Monday, December 15, 2008

Finding Joy in the Work By Sarah Guffey

The seminary curriculum during my sophomore year of high school was the Book of Mormon. During that time, I labeled many of the chapters throughout the Book of Mormon with my own headings, inspired by the lessons given in class. To Alma 29 I gave the title “Alma’s hymn and prayer” because of his righteous desires and the way that some of his wording reminds me of the hymns sung in church. Now, almost four years later, I have begun to associate this chapter, and much of Alma, with my Patriarchal Blessing.

I received my Blessing shortly before I came to BYU, during a time in my life when I was extremely nervous about the upcoming months (this being my first semester of university and the longest I’ve been away from home in one stretch). In several places in my Blessing, it talks about the happiness and joy that will come into my life if I “keep the commandments of my father and the law of my mother.”* My Blessing also mentions in a few places that a great part of my mortal mission is to “declare truth and righteousness.”* At one point, Alma says that his “soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body”1 from the joy he feels over the success of his brethren. This verse is akin to the statement in my Blessing that says “you will be lifted and held high as on eagle’s wings”* which comes shortly after telling me that my voice will be heard to declare truth, much as Alma’s brethren declared truth. The joy of sharing the Gospel brings a sense of enlightenment, much as seeing things from higher up brings greater knowledge of what is around us.

In Alma 4, Alma witnesses the great iniquity which has taken hold of the Church. Yet, in verse thirteen, Alma sees some members of the Church who are still looking forward steadfastly to the day when Christ shall come, “thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death.”2 When I read this verse, it reminds me of temple work, which is also talked about in my Patriarchal Blessing. It states that “the glorious work of the holy temple will become a part of your life and shall occupy an abundance of your precious time in service as a savior on mount Zion. These spiritual things will increase your joy…”* Even though the people in Alma’s time did not know of temple work in the same manner as we do today, the same joy that they had in knowing of the resurrection of the dead can be felt in our own lives when we perform ordinances for the dead in the temple.

“I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”3 Genesis 2:24 gives the commandment to women that they should leave their families and cleave unto their husbands, thus to fulfill the commandment to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”4 Alma’s commandment was to spread the Gospel; as a woman, mine is to become a wife and mother (either in this life or the next). This is one of my greatest goals in life, and it is also a part of my Blessing. As a mother, I am to “nurture and teach my children in love and righteousness.”* My own mother has been a very big factor in bringing many of her wayward children back to the Gospel and to repentance. As a future mother, I know that it is possible to “be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance.”3 This brings great joy to me because being a mother is such a big goal in my life.

In Alma 27, Ammon falls to the earth from his exceedingly great joy, which exhausted all of his strength. In the next verse, we are told that “this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.”5 This implies that one must obey the laws and commandments of God to receive such an immense outpouring of joy in their lives. True joy can only come from God, who will only give it to us if we live as we have covenanted to do in the waters of baptism and later in the temple. Along with this, God will only give us the blessings given us in our Patriarchal Blessings if we do the best that we can in living his commandments fully in our lives. Finding true joy in doing the work of God requires us to obey him with love. As President Thomas S. Monson, in speaking about God’s laws, stated: “Violate them and we suffer lasting consequences. Obey them and we reap everlasting joy.”6 There is nothing stopping us from receiving true joy but our own disobedience. I pray that we all may find the courage to obey and thereby find the greatest joy of all in our lives.

*From the Patriarchal Blessing given to Sarah Rae Guffey
Works Cited
1 Alma 29:16
2 Alma 4:14
3 Alma 29:9
4 Genesis 1:28
5 Alma 27:18
6 Pathways to Perfection: Discourses of Thomas S. Monson (1973), 126.

Whom are We Rejecting? By Alisha Nelson

This blog was particularly difficult for me to write. Not because they’re hard, but because I really wanted to address how I personally might reject the Lord, and how to remedy that. I think it’s sometimes difficult to discern emotions, and figure out how they’re wrong, and how to make them right. Hopefully what I thought of will resonate with someone else.

