Saturday, July 23, 2011

Children are an heritage of the Lord

Peter Pan is the classic story of a boy who never wanted to grow up. As a kid I thought he had it made. Peter Pan could fly, fought pirates, and never had to take a bath. I have fond memories of pretending to be Peter Pan by flying around my house fighting imaginary pirates with my very own genuine plastic sword.

So you can understand why, as a child, I was so surprised when the movie Hook came out and it showed that Peter Pan had not stayed a carefree boy, but had grown up. He even had a wife and kids! The plot of the movie was that Peter Pan’s arch enemy, Captain Hook, had kidnapped Peter’s children. I won’t spoil the movie for you if you haven’t seen it, but as Peter is trying to rescue his kids he remembers why he grew up and stopped being the carefree Pan.

What was it that could make someone come down to earth, grow up, get a job, and become a responsible adult when he could have continued living a carefree life up in the clouds? Peter’s reason, in his own words was: “I wanted to be a father.”

Peter Pan grew up because his priorities changed and he realized he was missing one of the most priceless experiences in life. Though Peter Pan is a fictional character, I am sure I’m not the only one who can relate to Peter, being willing to leave the carefree days of childhood behind and take on the responsibilities of being married and raising children.

As Latter-day Saints we understand that “children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalms 127:3).

We understand that life is sacred, that having children is a responsibility and a challenge to be sought after, not avoided. We know that families can be together forever and experience a fullness of joy when they have been sealed in the temple and are faithful to the covenants made there.

Yet time passes, life happens, and families and children can feel like very ordinary things. If we are not awake and vigilant with our priorities, our actions will not be those that matter most. It is my hope that each of us will have our priorities reflect what matters most for the good of our children.

1. Ourselves

Of course our first priority for the good of our children is to ourselves. I don’t mean this in a selfish way, but as Elder Ballard taught, “Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children” (Elder Ballard, Ensign, May 2008).

We replenish our well in three ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually.


Physically replenishing ourselves is fairly straightforward, as it centers around taking care of our bodies. How much we sleep, what we eat, and getting some exercise can have profound a profound influence upon how much energy we have. Of course, observing the word of wisdom is vital—what parent of small children does not need the blessing of being able to “run and not be weary, and [to] walk and not faint” (D&C 89:20)?


To replenish ourselves mentally, we need to adopt patterns that keep ourselves mentally healthy. To be clear, I’m not talking about mental disorders, but I’m talking about keeping our minds healthy as we would our bodies. In particular, being negative, unforgiving, and being hard on ourselves are not mentally healthy practices.

Expressing gratitude, being optimistic, and forgiving others can do wonders for our mental health. We like to joke in our family that the key to gratitude—and a happy marriage—is to have low expectations. Expressing gratitude can help avoid or heal resentments we have. When everything seems negative, God can help open our eyes so that we can see the joys in our lives.

Many of us struggle with perfectionism and are very hard on ourselves. By being merciful with ourselves, just as God is merciful with us, our sins, weaknesses, and shortcomings are kept in the proper perspective and we maintain our mental health. Furthermore, Knowledge of true doctrine can help keep us mentally healthy:

Elder Bruce C. Hafen taught that, “Because of the Atonement, [Adam and Eve] could learn from their experience without being condemned by it. Christ’s sacrifice didn’t just erase their choices and return them to an Eden of innocence. That would be a story with no plot and no character growth. His plan is developmental—line upon line, step by step, grace for grace.

He continues, “So if you have problems in your life, don’t assume there is something wrong with you. Struggling with those problems is at the very core of life’s purpose. As we draw close to God, He will show us our weaknesses and through them make us wiser, stronger. If you’re seeing more of your weaknesses, that just might mean you’re moving nearer to God, not farther away” (Bruce C. Hafen, Ensign, May 2004).


To replenish ourselves spiritually we must invite the Holy Ghost into our lives by following Jesus Christ and living His restored gospel. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to staying spiritually healthy and having more to give to our children. This is what gives the gospel of Jesus Christ its power—by living a life of faith, a life of repentance, a life regulated and empowered by covenants made with God, and a life filled with and led by the Holy Ghost—we come to know Jesus Christ.

The church encourages us to adopt regular practices that will keep us close to Christ, and thus be spiritually healthy. These include praying to our Heavenly Father, studying the scriptures, keeping the Sabbath day holy, fasting, and partaking of the sacrament.

