Thursday, December 30, 2010

Simple but true

One day I was studying the scriptures and I came across a verse that really stuck out to me.  It is 2nd Corinthians 11:3.  It reads, "But I fear lest by any means...your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."  It really stuck out to me how Paul was worried that the Corinthians would make things more difficult than they really are. 

I have often pondered on the simplicity of the gospel.  I have met so many people who for whatever reason try to over complicate the truths of Christ.  They get so worried about other things then the basics that they let it distract them.  To explain this idea, I will compare the gospel to a bulls eye.   Let's say the inner most circle is the things that a person must know about the gospel; things such as the fact that Jesus is the Christ.  The next red circle could represent things that we should know, but are not necessarily the most important for us.  The outermost circle represents those things that are nice to know and everything outside of the bulls eye represents the things we do not need to know or really have no impact on us and our salvation.  In the long run of things, there is a lot more on the outside then there is on the inside.

Another account from the scriptures I like that goes along with this principle is found in Jacob chapter four.  Jacob is prophesying about the Jews in Christ's time and giving an explanation for their rejection of the Savior.  He says in verse fourteen "[They] killed the prophets and sought for things they could not understand.  Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it."The Jews' bulls eye could be shown with the following picture; their arrows far from the center of the gospel, far from Jesus Christ. 

 I hope that my bulls eye of faith as we could call it is not like that of the Jews but of those faithful who have lived through the ages.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is simple; He came and lived and died and rose again so that we may all have Eternal Life.  We must exercise faith, repent, make covenants with God, live worthy of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.  Simple, but true none-the-less.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Story: Reason for the Season

So now that the journey to Bethlehem is nearing completion and Christmas is just a few days away, this post is a "wrap-up" you could say.  There are so many things that Christmas seems to be about; however, there is only one true reason for the season.  

So many people get caught up in the gifts and the commercialization of the holiday.  No wonder the Grinch of Who-ville hated Christmas a lot.  The Grinch looked at Christmas as a holiday of gizmos and gadgets, a holiday of pride over a holiday of love.  Whether it was the noise or the toys or a rare who-roast-beast feast, the Grinch couldn't stand it.  I always wonder how many people think they need to out-do their neighbors, whether in gifts given or decorations or biggest party, and by so doing throw themselves into a bind for later.  I am sure many people would say, along with the Grinch, the holiday is out of control when it comes to the money that is being spent so people seem better than their neighbors or to get the "must-have" thing of the time; only to replace it next year with the newest model.  The reason for the season is not in getting the biggest presents or in the money that must be spent.

Nor is Christmas about Santa or Frosty or Rudolph or any of the Christmas character gang.  As fun as their stories are and the Christmas cheer they bring, Santa and his friends are not what Christmas is about.   The true spirit of Christmas, the spirit of good joy and of giving, should extend throughout the entire year.  And although Santa very much represents the spirit of the holiday, he comes and stays for a few weeks and then vanishes away until the next holiday season.  No matter how many malls he stops at or Christmas parties he attends, Santa Claus will never be the true reason for the season.

The true reason for the season is the greatest gift ever given to mankind; a gift of incomparable love and mercy.   We read in John 3:16, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son."  Our Heavenly Father loves us enough that He was willing to send down His Son to the Earth.  The Savior loves us enough that He came and laid down His life for us.  Christmas is a time for giving, it always has been and always will; especially when we remember the gift of our Savior. 

As Christmas draws near and then passes, let us all keep the Spirit of the season in our lives.  Let us give and love and live everyday as if it were Christmas, for I feel that is how our Heavenly Father and the Savior would have us live.  This video, "Christmas Spirit" is one of my personal favorites because it reminds me what the reason for the season is.

I know that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.  I know that He lived His life perfectly and that He took upon Himself the sins and pains and trials of all of us because of love.  I know that He lives today and loves us more than we will ever be able to understand.  I love Christmas.  I love Christ.  I echo the declaration of Tiny Tim when he said, "God bless us, every one!"  Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Story: The Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12)

Some time after the birth of the Savior, we read in the account of Matthew that there came wise men from the east.  They had seen the star that shone brightly that first Christmas night and had followed it to Jerusalem.  There they met King Herod.   I can imagine the dignity that these men expressed when they marched into Herod's throne and asked "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?"

"The Holy Men" by Liz Lemon Swindle

Herod was obviously troubled by their question, but inquired of the chief priests.  They gave him the information he was looking for, quoting the prophets of old.  Herod passed the information on to the wise men and told them to come back after they had visited the Christ child.

The wise men went and found Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.  They presented to the babe their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.  Then they departed to their homes, going another way and avoiding the evil King Herod.  

