrought is just as Christ taught: by much prayer and fasting. This was how the Sons of Mosiah were able to have so much success amongst the Lamanites. (Alma 17:3)

I know that as we join in fasting and prayer for those we love God will provide a way for them to accept the fullness of the Gospel as Restored in these latter days. We must exercise our faith and go and do all we can. Then we must patiently await for the promises of the Lord to be fulfilled. Expect miracles.

Our message is for everyone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Get That Mote Out

I am caused to reflect upon the Saviors teaching about looking inwardly. He taught:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3-5)

We all have weaknesses. I am guilty of judging others and placing expectations upon others. It is not within my power to do such. Who am I to judge another. I'm grateful I can repent and look inwardly. I feel impressed to proclaim that we all should pray to discover the beam that is  within our own eye. I know that as I have strived to look inwardly it shows outwardly in the way that I treat and think of others.