Friday, August 12, 2011


Yesterday we made pancakes. Pancakes are amazing and beautiful, but there is a certain way that pancakes must be done to reach their full potential. They have to be cooked on fairly high heat with some butter on the grill so they get those nice crisp edges and the slightly mottled texture on the top and bottom. They must also be eaten as soon as they are off the griddle and still warm enough to melt the butter you put on top. This is the pinnacle of breakfast perfection. It also takes a lot of skill and a decent amount of speed on the part of the cook. In this case, that cook turned out to be me. I noticed something a little frustrating as I cooked them though. As soon as I would get one on my plate, with the syrup and such all ready, it would be time to flip the next one and then it would be done, and would go on my companion's plate, and my first one would still be uneaten. On the other hand, my companion ended up with perfect timing, and as soon as he finished one, the next was ready for him. In some way or another, perhaps as a side effect of being a missionary, this got me thinking about the gospel. My thought was this- I couldn't make the pancakes very well for myself, but I could make them pretty good for my companion. Likewise, he could make them for me, no problem. But when either of us tried to do it for our self, it wasn't as good. I think service and the Priesthood work a lot the same way. They have to be selfless, then they work great. When we try to do everything ourselves and shut others out, we miss out. At the same time, when we give of ourselves, we can do for others what they can't do for themselves. With the Priesthood, we can't give ourselves blessings or do ordinances for ourselves, but we can for others. Just like making the pancakes, we serve others and others serve us, then we get the blessings of our service, which are usually just as good as pancakes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Repentance and a New Truck

So something pretty cool happened this week. We got a nice new Chevy Colorado on Tuesday. Our vehicle before that, a Dodge Caliber, was one of the older cars in the mission and was starting to show it's age. We already had taken it to the garage several times to fix a lot of issues, but it always had something else come back up. Then last Monday we got a got a call from the Assistants telling us that we would be getting their truck, so we needed to get the Caliber cleaned up and ready to sell. With the promise of the nice new truck on the horizon, it was easy to find the motivation to meticulously vacuum and wash and wipe everything in the car. We did everything we could to get it perfect, but some of the bigger  issues were beyond what we could do. I was able to put new brake pads on, but the brake rotors and most of the suspension on one of the wheels needed professional help. Nevertheless, we did all that we could, then handed it over to the Assistants and got the keys to the bright white Colorado. It was such a relief driving home that we didn't have strange noises coming from the engine, the wheels weren't pulling to the left side anymore, and the unmistakable new car smell was pretty nice too. 
All this got me thinking a little about repentance and the process it takes to gain forgiveness. None of us is without our flaws, and we can do a lot to change ourselves, but ultimately we can't be made perfectly clean without the Savior. Some things we just can't fix on our own. But at the same time, we need to do what we can and then let the Lord take care of the rest. Even though we couldn't replace the tie rods and ball joints on the old car, we could get it clean before we turned it in. In life, we can't get rid of our sins on our own, but we can make restitution for them and try to make up for what we've done, then turn it over to the Savior. Then he can not only fix us, but we will be better for it then we ever were before. We got more than a fixed version of our car when we turned it in we got a lot more. When the Lord invited us to repent He can turn us into more then a fixed version of ourselves. We can be what he wants us to be.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Black Clouds and Silver Linings

