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I am a Mormon Missionary serving in the Michigan Lansing Mission. I enjoy serving the people of Michigan and love the area. I am also an ice cream addict in the process of recovery :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Consecrated Charity

   In one of my recent studies I was putting emphasis on the Christ-like attribute of Charity. Often times I wonder to myself, "I wish I could love people like the Savior does, how do I get this attribute?!" In Moroni 7:48 it tells us that we should, "Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ." We are directed to pray and ask for this attribute. It is a gift to be bestowed and not an object to be forcefully obtained. I have come to an understanding that it is on the Lord's time that we are blessed with greater measures of charity. However, it is God's will that we become like Him. If we diligently seek, we will find. The end of this verse gives us a little clue as to what we need to do to be given the gift of charity. It says that this gift is bestowed upon true followers of Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to be a true follower of Jesus Christ?
    Along with charity, I have been studying the topic of consecration lately. To consecrate something is to set it apart for a specific purpose. Our Heavenly Father has asked us to consecrate ourselves to His will. He wants us to completely give our will over to Him so that He can lead us to Eternal Life. When we give our will to Him we become a true follower of Jesus Christ. As I was studying this topic I went to the famous parable of "The Rich Young Ruler." In this parable there is a young man who approaches Jesus Christ with the question, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Jesus tells him that he must keep all of the commandments to which the young man replies, "Master, all these have I observed from my youth." With complete awareness, Jesus tells the young man that he still lacks one thing. Jesus tells him to sell everything that he has, give the money to the poor and then to follow Him. The young men then, "was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." The young man was not willing to give everything to the Lord. Although he appeared to be giving most of his will to God, it wasn't enough. If we aren't willing to give everything then there is still, "One thing [we] lackest." While this story is generally used to emphasize the importance of consecration, something else stood out to me. Never before had I noticed the foot note on the word "give" in Mark 10:21. The footnote says TG Charity. When I found that I had a really strong impression hit me that the thing the young man was missing was charity. He did not love God and those around him more than he loved himself. Because he failed to keep the two great commandments, he could not inherit eternal life.
   Charity, the greatest attribute... How does one obtain it? From the parable of "The Rich Young Ruler," I discovered something that I have never understood before. We gain charity as we consecrate our lives to the will of God. If one wants to obtain charity, all they have to do is repent. Change your life so that it is in accordance with the will of God and the Father will bless you with this great love. It is a gift that our Heavenly Father wants to give you because you need it to return to Him. Please change your life and pray to the father for this love because as Moroni tells us, "if ye have not charity, ye are nothing."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tempered Soul

