Thursday, January 29, 2015

Trust Like a Child

When Jesus Christ invites us to be childlike there is much more to that commandment than what initially meets the eye. One thing that has always inspired me about children is their ability to trust. They firmly believe that their parents will provide for their needs and they happily enjoy their lives never giving another thought as to whether or not there will be food on the table. Our Heavenly Father in many ways is hoping to have a very similar relationship with us.

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?... Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day isthe evil thereof." 
(Matthew 6:25,30-34)
He wants us to be able to focus our efforts and our energy on those things in this life that are going to bring us lasting joy. He has promised that if we humbly obey that he will provide for our every need. However, it seems to me that many good people are trying to do what they can to obey the commandments and to serve our Heavenly Father, but they wont let themselves trust his divine promises by allowing the burdens of guilt and worry to weigh them down, rather than letting a profound sense of peace prevail in their lives from day to day.

What I have found is that the times that I have been most happy on my mission here in Jacksonville, FL where when I was simply laboring away in the Lord's vineyard and not worrying about how I was going to obtain or accomplish the things that Lord has already promised to provide or complete. Just the other day I was reading from the book of Enos in the Book of Mormon and the following verse really stuck out to me.

"And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away." 
(Enos 1:6)
I am constantly amazed at the simple childlike faith that is demonstrated in this simple verse. The absolute trust in God. Guilt can be among the heaviest burdens that people will carry in the lives, and to know that in an instant that this burden was removed by simply trusting the words of a loving Heavenly Father is such a profound example to all of us. It is helpful for all of us to remember the following words of comfort.

"¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

(Matthew 11:28-30) 

I want to bear my simple testimony that if we will trust God when he promises to provide and simply lose ourselves in the service of others that the burden of worry and guilt can be removed from our shoulders, and we will be able to experience greater joy in the daily walk of this mortal probation. I know these things to be true and I know that Jesus is The Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photographs are courtesy of

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Damage Control

I would like to discuss the simple principle of obedience, and to help us understand more fully what purpose it serves. It is not uncommon for a person to honestly ask, 'why is it that God gives so many commandments'? First and foremost a person must understand that God loves every person that walks on this earth. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..." (John 3:16) To drive the point home even more, look around, see this beautiful world around us that God has created for us. Every single flower, every leaf, and animal is an expression of God's love for us. He could have left this world baron and boring, but He didn't because He loves us. This pure love is the driving force behind God's work and His glory, which is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) God loves us, and He desires our immortality and eternal life, surely all that He has commanded us to do is only intended to bring about that desired outcome, right? Absolutely. That probably seems obvious, but it is amazing how quickly we as His children seem to forget that.

In order to more fully demonstrate his love for us, our savior, Jesus Christ, has given us commandments to keep us safe from the destructive dangers that await the unwise. Consider the Savior's words to Simon (Peter): "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." (Luke 22:31) Just as Satan desired to have Simon he also desires to have us. He knows how much potential we have, and the last thing he wants is for us to become who God wants us to become.

In order to stop us from reaching that potential Satan tempts us to commit sin. He fills our head with lies that lead into slippery paths. His temptations are rarely dramatic and they appeal to our weaknesses. Far too often people allow themselves to be tempted to such a great degree that they fall victim to the adversary. In order to keep us safe though, our loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ gave us guidelines (commandments) on how to be safe in this life.

If you want strength against the temptations of this world and if you want peace then all you have to do is obey the commandments and your life will be filled with joy. It will still be difficult and you will still have trials, but you will always have joy. On the other hand, if you disregard the commandments God cannot help you and you will succumb to the many temptations that surround us. You will never reach your potential, and you life will be filled with much sadness and misery. As the prophet Alma said, "wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10)

It honestly is that simple. I know that it is because as I have lived the commandments I have experienced an increase of joy that is unlike anything else. On top of that, it is lasting and as long as I am obedient it will never leave me. I have come to learn more powerfully than ever before that my Heavenly Father loves me and knows me personally. I challenge you to find ways how you can be more obedient to the commandments of God so that you can experience that same joy. There in lies true happiness.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness

It is amazing to see how much desire affects everything we do. I have come to realize that the only way to remain strong in the gospel is to have the right desires. It seems that many fall off the path of righteousness because the desires of their hearts are elsewhere. Whenever we desire something more than we desire to do the will of God we will naturally fall subject to diverse temptations.