Recently Jennifer and I were going through a very emotionally exhausting experience. In the midst of it all, we went to the temple together. There we found the hope, healing, and comfort we so desperately needed. I can testify that we were healed mentally and spiritually by the Spirit of the Lord. I testify that the Lord can help us be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy if we go to Him and pay the price to have a personal relationship with Him. In addition, we will have more to give to our children.

2. Spouse

Our second priority for the good of our children deals with how we treat our spouses. President David O. McKay said, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother” (quoted from Theodore Hesburgh, Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1963, 25; in Richard Evans’ Quote Book [1971], 11). This applies to women too.

We show love to our spouses as we follow the words of our Savior from Matthew 20: “Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

We do not need to compete with our spouses, trying to prove that we are smarter or more competent. Instead, we can remember that we are on the same team and take joy in each other’s successes. We need not belittle our spouses with criticisms. Instead we can build them up.

The Lord said, “Strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings” (D&C 108:7). We can do this in our marriages, strengthening our spouses with our words of gratitude and praise, praying for them and their struggles, serving them, and seeking to strengthen our spouses in everything we do.

Prophets have taught that showing love to our spouses must include being fiercely loyal to them. I think this includes never criticizing them to another person. When you share criticisms with another, that person automatically comes in between you and your spouse. Our children deserve to have parents that are unified, who are fiercely loyal to each other, and “who honor marital vows with complete fidelity” (The Family: A Proclomation to the World).

I can testify of the joy that has come into our marriage as we have sacrificed for each other. Because we try to treat each other as our Savior would, our home is a place of peace and a refuge from the outside world. I know that all of us can have this same blessing if we follow the Savior’s example with how we treat our spouses.

3. Children

The church handbook of instructions states, “Parents have the vital responsibility to help their children prepare to return to Heavenly Father. Parents fulfill this responsibility by teaching their children to follow Jesus Christ and live His gospel” (Handbook 2, p. 2).
Thus our third priority, one of the most important things we can do for our children, is to teach them to follow Jesus Christ and to live His gospel.
This is why the first presidency has said, “We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform” (First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999).

I was a little shocked when I read this statement by Elder Ballard: “We cannot and we must not allow the school, community, television, or even Church organizations to establish our children’s values. The Lord has placed this duty with mothers and fathers” (M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, May 1991).

I think that it’s pretty easy to understand why I don’t want television or school to establish my children’s values, but why does Elder Ballard go as far as saying that we can’t leave it to the church to do it for us? Why is this duty placed upon mothers and fathers?

I think an example from my childhood demonstrates why this is. When I was in 1st grade I caught on to reading slower than most of the other kids. When the teacher divided the class into groups based on reading ability, I was in the lowest level. The school was putting in their time and effort, but I just wasn’t getting it. But my mom started reading with me. I have a lot of fond memories of reading with her. She made me feel loved, she made me feel special, and she made me feel like I could be a good reader. And things began to change. The teacher noticed my progress, so she placed me in a more advanced reading group. This pattern continued and I eventually was placed in the most advanced reading group. Today I have no trouble reading and I owe this gift to my mother because she put in the time and attention that would have been impossible for the school to give me.

So it is with learning the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be impossible for the church to put in the time and attention required to sufficiently teach our children the gospel. This is one reason why the church encourages families to find a way to allow mother to be at home with her children.

Speaking of this subject, Elder Cook taught, “These are very emotional, personal decisions, but there are two principles that we should always keep in mind. First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances. Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions” (Quentin L. Cook, Ensign, May 2011).

Elder Packer counseled, “If Mother is working outside of the home, see if there are ways to change that, even a little. It may be very difficult to change at the present time. But analyze carefully and be prayerful. Then expect to have inspiration… [and] intervention from power from beyond the veil to help you move, in due time, to what is best for your family” (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 2004).

I can testify that I have been blessed beyond measure because I had a mother who stayed home with me, and parents who taught me how to live the gospel of Jesus Christ by their examples.
We may feel inadequate or disappointed
Life is challenging for everyone, as each of us must go through certain experiences to become more like our Savior. There are parents here who feel terribly inadequate to raise their children. Others face heartaches as the door to children coming into their home seems closed. Some still long for marriage.