“I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers” Mosiah 27: 30

The word rejected is used differently in the Bible than The Book of Mormon. In the Bible, the word rejected is used to describe those who have rejected the word, the prophets, the commandments, and even those who have rejected Jesus Christ. These people in the Bible who have rejected aspects of the gospel are usually seen as beyond help, they are set in their ways. But in context of the Book of Mormon, “rejected” is used in a much more merciful context. In Mosiah, the story of Alma the younger is one about a man who rejected every aspect of the gospel. But, instead of him being cast off, through his fathers faith, he was redeemed by an angel. Though Alma “rejected [his] redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers” [1] he was still saved.

In Hebrew reject means to disappear

Few will choose to reject the gospel the way Alma the younger did, but many subtly reject the Lord everyday. The Hebrew translation of ‘reject’ means to disappear, sometimes we disappear from the Lords presence, and without even realizing it, we are wondering away from his counsel. This usually comes in the form of subtle rejections. A good example of subtle rejection is well described toward the end of Paul’s ministry when he “fear[s], lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” [2]. I find it interesting that Paul does not fear that the saints will fall away, but rather they will make the simple, complex. Only a few days ago I was worrying about everything that was unsure in my life, from how we were going to pay rent, to how we were going to raise children in a world so consumed by rejection. As I contemplated these awful things, the spirit whispered a song into my mind and heart: “When upon life’s billow you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessing, angels will attend, and they will guide you till your journey’s end” [3]. This simple song that I’ve sung dozens of times reminded me that my life isn’t as complicated as I want to make it. All I have to do is faithfully follow the Lord, and he will provide for me and my family. When I worried about myself, and was unavailable to the Lord to do the things only I can do, and by making my life complicated, I was rejecting His counsel. And while there are many ways in which we can reject the Lord, there is only one way to follow him: in faith.

I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation [4].

As a Latter Day Saint living in a community where the vast majority is of my faith, I find that since there are not many around us whom we can set ourselves apart from, there are many attempt to set ourselves apart by judging those of our same faith. This form of rejecting the Lords children, and thereby rejecting the Lord, is a disease that has grown ramped in Utah. And while I even find myself guilty of this rejection at times, I feel that this form of rejection is easily remedied by remembering that each soul has divine worth, and we have no way to judge without all the necessary knowledge. A good example of not judging comes when Jacob describes the travesties that will befall the Jews for rejecting the Savior. And while he prophesies that this rejection of a “safe foundation” [5] will cause them to stumble, Jacob points out that they will always have a “sure foundation” [5] upon which they may choose to build upon. The Lord has not rejected the Jews, he mourns for their loss, but will not desert them. Likewise, we as Latter Day Saints have an obligation to reach out to those around us, and give them the option of a safe, and sure foundation.

I conclusion, I wish to challenge the whole two or three people who might read this : I challenge you to seek out the ways you reject, and try to grow a little closer to the Lord by resolving that form of rejection. I promise, and testify, that as you do, your mind will be enlightened, you burdens will be lightened, and your heart will be gladdened.

[1] Mosiah 27:30
[2] 2 Corinthians 11:3 (a cross ref from Jacob 4)
[3] LDS Hymn Book pg.
[4] Jacob 4:14
[5] Jacob 4: 15-17

Faith from My Youth By Alisha Nelson

“Faith is like a little seed, when planted, it will grow”. I recall pondering these words as a young primary girl. Shortly before I was baptized, I meditated (as deeply as a seven year old meditates) on how I genuinely felt about the church. I remember contemplating how simple this primary song made it sound to have faith- but I felt my small seed either wasn’t growing, or wasn’t planted. One day I noticed a necklace one of my young friends wore. It was a locket with a tiny seed inside. I asked her about it, and she wrote down a scripture reference, telling me to look it up. When I got home, my mom helped me find the scripture, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” [1] As I studiously pondered the implications of this scripture, I felt insignificant: a mustard seed was very small, but alas, I could not move mountains. My worries had become a reality-I did not have even a fleck of faith. Retrospectively, I think I misinterpreted this scripture. Christ is not telling us that if we cannot move mountains, we don’t have faith; but rather, it does not take much faith to move mountains. Once faith is acquired, a knowledge that only Heavenly Fathers sincere desires take precedence over our desire to prove that we can move mountains. I think this interpretation of faith makes this comment more potent to the disciples, because a mustard seed of faith literally is very little faith. As I read, and re-read the account of Christ’s life, the realization that maybe it was easy for his followers to forgo this aspect of faith when living, breathing proof stood in front of them day-by-day; but today, attempting to pass this vital step is simply impossible.