The wise men through their examples teach us a couple of important lessons involving our Savior.  The first is that of studying the scriptures and paying attention.  The wise men had seen the star and knew what it meant.  The prophecies of the Savior's birth were throughout all of the scriptures the Jews had.  And yet, the whole Jewish nation missed it.  Just like in our lives, we do not have heavenly messengers coming to deliver spiritual news to us; we usually have to search and prepare and let the Spirit teach us.  Then we have to act on what we have learned. 

The other lesson and, if I were to pick one from the Christmas story so far, the most important.  That is of going home another way.  We all have a past that sometimes haunts us and sometimes excites us.  Regardless, the past is there and we are here.  The wise men give us the great example of what we all must do after having a spiritual experience; we must leave another way, for if we do not, then there was no reason for us in having that experience.  Anytime we come to know the Savior, we should and must change our actions, our thoughts, and our lives.  If not, then we have not given our most precious gift to Him; the gift of self.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Story: Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)

It was probably like every other day in the life of a shepherd.  Sit on the hillside watching the sheep, take a nap, talk about politics and religion, and keep watching the sheep.  Night had fallen and so I have a feeling the shepherds thought another day had passed with no alarm.  Suddenly, as Luke records in his gospel, "The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them."  It makes sense that they were scared.  Wolves and bears they could probably handle, but a person coming out of nowhere was probably something they had never dealt with before.  
"Good Tidings of Joy (The Angel Appears
to the Shepherds)" by Walter Rane
The angel then said those remarkable words which will never be forgotten, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you great tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."  Then the veil could not be kept back.  A multitude of heavenly beings came into view of the shepherds.  They came praising God and singing their anthems of joy.

When the angels left, the shepherd discussed  the appearance with one another.  They decided to go to Bethlehem and find the babe that had been born.  After finding the Christ child, they began to spread it to all who would listen.

There is a lot to learn from the story of the shepherds.  One point is that of the shepherds attitude towards the Christ child.  The angels came and told them the good news and then, as Luke records, they went with haste.  It is that haste that makes all the difference.  They didn't take their time nor casually meander; they ran to find the babe.  In our lives, when spiritual and great things come upon us, do we hasten towards them?  We have the choice to ignore them or not, but blessings come when we act with haste.

The other lesson from the shepherds' story comes from the declaration the angels made.  Peace on earth is something we all dream and hope for; however, I would settle for peace in my life as a start.  Through the Savior though, we have the promise that nothing will last forever.  It is not part of the plan for us to suffer in the eternities.  We will have our trials to learn and grow and then, if we endure in Christ, we will have peace and joy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Story: The Birth (Luke 2:1-7)

"The Road to Bethlehem" by
Joseph Brickey
 "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree...that all the world should be taxed."  Those words begin the second chapter in the Gospel of Luke.  Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.  Bethlehem would have been a bustling city at this time because of the decree.  People were everywhere and there was very little room.  It is no wonder that when Mary and Joseph made it to the inn they found no room for them.  Instead they stayed in a stable with the animals.  We do not know how long they stayed, but we do know that "the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

"The Birth of Jesus" by
Carl Heinrich Bloch

There are two lessons from this part of the Christmas story I would like to "liken" to us.  The first is that of the innkeeper.  I am sure that the innkeeper in the Christmas story had no idea what he was doing.  He probably looked around him and said that there was no room because he had already sold out his place.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus! ("Settle This in Your Hearts" Oct. 1992)" We have to decide whether or not we are going to save a place for Him, or if we are going to cram as many things of the world as we can.  This is a case of quality versus quantity; a case of good versus best.

The second point I would like to mention is this: life from the world's view is not fair.  As hard as that seems to accept, it's not.  Look at the Savior.  Here He is, the Son of God, Creator of the Universe, and Promised Messiah and He is born in a stable.  Not only that, but as the descendant of King David, Jesus' rightful throne is not His at this time.  We can argue that it is because of the Romans or the Jews, but either way what should be is not. 

From the world's point of view, the Savior's birth is truly unfair.  Take the eternal look however, and the Savior's birth comes into new light.  First of all, had His birth been in a crowded inn, how private or peaceful would this sacred event been?  I would say not very.  Had Jesus been born as the prince to the government, would He have suffered for our sins or been crucified on the cross?  I would suggest not likely.

So when your life seems like things are not fair, take a moment and view it from the eternities.  You never know what your future holds, but God does so trust Him to lead you in the right path.  Just spend your time daily trying to be better and doing what is right. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas story: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

Christmas time is fast approaching.  Every year my family, starting on the first of December, goes through the Christmas story as we help Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.  Since I am going to miss this tradition for the second year in a row, I have decided to post a series of blog entries about the birth of the Savior.  As I do this, I am going to try and fulfill the words of Nephi when he said, “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning (1st Nephi 19:23).”  The reason I have decided that we are to liken scriptures to us is so we can learn.  It is great to read the stories of the Savior, but unless we apply them to our lives we will not get nearly the same out of them.  So as with any story, better begin at the beginning. 

