Hello all and Happy Easter! What a beautiful, wonderful day it has been to reflect upon and remember the events that took place nearly two thousand years ago on this day -- events that forever changed the course of human existence and defied the previously insurmountable challenges of sin and death. This past week I have enjoyed watching the Prince of Peace videos the Church released for Easter this year and reading the accompanying scriptures that go with them. The verse correlated with the faith video particularly struck me. Mark 5:36 says, “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe”. What a powerful, moving verse with such a simple yet stirring message. The Savior’s words “Be not afraid, only believe” can be applied to any facet of life. These should be the words that constitute our form of living every day. Life is full of uncertainty, doubt, and even fear at times. The power of believing in something unseen but undoubtedly, irrefutably true -- the power of faith and hope -- dispels these awful feelings and provides the courage necessary to live day by day. Believing in Christ changes one’s perspectives, attitudes, and choices. Heartache turns into hope, water into wine, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and despair into determination. I love my Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I know that He lives. Because of Him we can become better. Because of Him we can see those whom we love again after this life. Because of Him our imperfections, both physical and spiritual, can be made whole and perfect. I know that He conquered death and sin willingly so that we might not have to pay the price if we will turn to Him and believe on His name. It is not meant to be easy, but small daily decisions such as scripture study, prayer, and service strengthen our faith. What once was a belief becomes undeniable knowledge and reassurance. I wish you all a wonderful start to your week and remember that with Christ at your side, all things are possible.
Monday, April 10, 2017
Kindness is an incredibly important, desirable attribute to develop. It heals wounds and binds broken lives, builds trust and strengthens friendships. Unfortunately, kindness is often overlooked, forgotten, and dismissed as something of little importance or value. It can be mistaken as weakness or allowing others to take advantage of us. This is simply not true. This week I was reminded of the power of kindness and the effect it has upon other people. While reading in Alma 20 about Lamoni and Ammon’s encounter with the Lamanite king (Lamoni’s father), I was impressed by the king’s reaction to Ammon’s desire that Lamoni be permitted to retain his kingdom and that his brothers be set free from prison. Verses 26-27 say, “And when he [the king] saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Because this is all that thou hast desired, that I would release thy brethren, and suffer that my son Lamoni should retain his kingdom, behold, I will grant unto you that my son may retain his kingdom from this time and forever; and I will govern him no more -- And I will also grant unto thee that thy brethren may be cast out of prison, and thou and thy brethren may come unto me, in my kingdom; for I shall greatly desire to see thee. For the king was astonished at the words which he had spoken, and also at the words which had been spoken by his son Lamoni, therefore he was desirous to learn them.” The kindness and love shown by Ammon to both the king and Lamoni softened the Lamanite king’s heart to hearing more and learning about the gospel. It opened his eyes to a new way of life and changed his perspective about an entire group of people- the Nephites. This story is a reminder to all of us that kindness speaks just as loudly as words. It is important that we treat everyone we come in contact with kindly and respectfully. We never know what effect a kind word or deed will have on a person and how it may change their life. I know that as we strive to be kind like the Savior, more of our brothers and sisters will brought to the truth.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
It is that wonderful time of year again -- General Conference. This is a time of reflection, questions, pondering, receiving answers, praying, and sustaining our Church leaders -- men who are called of God and have the divine authority to receive revelation for the entire world and speak on behalf of the Lord. It is a comfort to know that God reveals His gospel in every dispensation. One example of this that I love is found in Alma 19 when King Lamoni’s wife calls upon Ammon for his help and council. The queen was faced with a serious problem but turned in faith to a leader. Verse 4 says, “And she said unto him: The servants of my husband have made it known unto me that thou art a prophet of a holy God, and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name”. Later, in verse 9, she says, “I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said”. The queen’s faith is absolutely incredible in this story. Without personally knowing Ammon, a prophet, or having been exposed to the gospel before, she trusted in what he prophesied and chose to believe. Because of this faith, Ammon’s words came to pass. There will be times when the Lord’s servants give us counsel during General Conference that we may not understand but if we trust in them, things will work out for our good and we will be blessed. These are men called by God to warn and watch out for us. There words will always be fulfilled but it is up to us to heed their messages and act in faith.
Monday, March 27, 2017
This past week a very exciting event occurred in my family -- my younger brother received his mission call! He has been assigned to labor as a full-time missionary in the Argentina Buenos Aires West Mission and will report to the Argentina Missionary Training Center on July. It was a beautiful experience watching my brother open something so precious and significant that has come to him through divine authority and revelation. Watching him open his call took me back to a day a little over two years ago when I opened my mission call to serve in Mexico City. At that time I had no idea just what I would experience and encounter during those eighteen months. My brother has no clue of what the next two years of his life have in store for him. The mission is an exciting but somewhat daunting task, bringing with it much uncertainty and nervousness. A few scriptures I read this past week brought me much peace and understanding that I was able to convey to my brother. I was reading in Alma 16 and 17 about Alma, Amulek, and the sons of Mosiah. Each of these valiant men left their homelands to enter strange places and share the gospel of Christ with hard-hearted, ferocious people (Alma 17:14). Indeed, “great was the work which they had undertaken” (Alma 17:13); however, because of their fasts, prayers, diligent study, and faith, they served as “instrument[s] in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 17:9). I love the following verse which says, “And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted” (Alma 17:10). I know that the Lord protects and blesses His servants who are on His errand. He gives them far more capacity to accomplish His work than what they would be able to do alone. He prepares His people to receive and accept the word. Alma 16:16 says, “the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming”. I know that the Lord is preparing people in Argentina whose lives will touched by my brother’s consecrated service and who will forever change my brother’s life for good because of their love and faithfulness. This is the greatest work upon the earth. It is a wonderful time to be a disciple of Christ and to share His restored gospel. I know that as we put our trust in the Lord and live His gospel that He will guide and protect us as well, using us as His instruments.
