Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Friends and I often joke of the fact that I am a survivor.  Whether it was Lyme disease, totaling my car, or knocking out some teeth after passing out, I know that I have been protected (one might remind me that I totaled my car in an accident where I t-boned a cop).  I also know that there has been a source a comfort that I have found, whether I have recognized its origin or not. 

The truth is that the Atonement and its accompanying grace are infinite and immeasurable.  Although the unlimited nature of the Atonement may appear tritely repeated, we can never completely understand the Atonement because of our human nature.   Our limited power could never endure the pain and suffering that Christ endured. 

Jesus Christ covers everything; He covers the ends of Israel.

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. -Revelation 14:20

A little research can tell us that thousand and six hundred furlongs are equivalent to approximately 200 miles.  200 miles covers the literal geography of Israel and a symbolic geography of all of us and our sins.  The Son of Man has paid for us all.  He bled alone and His blood soaked Israel.  

Jesus Christ is coming.  He tells us in His words:

He which testifieth these things saith, Surley I come quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord quickly.  
-Revelation 22:20

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Exhaling.  It not only feels good to be in an airport with my best friends, it feels good to know that the year is complete and that a new period of transition has begun.  I am lucky to not be the first.  So many others have gone on missions before me, marking the path and returning with advice and assistance to offer.  I have been reminded today of a particular missionary, one who I never met, but one who has still influenced me and inspired me.

Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.

And he hath set you to provide for his saints in these last days, that they may obtain an inheritance in the land of Zion.

And behold, I, the Lord, declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not bail, that they shall obtain it. 

But all things must come to pass in their time.  –Doctrine and Covenants 64: 29-32

This missionary had served honorably in Argentina bringing the truth to the people and working tirelessly in the name of the Lord.  With a family awaiting his return in the coming months, this man lost his life as he was hit by a drunk driver in the Argentina street.  It was not fair, but God’s plan would still be fulfilled; years later his family received a shocking surprise.  This missionary's life had abruptly ended, but his work would be continued by his sister, now called to serve in the same Argentinian mission. 

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  –Ephesians 5:17

The Church is true.  His will be done.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.  –Psalms 72:17

As the US takes a sigh of relief and peace, I, along with many others, can find the time to take an account.  With one final to go and plenty of time to pack my things, I can review my last semester and my ten months at BYU, making a personal inventory of each moment of strain and growth I have learned to endure.  And what blessings I can see, each carefully placed by an understanding and graceful God!  There were many times when so much went wrong, but the few times when everything went right replace all of my experiences of doubt and sadness. 

I am thankful for my school and my professors.  Even though I will not forgive some select universities for placing my name on their waitlists, I have come to clearly understand that this is the time and place for me.

I am thankful for each of my friends, old and new, who make the good days long and the hard days short.  These are the people who exemplify service in the simplest ways. 

I am thankful for the experiences I have enjoyed, academic and recreational, for shaping my thoughts and stretching my ideas.  I am especially thankful for my opportunities to travel to Las Vegas and New York in the past year to meet and serve others. 

As I get ready to return home for my final preparations, I hope that I have been able to assist and positively influence those around me.  I pray that my words and actions have touched others in the manner that the words and actions of others have touched me.

And in the words of my man, Brett Dennen:

I welcome the sun, the clouds and rain, the wind that sweeps the sky clean and lets the sun shine again.
This is the most magnificent life has ever been.
Here is heaven and earth and the brilliant sky in between.

Blessed is this life and I'm gonna celebrate being alive.

I dwell in the darkness; I let in the light.
I sleep in the afternoon and become the noise in the night
I trespass in temptation, suffered in sacrifice, but I awake each day with a new sunrise.

Blessed is this life and I'm gonna celebrate being alive.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Marks of a Man

"As I jumped on board my flight from Miami to Salt Lake City, I paused for a moment to catch my breath. Seated near the front of the plane was an excited young man, probably 19, sitting with his parents. His hair was short and his clothes new and sharp. His suit was fitted perfectly and his black shoes still retained that store bought shine. His body was in good shape, his face clear, and his hands clean. In his eyes I could see a nervous look, and his movements were that of an actor on opening night.

