Friday, October 9, 2020
I testify that The Book of Mormon is the greatest piece of literature on the Earth. No matter where any person is physically or spiritually at any given point in their lives, prayerful study of that book will bring them greater peace, it will bring increased comfort, and it will bring an abundance of happiness. Since before it was ever translated, by the gift and power of God, it was attacked, but as truth cannot be destroyed the Book of Mormon will always prevail. I was not in the Grove with Joseph to see the pillar of light that surrounded God and Jesus Christ nor did I hear their voices that day, but through the Book of Mormon I've had glimpses of heaven, I have had bits and pieces of that pillar of light revealed to me, and I've heard the undeniable witnesses as spoken by the voice of the Spirit of God and of Angels from the dust that Jesus is the Christ, that He does live, and that the authors of the Book of Mormon are His chosen prophets.
The Book of Mormon is a symbol of faith, and an answer to prayers. It is the literal and physical fulfillment of prophecy. It is a corrective lens to clear our vision and align our perspectives to God's. It is an all inclusive tool-box with a plan for any and all life-improving renovations. It is a friend to offer us comfort, an aide to heal a wound, and a tool to aid others. It provides inspiration and leads the true seeker of Christ into revelation. It is life support for a struggling soul. It is the keystone that holds together this church and it's millions of members. It is an undeniable witness of Christ, the Spirit, and our Father in Heaven. As Elder Holland has said, it is a block that one must go around to leave this church because it cannot be walked through or shoved to the sidelines. It is also a stepping stone to use to get closer to our God than we ever otherwise could by bringing us closer to our Savior and His Atonement than we could ever otherwise get. It is a personal Liahona to those who truly seek Him. It teaches all men that they must do good and teaches them how to do it, and it will lead all men who follow it to abundant life with God. The Book of Mormon is the pure and undefiled word of God, the love of God, and as such is to him who claims to know and love God, the most desirable book above all other books. Every once in a while I will have an experience, like piloting a small aircraft over the beautiful land in southern Utah that I grew up in and seeing it from an entirely new and different perspective, that brings me great joy and an adrenaline rush like nothing I've ever experienced. And for a time I will wonder to myself how will I ever top that experience? Then comes time for me to pray and to open and search the Book of Mormon, and it is then that I truly learn to soar. In times like we are in now, where there are so many who are scared and worried about the future, the Book of Mormon gives me the comfort of knowing that I will always have something to look forward to and that there is always more peace and joy to come. I love that book and the relationship I am able to achieve with my Savior through it's teachings. Truly God does live, The Book of Mormon is more than enough evidence to convince me of this every single day. I know that the more we embrace the Gospel, the more it will embrace us. I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's established church restored to the Earth in our day.
When it comes to family, I have certainly been blessed with the best! It's not uncommon in our family to open up a thought-provoking and inspiring email from a family member throughout the course of a busy and stressful week. This is a part of one of those love-inspired emails, written by my older brother back in July of 2019,
"As we continue on with life I hope that we will take the time we are given and make the most of it. I believe the only way to be truly happy in life is to grow and progress in the gospel, to see the fruit of our labor, and to help others do the same. I look forward to the day we stand before our Savior and hope that when we do, we will have lived our lives in such a way that we may be greeted with those words,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant.""
The couple of weeks prior to receiving that email, my studies and my wrestlings with the spirit had become about me. Trying to help myself have more joy, trying to figure out my problems. And as a result my problems only grew larger and more unbearable in my eyes. That email from my brother inspired me to look back to the two years of my life that I spent in Idaho as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During that time, my only problems were the problems, strugglings, difficulties and trials of those around me who I was sent to help and who I was growing to love. I now add my testimony to that of my older brother's.
I think back to Ammon, a prophet and great missionary in the Book of Mormon. Mormon tells us of the joy that Ammon experiences as the result of his great effort and goes on to explain, "Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness." When we focus on our problems, we lose perspective to them. They grow larger and more concerning in our sight, and they begin to consume us. As our concern turns towards others, humility is acquired, God is sought more fervently, and the joys of the Gospel of Jesus Christ flood into our lives like the rains at the time of Noah, our problems washed away, our worries destroyed, our weaknesses are left behind and the strength and power of God take their place.
God does not ask that we read scripture, attend meetings, or that we make and keep covenants just to test our obedience or to give us something to do. He asks that we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we may not only learn of our Savior's divinity, but that we may also begin to develop the mind and character of Christ. David A. Bednar, teaches that the character of Christ is to turn outward rather than turning inward. In every situation it is to aid, to assist, to inspire, and to lift those around us.
Mormon uses the word happiness in the Book of Mormon like it is something we can have a physical hold on. I believe that it is more than a feeling we may have claim on every now and then when things seem to be going right in our lives, and that it is another Christ-like attribute that we can develop, tune, and perfect through His grace. After all, God has declared,
"Men are, that they might have joy.",
And the lord,
"Giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them".
I too hope that we may all hear these words from the Savior to each and every one of us at the last day, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".