One of the many things I have to be grateful to my parents for is all the effort they have expended trying to get me to have a positive attitude about well, everything. Seeing the good in a situation is sometimes pretty hard. A lot of times it takes a look back on the situation much later to see any good that came out of it whatsoever. We get pretty nearsighted in the moment and can't see past our trials to the blessings that may come from them. For example, two weeks ago I was officially diagnosed by the mission doctor with moderate to severe insomnia. It's something I've always known, I've had trouble sleeping for several years now, but getting the official diagnosis made me think about it a lot more. At first glance, it's hard to see any good that comes out of something like this. It seems like running on two or three hours of sleep a night would make me pretty useless. At times it feels like it does. But then thinking about the effects it's had on me so far paints a totally different picture. Looking back on the past few years I would expect to remember a lot of times that I wasn't able to do anything because I was too tired. I don't I remember a lot of times, especially on my mission, without the benefit of sleeping in on weekends, that I have been tired, but never to the point that I was unable to do what I needed to. Instead I remembered countless nights that I would go out to the living room of the apartment, or at home, just turn on the light, and read for hours. Novels, biographies, almanacs, encyclopedias, everything, I just mowed through it. Since my mission started my choices have been somewhat more limited, but these late night reading sessions mean that I have just finished reading the entire standard works for the fifth time in the last ten months. Looking back at all of that, it seems incredible to me that I even remember anything that I read, but somehow I do. I realize that so much of the knowledge I've gained from doing this has really blessed my life. So many of the things I actually know anything about I learned reading at three in the morning. Seeing that gives me some gratitude for this trial. That's not to say that I like it, if I could say the word and be able to sleep soundly tonight and for the rest of my life I would do it without hesitation. On the other hand, if I was given the choice to have never had it, I don't know that I would take that. So I guess the point I'm trying to make is that trials aren't much fun. They can really be a thorn in our side. An yet there is good to come out of them. Sometimes it takes a little work. I wouldn't have gained a thing from this had I stayed in bed and stared at the ceiling for four hours a night. But with the right perspective and a little effort we can make good things come from bad situations. Obviously, this is a rather minor trial to deal with. When faced with something far more catastrophic, it seems impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is those times when we have to put our trust in the Lord and know that he will see us safely through to the end. And, as with Joseph Smith was told in his hour of despair in Liberty Jail, "..thy adversity and afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." (D&C 121: 7-8)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Higher Law

One thing I've had a huge perspective shift on from my primary days to now is my conception of the Higher Law in relation to the Law of Moses. When I would hear that Christ's Law demanded much more of us, I would balk a little. To me it was hard to imagine that the Law of Moses, with all it's strict formalities, would be easier to follow. I remembered how strictly interpreted and strictly enforced the limitations on the Sabbath were, and I always remembered just how many foods were "unclean." I thought in our day, with the only boundaries on the Sabbath the ones we set for ourselves, no ban on any particular foods, Word of Wisdom notwithstanding, and no animal sacrifices to be made, that we lived under a much easier law. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Scriptures and the Gathering of Isreal

In the Tenth Article of Faith, it reads: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and in the Restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion, (The New Jerusalem,) will be built upon the American Continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the Earth; and the Earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory." The Gathering of Israel is a fairly complex subject. I'll give a little background to put it all in perspective. Jacob was a grandson of Abraham, who was promised through a covenant with God that his seed would be the chosen people of the Lord. Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, had twelve sons, who, after some shuffling around and adding in his grandsons, became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In the course of history, these tribes failed to live up to their covenants and were scattered. Only the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remained intact, while the others were driven out and lost, becoming the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Although they were lost, God promised that they would be restored. "And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase." (Jer. 23:3) This is the dispensation that the Lost Tribes will be gathered. The Keys to the Gathering of Israel were given to Joseph Smith by the Prophet Moses in the Kirtland Temple in 1836.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Doctrine of Christ, Part 5: Endure to the End

