A Day of Rest

It’s probably pretty familiar. The Sabbath Day is appointed for:
1) Sacraments
2) Rest from Labor
3) Paying Devotion to God.

And I wonder – what am I doing that reflects these priorities?

Sacraments
I go to sacrament meeting each week. I wonder, what does “sacraments” even mean? According to dictionary.com – sacraments are visible signs of inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace.

So – in sacrament meeting, we are doing what Christ taught us all to do – when He was in the upper room shortly before his suffering in Gethsemane and death on the cross:

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” – Luke 22:19-20

On Sundays, during our sacrament meetings, we do as Christ instructed. We take bread and water as tokens of His everlasting sacrifice. We remember Him. We covenant with Him to follow Him, and the ordinance of the sacrament is a small token of our commitment to Him.

Rest from Labor
On the Sabbath we rest from our labors. This is tricky, to me. I don’t work on Sundays – as in I don’t go to work. And I try not to do work-related things on Sunday. However, I know that there are some people who must work on the Sabbath.

Even though I don’t work on Sundays, rarely do my Sabbath days feel restful. I am a mom. I have a house to run – even on the Sabbath. I scale back some of my chores, but things still must be done, mouths must be fed, kids must be cared for. You know how it goes.

Additionally, I have a lot of work to do for church. I understand that the Sabbath is a great day to do our church work.

It’s just that sometimes, it doesn’t seem very …restful.

Onto the next subject for a second. But we’ll get back to a day of rest.

Paying Devotion to God
The Sabbath is a day set aside for us to pay devotion to God. Once again, I think that it is helpful to understand what that actually means. Devotion is profound dedication or consecration.

Of course, we should spend every day of our lives devoted to God. But the Sabbath day has been especially consecrated by God, and we should also be sure that this is a sacred day in our lives, too. I won’t get into the many ways that we can or can’t or do or do not show our devotion to God. This isn’t a post of do’s and don’t’s.

I will say, however, I have to change my attitude. Sometimes I go to church, and I might feel a little judgmental about a lesson. Maybe it could have been better. Maybe I disagree with a little something that someone said. If my mind is consecrated to the Lord, then I won’t let little things bother me at church. I will, instead, maintain a worshipful and joyful thought pattern. (To accomplish this, sometimes I turn on my phone and look at pictures of nature! They help me to remember the majesty of God and of some of my sacred experiences.) Whatever keeps my mind turned to God is good, I guess…

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When I have trouble bridling my thoughts, I just take a breath and look at a picture like this.

***

Okay, so sometimes there is still a little bit of a disconnect for me about the Sabbath day – if it is a day of sacraments and devotion to God, then how it is also a day of rest? These other two aspects of the Sabbath can sometimes feel a little bit at odds with resting – going to church for three hours?! Meetings?! Choir practices?! Sometimes my sacraments and devotions make me feel that Sunday isn’t a restful day at all.

Rest…REST! Sounds good, right? When I think of Rest, the first scripture that comes to mind is the invitation we get from the Savior:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

Hmm…I’m noticing a connection…

I think that I may have misunderstood what “rest” really is.

One
Rest from our Labors – this is the part of “resting” that WE do. We decide that the Sabbath day is consecrated and set apart, so we rest from our worldly labors and concerns and instead focus on our devotion to God.

This is the more obvious understanding of “rest,” and sometimes it may not feel all that “restful” because we are still working hard.

Two
This is the good one!

There is “rest” that we cannot do – that we cannot achieve on our own. There is a “rest” that is only offered to us through Christ.

Rest doesn’t only come when we sit back and put our feet up. That’s nice, for sure, and it is certainly a part of rest, but it isn’t really all there is to it. Rest, in the sense as quoted in Matthew, is a result. Rest is a consequence of us coming unto Christ.

This doesn’t mean being busy. It means being prayerful and contemplative. It means coming unto Him through covenanting with Him. It means serving Him. When we come unto Christ, we will offer up our sacraments and devotion to Him, and as a consequence of such behavior, we will find rest.

So – let the Sabbath Day be a day of rest – by choosing to come unto the Lord and letting Him bless you with His rest. I know that this rest is what will get us through the stress and difficulty of our lives. What a blessing and promise. The Sabbath truly is a day of rest and a delight!