Let me bear my testimony, that regardless of your situation, God has not left you alone.

He said, “Fear not: for… thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:1-2).

We are inadequate without the help of our Father in Heaven, but I testify that He is willing to help us if we are willing to pay the price to have a personal relationship with Him. My testimony is that of Elder Scott’s:

“I cannot comprehend [my Savior’s] power, His majesty, His perfections. But I do understand something of His love, His compassion, His mercy. There is no burden He cannot lift. There is no heart He cannot purify and fill with joy. There is no life He cannot cleanse and restore when one is obedient to His teachings” (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, Nov 1988, 76).

Like Peter Pan, let us remember how valuable children are. Let us be vigilant as to what our priorities are, that our actions will be those that matter most for the good of our children. Let us be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Let us love our spouses. Let us teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to our children.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


As we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ we make covenants which ask us to sacrifice. When Jennifer and I were married in the temple, we promised God to have a covenant marriage. Thus we sacrifice for each other.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has made various comments that ring true to me about what it means to have a covenant marriage from the extraordinary to the mundane. On one extreme he shared a story of "A husband whose wife suffered for years from a disabling emotional disorder; but to him it was always “our little challenge”—never just “her illness.” In the realm of their marriage, he was afflicted in her afflictions, just as Christ in His infinite realm was afflicted in our afflictions" (Bruce C. Hafen, April 2004 General Conference). Because this husband was willing to sacrifice for his wife and be afflicted in her afflictions it wasn't her "big problem" but their "little challenge."

On the other extreme, Elder Hafen speaks of how we can sacrifice for each other in the mundane with the following story:

While on a long distance road trip with a tight schedule a wife leaves her purse in the gas station. She doesn't realize this until 30 minutes have passed, meaning that an hour of driving time they didn't have time for has just been added onto their trip. "He might justifiably chide her for not remembering, as he wheels the car around and begins to backtrack along their traveled route. He could point out, perhaps more than once during the day, that her failure to remember the purse made them late for an important commitment. He could exonerate himself to the people who are waiting for them by telling them that the reason they're late is because she, not he, forgot the purse.

"But if he accepts the idea of "be you afflicted in all her afflictions," he will know that she is at least as embarrassed as he is, and she really doesn't need him to point out her oversight. When he remembers this perspective, he will behave as if he had left his wallet in the men's room; and that will change the tone and spirit of their conversation. Neither the purse nor the failure to remember it is just her problem--it is their problem. Once this is clear, both will lift up their hearts" (Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love, p 101-102).

Elder F. Burton Howard said "If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by. Eternal marriage is just like that" (F. Burton Howard, "Eternal Marriage", Ensign, May 2003, 92–94).

And I would add that if you want something to last forever, you sacrifice for it. I have a seen the power of the Lord come into my marriage as my wife and I have sacrificed for each other in big and small ways. As we have been afflicted in each others afflictions we have found greater joy in each others' joys.

Jesus Christ Changes Lives

I have found the story of Jesus Casting the devils out of the man into the heard of swine to be particularly moving of how Jesus Christ can changes lives. The story centers on a man who lived in the tombs and who cut himself. People had tried to use physical means to help him to change, including chains. Perhaps this man too had tried to find a physical or temporal solution to his problems. But none of those things had worked.

But everything changed when the Savior came into his life. He cast out the devils into the heard of swine and healed the man spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. The Savior then said to this man, "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee" (Mark 5:19).

I wonder how often we are like this man and those who had tried to tame him. When we face problems, do we seek to find temporal solutions to them? Do we rely on the strength of our own arm instead of the strength of the Lord? We would do well to remember the lesson of this story: everything changed when the Savior came into this man's life. We too can have our lives changed if we will let the Savior into our lives by living His restored gospel.

I have a testimony of Christ's power to change lives because He has changed mine. Like the man in this story, Christ has healed me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Holy Ghost Gives Me Courage

My wife and I are naturally shy people. We would be very happy to sit at home reading books (lately our favorite has been reading Dilbert) or doing puzzles together. We are naturally inclined to keep to ourselves and let the world go on around us, bent on its own destruction.

But the Lord has a higher way. He "who went about doing good" asks us to "go and do thou likewise" and "be anxiously engaged in a good cause"(Acts 10:38, Luke 10:37, D&C 58:27). In seeking to follow Him, Jesus Christ asks us to bless the lives of others.