With my new realization that maybe I had no faith, and with my birthday rapidly approaching, I took to paying special attention to the use of the word faith. One Sunday my primary teacher told us the story of Christ and his disciples when they were caught in a great storm on the sea. My teacher read the following passage: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm”[2]. I recall thinking about this scripture, and realizing that I had an understanding for this kind of faith. I thought back a couple of months. My dad and I and one of my friends had gone up Provo canyon for a nice day of horse riding. After several hours on the dirt trail we reached a small clearing, at the bottom of a sloping hill was a small pond. My dad took the lead, guiding his horse down the hill to the water. As my horse followed, I could tell he was very thirsty. He kept trying to pass my dad and run down the hill. But I knew how to hold him back. About halfway down the hill, something went wrong-the bit in my horses mouth, that allows me to control his movements and restrain him from galloping away, fell out. Storm (my horse) realizing his advantage ran down the hill. I gained my balance, gripping with my knees, but as we passed a stream that filtered into the pond, Storm leapt over it. Unable to grip tightly enough, I lost balance, fell sideways, and was dragged by my foot, caught in the stirrup, a few yards. I finally fell to the ground, landing upon my neck, and rolled down the hill. My dad came galloping to my rescue, but the damage was done. I was unable to move, he tried to get me on his horse so he could walk me out, but our efforts proved fruitless. Unable to see any other option, my dad pointed to the top of a tall hill. Telling me that he would go up near the top, where he knew he had cell phone service, and then come back with help-the whole thing would take about two hours.

After he left me and my friend sitting their on that hillside, it began to rain. I remember being scared. As I sat their, shock setting in, I heard the distinct voice of my mother telling me that if I was ever scared, I knew who to ask for help. I trusted my parents, and I trusted what they said, and knew that if I asked for help, I would receive it. After saying a simple prayer, the rain stopped, and a voice in my head kept telling me to not be afraid, everything would be okay. Heavenly Father knew of my faith, and literally quieted the storm, and then silenced my growing fear. Faith has the power to defeat all adversity, and I had exercised my faith that day.

As I thought of the faith I was able to exercise that day, I thought of my hero, Nephi. Right before my baptism my parents started re-reading the Book of Mormon as a family. I recall feeling invigorated by Nephi’s example of diligence and faith. I think Nephi held an important key to faith-one lost to most religions-action. Everybody has the ability to feel the spirit, everybody has the capacity to be inspired to make a change, but only the few can actually follow through. Heavenly Father tells Nephi, “Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently”[3]. I really don’t think that Laman and Lemuel were all that bad at the beginning of their lives. They had a great father who taught them well-but they didn’t have the diligence to grow their own faith, or follow through when that faith told them to do something important. Even the angles could not get Laman and Lemuel to see their lack of diligence was destroying them. Their faith needed to be acted upon. I now know that I always had a fleck of faith, mostly based upon my parents’ testimonies, but that day, when I said that prayer, I started growing my own testimony.

As the years roll by, I often read my patriarchal blessing for guidance. It talks in length about the many aspects of faith I could acquire and understand-it’s incredibly daunting sometimes it feels like I don’t have any of those aspects of faith. But there honestly is only one thing we must have to receive all of these gifts, “thou shalt have a gift if thou wilt desire of me in faith”[4]. Through our faithful desires, we can realize and utilize the many godly gifts our Heavenly Father bestowed upon us. And as we use these precious gifts we strengthen the faith of those around us, and our own faith. While I’m not sure I have some of those characteristics in my patriarchal blessing, I do know that I have a sincere desire to obtain those qualities.

