Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tender Mercy Tuesday

Our Heavenly Father is always blessing us in ways that are so subtle, sometimes we don't recognize them unless we are looking.

A while ago when I was in Concord, North Carolina, I was living with three other sister missionaries. You must understand, we missionaries have a lot of rules. They are good and protect us....but we have a lot. Anyway, some of those rules include only e-mailing our families on Mondays and doing so at computers where companions can see each others screens -- so basically next to each other. For the past several weeks we had had difficulty finding even two computers side-by-side. This made it so one companion had to sit impatiently while the other hurriedly took care of their e-mailing and such. Then we'd have to switch. It was made even more frustrating because we had other errands to run as well, and, because all four of us (two companionships) shared a car, all four missionaries had to be finished  with our e-mailing before we left to do other things. With companions having to wait on each other, it cut deeply into time we could use otherwise.

This particular Monday was one of my last in Concord. I really didn't want to have to anxiously wait for a computer to be able to communicate with my family, and I had to use my remaining allotted time to pack. Before getting out of our car outside the public library in Concord, we missionaries prayed like we usually would whenever we go anywhere. We prayed that each companionship would be able to find computers side-by-side, so we could just focus on and enjoy communicating with our families.

As we entered the library and walked around the bookshelves to the public computers, what did we see? You better believe it. Four wide open computers all in a row. Not only could we e-mail our families all at the same time, but both companionships could be right by one another. What a beautiful tender mercy that our Heavenly Father bestowed on us that day.

It wasn't going to kill us to have to take turns, but Heavenly Father was kind enough to allow this small blessing. Be on the lookout for your own!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

To Fulfill All Righteousness

Have you ever been in a math class (algebra, geometry, calculus, oh my!), watching your teacher work out a a particular type of problem on the whiteboard, and been completely mystified as to why he does a certain step? "Subract the five and then add it to the other side of the equal sign," or something like that? Forehead crinkled, tongue between teeth, you do your best to follow your teacher's example, still confused about why you have to subtract the five from one side of the equal sign and add it to the other. But as you get to the last step, and look back up at the whiteboard to make sure you got the right answer, you say to yourself with pleasant surprise, "Wait a second--that worked! I got the right answer by doing what my teacher told me to. Wow, I guess that step was necessary to get the correct answer!"

We can relate this parable, mundane as it is, to the example that the Greatest Teacher set for us. Our Savior Jesus Christ  has worked out all of our problems for us. He not only knows how to solve our problems, but has felt them Himself and has shown us the steps to overcome them. Sometimes we are not sure why we have to do certain things. But as we follow His example in faith, we come to understand the reasons behind the things He asks us to do.

As with all of the best teacher, Christ has done more than just write the process on the board. He went through the process Himself. One of the essential steps that Christ walked us through in the equation leading to eternal life and being with our families forever is baptism by the proper authority of God. This is demonstrated clearly in Matthew 3:13-15 of the New Testament:

   "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him."

Jesus sought out John the Baptist specifically to be baptized. This is because John had the priesthood authority of God; the priesthood being the power and authority to act in the name of God. John initially protests but Jesus answers that His baptism is necessary to "fulfill all righteousness" -- in essence, to show us what we need to do to return to our Heavenly Father and be with our families. This act is very instructive. Not only do we need to be baptized, but in the proper way (by immersion), and by the proper authority (the priesthood authority of God). Here is a short video that depicts Christ's baptism.

Baptism is the next step in following the path Jesus blazed for us. It is by exhibiting faith and exercising repentance that we come to understand and gain the desire to be baptized. It is through baptism that we are able to open the gate that allows access to the Atoning sacrifice of our Savior.

Even after we are baptized, however, we cannot "cease to labor" (Moroni 9:6, The Book of Mormon). In fact our baptism by water is not even quite complete: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

Being "born...of the Spirit" is the next step to find our Celestial answer and being with our family forever.

We'll talk about that soon. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pick-Up Sticks

The second principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is repentance, or change to align our will with our Heavenly Father's. Repentance, of course, entails discontinuing sins or wrong choices that we may be making, but also includes improvement, progression, and change. Repentance was explained to me by a wonderful woman, living in Concord, North Carolina. We will call her Lori.