Once we have received the ordinances of Baptism and Confirmation, our spiritual journey is hardly over. In fact, the scriptures call baptism the gate to the strait and narrow path, and that the majority of the journey lies ahead. (see 2 Nephi 31: 19-20) None of these things in the Doctrine of Christ were meant as one time events. Faith is not something that we have once and it is over. We have to continually strenghten our faith in order to stay on the path. Since we all sin, repentance is needed, not only once but constantly throughout our lives. We renew the coventants we make at baptism each week by partaking of the Sacrament, in order to qualify us to have the Spirit. In a way, enduring to the end is nothing more than a rinse, repeat cycle. The Doctrine of Christ is the way we progress, and we need to continuously walk that path to keep progressing. In fact, it is the halt of progress that the scriptures mean when they talk of damnation. So then what exactly do we mean when we talk of endurance? Often the scripures bring to mind the idea of suffering for the Gospel's sake. Passages like Matthew 10: 22 and Romans 8: 17 certainly bring this image to mind. Thankfully, much of the physical persecution that has faced the saints of every age is a thing of the past. Yet today, we are still faced with many trials as a result of the wickedness of the world. As such, more often the way we endure is to stay true to our covenants in spite of the adversity the world can throw at us. We may not be asked to suffer being driven from our homes and tarred and feathered along the way, but we are asked to stay true to the standards of the Church we promised to obey regardless of how easy the alternative may seem. When we endure the trials of our faith that are placed in our lives, we show our commitment to the Gospel and our loyalty to Christ. We are promised incredible blessings if we can just do this. Just as a runner who has to complete the entire race before he can have his rest, we are asked to give our best in this life so that we can qualify for these blessings in the life to come.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Doctrine of Christ, Part 4: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

After baptism we are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This is the right to have the Spirit with us at all times as long as we live worthily. "Baptism of water without the bestowal of the Holy Ghost would be incomplete, and would be but half a baptism" (Bible Dictionary, Confirmation) Having the Gift of the Holy Ghost is essential to complete baptism and make it valid. The ordinance of confirmation is also when we become official members of the Church. When Nicodemus came to Christ to ask what he must do to inherit the Kingdom of God, Jesus answered,
"... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of Water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3: 3-5) 
Through this we learn that baptism by water, though necessary, is not enough alone. We must also have a baptism by the Spirit, which comes from receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 

Having the Holy Ghost is essential to conversion to the truth. Though the Gift of the Holy Ghost can come only after baptism, those who are not yet to that point can still receive guidance, direction, comfort, and testimony though the Spirit. This is called the Power of the Holy Ghost, and is available to anyone. The difference is that the Power of the Holy Ghost is fleeting, while the Gift of the Holy Ghost is constant. The Power of the Holy Ghost can come to one who is investigating the Church to witness to them that the things they are hearing are true. It can build someone's testimony sufficiently to lead them to joining the Church, at which point they can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Gift of the Holy Ghost can transform one's testimony and strengthen it immensely. I think the best illustration of this is in the Apostle Peter. Peter was a man of great faith, enough so that he was briefly able to walk on the water with Christ. He was sure enough in his testimony of the Savior that he claimed he was ready to die for him. This story is found toward the end of Christ's life as recorded by Luke:
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me."(Luke 22: 31-34)
 Peter walked with Christ through most of His earthly ministry. He knew as much as anyone on the earth at that time that Jesus was the Christ. He gave up his trade and more or less his life to follow the Savior, yet Christ said when thou art converted. Christ's word proved to be prophetic and Peter did indeed deny him three times before the morning. Not too long afterward, but some time after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Peter was preaching to a crowd, likely many of the same that accused him of being with Christ that night, Possibly some of the same that he denied knowing Him to. Yet this time he was bold, bluntly accusing the people in the multitude of crucifying their Lord. This is obviously a different man than the one who denied his association with the Lord earlier. So what happened to Peter to change him from a man who knew that Christ was the Savior yet couldn't stand up to his beliefs, to the man who called out an entire crowd for murdering Jesus? The answer is that in between these episodes he gained the Gift of the Holy Ghost. In Acts chapter 2 we read about the bestowal of the Holy Ghost to the disciples. Though Christ had previously promised them the Gift of the Holy Ghost, it didn't come to them until the Day of Pentecost. Receiving this Gift transformed Peter, along with the other disciples, so they were ready for their ministry. After having received the Spirit, Peter became one of the most stalwart men in history regarding his testimony of Christ, and eventually made good on his promise to die for the Savior many years later. Having the Gift of the Holy Ghost was what made the difference for Peter. He truly was converted by it's power. All his time with Christ had not fully converted him, but the witness of the Spirit had.