   As I ponder on the many great blessings that my Father in Heaven has given to me, one comes to the forefront of my mind. In Romans 8:16 it reads, " The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." We are literally the Sons and Daughters of God. What does this mean to us? The next verse reveals the answer. Romans 8:17 says, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." The greatest gift that our Heavenly Father has given to us is the opportunity to exist and to become like Him. We are literally heirs to all the Father has to offer. What great potential!
   How do we live up to this potential though? The answer is that we choose to live up to our potential. It is a simple choice made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. If we choose to follow Him then we can become clean and become heirs of God. The key word here is "choose." We have been given our agency or free will to make decisions for ourselves and to act on them. Because God loves us he has not made it a difficult decision. In 2 Nephi 2:27 we are given our options. It reads, " Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." These options are cut and dry. Happiness or Misery? Your choice.
   It is true, however, that sometimes this choice is hard to make. It is hard to make because most of us do not have self control. This is why I chose to write a blog entry entitled "Tempered Soul." The Christ-like attribute of Temperance has been on my mind recently. Temperance is habitual moderation in all things. I feel that I often lose control and let my appetites and passions overrule my good judgment and decision making. Although I know perfectly well what I should be doing or how I should be acting, I let the carnal man take over. Thoughts of I'm too tired to keep going or that ice cream looks really good seem to always flash before me. As I give in to these temptations who has control? The carnal man takes over and my agency is now limited. Temperance is the ability to maintain 100% of our agency at all times.
    How do we go about obtaining temperance? Like all Christ-like attributes, it is a gift from God. We must pray with all the energy of our hearts to obtain it but it can only be given to us if we are qualified to receive it. We qualify for this attribute by focusing on spiritual things. As we put God first, we become moderate in all things. Often times, it is hard to put God first because we are to caught up on the worldly consequences of doing so. A few verses in the book of Hebrews has always stuck out to me concerning this issue. In Hebrews 11:24-26  it reads, " By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward." Moses refused Earthly wealth and glory because he had a spiritual perspective. He knew that no title or material possession can continue on with us into the next life. He recognized that everything God has to offer is eternal and therefor is of greater worth than any worldly reward. If we could take a deep breath before each decision and weigh the eternal consequences of our choices, how much more happiness would there be in the world? How many broken families would be made whole? The powers of hell would be shaken forever.
   It is my testimony to you that putting God first in our lives gives us the opportunity to make decisions with 100% of our agency. As we view our lives with a spiritual eye, we are blessed with temperance. We are blessed with the ability to choose happiness all the time. The next time that you feel the carnal man pulling you in a certain direction, take a deep breath and weigh the consequences of your choices. I know that if you do this you will be happy. You will no longer be plagued by the weakness of flesh and you can become free. Free to choose God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Out With the Passive

In  3 Ne. 27: 19 it says, "And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end."

    This verse has been on my mind recently and has caused me to do a great deal of pondering and study on the subject. The main part that sticks out to me is the beginning. It reads, "no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom." In order to return to live with our Heavenly Father we must become clean. This brought me to the question of what makes us unclean? The answer to that is sin. Sin makes us unclean and prevents us from inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. Sin is knowingly going against the will of God. We make our claim on the Kingdom of Heaven void when we go against the will of God. The rest of the verse denotes that there is action involved in the process of aligning our will with God's. This brings me to the title of this post, Out With the Passive.
    First, I would like to note the next part of this verse that reads, "therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood." From this we gather that there are no exceptions to the prerequisites for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to wash ourselves clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How do we make ourselves clean though? The rest of the verse tells us that we must have faith, repent, and endure faithfully to the end if we are to wash ourselves clean. I feel that there is a common misconception in the world. Many people believe that all we have to do is seek forgiveness everytime we do something wrong in order to get back to Heaven. This is partly true. We definitely must seek forgiveness but we do that through repentance. Repentance is also change. Previously we have established that an aligning of our will's with God's is necessary for entrance into His kingdom. If we simply ask for forgiveness everytime that we do something wrong have we aligned our will with God's? Have we changed ourselves to be more like Him? The answer is no.
   Also, I believe that most everyone in the world does not understand what God has asked of us. He hasn't asked for part of our will or 75% of our will, He has asked for all of it. He wants us to completely align our will with His. How do we go about doing this? In order to align our will with God's we must first seek to know His will. We need to find out what He wants for us and apply what we find to our lives. We cannot be saved in ignorance. As we seek for understanding, God will make us aware of the changes that we need to make. One thing that I have found out is that we still suffer the consequences of sins (transgressions) that we have unknowingly committed. Even if we are doing something wrong and are not aware that we are doing something wrong, it still makes us unclean. If we are unclean we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This brings me to the point that I am trying to make. If we are to become fully clean we must act! We come to understand the Gospel more fully as we live it. We cannot afford to make the mistake of believing that enduring to the end means going to church every week and passively reading our scriptures and praying. We must progress to the end! In 2 Nephi 28:30 it states, "For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." Each day we must learn line upon line. Continual improvement is the Celestial motto. Begin today to make a change. Do the words you use and the music you listen to invite the Spirit? Do you spend your time productively? Are you living your life as the Savior would? Ask yourself these questions. Evaluate your day to day activities and measure your progress. If you are not becoming more like your Heavenly Father each day then you are not on the right path. I know from my experience that as soon as obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, we are endowed with power. We are shown the way and the gate is opened. My plea to you today is to become clean. Let your carnal desires be swallowed up by the person you were before this life and become the person the Lord would have you be.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why do we do it?

