Thursday, November 28, 2013

It Hurts So Good

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"
1 Corinthians 4:17 

As strange as it may sound we should be grateful for our trials and afflictions. That is what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. As I look back on the short life I lived thus far, some of the most profound and life changing lessons that have shaped me into the man I am today happened at my lowest points; A time when I was finally desperate enough to hear and act. To hear the hard answer that God had been trying to give me, and act on that answer. Those trials taught me to rely on and trust God, and through him I became stronger than I ever was before. Trials mold us, trials shape us, and trials strengthen us so that we can stand against the winds of adversity. Just as a muscle never grows stronger without stress that causes it to tear, neither will we ever grow without adversity and trials that tear us down so we can grow stronger. I encourage all of you this wonderful Thanksgiving to be grateful for the trials in your life, and recognize them for the wonderful blessing that they are.

 "...we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Romans 5:3-5 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Be The Light

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

"Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him."


It is a tricky thing to do in life, to be the light that Christ asks us to be, to always be directing the attention of our righteous actions upward to God. To me, it always seems that if you try your best to be a diligent disciple of Jesus Christ that often people will praise you rather than God. Is that a bad thing to be complimented for our hard work though? Definitely not. There is nothing wrong with being grateful for praise, but we should make a point to always direct the praise upward to God, to whom credit is warranted. That is the most important part of it all, that we give the glory to our Father in Heaven, not to ourselves.

King Benjamin, a wise prophet-king in the Book of Mormon, helps put all of this in perspective while helping us understand why we really have no reason to boast of ourselves. In an address to all the people in the kingdom he gives the following bit of advice as part of his sermon/talk:

"...I say, if ye should serve [God] with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and... if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."  
(Mosiah 2:21-25) 

I heard a story about two doctors once that helps to illustrate the principle I am hoping to convey. The two had the same level of education, they were experts in the same field, and both had just successfully completed a very risky surgery. The first man basked in the praise that others gave him constantly making mention to the hours he slaved away in medical school to earn such a valuable skill. The second doctor though, while grateful for the compliments, took no thought to mention himself however; instead, he gave thanks to God for blessing him with the ability to successfully complete the surgery.

In all that we do we should remember where are blessings come from. I believe that one of the profound lessons that a missionary learns is how much we truly rely on the Lord. We cannot successfully preach His gospel without His divine assistance. I have tried, it doesn't work. No matter how eloquent we make our lessons, no matter how meticulously we plan out the day, and no matter how much we know, nothing would get done without His hand in the work. As soon as I start to take the credit for successes that I have experienced the Lord lovingly reminds me with a nice chastening. As soon as I am humble enough to recognize that it has nothing to do with me, He once again reaches out in love to open the flood gates of blessings.

Christ, like with all other virtues, was a stellar example of giving the praise to our Heavenly Father. As Christ points out in the great intercessory prayer, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17:5) Christ spent his entire mortal ministry engaged in the work of bringing the souls of men to our Heavenly Father. A work for which he received much praise of man. Man will do as they will, but it is our job to always remain humble and only seek to glorify the Father through our word and deed. As we follow the example of Jesus Christ and truly humble ourselves to the reality that we are nothing without our loving Heavenly Father, then we can do all things through him and be the light that Christ has asked us to be.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Instrument of Our Spirits

 My inspiration for this post comes from the following quote by Elder Melvin J. Ballard (1873–1939), a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The body that has been given to us was for the purpose of allowing the spirit to exalt itself to a nobler condition. The lightning that is seen flashing from cloud to cloud, from mountain top to mountain top, is an electrical force that may tear down buildings, set fire to property, and destroy life. Conduct electricity through the dynamo wire, and motor, and behold its wonderful results working for the service of man, accomplishing something under the control of a physical instrument, it thus becomes a power for good. So with steam, if allowed to evaporate freely it does little good, but restrain it in the boiler, send it through the engine, and under its power you may travel across the continent or sail from shore to shore. And so, too, with this highest, most potent of all spiritual forces, the intelligence that is in man; enshrine it in a spiritual body, that it may have the experiences of spiritual life; and then give it a physical body, that it may enter into and obtain the joy and experiences of physical life, and you have enlarged its powers immeasurably” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1912, 107).
One of the most important, and unique doctrines of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is the understanding of the everlasting significance of our bodies. It is widely misunderstood in mainstream Christianity that the body is evil, and a reward of heaven is that we get to discard these worthless tabernacles of sin. That couldn't be more wrong. Hence, why it is such an incredible blessing to have the truth explained and revealed to us in our modern age through living prophets of God.

A very potent truth that emphasizes the importance of our bodies is the fact that our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ both have bodies of flesh and bone-- a point that Christ himself went to great lengths to prove. When the risen Lord appeared to his chosen Apostles he said, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 39:24) and he drove the point home by eating in front of them fish and a honeycomb.

When our Savior appeared to the people living in the Americas, he bid them to know for themselves that he truly had a body of flesh and bone when he invited them saying, "Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world." (3 Nephi 11:14)

And we learn that Christ will keep his body and will never again be seperated from it in Romans 6:9 when it says, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."

Having a body is necessary for our eternal growth and development. If it wasn't so then Christ would not have been resurrected with a body. In fact, getting a body was part of the very purpose of our mortal existance. And when you combine the body and the spirit of a man you have his soul, the complete whole of who that invidual is. When we are absent of either half we are very much incomplete. The loss of our spirit is the loss of our essence, while the loss of our body is the loss of our substance. Or as Boyd K. Packer put it, "Your body really is the instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character." (2000, October General Conference)

Our spirits are of God and are perfect, but our bodies are of the dust and are subject to many imperfections. God communicates and influences man through our spirits, while Satan attempts to make us subject to the bonds of misery through the misuse of our bodies. In order for us to achieve our potential and get the most out of our mortal existence we must let our spirit take over. Such is the nature of the advice of Jesus to Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:5-6)

We must let our spirits take control just as a jockey must take control of his horse. If we let Satan convince us to misuse our bodies it is like a jockey who cannot take care of his horse, and that Jockey will never collect a first place trophy. In order to let our spirits take over we must do what Alma tells his son Shiblon, that is to, "bridle all [our] passions." (Alma 38:12) When we bridle all our passions we turn those wild unbroken mustangs into thorough bred stallions. That comes from have a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It comes from keeping ourselves well groomed thus showing respect for the temples that God has given us. All of that and more is why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has standards for health (Word of Wisdom) and well being (Law of Chastity). These standards that we given to us by God have always existed and are intended to help us live our lives at a higher, happier level.

I know that living this way will strengthen us spiritually and help us reach our fullest potential. Just as the music from a well-maintained instrument is beautiful in contrast to the horrific noise that comes from an out-of-tune, worn-out windpipe, so will it be with our lives if we maintain the instrument of our spirits. I know these things to be true and say them in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Picture/video Sources: (from top)