Monday, February 27, 2017
This past week I was reminded of one of my favorite Bible stories. It is recorded in Matthew 8 of the New Testament. This is the account of a man who was plagued, both physically and emotionally, by the disease of leprosy. He was cast out and rejected by his own people for a disease that was beyond his control. This did not, however, keep the leper from coming unto Christ when He passed through that area of the city. Verse two says, “And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean”. Breaking this verse down reveals some insightful doctrine. Rather than demanding to be healed, the leper said these humble words: if thou wilt. This implies that the leper, instead of thinking about only his desires, was prepared to accept the will of the Lord and be healed only if that was the plan. As Elder Bednar would say, he had the faith not to be healed. He also knew that the healing power of Christ was sufficient for him and his particular ailment; it could be used specifically for him. Verse three reads, “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed”. It did not matter how contagious or sickly or beyond hope and repair that this man was- the Redeemer took no hesitation in coming unto one who had faith to be healed and touching that person. He stooped down to the level of a man doomed to death and loneliness and gave him a second chance at life. Brothers and sisters, family and friends, I know that the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ is for everyone. It is infinite and it is individual. All that is required is faith, humility, and a willingness to change and to act. The Lord’s will is always revealed in His own time but it is never too late to come unto Christ. As the Savior says in Moroni 7:33-34, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me… Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved”. The refining touch of the Master is available to all who believe in the words “if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean”.
Monday, February 20, 2017
One of the easiest traps to fall into as a typical human being is that of inadequacy and loneliness. This life is full of hard times coupled with incredibly high expectations; it is more common than not to feel that sincere efforts are wasted and simply do not measure up or matter enough. As Exodus 18:18 says, “…for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.” The key word in this verse is “alone.” It is not possible to do most things alone, but with the help of the Savior and the enabling power of His infinite atonement, the weight need not be “too heavy.” God-given potential is, in reality, attainable when faith and trust in the Lord are part of the process.
The Savior gave the perfect instruction manual to becoming perfect like Him in two sections of scripture: Matthew 5 of The New Testament and 3 Nephi 12 of The Book of Mormon. Here he laid out a continuous stair-step pattern for all of God’s children to follow with the end goal of becoming a true disciple of Christ. One of the steps that Jesus asks all people to take is found in verse 6 of Matthew 5, which reads: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” This hunger and thirst after righteousness is fueled by a constant effort to become better, correct everyday mistakes, and do the little things that invite the Spirit, such as prayer and scripture study. This is a lifelong process that leads to incredible blessings, such as “being filled.” The diligent efforts to be good and do good create a filling- the Lord’s love and light fills in the cracks of doubt and inadequacy. His perfection, or wholeness, is mirrored in daily attempts to be like Him. He is there every step of the way and His strength makes up for mortal weakness.
Alma’s prayer in Alma 31 is an inspired example of relying on His merits; verses 30, 31, and 32 say: “…O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities. For I am infirm… O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me… O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success…” I know that Jesus Christ will provide strength where there is weakness, hope where there is doubt, comfort where there is affliction, and success where there is failure. His love is complete and perfect; His desire is that each of us might become a finished and polished work of art after the molding and creation of His hands. All that is required is faith and consistent change.