When I think of reaching out to others, reservations come to me. What if they don't want my help, or what if they're mean? After all, I learned on my mission that often the people who need the most help turn out to be the meanest and most hostile. However, the Holy Ghost gives me courage to go outside my comfort zone, and reach out to those who do not have the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.

A few months ago I was assigned to hometeach a family that is less-active. Feelings of apprehension quickly came to me, but I did not let them override my faith. Instead I felt the witness of the Holy Ghost that God wanted them to know of His love for them through me.

My wife and I went over to see this family and they welcomed us in. They weren't mean, and they didn't yell at us. In fact, they were very nice and fun to talk to. Over the last several months we've developed a wonderful friendship. Now they're even open to us sharing gospel messages with them from the Ensign. So far their reception has been very positive, and the way has been opened for them to come back into full activity.

I found out recently that others from the church have tried to go by and have been met with a cold reception by this family. My wife and I are the only contact they have with the church. And so I wonder, what would have happened if I had let my fears stop me from going by that very first time? What would have happened if I thought that someone else more social or outgoing than me would be better suited to reach out to them?

I wonder how many of us are waiting for others, who appear more aptly suited, to do the task that was meant for us. I wonder how many more lives would be blessed, how many more souls would come to Christ, if we had faith in the Lord to home or visit teach those we have been assigned even if we don't know them, not to mention ministering to all the other strangers we meet all along our way.

I have seen, through this experience and others, that the Lord will help us to follow Him. He will give us the courage we need to reach out to and bless the lives of others. I have also seen that as I have put my trust in the Lord and done things that were "scary", the promise of this scripture has been fulfilled:

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour" (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

He Gave Me the Gift of Charity

This morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to the sounds of my roommate throwing up. I got up and got him a bowl and did the best I could to make him comfortable. I didn't want him to feel that he was alone in going through this ordeal. I spent the rest of the morning in a cycle of going back to bed and waking up to empty his bowl for him.

Later another one of my roommates commented about the great sacrifice I had made to help the other. Tears of gratitude came to my eyes. Though I had missed a lot of sleep and was exhausted today, it hadn't seemed like a sacrifice; it had been a natural response.

There's something you need to understand about me to recognize the miracle and understand why I cried tears of gratitude. By nature, I am quite selfish and am reluctant to do anything that doesn't have some kind of benefit to me. A long time ago I was struggling with many things, and life was very dark. I reviewed many events of my life with the Lord and he revealed to me several of my weaknesses that were causing my struggles. One of these was quite shocking: I didn't see value in others. I questioned the Lord if this was a real weakness I had, but again the confirmation from His Spirit came. Shortly thereafter I began to see how this weakness had subtly permeated many areas of my life and I was brought to my knees in humility.

I cried mightily unto the Lord for Him to open my eyes to see the value in others. I asked Him to help me see what He saw in them. I prayed to be filled with His love that I might help others feel His love for them.

As I look back I can see that the Lord has answered my prayers. Though I do not yet have the full measure of the Love Christ has for others (John 13:34), He has worked a miracle in my life. He has given me the gift of charity. He has helped me to see that others deserve to be happy. My life has been enriched as a result, and I continue to pray for the love within me to grow.

The following scriptures have literally been fulfilled for me:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure" (Moroni 7:48).

It is a powerful, yet humbling thing to have the Spirit witness to me that I am now a true follower of Jesus Christ. Despite the many ways that I fail to follow Him and look to Him in every thought, I am a true follower of Jesus Christ. This gives me hope that I can overcome all things through His strength. I know that He will continue to turn other weaknesses of mine into strengths as I walk in humility before Him.

Elder Wirthlin once said:

“True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us. We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it. Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will. We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.

The Savior has helped me to love others more like how God loves them. He helps me to look beyond the day to day interactions I have with others, and instead see their divine potential. He has helped me to loved others enough not to give up on them, or label them as "lost causes".

Going back to this morning with my roommate, I see it as a miracle that I naturally came to his aid without any selfish reasons. Blessings have followed. I think some of the most joyful moments of my life have been when I have ministered to another the same way the Savior would have done had he been in my shoes.

