Revamped, Retooled, Renewed

7 Jan

This is my first post to this blog in over 2 years! I created this site while I was a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a space to share my testimony of the gospel. When I got home, I let the site sit as it was, a shrine to my time in the New York Rochester Mission. But why should it just sit there? Just because I’m not a full-time missionary anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t have a testimony of Jesus Christ, or that I have nothing uplifting to share. So I’ve done some revamping of the site and I now plan to share regular tidbits from my personal study of the gospel.

I’ve been planning to do this retooling for a while, and it’s purely coincidence that it happened around the start of the new year. But while we’re here, let’s make a lesson out of it.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor of the First Presidency of the Church, shared the following in a recent article:

dieter-f-uchtdorf-largeI love getting a new computer with a clean hard drive. For a time it works perfectly. But as the days and weeks pass by and more and more programs get installed (some intentional, some not so intentional), eventually the computer begins to stall, and things it used to do quickly and efficiently become sluggish. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Even getting it to start can become a chore as the hard drive becomes cluttered with miscellaneous chaos and electronic debris. There are times when the only recourse is to reformat the computer and start over.

Human beings can likewise become cluttered with fears, doubts, and burdensome guilt. The mistakes we have made (both intentional and unintentional) can weigh upon us until it may seem hard to do what we know we should.

In the case of sin, there is a wonderful reformatting process called repentance that allows us to clear our internal hard drives of the clutter that burdens our hearts. The gospel, through the miraculous and compassionate Atonement of Jesus Christ, shows us the way to cleanse our souls of the stain of sin and once again become new, pure, and as innocent as a child.

That, to me, is the essential beauty of the gospel message. No matter how cluttered our hearts become, no matter how muddled our priorities, no matter how stained our past, we can be renewed through the cleansing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. And we don’t have to wait for a new year to start again. Every day is a fresh cycle of the earth around the sun. Every hour is a fresh sweep of the hand around the clock. Even every moment is a fresh breath that can start us on a new path through this life. We don’t have to stay cluttered, muddled, or stained. Heavenly Father has given us infinite opportunities to make the right choices. And every single right choice brings us greater happiness and peace because it brings us closer to Him.

Happy 2014!

I dedicate this post to the dedication of the dedicated…

22 Sep

A couple of weeks ago, we New York missionaries were asked to ponder the question “How can I be a successful missionary?”. In the midst of my pondering, I came across a story told by President Thomas S. Monson:

Elder Thomas Michael Wilson entered the mission field already having battled cancer in his 23 years of life. His companions described his faith as ” unquestioning, undeviating, and unyielding”. 11 months into his 2 years of service, cancer returned, but Elder Wilson persisted in his missionary efforts. He underwent surgery and the amputation of his arm, but stayed in the mission field. President Monson relates how “Elder Wilson continued month after month his precious but painful service as a missionary. Blessings were given; prayers were offered. Because of his example of dedication, his fellow missionaries lived closer to God.” As the end of his mission drew near, so did the end of his short life, but he asked, and was allowed, to serve one additional month. Elder Wilson died shortly after returning home, and was buried with his missionary nametag in place.

As I read this story, I recognized it as a success story. Elder Wilson’s life was short. He didn’t make a lot of money. He didn’t raise a beautiful family. He didn’t set any records or break any barriers. But he dedicated himself completely to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’ve also seen this same quality over and over in the mormon.org videos. These are quick glimpses into the lives of members of the LDS church and each one seems to be a glimpse into a life of success and joy. The common thread that I’ve seen is that each person featured talks about their dedication to worthy causes — family, talents, interests, life.

One of my favorite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw, who said:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

Dedication is success. In the last few weeks I have formed the opinion that to be successful in life, all one has to do is find something worthy to be passionate about, and be dedicated. For my part, I choose to be dedicated to my family, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, for the next week and a half, my mission as a representative of the Lord.

4 weeks to live

8 Sep

In the missionary world, we have this little analogy:

 Mortal Life: From the scriptures we learn that we lived with God before coming here. We left His presence to come to earth and learn important things for ourselves. We don’t remember our Father’s presence while we’re here, but we can communicate to Him through prayer and scripture study. Though it seems long to us, this mortal period is just a short part of our existence; we know that we can return to Him after we leave this life. If we have done well in this life, we will stand again in our Father’s presence with confidence.