About 2,000 years ago, in a land far, far away…

A young woman in the city of Nazareth is minding her business for the day.  Her name is Mary.  It is just like every other day when suddenly an angel appears unto her and declares, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” 

The account continues that Mary “was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”  Honestly, I do not blame her for wondering what was going on.  I would be a little startled as well if I were to be visited in such a way.

"The Annunciation" by John Scott

The angel then continues his message to Mary.  He tells her to fear not and tells her that she will conceive and bring forth a son and that she should call his name Jesus.  He explains the great things that Jesus is going to do and how He is going to rule.  Mary then asks how it is going to happen and the angel explains it to her.  Mary then shows her submission and desire to accomplish God’s will when she states, “Be it unto me, according to thy word.”

The angel appears later to Joseph and recites to him a similar message.  Joseph and Mary are wed and the journey to Bethlehem commences.

In our lives the same thing happens on a more regular basis than I feel we give credit.  We go through our lives unaware of what God has in store for us next.  Then out of the blue, someone or something comes and changes our plans.  It can either be a family member, a church leader, a friend, or a situation or trial we are put through.  Whatever the case, we can come to the conclusion that God has something else in store for us; something great and marvelous for us to do. 

The real point of the story is though that we have to always be preparing.  Mary was not chosen randomly.  She had lived her life in such a way that God could trust her with this great responsibility.  Likewise, we need to prepare every day and show God our willingness to do His will in all things.  God in return will then give us greater opportunities and greater responsibilities so that we can continue to grow.  None of us will be asked to mother the Savior; but we all will be asked to do some great thing.  I am sure of that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Power of the snowflake

So since today was day eight of continual snowfall, I decided it is about time I dedicated a blog post to the little white crystals we call snow.  It is fascinating to think of how snow begins.  Water molecules in the atmosphere attach to particles like dirt and pollution.  Once enough water molecules have collected, they begin to fall as precipitation, usually as rain.  When the temperature is below freezing however, the water molecules freeze and become a snow crystal.  Each snowflake has its own look, dependant on how the water molecules arranged themselves while freezing.  The snow drifts quietly down to the earth where it waits to melt and begin the cycle over.

One snowflake does not usually make that big of an impact.  In fact, depending on the size, one snowflake would go unnoticed by most of the people around the world.  However, when you get a bunch of them together you can throw a snowball at someone.  A few more and you can make a snowman.  A few more and you can make a cave to sleep in.  A lot more and you can go sledding or skiing. 

The other side of snow is true; one snowflake does not create a lot of damage.  However, when you get enough together it is easy to get vehicles stuck in a bank off the side of the road.  Avalanches and blizzards are pretty dangerous for anyone stuck in them.  Houses can collapse and a whole lot of not so nice things can happen.

Snowflakes are a great illustration for us as humans.  One of us does not go out and change the world by ourselves.  Get enough people united behind a cause and things get done, either for good or ill.  Policies are passed, communities celebrate, and clubs make a change in the world.

Now get enough people who believe in Christ together and what can happen then?  I would say miracles happen.  The Good News of the Savior gets published throughout the world.  People can find peace and happiness.  Unless, all those who believe in Christ stay quiet then it is as if they were on their own. 

As snow continues to fall, keep in mind how powerful snow is together and how powerful we can be as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"All Things with Thankfulness"

So this is a great time of year to reflect on all the things that we have been given.  As I was studying the scriptures getting ready for the holiday, I came across a couple of verses that really stood out.  The first one is Doctrine and Covenants section 59, verse 21.  It reads: "And in nothing does man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."  I think it is amazing that in all the things we stupidly do, God still loves us and it is only when we deny His hand in our lives that He is displeased.  It gives some good motivation to be grateful.

Now compare that verse to Doctrine and Covenants 78:19.  It reads: "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, even more."  Those who are grateful for everything, instead of being cursed are blessed more than they can imagine.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

So it wouldn't be right if I did not write what I was grateful for.  Of course, this won't be a complete list, but I'll do my best.  I am grateful for......

family, friends, my mission, beautiful sunrises, scriptures, prayer, my testimony, church leaders, the prophet, Montana, cars, heaters, trench coats, house, the fire that burned our house, snow, trials, people who tell us no, people who tell us yes, other missionaries, President and Sister Gardner, food, this country, the soldiers that laid down their lives defending freedom, the soldiers that are still fighting, technology, science, school, education, mail, money, clothes, rain, sunshine, moonlight, stars, this Earth we have to live on, Mormon Tabernacle choir, other music, movies, chess, board games, card games, my health, my life, my eyes, my fingers, my mouth, my hair, my legs, my brain, my heart, chemistry, history, math, English, talents, gifts, the love of our Heavenly Father, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and especially the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  May we all try harder to "receive all things with thankfulness."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who's team are you on?