After realizing that I did have a growing seed of faith, as a seven year old primary student, I decided that I could be baptized. But I’ve never stopped analyzing my own faith, measuring it, testing it, trying to understand the many faucets and aspects it holds. One translation of the world “faith” from Greek to English is “truth itself”. I like this translation-it makes things ironic. We hope for things we can’t physically see, but true faith can only be truth. When I was ten, I asked my mom how she knew that some crazy didn’t write the Book of Mormon. Her response was “I have faith”, and of course I responded with a “Yeah, me too, but how do you know?” The words “truth” and “knowledge” show up in the same verse twenty seven times in the standard works, and each of them point to this truth: “You receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith”[5]. Today I realize that truth, knowledge, and faith are all synonymous with each other. All truth and knowledge comes from faith, and all faith comes from truth and knowledge.

I hope I can keep sight of that time when I questioned my faith, and received the answer that my faith is like a little seed, it is planted, and it is growing. Trees do not shoot up from nowhere; faith does not shoot up from nowhere. We all must cultivate, and nurture our faith if we expect it to grow. As I come to more fully understand my faith, my small seed grows another root; another anchor holds me to the ground of gospel knowledge.

[1] Matthew 17:20
[2] Matthew 8:26
[3] 1 Nephi 2:19
[4] Doctrine and Covenants 11:10
[5] Doctrine and Covenants 8:1

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gioia (Joy) is the Gospel By Brittney White

Joy is my absolute favorite word in the English language. Those three letters contains so much uplifting light and spirit. I looked forward to writing this blog so I could express in some small part what joy means to me. Joy is more than fleeting happiness; it is deep and enduring. Joy is based in eternity. 2 Nephi 2:25 tells us that “men are that they might have joy.” How powerful those words are; to think that the purpose of our existence is to have joy.

Having joy does not mean that life will always be easy or that we will not have sorrow, but when we see things eternally we realize that lasting hope is a source deep and abiding joy. For example, in Alma 7:17, Alma says, “And now because your faith is strong concerning that, yea, concerning the things which I have spoken, great is my joy.” This shows that Alma’s true joy came from unifying people in Christ through the gospel. This is a source of joy that endures no matter what storms of life prevail.

The word gospel means good news. The good news is hope; hope in Christ and all that he has done for us. It is this well founded hope that brings joy, which means that the gospel is joy. Speaking in anticipation of the Savior’s coming, Alma said, “We wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels.” (Alma 13:25) When we share this joyful news with others we become messengers of God, or angels.

Partaking of the gospel is what brings joy, and part of that is following the words of the prophets. Ammon told the Lamanites not to believe in his words and “be of good cheer” (Alma 17:29, 31). By following the words of the prophets, we can discover joy and incorporate it into our lives. When we are truly incorporating gospel principles joy will shine through our eyes and people will recognize the good news we carry as disciples of Christ and followers of his servants.

In Italian, the word for joy is gioia which also means delight. The light of the gospel is what brings joy. Hope and redemption through Christ is what brings joy. Through my life there have been times of darkness, but it is the shining light of the gospel that brought joy even during times of challenge and sorrow. My first semester at BYU was a growing experience. Though it was hard while I struggling with being far from home and knowing no one, I had the light of the gospel to rely upon and as I got through that time, I was able to share that light with others. As Ammon said, “My heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.” That is how I feel about the gospel: it gives joy and causes me to rejoice in my God.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Serving God by Serving Men by Jason Whelchel

"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."1 When I read this scripture of Mosiah speaking to the Nephites near the beginning of his great speech on repentance, I had no doubts in my mind that he was a chosen prophet of God. Mosiah spent his entire rule serving the people of Nephi in any way he could, instead of having them serve him in whatever way he desired. In fact, the word "serve" comes from the Latin servire, which means "slave." So, in a sense, Mosiah may have been king of the people of nephi, but he spent his entire rule being a figurative slave to his subjects, helping the people however he could. In this way, Mosiah set a great example of the ideal shepherd king, who always looked out for his subjects and protected them with all his heart, mind, and strength. As the Savior once said, "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant."2 I feel that Mosiah was an excellent example of who we should strive to be like as member missionaries, serving Heavenly Father by serving others.