Thursday, October 8, 2020
As I was studying this morning, I pondered the life of Joseph Smith and thought of a line from the film, 'Joseph Smith : Prophet of The Restoration'. The line that came to mind is said just after Joseph's wife asks him how much he would have to endure for the Lord, and the Prophet's reply was this...
"Perhaps I am meant to swim in deep water. Better deep than shallow."
This line has always stuck out to me and taught me of Joseph's deep and abiding faith in the Lord, but it helped me this morning and throughout the day to think in a way I hadn't ever before. I have had times in my life, one just recently, where I too felt as if I was 'swimming in deep water', but I never understood what the Prophet meant when he added to his reply, "Better deep than shallow". What did that mean? Imagery soon flashed through my mind as I pondered.
In Lehi's dream we learn of two sources of water. He tells about a river of filthy water which Nephi later teaches represents the wickedness and abominations of the world, the depths of Hell. These are the waters of death, destruction, and damnation. We also learn of the Fountain of Living Waters, continually springing up unto everlasting life. In reading about these different waters, it's not hard to see which of them we ought to partake in. There is, however, more to the picture. In using the word 'filthy' to describe the water, it wasn't exactly the color of it that was being referenced but it's content and purpose, and remember that the river of 'filthy' water ran next to the tree of life (or the love of God, Christ, the Fountain of Living Waters) and the tactics of the adversary are very enticing as he will attempt to deceive us in ways that we do not yet understand.
The adversary and his river...
Rivers of shallow water tend to move quickly, creating swells of water, bashing against walls and rocks, and creating vortexes and whirlpools that can hold onto and drown even the strongest of people. This sounds so much like the adversary's plan. He endeavors to drag us down and to hold us under with all of his might, whirling us around like ragdolls until we lose ourselves. Bashing us into jagged rocks slamming us into walls of mud, forcing us into submission to his every desire, and dragging us down in whirlpools of addiction. Sure there are parts of the river that are not so rough, and it is these occasional calm areas of the adversary's dreadful river where you might gather your strength to pull yourself out and be in control again. An opportunity to exercise agency either to change and be better or to submit in weakness and forfeit more of the blessings of Heaven. It is these areas of calm that He uses to lure us in in the first place, only to lead us to areas where he starts to pick up his pace, to give us a 'fun' little ride to hook us on an adventure that will eventually lead to our destruction. We may think we are safe for a time, but he lulls us into carnal security, where we lose the power and ability to act with the agency that is so vital to God's plan of happiness. He takes us through his riptides with the intent of the destruction and the captivation of our miserable souls.
Christ, the Fountain of Living Water...
There is a song "Cleanse You" by Calee Reed, depicting a person asking God,
"Why did you lead me here to this uncharted sea? did you bring me here just to drown me?"
and His reply
"What if I didn't bring you here to drown you, but to cleanse you? and what if you chose to breathe me in, let this wash you clean again? I know the water is deep but if you only knew, it isn't meant to drown you but to cleanse you."
For some reason, though we know the Gospel to be true, though we know the church to be good, though we know it's teachings and a Gospel centered lifestyle to be of God, we only slowly wade into the Fountain of Living Water. Though we know it to be good, we still fear when we get up to our necks, we try to stay afloat, we remember and glance over to the opening in the river of filthy water that is so deceptively calm and enticing. We see a place that isn't so deep, a place where we could go to stand and breathe more easily, where it wouldn't require so much effort to live. I often forget when it feels I am swimming in deep water that I was not brought there to be drowned but to be cleansed, to be purified, and to become better.
Now, is it coincidence that today my good friend Bailey, a former mission companion, texted me this thought from his own gospel studies,
"Freedom from self slavery is true liberation"?
No coincidence. So what is self slavery? Well, this is my interpretation..
Self slavery is when we are at that great Fountain of Living Waters, but struggling to try to swim and stay afloat, looking at the other option, thinking about how easy the other way would be, and not being 'all in' for the Savior and His purposes. Self slavery is being caught anywhere in-between truth. We learn from the scriptures that if we are not for God, we are against Him. We don't have to be in Satan's river of filthy water for him to accomplish his purpose of keeping us from greater truth and progression. Self slavery is when we have 'somewhat' decided to follow Jesus Christ, but we aren't quite sure that we are ready to make, keep, and honor sacred covenants and commitments to God and our fellow man. And freedom from self slavery comes when we forget the easiness of the other way, focus not on where we might be able to otherwise stand a little easier for a time, and when we embrace Christ's Atoning blood. It is 'breathing Him in', or making him a part of our lives. Self slavery is ended through personal understanding of, purification through, and power in the Atonement of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
We may sometimes fear to go all in- to truly live the Law of Consecration- and reject the full power of Christ's Atonement because we fear it will drown out other areas and aspects of our lives that we find enjoyment in, but this is simply not true. We must remember the words from the hymn, 'Master, The Tempest is Raging', which say "No waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies... Peace, be still; peace, be still.". The reality is that seeking for pleasure and personal gratification will drown out Christ and make us miserable. There is peace in Christ. There is joy in His plan. There is happiness, love, and all manner of the good and desirable aspects of life, to be found in Christ. No man or woman who will waste and wear out their lives in the service of God will be displeased with the final result of their efforts.
Be mindful of the water you are in.