Consider the parable of the great supper (Luke 14:16-24) in regards to the topic of self-denial. If we want to be part of the great supper at the last day we have to be willing to set aside things that may be honorable in of themselves, but are far less important than the things of god. How often do we allow ourselves to get caught up in having a greater desire to complete daily chores or other tasks more so than our responsibilities to our Lord who has so kindly invited us to partake of his goodness?

Something important to keep in mind however is that our God will never give a commandment unto the children of men that will not result in greater happiness for those who choose to follow. The adversary works hard to manipulate the perspective of men and women and by making sin look like a source of joy. The prophet Alma speaks plainly on this topic, "...wickedness never was happiness..." (Alma 41:10)

That leaves us with one question, how do we change our desires? I heard a story once of an old Apache man who told his grandson that in every man their is a fight between a good wolf and a bad wolf. The good wolf is love, selflessness, charity, humility, and meekness. The bad wolf is hate, selfishness, anger, envy, and pride. The boy than asked his wise grandfather, 'which wolf wins'? The man responded with, 'the one you feed.'

The good wolf represents our spirits which are of God, and the bad wolf represents the flesh which is of this earth and is susceptible to temptation. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) If we want to change our desire and align it to the will of god we must feed the good wolf. We can feed it through small and consistent acts of submission to the will of God such as daily prayer and scripture study, weekly church attendance, and service. As we do this our desire to serve god will continue to grow until the day that we are perfected in Christ.
 "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God."
 -Moroni 10:32-

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Labor of Love

If you desire to overcome the weakness within you, if you want improve your relationship with another, and if you would like to grow closer to Jesus Christ, then lose yourself in the service of others.

"Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
--John 13:13-15

The example that Christ has set is that of selfless service to others. As in all other cases, we would do well to follow his example.

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
--Luke 9:24

As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we will find that our true selves will begin to shine through and that we will have overcome our weaknesses. Of that I can bear testimony for as I have lost myself in the service of the people here, I find myself transforming into the man that I want to become.

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"

--Matthew 5:44

Serving others can improve the worst of relationships, notice how The Lord commanded us to "do good to those that hate you." As we follow the Savior's profound counsel we will find ourselves being filled with Charity (the pure love of Christ) towards those very people we used to harbor hard feelings against. Over time as we continue to serve, just as Ammon demonstrated (Alma 17) the hearts of people who once hated us will soften, and they will become our closest friends.

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."  
--Mosiah 2:17

Just as serving others brings us closer to them, so it is with God. If we want to serve God then we must serve others and we will find that not only we will make friends on Earth, but we will make friends in Heaven.
A local member of the church, Br. Crews, shared at Stake Conference that for him love stands for, " Lots Of Voluntary Effort." Service is a labor of love, and as the Holy Bible tells us, we shall reap what we sow, or in other words, we shall be filled with love as we labor in love. I found it to be rather heart-warming when I discovered while writing this that the prophets message this month in the ensign was about service, and from him I quote,

“I believe, the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish--and in effect save their lives.”
-- Thomas S Monson

Service truly is the key to a happier life, a lesson only learned from experience. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Beautiful Simplicity

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

-Leonardo DaVinci

I so often hear men and women alike reminisce about the simplicity they once had as a child, and the freedom that came along with such simplicity in life. As children we don't have to worry about paying bills, putting food on the table, or making deadlines for work and school, often the only concern a child has --at least it was the only concern I had as a child-- is simply, what fun thing will I do today? Or in other words, what thing can I do today that will make me happy? Often times they complete that objective. It seems to me that adults, young and old, get so caught up with worrying that they never consider how they can be happy that day. Another mistake that adults seem to make is that they confuse complexity and being busy with the true source of happiness, that being simplicity and balance. I would like to help anyone who reads this realize what they can do to bring that simplicity back into our lives regardless of our circumstances. 

Now please understand, I don't want to create any confusion, when I suggest that we bring simplicity back into our lives I am not suggesting that we become simple minded, nor that we should be ignorant to the responsibility that comes with growing up. However, it continually becomes clearer to me that simplicity is a result of greater understanding, i.e. the more we understand the simpler things become. As President John Taylor put it, "It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself, and to unfold and simplify it so that a child can understand it." (The Gospel Kingdom, Sel. G. Durham (1943), 270) Going along with that line of thinking, would it not stand to reason that the more we understand about life and the purpose of it the simpler it would become?