Monday, February 13, 2017
The more I read and study the scriptures, the more convinced I am of the importance of the truth and understanding that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. He is not some abstract being. He is our father who desires all the best for us. He LOVES us. He KNOWS us. He UNDERSTANDS us. He FORGIVES us. It is incredibly important that we remember this; such a knowledge protects us from evil and gives us the strength to withstand temptation. One example is found in Alma 11. In this chapter, Amulek is offered a considerably large sum of money by Zeezrom on the condition that he will deny the existence of such a being. Part of Amulek’s incredible response is found in verse 25, which reads: “and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me”. This verse is truly impactful. Denying the existence of the Father of us all is ultimately and definitely destructive. One of the enemy’s strongest tools is to confuse us concerning the relationship we have with God. If he can successfully do that, then he has begun the process of our destruction in every sense of the word -- temporally, emotionally, spiritually. The wonderful reality is that we are in control of whether or not we allow this to happen to us. Like Amulek, we can choose to believe and even know without a doubt that we are children of God. This is very empowering. It is as simple as kneeling down and offering a prayer -- I love knowing that the distance between us and the heavens is only a prayer. He speaks to us in the still and quiet moments; we just have to be willing to listen. As Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible”. He is on our side. I encourage all of you to take time to reflect this week on your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Remember who you are and where you come from. As Brother Griffin says, “Know that you are loved”. It is a saving truth.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
This past week in class we began learning a bit more about the Four Gospels in “The New Testament”- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John- in regards to their writing styles, the audiences to whom they were writing and teaching at the time, their varying relationships with the Savior Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, and other such factors that influenced the records they left behind which we read today in the Bible. While learning about these four different men, Mark especially captured my attention. He begins writing a little later (twenty years after the departure of Christ) and starts his account of the Lord’s ministry with His baptism, continuing from there. He serves to give a quickly-paced overview of the life of Jesus, hardly stopping to take pauses and give more explanation. His records were originally meant to be delivered orally, giving further reason to the running, fluid cadence of his speech. Brother Griffin, my religion professor, invited the class to experiment a little by first reading Mark’s account and then speaking it aloud in order to more fully appreciate this unique style of writing. This invitation, coupled with a recent invitation and promise given by President Russell M. Nelson in a Worldwide Young Single Adult Devotional in January that if we were to study the life and words and character of the Savior that we would have a decreased desire to disobey and an increased desire to keep the commandments, motivated me to learn more about Christ by reading the book of Mark. I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have learned so far and wish to share a small insight with you that had a great impact on me this week.
In Mark 1, we read about one particular experience in which the Lord visits the mother-in-law of Simon (Peter- one of the newly called Twelve Apostles) who lays in sick in bed. Verses 30 through 31 read, “But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon [immediately] they tell him of her. And he [Jesus] came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.” I absolutely loved these two verses for the powerful, symbolic lesson taught in so few words. First, the Savior took no hesitation in going to rescue some struggling soul. This has always been and will always be the case. The Savior comes running to us when we are in trouble and extends His saving hand to all. In verse 31, it says that He “took her by the hand, and lifted her up”. This is very symbolic of the Atonement- the act of love that Christ performed for us by suffering for our sins and heartaches in Gethsemane, suffering death on the cross at Calvary, and resurrecting from the tomb on the third day. The Atonement has the power to lift us in many different ways- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. The Atonement has given mankind the gift of resurrection, meaning that every single person in the history of the whole world will be lifted physically from death and the grave and be lifted to God’s presence to be judged. The Atonement also lifts us from the dark places of our lives, whether that be a trial we are passing through or a mistake that ways us down. When we accept the outstretched hand He extends to us by deciding to repent, pray, fast, change, and start over, we are lifted.
What follows in this verse is absolutely miraculous; it reads that “immediately the fever left her”, meaning that she experienced immediate and complete relief of what she had been going through. Then “she ministered unto them”, meaning that she was able to impart of the change that had occurred within her to others around her. The Atonement of Jesus Christ brings immediate relief. I do not mean to say that all will be resolved the first time we ask for forgiveness or that a magical wand will suddenly make all our life’s problems disappear, but every time we choose to follow the Savior and draw closer to Him, an immediate relief will flow into our lives and there will be a peace that was not there before. We will feel a difference and be able to minister unto others, just as the woman in this account did. When we allow the Atonement to heal us, we are more able to serve those around us and help them to find the same comfort and saving grace in their lives. We can symbolically become the hands of the Lord by serving those around us and helping them to apply the healing power of the Atonement personally. I know that as we strive to come closer to Him, He will always draw near unto us, heal us, and enable us to rescue others in need.