Obedience, what a wonderful thing. As a young man I never understood the importance of Obedience. I didn't know why we should keep the rules, or why the rules were even there. As I've gotten older I have experienced both the benefits of keeping the rules and also what happens when we don't follow the rules... I am a fan of the first. It has been interesting to me to see how the more we come to know God in our lives the more we want to keep the commandments. President Boyd K. Packer says, "True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior." This statement needs no more support than my own life to verify its validity. While growing up I didn't understand true doctrine. I did as I pleased and sought after whatever would quickly make me happy. I bounced from addiction to addiction to fill my time and to keep my mind distracted from the weightier matters of life. From Donkey Kong to Paintball to working out and World of Warcraft, I was a professional time waster.  Like all worldly courses, this led to a crash. Happiness cannot be sustained without the knowledge and support of deity. Deity was definitely not a high priority in my life although I thought it was at the time. I said my prayers, occasionally read my scriptures and always attended church. I had even passed through the temple on occasion. Although I was what appeared to be "active" in church I was definitely only there physically. My mind however did catch the occasional life lesson from the many church experiences that I had. Over time I felt like I knew what I was supposed to be doing but I did everything I possibly could to distract myself from it. Life continued on but I soon found that the pain of sin and spiritual neglect could no longer be clouded by distraction.  A void was created in my life and it became apparent to me that something was missing. In the back of my head I knew what was missing but by that point in time I had become so entangled in distractions and sin that there appeared to be no way out. What was I to do?  Fortunately for me, I was born to goodly parents. My parents and others helped to steer me in the right direction only after I had experienced what many others have gone through. In Alma 62:41 it says, "many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility." If there is one thing that we can count on in this life it is that one way or another, we will be compelled to be humble. Whether we compel ourselves to be humble or God compels us to be humble is up to us. Take my advice and humble yourself, it's much prettier that way. As soon as I began to understand true doctrine my attitude and behavior changed. I am a completely different person now that I have decided to follow God.

This leads me to the subject question. Why do we do it? Why do we follow God and keep His commandments. Why is it that understanding true doctrine changes our attitudes and behavior? This morning as I was studying I was impressed by a very powerful thought. It was something that makes complete sense but has never before been unfolded to my view.  Often times we think that we should be obedient because obedience leads to happiness. This is true, it does lead to happiness. There are, however, different levels of motivation for obedience. At the bottom we have those who are obedient because they are afraid of the consequences of disobedience. It is good to be obedient but this is not what should be the driving force behind it. The next level of obedience is being obedient because we want the reward. If we are obedient and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will get to the Celestial Kingdom.  As I was pondering on this principle I was thinking about my motivations for living the Gospel. I'm afraid of the consequences of sin but that is not what motivates me. I have always just wanted to be happy and to return to live with God and that is what has motivated me. The more I thought about this the more I realized that I had good motives but they werent the best. Being obedient because I was seeking after a reward will only get me so far. As I was pondering, a verse in John came to mind. John 14:15 states, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." As I thought about it more I read an interesting phrase in Preach My Gospel under the Faith section that says we show our love for God by avoiding sin. At that moment it all made sense. The idea of being obedient out of love is something I've studied before but never have I applied it to my own personal progression.  If I am to return to the presence of my Heavenly Father it will not be because I want that reward. I can only return to live with Him if I love Him enough to align my will with His. His glory and happiness comes from His children making it back to Him. If we are to truly make it back, we will do it because we love God and want Him to be happy and to be glorified. I look to the Savior for our perfect example and say with Him, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."