That is where religion comes in. Ever wonder why people who are faithful to their religion seem happier? Now you know. Perhaps the reason many people are drawn to religion is because they feel like it provides answers to the purpose of life, on that same note, perhaps the reason many people are separating themselves from religion is because they feel like the answers that many churches provide are not adequate enough to calm a worried soul. All in all, people want answers to the purpose of life. Answers that will simplify their lives, and that quench the thirst of a person who is earnestly seeking for a glass of pure understanding.

I want to assure you that the right answers are in fact out there, answers that embody all that we yearn for. That is the unique message that we as missionaries share with the world; we proclaim to the world that the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ has once again been restored to earth in its fullness. This message will bring simplicity into your life of that I can testify. It does that because the Gospel in and of itself is simply beautiful and beautifully simple. In fact, that is the pure genius of the Gospel, that it is so simple that even a child can understand it. That fact alone is also a demonstration of God's love for us, as Gerald Causse put it, "God would indeed be unjust if the gospel were accessible only to an intellectual elite." Let us not reject this loving gift from our Heavenly Father by overly complicating our lives, or "looking beyond the mark." (Jacob 4:14)

The more I understand about the Gospel of Jesus Christ the more I have come to realize that there is nothing complicated about it. It is a simple answer to the great questions of life, and the deeper we dig the simplicity continues to remain a constant unchanging characteristic. All the while, greater understanding helps us transform the complicated algorithms of our lives into simple arithmetic.

If you are someone who is looking for more simplicity in their life, and you have never fully considered the wonderful message that we teach than feel free to click on one of the links above, shoot me a message on Facebook, or wave down one of the local Mormon missionaries when you see them. I promise that if you do, you will not regret it, and that it would give you the simplicity, balance, and joy that I know we all want in life; you will finally be able to get back to the mindset of, "what fun thing will I do today"? Of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't Look Back, Look Up.

I am personally an advocate of the fact that if you want to change you definitely do not have to wait for the new year to begin. In fact, don't wait at all, do so immediately rather than continuing to live your life at its less than maximum capacity. However, I am grateful that someone had the idea to set a deadline that would convince millions of people to make the changes they should have made months ago. Maybe we should try to start a tradition of doing new months resolutions, that would really help pick up the pace, but I digress.

For a lot of people who go about making a new years resolution (NYR) at least some level of thought is put into it. Nevertheless, many NYRs are set almost mindlessly as people write down goals of losing weight and getting out more. While these are in fact worthwhile endeavors, I have witnessed the mass of people of all shapes and sizes that begin to flood the weight room every January, the frustration of which is eased by the fact that I know that crowd levels will return to normal as soon as February comes--sometimes even sooner-- demonstrating the all to common fact that a lot of people have a poor resolve to change. So, what is it that makes the difference between a determined person and one in the opposing category?

I will attempt to answer this question by first making a reference to the classic motion picture, Disney's Mulan. One of my favorite songs in that movie is called something along the lines of, "A Girl Worth Fighting For." In this song the soldiers all sing of a girl who would motivate them to fight with honor, or in other words they speak of what motivation would give them a greater resolve to conquer. What makes the difference in someones determination or resolve is there motivation. Sometimes in our lives it is a beautiful child of God that motivates us to be better people, but that only lasts as long as that person shows us some interest. While it is a good motivator for a moment may I suggest a better source of motivation. The motivation I speak of is the love for God. When you do anything out of love for another person, it only lasts as long as that love is being reciprocated, so the fact that God's love for us is unconditional and unfailing makes it a great place to ground our actions.

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer suffered and died for everyone of us. He did this so that if we would come unto him, then He could remove the burdens of our sins and help us back on the path of Eternal Life. While some people trudge through life carrying the weight of their mistakes upon their back, Christ has a showed us a more excellent way to becoming the people we want to be. After the extreme expression of love that Christ showed unto us, should we not respond by showing our love and adoration for Him?

So, how do we go about showing our love for God? Consider the clear and concise council given by Christ himself, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Not only has Christ granted unto us the ability to change, but he has also showed us what we can change. As we strive to live the commandments we will not be left uncertain as to what we can do to become better people, and not only that, but Christ will also help us as we strive to live according to His will.