Mosiah's son Ammon was also a great man who served the Lord in the service of others-more specifically, the Lamanites. During his missionary travels, Ammon became a servant to King Lamoni and protected the king's sheep faithfully, thus earning favor with Lamoni, who was astonished by the Nephite's loyalty to him and his people despite the way they had initially treated him. After Ammon had defended the king's sheep against the Lamanites, Lamoni had called for him to inquire whether he was the Great Spirit. Upon arriving, Ammon asked Lamoni one simple question: "What wilt thou that I should do for thee, O king?"3 Ammon's willingness to serve so stunned the Lamanite king that he was unable to answer for an hour, because he didn't have a clue what to say to him. Once, I had an English professor back in San Antonio named Dr. Tsacalis, who despite not being of the LDS faith, was eager to serve his students in any way he could. During class, he always found time to talk one-on-one with each student in the room to discuss our writing and what we could do to improve. He also took time out of his own schedule to hold evening study group sessions where classmates could get together and critique each others' work, giving constructive criticism and ideas on how to make our ideas clearer. Because of his services and kindness, a majority of our class managed to pass the course with A's. We should all strive to be like Ammon, who served others righteously and patiently in order to bring the gospel to their hearts and convince them to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ.

Another example of one who made a living of serving others was the Prophet Joseph Smith. As the one to usher in the last dispensation, Joseph made it a lifetime commitment to serve his fellow men in bringing the truth of the restored gospel unto their hearts. In his lifetime, Joseph Smith not only restored the true Church of Jesus Christ, but also helped it to spread beyond the American borders and into England. These acts show how much Brother Joseph loved to serve, and thus provided a great example to his children and the other members of the Church. Elder Russell C. Taylor once said, "Fathers and mothers, with your strength of example you will influence your sons and daughters for eternity with examples of loving, uncomplaining service far more convincingly by doing than only by saying. Show your children a life of love for them by a life of love and service to the Church and to our Father’s children in spiritual need."4 Being a parent myself, I know that it is absolutely necessary for us to teach our children by example, showing them that living a life dedicated to the service of others and, as a result, Heavenly Father, is an integral part of our eternal salvation.

Finally, the most important exemplar of service in the mortal world was Jesus Christ, the Savior. He spent his entire mortal ministry serving the people, no matter their social or economic class. He tended to the sick, the needy, the meek, and the lowly most of all, serving his Father by helping those spiritual children that were in need of love and guidance. In Luke 10, Jesus explains to a lawyer how people should serve their fellow men in the parable of the Good Samaritan. According to modern revelation, "He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all."5 This scripture speaks of the Savior himself, who was at the same time the greatest and the least in the kingdom of God. He was the King, and yet he was also the slave, serving all those he ruled over, like Mosiah of old. A perfect example of his service was when he washed the feet of the Apostles. A job traditionally performed by a slave/servant, the Savior performed the menial task himself, showing by example how the Apostles should serve mankind in their ministries. If we all strive to be more Christ-like in our service to others, then I know surely that we will be in the service of Heavenly Father, for that is what he commands us to do.

In closing, we have learned through our scripture study and by the teachings of the prophets and General Authorities of the Church that service is one of God's most enduring commandments. In serving others, we in turn make each others' burdens lighter and comfort one another as Alma taught at the waters of Mormon. A prime example I would like to share is the similitude in the formation of diamonds. We all know that diamond, the hardest material on Earth, is formed of carbon, which by itself is usually a pretty fragile element. However, extreme heat and pressure compound the carbon into the impervious crystalline form of a diamond. Only, in our case, faith and service take the place of the heat and pressure. By faithfully serving our brethen as the prophets through the ages have done, we can become more like the Savior and spiritually progress towards meeting our Father in Heaven with our heads held high. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that the prophets were, like Jesus, both the greatest of their kingdoms and the least, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Works Cited
1- Mosiah 2:17
2- Matthew 23:11
3- Alma 18:14
4- Taylor, Russell C. "The Joy of Service." Ensign. Nov. 1984, 23-24
5- D&C 50:26

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gaining Power Through Watching and Praying: By Adam Miller

Watching and praying is a major part of becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 26: 41, Christ says to his apostles, after he had suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray always, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” If Christ is saying this to his disciples, we have even more need to heed to his command. If we watch and pray, as the Lord would have us do, we will have the ability to have more effective personal scripture study, more worthwhile sacrament meetings, and the constant companionship of the Spirit.