Monday, March 20, 2017
This past week I was reminded of a simple truth- that of having a consistent attitude of finding joy in the journey. One particular story I read during my personal scripture study throughout the week served to bring this to my mind and heart. Ammon’s experience of separating from his brethren and going into unknown territory to teach the Lamanites, found in Alma 17, is a perfect example of this. Ammon had every reason to be stressed, scared, uncertain, and nervous. He was about to face a bloodthirsty people who had been an enemy to the Nephites for years. He was a convert to Christ’s gospel himself. He was alone and knew no one in this land, and yet through it all, Ammon was faithful and relied on the Spirit’s guidance. After being captured and thrown before King Lamoni, faced with the possibility of death, Ammon simply stated in verse 23, “Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die”. This response pleased the king and provided Ammon with the opportunity to serve him and be an example to the king’s other servants. When faced by an onslaught of robbers in the fields, Ammon’s “heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words” (Alma 17:29). Rather than losing hope and being overcome with fear about the dangerous future, Alma took courage and exercised faith in the Savior. He saw an opportunity to turn a trial into a blessing and took it. This is a wonderful reminder to me that life is to be enjoyed and that faith should always be greater than fear. The two cannot dwell within the same heart. Though life may bring trials and uncertainties, having a positive attitude and a deep, abiding love for the Savior can transform these situations into blessings.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
The miracle of the gospel is the power of the Atonement to complete, amplify, and polish our daily efforts. I was reminded of this while reading in Matthew 14 from the New Testament in class this past week. A huge multitude of people was gathered together to hear the Savior speak. Upon finishing the sermon, the apostles were ready to send the people away to eat (verse 15). Verse 16 says, “But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat”. This is a beautiful passage of scripture. The Good Shephard will never turn anyone away. He invites all to come unto Him and to be filled. Such is the case in this chapter. After the apostles informed Him that there were only five loaves and two fishes available, Jesus simply told them to bring the food to Him. He then “commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14: 19-20). More than five thousand people were filled that day through the power of the Savior. It is important to first acknowledge that one person- a young lad amongst the crowd -- was willing to give up the only food he had in order to feed thousands of people. This act required significant faith. This faith and consecrated sacrifice was sufficient for the Lord to magnify the food offered that day and stretch it beyond its normal capacity. When we act in faith and place an offering on the altar of God, we will always walk away better than when we arrived. Our actions and efforts to live the gospel may not always seem adequate, but when coupled with the Atonement these efforts turn into faith-infused strength and heaven-sent power. I know that as we strive to keep the commandments, live the gospel teachings, and exercise faith in doing what the Lord asks of us, then He will amplify and perfect our lives, so much so that they overflow with blessings.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Over the past two years, I have grown to truly love and treasure the Atonement of Christ. I have come to better understand what it means to me and what it does for me personally, as well as for the people in my life. There are infinite blessings that come from this infinite offering of love made possible by the Savior. Two scriptural accounts in particular have taught me about the enabling power of the Atonement this past week.
The first is found in Matthew 14 of the New Testament when Peter walked on water during a fierce storm towards Jesus. At first he was able to maintain balance upon the waves because he kept his sight on Christ; as soon as he allowed the potential danger of his situation surrounding him to fill him with fear, he began to drown. It was in this moment that “immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (verse 31). Then Jesus uttered these unexpected words, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” When reading this at first, it is easy to jump to conclusions and think that maybe Christ was being a little harsh in saying this to Peter; however, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Our growth and progression as children of God in a difficult, imperfect world is much more important to the Savior than living a pain-free, blissful existence all our lives. He requires us to rely on faith and leave our comfort zones from time to time in order to become more like Him.
This was the case for Alma and Amulek in Alma 14 of the Book of Mormon when teaching in the land of Ammonihah. They witnessed the death of hundreds of innocent people and were cast into prison for the things they had preached. During their time in prison, they were mercilessly beaten, hit, spit upon, starved, mocked, and questioned. They suffered all these things in silence. Verse 25 says that the lawyers and priests “all went forth and smote them [Alma and Amulek], saying the same words, even until the last; and when the last had spoken unto them the power of God was upon Alma and Amulek, and they rose and stood upon their feet”. I love the symbolism found in this verse. They had suffered all these things even down to the last hit from the last person; that was when they found the strength within themselves placed there by the Lord to rise up from the ground. The Savior, while suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, took upon Himself every last sin, every last pain imaginable, for every last person who ever lived, before rising again to face the next challenge. Alma and Amulek were able to call upon God and “[break] the cords with which they were bound” because of their faith in Christ. This faith had waxed stronger through personally experiencing the enabling power of the Savior over a long period of time.
I would venture to say that we may be asked to suffer very difficult, trying experiences for extended periods of time- even until the last moment when we feel completely spent and hopeless- in order to fully appreciate the wonders and miracles made possible through the Atonement. Christ will always extend His hand to us in the storm, help us rise to our feet and break the cords which bind us, and save us from destruction when we call on His name and exercise faith in His infinite power. Such times are opportunities for us to become pure vessels of unshaking faith and trust in the One who loves us unconditionally and sees our potential to become great.