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.