Another blessing I have seen was promised by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a modern day apostle. Speaking of Moroni 7:48 he said:

Soon, with that kind of love, we realize our days hold scores of thoroughfares leading to the Master and that every time we reach out, however feebly, for Him, we discover He has been anxiously trying to reach us. So we step, we strive, we seek, and we never yield” (“Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006, 69–71).

I am beginning to see my Savior everywhere around me, in the people that I pass by every day. Ministering to them is equivalent to ministering to Him (Matthew 25:40). He feels close when I'm helping another.

So when I hear others comment about the love I have shown another, tears of gratitude come to my eyes because I see the miracle that Christ has accomplished, that I never could have done on my own. What once had been a great weakness of mind, has now become a great strength. It is impossible for me to look at how I've changed and believe that I did it on my own, of my own will and power. He worked the miracle, and the words of Nephi are as true in my situation as for someone who was recently baptized:

"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life" (2 Nephi 31:19-20).

I acknowledge that all growth of my character is a blessing from Him, and I need to continue to rely wholly upon his merrits.

Your weaknesses may not include a lack of love for others, but the principle of coming to Christ and being transformed by His touch is still a valid solution. I testify that we all can come unto Him and be empowered and changed by His atonement.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Daughters of God

The Lord has blessed me with many wonderful women in my life. As I’ve thought on how they have blessed me, I have recognized many divine attributes of daughters of God.

I have seen their inherent interest in and concern for others as they have reached out and talked to me after sensing that I was feeling down. I think of all the times they have seen more in me than I’ve seen in myself and helped me to improve. I have seen their inclination for deep spirituality as I have heard them bear testimony of our Savior and lived their lives in a Christlike way. I have seen their selflessness as they have put the comforts and goals of others before their own. I am not alone when I say that the righteous examples of daughters of God have made me want to be a better man so that I can one day be a worthy husband and father.

The lies of Satan

Satan understands the worth of God's daughters, and their importance in the plan of Salvation, and so he tries to attack them and everything Daughters of God are and stand for. You know what I’m talking about. The Media spreads many lies about women—how they should act, what they should look like, what they should be interested in. The divine attributes of daughters of God are denied and mocked openly almost everywhere we look.

The world would have them focus on themselves, their appearance, and their insecurities, instead of focusing on their real divine attributes, on their selflessness and divine worth. As Sheri Dew once said:

“No amount of time in front of the mirror will make you as attractive as having the Holy Ghost with you” (Sheri L. Dew, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 12).

Satan bombards us with lies about women, but just knowing that something is a lie doesn’t mean we don’t believe it or don’t listen. The lies of Satan can only be overcome by replacing them with divine truth. Nephi said it this way:

“And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:24).

Replacing lies with truth

We can replace the lies with divine truth as taught by the Lord through His prophets. Speaking to women, Elder Holland said:

“I want you to be proud you are a woman. I want you to feel the reality of what that means, to know who you truly are. You are literally a spirit daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature and an eternal destiny. That surpassing truth should be fixed deep in your soul and be fundamental to every decision you make as you grow into mature womanhood. There could never be a greater authentication of your dignity, your worth, your privileges, and your promise. Your Father in Heaven knows your name and knows your circumstance. He hears your prayers. He knows your hopes and dreams, including your fears and frustrations. And He knows what you can become through faith in Him” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “To Young Women,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 28).

And when the devil lies to women that you are not beautiful, I hope that they will remember this:

“Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.” (“Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, Sep 1988, 8).

My own mother

Now may I share some thoughts about my own angel mother. The Savior said:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This is what you did for me mom. Instead of living your own life, doing solely the things you wanted to do, you dedicated your life to your family, staying home to raise me and my brother. When I think of the all of the sacrifices you have made for me, I am overwhelmed. You sacrificed any personal ambitions you had, to give me the life I have now. Mom, you’ve always believed in me, and taught me to reach for my dreams. I love to see your joy when you hear of my successes.

Over the years you have taught me many things:

You taught me selflessness, by your example.

You taught me to love life, by your example.

You taught me to forgive, by your example.

You taught me courage, by your example.

You taught me how to be resilient, by your example.

You taught me how to smile through the hard times, by your example.

You taught me to have faith, by your example.

You taught me the importance of family, by your example.

You taught me how to love, by your example.

Mom, as well as what you did, it is who you are that has helped me to be who I am. Thank you for embracing your divinity as a daughter of God. I hope you know how important your life’s work has been to raise me and my brother.