Personal scripture study, to some, seems as an event that is just done to show that you are obedient. That is part of it but the main part of personal scripture study is to strengthen our testimony. I have found that the days that I slip and don’t read my scriptures, I feel more depressed and tired but the days that I do read, I feel energized and full of the Spirit. In order to strengthen our testimonies through personal scripture study, we need to watch and pray long before we even begin to read the scriptures. Having a prayer in our hearts before we read will enable us to be more in tune with the Spirit. “And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” (3 Nephi 18: 20) Since scripture reading is “right,” we will then be given a testimony.

In the sacrament prayer, it states that if we “eat in remembrance of the body of the son, and witness unto thee,” (D&C 20: 77) we will have His Spirit to be with us. Many people don’t realize this promise in the Sacrament prayer. You may ask “how do we eat in remembrance of the body of the son,” and the answer is through watching and praying. Watching will enable us to realize the symbolism that is included within the sacrament. Praying will then allow us to feel the Spirit, by watching.

“As Church members, we have completed the necessary steps of faith, repentance, and baptism and have had authorized hands placed on our heads to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. But just as love between friends or companions must be cultivated and nourished like a tender plant, so likewise must a companionship with the Holy Spirit be cultivated.” (Carlos Asay) To receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, like Carlos Asay is speaking of, we must truly understand how to pray. Prayer involves giving thanks and asking for blessings. In our prayers, one of those blessings must include that we have the Spirit to be with us. After we have been granted with this gift, we must watch as the Spirit helps and assists us in making good choices in our lives. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost will also allow us to not be tempted above that which we are capable to bear. (Alma 13: 28) Having the Holy Ghost with us throughout the day is one of the greatest blessings that we can have.

In order to obtain all that our father has in store for us, we need to become “submissive, meek, humble patient” (Mosiah 3: 19) and have the ability to watch and pray. If we do these things, we will have the ability to work miracles in Heavenly Fathers name. From experience, I have realized that if I do take the time to watch and pray in my everyday life, I am able to realize all of the many blessings that I have been blessed with. If we all work to make a greater effort in watching and praying, I have a testimony that we will all then be able to have a greater knowledge of our Saviors love for us. And I know that if we know of his love for us, there is nothing that we would do that would not be in accordance with his teachings.

Works Cited
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Pearl of Great Price
“The Companionship of the Holy Ghost” by Elder Carlos Asay of the Seventy
LDS Scripture Concordance

