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. 

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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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Lamb of God

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."

Isaiah 53:7

The other day I had a very powerful scripture study when I came across the before mentioned verse. It struck me quite powerfully as I recalled something that one of my professors of religion in college shared with me. A portion of his life was dedicated to the humble work of raising sheep, which unavoidably leads to bringing them to the slaughter. He said that a unique thing about a lamb is it will not struggle or cry as you kill it. Other animals would struggle and cry as they realize what is about to happen to them, but a lamb never will.

How much more profound now is the metaphor of a lamb to the slaughter as a representation for our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The whole time he was suffering for our sins, he never once raised a word in protest, but rather he humbly said, "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) Willingly subjecting himself to suffering he never deserved, but doing so to demonstrate his unimaginable love for each and every one of us.

"...he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
Alma 7:11-12 

Having been the lamb, and experiencing all the suffering that such entailed, He is now the shepherd, and with perfect understanding He asks us to follow Him. He knows full well some of the afflictions that we may experience because of our allegiance to His will; Christ even tells His disciples, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." (Matthew 10:16) Jesus Christ understands that worthwhile endeavors are not easily accomplished, but He is the good shepherd and He knows what is best for His sheep. He suffered much to be able to know to succor (or help) his people in our times of need. 

"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture... I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

John 10:9,11

All that Christ asks us to do is to be like Him. Reinforcing that point, Christ tells His Twelve Disciples in the Ancient Americas, "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am." (3 Nephi 27:27) Similarly He tells His Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem, "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15) Christ is the way! He is the only way! So, let us come unto Christ by doing as He would do. The blessings are immeasurable, and the path is possible. Of that we can have a sure hope because of the sacrifice of our Lord and Shepherd, The Lamb of God. 

"He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

Isaiah 40:11

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