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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.

The Secrets of the Mormon Church

28 Jul

I am about to reveal the 5 great secrets practiced and followed by all the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were revealed a little over a year ago by a General Authority of the Church, in a meeting which I was privileged to attend:

Secret #1. Pray every single day.

Secret #2. Read from the scriptures every single day.

Secret #3. Hold a Family Home Evening every single week.

Secret #4. Attend the temple as often as possible.

Secret #5. Always pay a full and honest tithe.

Okay, okay. These aren’t exactly secrets. But when the speaker we were listening to in that church meeting said he was going to reveal the secrets of the leaders of the Church and then listed off those things, I was as surprised as you probably are now.

But then, none of us are really surprised, are we? These are the things we are taught to do from the scriptures and in church lessons. And we are promised in the scriptures that they will bring us great strength and joy. Success and happiness follow these regular, consistent actions:

    • Prayer and scripture study open the doors of communication with our Heavenly Father, so that we can receive His guidance and His love.
    • Spending quality time each week with our families fosters love and peace in the home, strengthening the eternal relationships of families.
    • Attending the temple often is an opportunity for members of the Church to receive greater learning by the power of the Holy Ghost, within the sacred walls of the House of the Lord.
    • And paying a full and honest tithe unlocks the blessings found in Malachi 3: 10-12.

    Following these principles has blessed the lives of the church leaders. They have developed great faith and they are able to tell us, with the knowledge of their own experience backing them up, that this is the right path. The secret to success is found in these simple actions.

I promised myself again, the day that I heard these secrets, to live them. I know that they will bless my life.

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