Mission Life: We lived with families before coming out, but all that seems like a distant memory in the moment. We left them across the country to come out here and learn important things for ourselves, while we teach those important things to others. We can communicate with our families through emails and letters. Though it seems long, this mission is just a short part of our mortal lives; when we finish our time, we will return to our families. If we served well on our missions, we will stand in the future with confidence.

I’ve always liked this mission/life analogy. It’s very applicable. The problem that I have with it right now is that this means I have about four weeks to live. Yikes. But I decided early on in my mission how I wanted to die. I want to focus on doing as much as I can in the time I have left.

The scriptures frequently admonish us to endure to the end. That means that when our mortal lives are drawing to a close, we don’t want to focus on the things of this world. We don’t want to lose sight of what’s important and eternal by trying to live it up in what’s temporary and fleeting. Life, like a mission, is all about focus.

If you were a world-class sprinter, you wouldn’t want to slow down towards the end of your distance. There would, of course, be temptations to slow down. Maybe you realize that you’ll easily beat your best time and don’t need to work quite so hard at the end. Or maybe you feel the pain in your side and you would rather slow down and drink something. But you are a world-class sprinter. You would rather do your absolute best than simply do better than you’ve done before. And you would rather sprint for just a little while longer and ignore the side-ache, knowing that you can drink plenty afterward.

So it is in life. We want to do our absolute best, not be content with just doing pretty well, or even worse, just doing a little better than the people around us. And there may be distractions, worldly things that seem pleasing, but we know that the rewards for finishing well are far greater than any temporary pleasures here. My mission has taught me, among many, many, many other things, that when I reach the end of my mortal life, I want to keep working hard in the Lord’s service and I don’t want to lose sight.

Four weeks and counting. This post is a little reminder to me to keep working!

Sacred Scriptures

18 Aug

The book of Matthew in The Bible began as just one written text, a record of the experiences and testimony of a disciple of Jesus Christ. That testimony was copied, to share with others. A facsimile of that testimony was then included in an anthology of religious writings. That anthology was copied over and over, and came to be known as The Bible. So it is with each of the books in The Bible, though some have traveled longer and further than the testimony of Matthew.

The written copies of The Bible were treasured and studied, but could not reach far enough. The Lord inspired a man named Johannes Gutenburg, in 1452, to create a system of moveable type with which to print The Bible in greater quantities. That technology progressed, and The Bible became more widely available. Still, that was not enough. The Lord is continuing to inspire great minds today; the internet, cell phones, and technology today now make it possible to access The Bible anytime, anywhere.

The Bible is not meant to be mysterious or incomprehensible. It is the word of God given to man. We are meant to understand what is written therein. With diligent study and the Spirit of the Lord, we can understand, and apply it to our lives. This is what God wants for us.

 

I testify of the power of the scriptures. The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the words of living prophets are treasures. I’m so grateful to have them!

Repent ye! Repent ye!

9 Aug

I’ve learned an incredible lesson the last couple of weeks.

Being a missionary is a big responsibility. We are called by the Lord to “stand in his place … to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering to the people to whom he has sent [us]” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie). I can tell you quite honestly that I fall short of that every day. It can really start to weigh on you, all the times that you don’t quite do enough or don’t quite get it right. It’s hard to face the eternal consequences of the work of salvation. Even the little mistakes start to add up.

But this week I’ve been doing something different. Every night, as I pray before going to sleep, I spend some time thinking about those little things that I missed. I ask my Heavenly Father for forgiveness for specific things, not just the lump sum of falling short. Each and every little thing I can think of, I take the time to make right with the Lord.

I can’t say that I’m finding fewer little things, and I know I’m not finding all the little things. But I’m trying. And when I wake up in the morning I feel good. I feel clean. I feel more worthy to have the Holy Ghost as my companion.

I’ve learned these last couple of weeks that repentance is not just for big sins, it’s also for all the little things that we know we could have done better. And repentance isn’t painful or fearful, it’s the most peaceful, joyful thing we can do.

I know that Jesus Christ came into this world to suffer for our sins and to make it possible for us to be healed of spiritual pain. I know that He loves us. I know that He will lead me back to my Heavenly Father. And I know that all of this depends on my willingness to act and to apply the atonement to my life. I’ve been working harder on that, and I want to recommend it to all of you. Repent! Not because you’re afraid of the consequences of big sin, but because it will take away the burden of little stones that has built upon your back.

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