Friday, December 5, 2008

R. Cameron Green

R. Cameron Green
Dr. Hallen
Book of Mormon 121
November 8th, 2008
A Change of Heart-aka the “U-Turn”

Repentance is necessary to obtain the Celestial Kingdom. But repentance is more than promising never to do something again, it is more than confessing. Any criminal can hold himself back from stealing again. Sexual offenders are often required to tell their neighbors of their situation-simply so that those neighbors do not let their children alone with them. This is one step that must be taken; confession, and a true desire to cease a sinful action or thought. However, only the truly repentant remove from them the desire altogether, and develop a yearning for good. As King Benjamin asked his people if they believed in his words, they cried “yea …because of the spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, [we] have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:1, 2). In essence, truly having a change of heart is like pulling a U-Turn in the very fibers of your being. It is to change your desires, not just your actions.
I was once told that we all acquire in this life the degree of glory whose ways we are capable of living by. We will live in the kingdom whose laws we naturally abide by. Those in the celestial kingdom do not only live by the laws of righteousness, but they have a desire to do so. They want to do what is right and they enjoy doing what is right. They understand that sin and making the wrong decisions are not worth it simply due to the natural consequences of them; the natural sorrow that follows. They have “experienced a change of heart, “and, “felt to sing the song of redeeming love.” (Alma 5:26). It is truly a state of being and feeling that we all eternally strive to obtain.
Experiencing a change of heart is associated in the scriptures with being spiritually born of God, or becoming his spirit children. “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14). We often become too entangled in the dealings of the world, in earthly desires, and in living for ourselves alone. To be spiritually born of God, and to take on his name, and have that burst of strength in faith that accompanies the mighty change in our hearts that we develop as we grow in testimony, we are not only able to avoid sin with ease, but we are able to come closer to God as we represent him, and others notice our change of heart; his image in our countenance.
How do we obtain such a complete turnaround of who we are without years of effort and discipline and work? Well it honestly might take just that. However, Alma gave another insight as well, in reference to his father, Alma the younger: “And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart.” (Alma 5:12). By our faith great things can come to pass. By doing everything that we know builds our faith, we are simultaneously experiencing a change of heart; a disintegration of the natural man. “For the natural man is an enemy to God.” (Mosiah 3:19). We are growing closer to God and slowly becoming more like celestial beings.
Often we have to experience the sorrow of our sins to understand why it is a sin at all; to understand why it is destructive for us. I have felt a change of heart in small pieces during the brief period that is thus far my lifetime. I wish I could declare that I have a major change of heart. I have sinned as we all have, and many of those sins I have forever turned my back on. I have experienced the sadness coupled with such sin and fully understand my wrong. I look back on these instances with disbelief that I could have ever seen the world in such a way. I have felt the love of Christ as I have repented of my menial sins and truly experienced a change of heart on those specific aspects. This eternal U-Turn is not an immediate process. We slowly turn as we learn to love the guidelines that many teenage LDS youth look on with such disdain and complaint. There are still sins and temptations in my life that I do not fully understand. They are waters that I am constantly tempted to test the temperature of, even after being warned by so many before me that such actions only bring about sorrow and pain. I have not yet experienced a full change of heart with everything. While I may at times desire to do good continually, the process is gradual, and temptations are not completely eliminated. I pray that eventually I will have that experience as I grow and learn. That all of our “hearts [may be] changed through faith on his name.” (Alma 5:7)

The Gospel Brings Wholeness into our Lives by Erin Evenson

Wholeness and being whole is an idea that we have really seen in the book of Mormon. Wholeness has been an important aspect of my life and has been one thing that has really changed for me over the past couple of years upon discovering the gospel. When I first decided to write about wholeness I decided to find out what the word really means. When I looked it up I found that wholeness means “The quality or state of being whole, entire, or sound; entireness; totality; completeness.” I think this is a pretty good description of someone who has the gospel in their lives. Wholeness not only means being physically whole, but mentally whole. I am so grateful to be physically whole and healthy but am most grateful for the mental wholeness that the gospel blesses us with.

In the definition of wholeness it says it means complete. One of the first things I think about when I’m thinking about wholeness and the gospel is when we feel incomplete. When our lives feel like there is something missing and we feel the need to pray to our Heavenly father. In Ps. 119:145 it says “I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.” When we pray we must pray with our whole hearts and submit our whole selves to the will of the Lord. This is one thing that people often struggle with and believe that we will receive answers to our prayers if we pray half-heartedly.

If we find it in ourselves to pray with our whole hearts, we will be fully answered by the Lord. In John 5:11 it says “He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.” When one of Heavenly Father’s children feels incomplete and is willing to come unto him with their whole heart, he will answer by making them whole again. This reminds me of when I was investigating the church and didn’t know if I should get baptized. I knew that I felt happy and safe when I came to church but I didn’t know if that was enough. The first time I prayed about it I was unsure about how do pray and what I was even asking. As I learned more about the gospel I learned you have to pray with your whole heart if you want an answer. I was at first disappointed when I was not answered right away and couldn’t understand why Heavenly Father would ignore me when I was trying to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Finally I prayed and was able to talk to Heavenly Father like he was my friend and finally understood that he knows me better than anyone and will answer in the way that’s best for me.

