Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Testimony Hill

It was a sticky hot day here in the South and Sister Manes (my companion) and I were right in the middle of a Bike Week. Yes, a Bike Week is exactly what it sounds like -- we do not have use of a car, so travel is either bikes, walking, or kind members of our congregation. Not only do we as missionaries have the opportunity to build our knowledge and love of the Lord, but our leg muscles as well. In skirts. No distance is too great, no humidity too dense, no road too narrow, nor mosquito too pesky to stop us from fulfilling our purpose to bring others closer to Christ. Yeah...that is what we tell ourselves. I'll confess, I've whined once or twice during a bike week. But they build character. Anyway, Sister Manes and I were on our bikes. We had an appointment to get to. We perhaps were a little bit late. And we needed to figure out how to get there. Sister Manes pulled out her trusty GPS, typed in the address, and we were off.

Yeah, our bikes are pretty special.
We had been biking for only a short distance when we realized that there was a rather steep hill ahead of us. In fact, it was the steepest hill we had ever biked. And to make that realization even more inviting, the road we were on was quite narrow and relatively busy as well.

At this point, I could do one of two things: jump off my bike and labor up the hill whilst rolling my bike along beside me (off the side of the road), or bike up it. Perhaps it would have been wiser to choose the first option (I'm sure the drivers behind me would have preferred that). But that felt to me like defeat. I was going to conquer it.

I didn't look down as I shifted to first gear. I didn't look up as I came the hill's foot. I didn't look behind me as I pushed down on the pedals, each pump getting harder and harder. And so I rode.

Panting, muscles protesting, I continued up the slope. Cars were lining up behind me and I'm sure drivers were cursing my name, but I paid them no mind. Just a few more pumps...I was almost to the top....Yes! I was at the top! Wait...I expected my required efforts to ease as I rounded what I thought was the top of the hill. But it only took a few more pedals for me to recognize that I was still having to work just as hard to move the bike forward, even though it looked like I had crested the hill. Looking forward, I realized that although the slope had decreased quite a bit, I was still not at its crest. I was completely out of breath, my legs were out of energy, but I had set out to conquer that hill. So I forced my legs to push on the pedals once again. I focused on the spot I thought was the real crest, and continued on. Gasp, pedal, gasp, pedal, gasp, pedal was the pattern in my head. And then, with one last magnificent push, I was at the top. I had conquered the hill.

Alright, Sister Neilson. That was quite a dramatic story, especially for just biking up a hill. But what does it have to do with this whole "Family matters, Gospel of Jesus Christ" thing? You told us they were a progression.

Well, let's evaluate what we've been through so far:

Faith (in Jesus Christ and His Atonement), Repentance (picking up sticks), Baptism (math equations), and the Holy Ghost (colleges and majors). All of these steps lead to each other. Christ has given us one last step in order to allow us to access His Atonement and thus return to live with our Heavenly Father. That is enduring to the end.

The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon testifies, "Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen" (1 Nephi 22:31). Furthermore, in the New Testament, Matthew 24:13 says, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." In James 5:11 we read, "Behold, we count them happy which endure." If we exercise faith unto repentance, follow Christ's command to be baptized by proper authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and do these things everyday in some form for the rest of our lives, we "shall have eternal life" (2 Nephi 2:20). Sometimes the slope may seem steep. Sometimes that last little bit to the crest may seem impossible. But as we put our efforts, faculties, and desires towards following our Savior, we shall be happy, as promised in James. Following Christ is not just a one time deal. We must continue to work, continue to love, continue to strive. It is only through consistently applying His gospel that we can be fully redeemed of our sins and live in His presence again.

We later named that hill "Testimony Hill." I never regretted putting forth that extra effort so I that I can write that I beat it. And built my testimony in the process.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gift of the Holy Ghost: Healing and Help

Not too long ago, in a place not too far away (relatively speaking), I was sitting at a computer, looking up college majors at Brigham Young University. At that time, I was a student at Utah State University. I had chosen to attend Utah State right out of high school for a couple different reasons, but in reality, I had always wanted to go to BYU. I had immensely enjoyed my three semesters at Utah State, but my dream of going to BYU was starting to gnaw at me. Around Christmas time, out of curiosity motivated by mild frustration, I started a superficial exploration of what I'd have to do to transfer to BYU. Scrolling through the majors offered, I saw that BYU offered a linguistics program, which I had been interested in studying early on in my college years. I hadn't pursued it because it had not been offered at Utah State. As my eyes lingered on that particular line of that particular page of that particular website of that particular university, I felt something. Briefly, less than a second long, I felt something like a drop of warmth, peace, and confidence. It dipped through my body, and then was gone.

Although I had not recognized it right then, I have come to realize that that was the Holy Ghost.

In Galatians 5:23-23 it reads, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." In The Book of Mormon we read of a man named Nephi, who was trying to procure a record of scripture for his family. In 1 Nephi 4:6 he writes, "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." Furthermore, we read in 2 Nephi 32:5, also in The Book of Mormon, "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do."

"Enter[ing] in by the way" is being baptized, as we discussed in a post not too long ago. After the cleansing gift of baptism, we are able to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which bears record of truth, gives us guidance, strengthens us, and does many more things for us. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is another step in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Following the subtle promptings of the Holy Ghost is a life-long, daily pursuit. When we follow the Spirit's promptings, we are doing God's will. When we do God's will, there is no way we can go astray.

After exploring tuition costs, programs offered, credit transfers, etc. I made the decision to transfer to BYU. Although I have yet to enter the linguistics program (serving a mission has postponed that for a little while) I am excited and confident that this is the path Heavenly Father wants me to take.