Currently as football season progresses, fans from all over the country and wherever they may be root for their favorite players.  When football season ends, then basketball begins and hockey players hit the rink.  Baseball seems to be going on all the time and tennis starts in the spring.  Golf and soccer take over during the summer and then we are back to football.  As each sport takes its time on the news stations, there are fans that are involved in as many aspects of their players' lives as possible.

On the local level, little league sports and high school teams and everything in between play their very best to show their skills.  Cities and communities unite behind their players and cheer all the way to the championships.  When the teams win, the cities rejoice; when the scoreboard shows a loss, the communities feel as bad as the players do.

As we all know behind all of the athletes in whatever sport is a great staff that consists of coaches, managers, referees, and even the water boys.  Everyone has a role to play to make the team; any one person out of place will damage the team's potential to win in the end.

One of the scriptural stories I have been pondering for a while is found in Exodus chapter 32.  The Israelites have decided to reject the law given to them by Moses and began to worship the golden calf.  After getting mad at the people, Moses in verse 26 asks a poignant question.  He says "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me."  Those who had not rebelled came to Moses and put an end to those who had forsaken God and were against Him.

I have often wondered how I would respond to that question.  Are the things I do in harmony with what the Savior's game plan is, or am I part of the opposition?  How do I show my devotion to the Lord's team?  What is my role in this play of the game and how can I do it to the best of my ability?  If I need to make changes, what are they?

As I have reflected on my individual duty, I have realized that there are so many other players that I can look at their example.  The prophet stands as quarterback, directing the work as it moves forward and calling each play in harmony with the Coach's plan.  Men like the bishops and stake presidents of the church are like the pitchers of baseball and the forwards of basketball and soccer, directing the action in their spaces.  Missionaries form the doubles tennis teams all across the world as they spread the gospel message of the Restoration and of happiness.  And of course, our Heavenly Father directs the work as Head Coach with the Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost as His Assistant Coaches. 

Each person on the planet has their position to fill; each one a duty to perform.  Let us each find our purpose in this great battle of life.  The game is not over until that final whistle blows.  You never know, the game winning pass may be meant for you.  "Who's on the Lord's side? Who?  Now is the time to show." (Hymns 260)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

I have recently been pondering on something that is central to missionary work; service.  I have no idea how many people I have helped move, cords of wood I have helped chop, animals I have helped taken care of, bales of hay that I have stacked, and all the other random acts of service I have been a part of while on my mission.

We read in the scriptures all the time the necessity and commandment to serve one another (See Matthew 25:31-40 and Mosiah 2:17). Something I have realized is that genuine service does not have to include a 26-ft U-Haul trailer and five hours of moving boxes. Service can simply be saying hello or opening a door for someone. In the end, as long as we serve is what our Heavenly Father is looking for. So take some time this week and try to serve someone each day. Enjoy a short video clip of President Thomas S. Monson discussing service.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The sun is such a wonderful thing.  Without it, we would die due to cold and lack of food.  With it we can enjoy the beauty that surrounds us on this marvelous world. 
Every night we go to bed hoping that tomorrow will be just as good, or maybe a better day than the one we just finished.  Every day the sun rises letting us know we have another chance to do better.

Is it not wonderful that the Son is always there, encouraging us to do and be better.  Everyday shining light through the darkness of the world. 
("The Lost Lamb" by Del Parson)

Friday, November 5, 2010

"As I Have Loved You"

The Savior was once asked what the greatest commandment of all was.  He answered that the first was to love God and that the second was to love our neighbor as ourselves.  How do we love others?  How do we show them we care?  Those are questions that I have tried to reflect upon and learn from so that I can find happiness; for if we do not, then we suffer and are miserable and lonely.  I came across this poem that I think explains that idea.  It is called "The Cold Within" written by James Patrick Kenny:

Six humans trapped by happenstance … in bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs, the first man held his back,
For of the faces round the fire, he noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way, saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give the fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes; he gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use to warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge as the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hand was proof of human sin,
They didn’t die from the cold without. They died from the cold within.

Now compare that to the peace that the Savior gives.  Some of His last words to the apostles were, "A new commandment...That ye love one another; as I have loved you (John 13:34)." 

How has the Savior loved us?  More than we will ever be able to understand.  How must we love our neighbors?  Just as Jesus Christ does.  How can and must we show our love?  Whatever it takes. 
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