I also have found that when many people have faith in the Lord with their whole hearts, the world finds itself at peace. In Isa. 14:7 it says “The whole earth is at arest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.” When we know that we have a Heavenly Father and that Jesus died for our sins, it brings us comfort and peace in our hearts. It also brings us joy to know about the plan of salvation and that we will be able to live with our families forever. When we give ourselves wholly to the gospel we are blessed with eternal happiness. When we know this we have the ability to bring happiness into the lives of others as well. This is when peace and joy are present in the whole world and in the people around us through our service and love for one another.

I listened to an Oprah Winfrey talk once and she said “The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.” I think the whole purpose of the gospel is to help us live up to our mental, physical and spiritual potential. Through the gospel and through our faith in the Lord we find completeness. In “How Great the Wisdom and the Love” it says “how great, how glorious, how complete, Redemption’s grand design, where justice, love, and mercy meet, In harmony divine!” The gospel and the Lord bring completeness into our lives! I testify that the gospel has made my life more complete and without it I would have a missing part of me.

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Works Cited

The Book of Mormon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Faith in Life by Erin Evenson

I was baptized less then a year ago over Thanksgiving break and have truly enjoyed learning about the scriptures so far in a way that I never imagined possible. This is my first time reading through the entire Book of Mormon and I have been so surprised to see the messages of our Heavenly Father coming to us through the scriptures. Before I was introduced to the church I had been an atheist for 18 years of my life. One of the hardest things to learn when investigation the gospel was to have unconditional faith in the Lord and so I want to write this first blog about faith and how it can bring happiness into our lives and how it has brought happiness and hope to me.

As I read 1 Nephi 2:9-10, I liked what Lehi said to his two sons about what he hoped for them in their lives and about living righteously. He said to Laman “O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” This is how we should all live our lives, by constantly trying to be righteous and do the right thing. Although Laman and Lemuel struggle with this at times I don’t think they want to be bad people. In our lives I think we all try to live a life of righteousness but sometimes stray from the path. Lehi then said to Lemuel, “O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!” This scripture means so much to me in that we must have faith that is strong enough to withstand the pressures and temptations of the world around us. For members there are constantly the temptations of alcohol, complacency or indecency. Through our strong faith in the gospel and scriptures we can feel confident and happy with our lifestyle.

In 1 Nephi 3:15 Nephi and his brothers fail to get the plates from Laban and Laman and Lemuel become discouraged and doubt that their task that has been given to them by the Lord is even possible. Nephi tells them “As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished that thing which the Lord hath commanded us.” Nephi demonstrates that even though their task seems impossible, he has unwavering faith that the Lord would not ask them to do something if he didn’t give them a way. This scripture reiterates the fact that the Lord wants us to be happy and successful and even though our path may not make sense at the time, we must have faith that Heavenly Father has a plan for us that will make us happy. There are times in my life when I think that it is too hard and there is no way this could be the right path, but I remember to have faith that everything will work out in the end.

1 Nephi 8:9-10 Lehi has a vision and says “after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” To me the open field symbolizes the fact that in our lives if we follow a path of faith, a whole world of opportunities will open up to us. The field he describes is a wonderful and inviting place that is full of fruit that brings us happiness. The Lord wants us to have choices and through those choices happiness. When we partake of the fruit we bring happiness into our lives and it gives us the opportunity to share it with others. Later on in verse 12 he expresses his feelings to share the fruit with his family. Through our faith we have the opportunity to share the gifts in our lives with the people around us.

Later on in the vision in verses 20, 23, and 24 Lehi explains the rod of ion and how it is the path we can follow to the Lord. This iron rod represents the strength of our faith in the path that we choose to follow in our lives. But with faith comes lack of faith which is described by Lehi, “And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” Without faith in our lives we can find ourselves in a similar mist. Before I joined the church I had no idea that I was lost. Having steadfast faith and belief in something brings hope and direction into our lives. Where there was once darkness, light and hope no reign.

Knowing these things and having a testimony of faith gives me confidence in my life and in the church. I know that anything is possible through faith and diligence and that I will be happy by following the messages of the scriptures. 1 Nephi 9:6 states “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” The Lord will give us a way to accomplish our dreams and desires even if we don’t see the path right away. All we need is a little faith.

Works Cited:

The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