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Joy in our Families (Mosiah 19:24)

I will say that the deepest joys I have experienced have been in connection with my family. I can honestly say that I would die for them…

Daily Book of Mormon

I’v been thinking about families a lot lately. I feel like there are designs seeking to destroy the family. Actually, I know that there are. The adversary wants us miserable and captive. He knows that by attacking the family, all of society can be destroyed.

We can read about the joy in families in the scriptures. One example comes in the book of Mosiah. When King Noah’s people were about to be attacked by the Lamanites, King Noah directs the priests and other men in the land to flee into the wilderness. They do, leaving their women and children behind.

Some of the men don’t realize that King Noah had no intention of fighting the Lamanites, and they worry about their wives and children. They end up mutinying against King Noah, and returning to their families.

“And it came to pass that after they had ended the ceremony, that they…

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Plutarch and Alma

I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…

Plutarch Knowledge Quote

Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.

Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?

Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.

As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.

Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27

Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.

It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.

If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.

Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.

Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.

I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.

Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.

How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?

Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

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La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.

Liberty

First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

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Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?

Patterns

Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

***
I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

A Side Project

So, I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth, and I finally decided to start a small side-project.

I want to blog about the Book of Mormon daily for a little while. I thought about putting it here on this blog, but I wasn’t sure about it.

Finally, I decided to start a new one. It seems crazy. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’ll do it for a while and see how I feel. I’ll still post here when I feel like writing something, so this blog isn’t going anywhere.

If you want to check out the Book of Mormon blog, you can here:

Orlando and Religion

Like most of the country, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Orlando today. I don’t understand the senseless violence that persists in this world. I recognize that my lack of understanding of such violence is a great luxury.

I’ve been blessed to live a peaceful life – one where I can pursue the desires of my heart. I don’t have to hunt or beg for food. I’m a woman, and for the most part, I don’t have to worry about social customs that might oppress or hurt me. I don’t have to worry about acid being poured on my face, I’ve been blessed with education. I can go for a walk or run on the street – just for fun. I don’t see armed guards. I don’t worry about war lords.

I live such an amazingly blessed life.

This world is messy and it always has been. I have the luxury of hearing about acts of violence and then scratching my head and wondering, “Why?”

Many of us do.

When things like this happen, we have other aftershocks or other consequential occurrences. People hold vigils. People set aside differences and pray for, serve, and support one another. So many people, when these times of tragedy come up, find ways to bear one another’s burdens. Whether we change our facebook profile to honor that person or group or we donate money, or make a quilt – so many people seem to care.

Another aftershock I’ve also noticed is reckless blame. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t blame the person or people who commit such acts of violence. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t be reckless about it.

Right now, people are blaming all Muslims for this man’s decision. Some people are even blaming all of religion for the ills of the world. This is crazy!

So – a metaphor.

If a wolf, dressed in sheep’s clothing, sneaks into a pasture and starts to kill sheep – how do we react?

Are we confused? Do we start a diatribe against all sheep? Do we say, “Okay! That’s it! Every sheep in every flock everywhere needs to be eliminated because they are violent!” ???

Do we say, “These sheep have been the most dangerous group of animals in the history of the world! Every war, every bad thing, every atrocity – caused by sheep!” ???

Or are we going to be discerning? Are we going to take a look and notice that it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing – then go after the real problem?

Let’s call the evil act done yesterday what it is – evil. Let’s remember that most people – who go to church, who believe, who have faith are good. Let’s not be tricked by the wolf into doing exactly what the wolf is doing. Let’s not destroy one another.

Let’s have wisdom. Let’s love one another. Let’s destroy the thing that is actually destroying us – evil.

Book of Mormon for Teens – Timeline and Authors

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teenagers. You can see the first one here.

Before I really get into the Book of Mormon, itself, I wanted to have a few pages showing the timelines and authors of the Book of Mormon. As I wrote in Tiger’s Book:

“Sometimes when you are reading the Book of Mormon, it can be a little confusing to keep track of what you are reading. There are accounts of things as they happen, flashbacks, and the changing of hands with the records.

Hopefully, this timeline and author chart will help you keep the events and authors of the Book of Mormon straight!”

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The timeline – there is a lot to fit onto one page!!!

Several years ago, I did my own “story of the Book of Mormon” project. (You can read about it here.) As a part of this project, I created my own Book of Mormon timeline. I highly suggest this type of project. It really helped me to understand the Book of Mormon.

In any case, here is a copy of the timeline that I created: BoM Timeline (available as a PDF Download).

I also felt like Tiger should understand the authors of the Book of Mormon and the way that the plates were handed down. I found a very handy flowchart of the Book of Mormon Authors online here.