He was obviously flying to Utah to become a missionary for the Mormon Church. I smiled as I walked by and took pride in belonging to this same Church where these young men and women voluntarily serve the Savior for two years. With this special feeling, I continued to the back where my seat was located.
As I sat in my seat, I looked to the right and to my surprise, saw another missionary sleeping in the window seat. His hair was also short, but that was the only similarity between the two. This one was obviously returning home, and I could tell at a glance what type of missionary he had been.

The fact that he was already asleep told me a lot. His entire body seemed to let out a big sigh. It looked as if this was the first time in two years he had even slept, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was. As I looked at his face, I could see the heavy bags under his eyes, the chapped lips, and the scarred and sunburned face caused by the fierce Florida sun.

His suit was tattered and worn. A few of the seams were coming apart, and I noticed that there were a couple of tears that had been hand-sewn with a very sloppy stitch.

I saw the name tag  crooked, scratched and bearing the name of the Church he represented, the engraving of which was almost all worn away. I saw the knee of his pants, worn and white, the result of many hours of humble prayer.

A tear came to my eye as I saw the things that really told me what kind of missionary he had been. I saw the marks that made this boy, a man. His feet - the two that had carried him from house to house, now lay there swollen and tired. They were covered by a pair of worn-out shoes. Many of the large scrapes and gouges had been filled in by the countless number of polishings.

His books - laying across his lap were his scriptures, the word of God. Once new, these books which testify of Jesus Christ and His mission, were now torn, bent, and ragged from use.

His hands - those big, strong hands, which had been used to bless and teach, were now scarred and cut from knocking at doors.

Those were indeed the marks of that man. And as I looked at him, I saw the marks of another man, the Savior, as he was hanging on the cross for the sins of the world.

His feet - those that had once carried him throughout the land during his ministry, were now nailed to the cross.

His side - now pierced with a spear. Sealing his gospel, his testimony with his life.

His hands - the hands that had been used to ordain his servants and bless the sick were also scarred with the nails that were pounded to hang him on the cross.

Those were the marks of that great man.

As my mind returned to the missionary, my whole body seemed to swell with pride and joy, because I knew, by looking at him, that he had served his Master well.  My joy was so great, I felt like running to the front of the plane, grabbing that new, young missionary, and bringing him back to see what he can become, what he can do.  But would he see the things that I saw, could anyone see the things I saw? Or would he just see the outward appearance of that mighty elder, tired and worn out, almost dead.

As we landed, I reached over and tapped him to wake him up. As he awoke, it seemed like new life was entering his body. His whole frame just seemed to fill as he stood up, tall and proud. As he turned his face towards mine, I saw a light about his face that I had never seen before. I looked into his eyes. Those eyes, I will never forget those eyes. They were the eyes of a prophet, a leader, a follower, and a servant. They were the eyes of the Savior. No words were spoken. No words were needed.

As we unloaded, I stepped aside to let him go first. I watched as he walked, slow but steady, tired but strong. I followed him and found myself walking the way that he did. When I came through the doors, I saw this young man in the arms of his parents, and I couldn't hold it any longer.

With tears streaming down my face, I watched these loving parents greet their son who had been away for a short time. And I wondered if our parents in Heaven would greet us the same way. Will they wrap their arms around us and welcome us home from our journey on earth? I believe they will. I just hope that I can be worthy enough to receive such praise, as I'm sure this missionary will.

I said a silent prayer, thanking the Lord for missionaries like this young man. I don't think I will ever forget the joy and happiness he brought me that day."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What has He done for you?

By recognizing the Lord’s hand in our life, we can better understand our purpose and we can assist others in finding theirs.  The answer to the above question will be vastly different for each of God’s children; we are blessed with individuality and we each live in a manner that will lead us to a range of different experiences. 

“It won’t be easy to remember. Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives. Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world.” –Henry B. Eyring
 Read the remainder of Henry B. Eyring's talk here

The Lord is always there.  We are given trials to grow, we experience tribulations, and sometimes our days are simply average.  No matter what the day or the attitude we have, the Lord is ever present, guiding us when we call upon him.  Because of His suffering, we receive blessings, many which we fail to comprehend.
“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” – Deuteronomy 4:9
It is our responsibility to thank God  for our blessings, especially for the suffering of His son.  We should also record these special and frequent moments of aid, sacrifice, and guidance so that we can remind ourselves each day of the outpouring of help we receive by and through Him.  By noting His presence in our lives, we can be led to answer the even greater question:

What can you do for Him?