As you approach the start of this new year and as you review/create your NYR consider the motivation behind the goals that you have set. If you find that you are not changing out of love for God by resolving to live his commandments consider revising them. If you make your new years resolution to live the commandments of God, whether that be in the form of living the Lord's law of health of that of loving our neighbors, your heart will be filled with love and an undying motivation to change. Let Christ be your strength and your support so that this year the changes will be permanent, not just fleeting. It is my prayer that this year we usher in lasting positive changes into our lives as we change for God, and with God. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Pictures are courtesy of

Friday, December 20, 2013

Once And For All

I personally find it to be beyond incredible that the most influential person in the world was born in a manger. Despite the humble circumstances of His birth, Jesus Christ has brought hope and joy into the lives of an innumerable host of God's children and continues to do so 2,000 years after his birth. Though I may have never met the Prince of Peace in this life, and I may not have been with the Son of Man on the Mount of Transfiguration, I know now as surely as I would have if I saw the Man Of Sorrows hanging on the cross, that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of my soul. I have been filled with his peace and love as I have prayed in earnest communion with my God for a remission of my sins; I have felt the comfort of his spirit as I have pondered in his Holy House, the Temple of God, and I know that he knows me by name and he has felt my pain. My testimony has come to me slowly and progressively over time, but it has come to the point that I do not doubt that I am living the life that my Heavenly Father would have me live.

Three things in particular have carried my faith to the point that it is at right now. The first would be the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. The Second is the joy and happiness that fills my heart and soul as I live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and go to the temple. The third would be how as I ask questions and as I study all aspects of science I find that all truth completely agrees with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would like to elaborate on those particular aspects of my testimony.

There is a promise given by the prophet Moroni roughly 1600 years ago. It is found in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon. It is as follows,
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
That is a powerful challenge with an incredible promise. It got to the point in my life that I felt that I needed to take Moroni's challenge. As I read the Book of Mormon I felt the spirit of God enter into my life, pre-preemptively testifying of the truthfulness of that Book. Finally I found myself in the shoes of Joseph Smith escaping to the very same grove of trees to approach my Father in humble prayer. As I prayed I didn't receive a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, but rather I felt the burning of the Spirit in my heart and to my mind came the comforting words, you know that these things are true, now see that you do them. From that point on I have never once doubted the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and I never will doubt it because it truly is the words of Jesus Christ.

My next experience is that of Joy and Happiness. My great-great-great grandfather, Alfred Cordon joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Liverpool, England shortly after the first missionaries arrived in the country. I had the opportunity to read his journals and to hear in his own words the story of his conversion, and the point he truly knew that the church was true without any doubt. Due to the nature of his story I will keep it brief and scarce in detail. I will say that it was in December and only six months after he had joined the church, and shortly after he had been ordained to the office of Elder. It was a scary night in which the life of his beloved wife, Emma, was threatened. The Devil saw that my grandpa was weak during this emotionally and mentally difficult time. He proceeded to cast doubt upon his mind filling his head with hopeless lies. My grandpa writes of a mental battle that took place throughout the night. As he reached the early morning when the world was awaking, he began to be filled with the strength as he recounted the joy and happiness that the Gospel had brought into his life. He reasoned that something that brought such beautiful joy into his life had to be true, and it must be of God. With the dawn of a new day arose a new man filled with the Spirit of God. With faith and confidence he blessed his wife with the authority of God that he held and she was healed that morning. Similarly to my great-great-great grandfather I too have experienced a life changing joy that fills my souls and calms my mind with the knowledge that what I am doing is right and is pleasing to the eye of God.

The way I look at life is that I will search for all truth and embrace it. Truth is true regardless of the source from whence it sprang (I think that is a quote I heard once). In this church you are not discouraged against asking questions in fact it is encouraged. As I have delved into the depth of understanding and pierced the veil of common knowledge I have found that the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been restored by Joseph Smith, is taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is found in the Book of Mormon is beautiful, complete, and perfect. You will receive answers to questions of your soul that will resonate with the cords of truth that form the foundation of your religious testimony. I am eager to learn and grow in the gospel and for the answers that I will continue to receive on my path to enlightenment. Which fittingly is a bright path full of confidence because I know that answers will come and it will meticulously agree with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I still have much life ahead of me and many trying experiences that will grow my testimony. I look forward to the trials ahead knowing that if I remain faithful I will be delivered from them all in due time, and that God will mold me into more of a man than I ever could be come on my own.  I want it to be known once and for all, forever and always, that I am a Disciple of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that I will remain faithful to his divine cause for the rest of my life. I know that Jesus is the Christ and I know that through him we can receive a fullness of joy. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.