I will be forever grateful to my mother for her sacrifice to stay at home and raise me. I hope to show her my gratitude, not only in words, but by the way I live my life.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Know the Scriptures are True (Ether 4:11)

As a missionary in Texas, I asked many Christians why they believed the Bible was true, in hopes of helping them understand that they could gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon in the same way. Instead of hearing faith filled testimonies about how the Bible had changed their lives or how they had received a witness from the Holy Ghost, most people responded that they did not know why they believed it. It was just something they had grown up with or that everyone else around them seemed to believe. These responses made me sad. To think that so many people who wanted to follow Christ did not even know why or if they really believed His words.

This morning I rediscovered one of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon about how we can come to know the truth of the scriptures for ourselves. Many wonderful memories and experiences came back to me and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Speaking of the Book of Mormon, the Lord said:
"But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good (Ether 4:11)."
This verse teaches some essential principles of the Gospel and gives some powerful promises. Those who believe the words of the Lord found in scripture, by both reading and living his teachings, will have the fruits of the Holy Ghost manifested in their lives. Though the Lord was specifically talking about the Book of Mormon with the aforementioned verse, I believe that this blessing applies to the Bible and all other scripture He has revealed. There are hundreds of ways that the Holy Ghost manifests Himself to us and will bless us as we seek to live the Lord's teachings. Last week I mentioned how I received physical strength from having the Holy Ghost with me. A simple list is given by Paul:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23)."
As we have our hearts open to the Spirit of God, we will feel and see and the manifestations of the Holy Ghost in our lives in the form of peace, light, charity, strength, etc. I saw this time and time again as a missionary. We would ask people to read passages from the Book of Mormon before our next visit. When we would come back, it was easy to tell who had read and who had not. Those who read had more light in their countenances and there was a better spirit in their homes than had been before. When people would come to church for the first time, they would see the influence of the Holy Ghost in the lives of the members. The most common comment people made after coming to church for the first time was "I have never seen so many loving fathers in one room before."

One experience of the power of the scriptures I saw on my mission will forever remain with me. A young couple had a child pass away tragically. I had never seen so much pain in someone's eyes before. Though I do not have any children, I can see that losing a child is one of the hardest challenges we could ever face in this life. We testified to this poor couple that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ they could be sealed by the Priesthood and be an eternal family; that their daughter was not lost to them; that she would live again. At first our testimonies had little impact on them. They were broken people.

A week later we came back and as soon as we entered their home we could tell that something was different. Where there had once been a dark cloud of despair, a spirit of healing was present. I will never forget the feeling of peace that was there. I knew I was on sacred ground. The parents were changed as well. Instead of intense pain, their eyes were filled with light. I wondered what could have possibly brought about such great change in their lives in such a short amount of time.

They answered the question for us before we could even ask it. Instead of watching television, they had read the Book of Mormon together for an hour every night. It made sense. As I looked at the changes in them, I could see the manifestations of the Lord's Spirit, and it gave me a renewed testimony of the Book of Mormon and how our lives can be filled with the blessings of the Holy Ghost as we embrace the scriptures.

Sadly, so many people try to prove that the scriptures are true and that Christ lives through physical means and processes. But the only way that we can really know what is true is through the Holy Ghost. Paul put it this way:
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.... But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:12,14)."
There are many degrees between believing something to be true and knowing that it is true. In Ether 4:11, the Lord promises us that he will turn our belief in the scriptures into knowledge that they are true through His Holy Spirit.

At the end of Ether 4:11, the Lord says that we will know the scriptures are true because they persuade us to do good. This is a point of counsel, and at the same time it is a promise. We can know that the scriptures are true because we will find greater power to change our lives. This happened to the people of King Benjamin. After delivering most of his sermon, King Benjamin wanted to know if the people believed his testimony of Christ. The people's reply was:

"Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2)."

This is the main way that I received my testimony of the scriptures. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true because they have changed my life. When I consistently read them and seek to apply their teachings, something happens to me. I find my unrighteous desires fading away and my desire to do good increases. I begin to see more ways that I can serve my fellow man. Weaknesses that once were impossible to change are now possible to change. I love the scriptures and know that they are true because they have helped me to know my Savior, which has been the greatest blessing of my life. I will end with these words of Ezra T. Benson, a Prophet of God:
It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

-Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov 1986, 4