Monday, April 8, 2013

God Leads a Pretty Sheltered Life

Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly-not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.

"How can God judge us?" someone asked. "How can He know about real suffering?" snapped an old woman. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!"

In another group a black man lowered his collar, "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! My people have been wrenched from loved ones, have suffocated in slave ships, and have been worked like animals till death gave release."

Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in Heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred! Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? "After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life," they said.

So each group sent out a spokesperson, chosen because he or she had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a radiation casualty from the Hiroshima bombing, a prisoner from a Siberian gulag, and on it went. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: Before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God “should be sentenced to live on Earth as a man!”

But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help

Let Him be born a Jew.

Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who His Father was.

Let Him champion a cause so just but so radical that it would bring down upon Him hate and condemnation and cause the leaders of every major religion to seek to eliminate Him.

Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, felt, tasted, heard, or smelled.

Let Him try to communicate God to men.

Let Him be betrayed by one of His dearest friends.

Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.

Let Him see what it is like to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing.

Let Him be tortured, and let Him die the most humiliating death, with common criminals.

As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people assembled before God's throne. But when the last had finished, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew ... God had already served His sentence.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I was able to participate in an interesting survey this past week.  A law student approached me in the library and offered me two dollars in exchange for ten minutes of my time and thoughts.  Although I often charge more for my opinions, I accepted his offer.  The questions were thought-provoking and relevant, ranging from hot topics like traditional marriage to the roles of women within the Church.

The pattern was something like this:
What is your opinion on _________________?
Do you think the Church should allow __________________?
Would your testimony be affected if the church changed or introduced __________________?

My responses were quite typical of a female college student attending a traditional and religious university, but the last question was always difficult to answer.  I wanted to say “no,” but I could not always do so.  If at this General Conference, President Monson made an announcement introducing a doctrine or policy contrary to what I previously believed, my testimony would be affected.  My testimony would be affected because my testimony is mine.

1.  Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not mean that I blindly accept the doctrines taught within scripture and by modern revelation.  I have the right and ability to pray for myself to know if they are true.  I am entitled to my own testimony.

Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not bask for that which you ought not.
 Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.  -Doctrine and Covenants 8:10-11

2. Modern day revelation is a gift and has the potential to change everything.  Things can change but that does not make the truth less true.  A worldwide policy change, received through divine authority, changed my life only a few months ago.  I believe in the true and divine authority of the Prophet and Apostles.   

“In matters large and small, the divine guidance that comes to modern-day apostles and prophets is a magnificent blessing. Revelation moves the Church in accordance with God’s will. Moreover, each individual may enjoy the privilege of having the Holy Ghost testify that this guidance comes from heaven and not from man.” –Elder Larry W. Gibbons

3.  Although the leaders of the Church have the authority to receive revelation on behalf of the Church, I have a personal authority to receive revelation for myself.  This helps me to ensure that the Church is true.  I trust my leaders, but I can also trust my personal feelings when guided by the Spirit.  I can receive my own guidance when I ask God.

           But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
           –Job 32:8

A testimony is a journey.  It is an eternally evolving library of truth we hold in our hearts.  Praying and studying are the active and necessary steps we must take in order to gain the understanding we desire.  A testimony cannot stagnate and we must be always engaged in the process of learning. 

I know that God is our loving Father in Heaven.  I know that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer for me.  God knows me.  Jesus knows me.  The Church is upon the earth and the Gospel and its doctrines are perfect.  

So, to the law student, I would like to add to the response I previously provided:

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.  I know that the leaders of the Church make decisions independent of the current political climate.  They receive revelation independent of the criticism they receive.  The media and public opinion do not exist in the sacred realm of divine authority and inspiration.  My testimony is always changing.  It is always being affected.  It is supposed to be this way.  The ups and downs in the search for truth are growing pains.  The faith and hope I hold protect my beliefs and strengthen my knowledge.  My testimony will never be complete and it will never be finished.