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Authors of the Book of Mormon

These two pages are chock-full of information. I didn’t have much space to make anything “cute!” No worries, though. I really think that this information will be helpful.

Finally, I included a quote that I really love about the Book of Mormon:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement – that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon.” – Tad R. Callister (emphasis added)

Thanks for letting me share this project with you. I am so excited to actually get into the Book of Mormon now. I’m excited to be able to share my testimony with my daughter in a way that I hope she will be receptive to.  I’ll share more with you later!

Easter Scripture Study

I thought that I’d share this again. Check out my Easter Scripture Study guide, and have a great Easter season!

That Good Part

I can’t believe that it is already March…and that Easter is upon us.

I love this time of year. The weather is perfect, soon the Orange trees will be blossoming. Best of all, I love thinking about the Savior – His life and His atonement.

Easter Scripture Study Easter Scripture Study

So…to help you get in the spirit of Easter, I’ve created an Easter Scripture Study Series. (This is the same scripture study series I created last year, with some corrections).

You can download it here – Easter Scripture Study Series

This Easter Scripture Study Series follows some of the key events (though not exactly in chronological order) of the Jesus Christ’s final week in His mortal ministry, then His death, and Resurrection.

There are 10 assignments that will probably take you anywhere between 10-20 days to complete. The assignments include:

  • The Anointing at Bethany
  • The Triumphal Entry
  • The Cleansing of the Temple/Cursing…

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Meeting an Apostle

This post has been swirling in my head for several weeks now. For the first time in my life, I met an apostle.

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I’ll tell you about it.

I was not at a conference. I was not at a meeting. I was not at the temple or at any place where you would expect to see an apostle. I was in a neighborhood visiting someone, and he was outside – shoveling his driveway.

So, my family and I went and visited with him. I’m not sure what I expected. This is an apostle I have loved ever since I heard him speak when he was first called as an apostle. His talks and speeches are straight-forward and doctrine laced. His words have been a support to me through several times in my life.

So, I stood there, in the snow, and in a way I guess I was star-struck, which sounds stupid.

I’m not quite sure what I expected. Did I think that the Heavens would part, there would be a choir of angels singing, and I’d have some kind of earth-shattering sign? Not really. Even though it has been several weeks, I still don’t know what I expected, but I do know that I was surprised by the meeting.

First of all, I have to say that he was really nice. He was done shoveling. I doubt that he really wanted to stay outside to talk to us. I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure he had other things to do. But he kindly spoke with us. He talked to each of our kids. He spoke kindly to Homey and to me.

Meeting him really impressed upon me the demands of his calling. He is rarely home. Here we are – a bunch of strangers – walking up to him, talking to him. How often does this happen? Can he even get his own groceries?

As I thought about these demands, I said, “It must be hard to travel so much. You were just in out of the country.”
Without hesitating he said, “It’s not hard. Doing the Lord’s work is not hard.” He didn’t say this with an air of false humility. He truly means what he said. It isn’t hard for him. Demanding – yes, but NOT hard.

After a cordial conversation and goodbyes, we left this apostle alone – each of us going about our days.

I’ve come to realize a few things about the apostles and my relationship with them through this encounter. I hope that I can express this in a way that makes sense.

Apostles are Normal People
Faithful – yes. Dedicated – yes. Disciplined – yes. Apostles are these things, for sure. They are doing their best to live the gospel. But that’s just the thing they are doing their best. They are imperfect, they are normal. Sometimes they even wear jeans and shovel snow.

This reminds me of something that Elder Ballard taught in the most recent General Conference:

“Too many people think Church leaders and members should be perfect or nearly perfect. They forget that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to accomplish His work through mortals.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard

I have to admit. I’ve been guilty of this. And maybe I was even guilty of this when I met an apostle. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated with people in my wards, leaders, and others – who are voluntarily serving God. I’ve forgotten that they, like me, are imperfect. They forget things, they have bad days, they get tired, or maybe they simply have different personalities and sensitivities than I do. While this is an obvious oversight, the real problem is that there are times when I’ve forgotten that God’s grace is sufficient. He can accomplish His work through us – even though we’re flawed!

When it came to my meeting an apostle, I had this stark realization that he is a normal guy. He is striving, trying. He is praying. He is working. He isn’t any more special than I am. He has a different calling, that’s for sure. But he’s a normal guy. It isn’t fair to assume that the apostles are just better people than we are. That diminishes their own agency, their own discipleship.