One Thursday in June, a powerful storm swept through the Charlotte area. My missionary duty was in Concord at that time and my missionary companion and I gaped as we went out the morning afterward. Traffic lights were out, power lines were down, but mostly trees -- tall, wide, and otherwise -- had fallen and split everywhere we looked. Some had even fallen on houses, making them not just unfit, but downright dangerous for habitation. The effects could not be cleaned up overnight, so the Saturday after the storm, my companion and I decided to help. Although we were dressed in what we call our 'proselyting clothes' (skirts and dress shoes), we walked up and down neighborhoods, asking if we could help. No one, of course, would allow us to. We were just two girls in skirts and flats. How much could we help anyway? Especially with those huge purses. And what was up with the blue books and name tags?

Finally, after hours of not helping, frustrated at being denied the chance to do manual labor, we drove to another part of town and, seeing a middle-aged woman picking up sticks in her yard, parked, prayed, and purposefully stepped out of the car. She would allow us to help her.

We walked right up to her and said, "Hello! We see you are cleaning up sticks from the storm. So are you just putting them over there in that pile?" And then we started picking up branches, sticks, and twigs that had fallen because of the storm. Sometimes it is better not to ask for permission.

We ended up spending over an hour with that woman, who was, indeed, Lori. She was very sweet and talkative. She asked us all sorts of questions about our missionary work. She was a devoted Christian and her daughters actually had a few Latter-day Saint friends who had served missions like us. After picking up most of the sticks, she invited us in for a water break. We continued our wonderful conversation and talked all about family and how Christ helps us stay on track. We could not have felt more at home. This led to another visit about a week later, in which we invited a member of our congregation to join us.

The member we brought and Lori hit it off at once. We talked a lot about our purpose in this life, which is to learn, grow, and progress, and more about families. We talked about how difficult it can sometimes be to change, and also that often times change, or repentance, is not so much not sinning, but many times improving ourselves. "It's a lot like picking up the sticks from the storm," she said. "Once you pick up the big branches, you start seeing the smaller sticks and then you can pick those up, but you don't really see the small twigs until you've dealt with the big branches."

What a beautifully simple way to illustrate the journey of our lives. Many of us do have big branches that we need to dispose of, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to be forgiven of those things. But many of us don't have an inclination to commit big sins. We've taken care of the large sticks, so now our job is to recognize those small twigs, and work on picking all of those up.

Repentance is a life-long process. Recognizing sin and striving to change, asking for forgiveness for our shortcomings, and recognizing that the Savior is the only one who can save us is critical to following the path that Christ has set for us.  What a blessing that we have this knowledge, so that we can transform into the person our Heavenly Father knows we an be. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Family Matters...to Christ

I told y'all I was going to write more on families, right? It has been a little longer than I expected (technical difficulties) but the promised post is finally here. Families can be together forever, but what is our responsibility?

As a missionary, this responsibility is something we teach all the time. It is beautifully simple, yet encompasses so much. It is what we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "The gospel of Jesus Christ," you say. "Oh, yeah. Like the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. 'Turn the other cheek.' 'The meek will inherit the earth.' Got it." Yes, those are some of Christ's teachings, and fall within the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he gave us a "strait and narrow path" that, if followed, will allow us to be with our families forever.  I'll go through them one by one. It may take a few days.


Faith, according to the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith in Christ means believing that he really was the Son of God. That he truly did volunteer to suffer and die for us. And not only that he volunteered, but that he did. He bore all of our burdens. He suffered for our sins. He went forth "suffering pains  and afflictions and temptations of every kind,"so that "his bowels [would] be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their affirmities" (Alma 7:11-12, The Book of Mormon).

Christ knows everything that we have been through. Having faith in him not only means believing in the above, that he suffered all of our pains and the penalty for our sins, as well as that he died for us and "loose[d] the bands of death" (Alma 7:12) for us -- which, of course, is vital to faith -- but it also means believing him. Believing his words. Believing his promises. Believing that his teachings will bring us true happiness. And then following those teaching courageously, without grudge or doubt, without hesitation or fear. That is true faith -- believing unto action.

And what actions must we take?  We'll talk about that soon.