In meeting an apostle, I came to realize that the apostles are inspiring because they are normal and because they are proof that the gospel works. God’s grace IS sufficient.

The Real Testimony Comes to Me through The Spirit
Now, I want to emphasize that prophets and apostles are very important. The Lord has a pattern to revelation. I will probably talk about that in a later post. It is through the apostles and the prophets that I even know anything about God or the Spirit.

Elder Ballard taught:

“And make no mistake about it: the Lord directs His Church through living prophets and apostles. This s the way He has always done His work. Indeed, the Savior taught, ‘Verily, verily I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me.’ We cannot separate Christ from His servants.” – Elder Ballard

We need the witness that has been given to us by the apostles and prophets. That doesn’t mean, though, that the only way for us to access a testimony is through some kind of magical meeting with an apostle.

We gain a testimony as we draw nearer to the Lord – through prayer, scripture study, and keeping our covenants.

I’m grateful that the heavens didn’t part when I met an apostle. While I felt grateful for his service and for the teachings he has given throughout his tenure as an apostle, I didn’t feel some kind of “amazing” spiritual experience that was different than anything I’d experienced before. I felt the witness that he is an apostle, but nothing more than that. The experience was not some kind of earth-shattering moment in my life. And I’m grateful. It means that the Lord has revealed the truth of the gospel to me in the appointed way – through my own study of the scriptures and yes – through the words of the prophets when they are speaking in an apostolic way (i.e. general conference, firesides, etc.)

It meant that the gospel works, the Gift of the Holy Ghost will guide us and teach us. We don’t need to go shake the hand of an apostle to gain a testimony. We simply need to do as we’ve been taught: seek, knock, ask.

As I’ve sought the Lord, knocked at his proverbial door, and as I’ve asked Him the deep questions of my heart, He has guided me to the scriptures and to the words of modern apostles and prophets. An apostle can deliver a single message at one meeting, and it can touch the hearts of millions – in a million individual ways. This isn’t because the apostle is some kind of demi-god. It isn’t magic.

It’s because:

  1. Apostles are set apart to teach us the things we need to know. Elder Ballard teaches,

    “The Lord’s Apostles are duty bound to watch, warn, and reach out to help those seeking answers to life’s questions.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard

  2. Apostles speak with the power of the Holy Ghost
  3. When we have the Spirit with us, we can receive the message of the prophets and apostles with the power of the Holy Ghost. This is when it works! This is when we learn the specific things that we need to know. This is how a single talk can touch millions of people in specific, individual ways.
  4. ***

    It’s interesting – how we in Mormon culture view our Apostles and Prophet. I think that I understand it better now. I still wish that in the moment I met an apostle, that I would have simply thanked him. They do dedicate their lives. Do we realize that? Do we realize that they serve, day and night, for the rest of their days – for years without release? Do we realize that this means they travel all throughout the world, most likely spending more time away from home than at home? Do we realize that this means that we watch every single thing they do. (Did you see how he helped his wife with her coat? What kind of car does he drive? Does he keep his yard neat?) Do we realize the effort they put, day in and day out – even though there are so many who reject the witness that they were called to bear? Do we realize that they are normal people – that they have had their struggles, adversities, quirks, idiosyncrasies – and that they most likely STILL have these foibles of mortality, yet must fulfill such a demanding calling?

    “It has always been a challenge for the world to accept living prophets and apostles, but it is so essential to do so in order to fully understand the Atonement and the teachings of Jesus Christ and to receive a fulness of the blessings of the priesthood that are given to those He has called.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard

    ***
    I want to bear my testimony that the Apostles and Prophets are called of God and qualified by God. I know that being led by Apostles and a Prophet is a great blessing. We aren’t expected to navigate the waters of the Latter-days alone. We have people, normal people, who have been called and who are blessed with God’s grace, to lead us in these rough waters.

    I know this because as I have studied and put the words of the apostles to the test, I have been able to come closer to the Lord, I have been lifted up, and I’ve been blessed. These apostles don’t know me. They don’t need to. The Lord does.

    Though men are serving in the Lord’s work – it isn’t their work. They aren’t magic. They aren’t demi-gods. They are normal people, humbly submitting to the Lord, and being magnified by His grace. Through their efforts and God’s Spirit, they are able to guide, warn, and protect each of us in specific ways.

    ***
    What has helped you to gain a testimony in God’s appointed servants, the Prophet and Apostles? How has this testimony helped your overall strength in the Lord?

Struggle and Surrender

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve been thinking about resolutions, change, and everything else so many people think about when Jan 1 rolls around.

I’ll fully admit that I love the new year. I love making new goals. I love assessing my past year. And I love marching forward. This doesn’t mean that I’m great at keeping goals. I’m not. I think that my strength might be that I’m not a perfectionist – I don’t get caught up on what I haven’t done or how I’ve failed. I just look forward to what I can change.

So…it’s that time of year, and I’ve been thinking about my resolutions – what I want to change about myself and how I want to move forward. Interestingly enough, it has me looking at my weaknesses and struggles.

Struggles

It’s an interesting word. I think that we say it a lot. I know I do. We say things like, “I struggle with my weight.” “I struggle at keeping my budget.” “I struggle with reading my scriptures.” “I struggle …fill in the blank…”

I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve said it because

  1. It seems like a humble thing to do – admit to my weakness and struggle.
  2. It’s a reminder. I can give myself a break because I struggle with something.
  3. It’s practically an excuse. – It is hard to change because I struggle with that.

In the past, tended to think of a struggle as some kind of force I was absolutely powerless against.

***

Recently, I was meditating and praying, pleading with the Lord to help me with my struggles. As I did, the words, struggle and surrender, echoed in my mind. They left an imprint on me, and I decided to find out why.

What is a struggle? I wondered. Well…here it is – the definition:struggle definition

I had an epiphany. Struggling is my choice. I don’t have to do it! I don’t have to struggle with my weaknesses. My struggles often feel so much bigger than me, but they aren’t. In fact, my struggles were of my own making. I was the one choosing to struggle!

Now, I think that it is important to make a clarification. Weaknesses and struggles aren’t the same thing. Weaknesses are parts of our personality that often make our lives more difficult. A struggle, however, is what we do with that weakness. And, I have spent many years struggling against or with my weaknesses. Weakness is what I was born with. Struggling with them is my choice.

Sometimes there seems to be a lot of stress with weakness – like there is this big responsibility we have to “turn them into strengths.” Well. That’s simply not the case. The Lord teaches:

Ether 12:27

Ether 12:27

The Lord gave us weakness not so that we would struggle against it and try to “fix it” ourselves. He gave us weakness so that we would be humble.

He gave us weakness so that we would surrender.

It’s also important to recognize what surrender means in this instance. I’m not suggesting that we would surrender and “give up” in this fight against our weakness by giving in to them. On the contrary, we surrender ourselves, the natural man, or our wills to the Lord.

I’ll give an example – I’ve been struggling (there’s that word again) with my hands. I have a serious issue of dishydrotic eczema. My hands are swollen and itchy. Sometimes they even ooze. I’ve been on Prednisone four different times in the last year because of this condition. It has taken me some time to figure out the cause of it – mostly dietary.

My favorite foods – wheat, nightshades, and almonds seem to make my skin go crazy – my hands will blister, burn, itch, and sometimes I even get hives on my arms. This situation with my hands has been difficult on me, and I have spent many hours in prayer concerning them.

I knew that I needed to change my diet, and I was working on it, but I struggle with that. I struggle with it! Like it’s some carte blanche excuse. I would often plead with Heavenly Father that He would heal my hand condition, while I still ate the things that I knew triggered them. I wanted him to be magic. All because I struggled with giving up wheat and nightshades.

I sat, meditating, and I knew that instead of struggling, I needed to surrender. Struggling was my choice. Instead of struggling because I refused to give up my precious foods, I simply needed to surrender and say, “Okay. I do love wheat-based foods. I do love tomatoes and peppers. I do love almonds. But they hurt me. And if giving them up is what it takes to heal, then I’ll do it. I’ll give them up for thy help.”

***

The Lord wants to heal us physically and spiritually. And He will. The trick is that instead of wrestling against God, we simply need to submit ourselves to Him. When we finally choose to surrender the sins and habits that we are usually quite fond of, then, finally, His grace can begin to heal us.

***
Chinese Handcuff

One final analogy. Have you ever played with those Chinese handcuffs? I remember getting them from dollar stores when I was a kid. You put your fingers in, and the harder you pull, the stronger the hold.

It is when you finally surrender – when you stop resisting – that you find liberation.

Likewise, it is not when we struggle, but when we surrender to the Lord that we will find liberation, peace, and joy.

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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