Friday, July 15, 2011

My Testimony

Today is a pretty big anniversary.  It was twenty-four months ago that I bid my family farewell and walked into the Missionary Training Center.  It does not feel like it, but dates do not lie.  As I look back, the time has flown and at the same time crawled.  I have never been happier; at the same time I have never been more depressed.  I have never felt so loved and surrounded by friends as well as so alone and forgotten.   

Me overlooking Billings my first day here
It is amazing to me how much I have grown in two short years.  I have had to step out of my comfort shell to talk to complete strangers, step up to fulfill different leadership roles, ask people to completely change their lives, learned how to apply the gospel and Atonement in my own life, and of course the dreaded missionary weight gain (I don't think 20-30 pounds is too bad for two years :). 

People always ask us where we have served, and most are shocked when I list all of my areas.  I apparently got a good little tour of the state.  From Worland, WY, to Missoula to Great Falls to Stevensville to Bigfork/Lakeside to Shepherd/Heights to Billings I had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the best of the best.  I also was blessed to be able to see many people make promises with our Father in Heaven through the ordinance of baptism and to find a new hope and a new light in their life.

When I came out, I committed that I would do everything I could to continually bear testimony of four principles.  They are: Jesus Christ, His love for mankind, His Atoning sacrifice, and His church here on the earth.  I cannot think of a more lasting place then here on the Internet to share my feelings and what I truly do know.

I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  I know that He lives and has a very active part of our lives.
I know that He has an unconditional love for each and every one of us.  No matter how far from the path we may stray, His arms are always outstretched, ready to receive us and welcome us home.
I know that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus Christ suffered not only the consequences and price for our sins, but also all of our heartaches, our pains, our sufferings, our concerns, our worries, our doubts, our horrible no-good rotten bad days multiplied by eternity!  He did this so that we do not have to go through those low moments alone; that He could give us strength to carry through.
I know on the cross that He willingly laid down his life, but was resurrected the third day so that we may all conquer death and return to live with Him after this life.
I know that He and our Father in Heaven appeared to a young boy in a grove of trees and that through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord restored his church and kingdom to the earth once again.
I know that Jesus Christ continues to lead His church and reveals his will to a living day prophet, Thomas S. Monson.
I have a testimony that the priesthood authority of God has been restored to the earth and that authority is what makes it possible for us to be united with our families forever.
I know that it is only through obedience to the will of God that we can have lasting happiness and peace in this life, as well as a fulness of joy in the life to come.

Two years may not seem like a long time, but how grateful I am for the chance I have had to serve a mission and for the chance I have to continue to serve our Savior for the rest of my life!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Twelve Men

Before I came out on my mission, I heard it said that in the two years you serve a mission you learn lessons that would otherwise take you twenty years  to learn.  When I heard that I did not believe it, but having served I can say that is true.  

As my full-time missionary service is drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on the past two years and all the things I have learned from my experience here.  I have decided that I want to share some of those lessons through a couple of blog posts.

I was privileged to serve with some of the greatest missionaries here in Montana and Wyoming.  The twelve companions I had on the mission have done so much for me and taught me so many things.  Some of them I was with for only six weeks and others I spent longer; however, regardless of how long we were companions, I was taught and edified by each and everyone of them.  Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned from them, in no particular order.

  • What genuine service means.
  • Humility means trusting in the Lord and letting him guide your life.
  • How to be a leader through example rather than words.
  • Some of the biggest regrets you will have in life are how you treated people.
  • Miracles happen as you pray and have faith.
  • You cannot always wait for someone to give directions.  Step up when you know what is right.
  • Expect the unexpected, especially in the people whom you call friends.
  • Nothing drives the Spirit away faster than disobedience and contention.
  • Everyone has personal issues.  Some are obvious and some are hidden.  The trick is to love no matter what.
  • It is ok to have fun and be crazy every now and then.
  • You will have to be patient with others a lot of the time.  Just know that people feel the same way about you.  
  • There is no lasting joy nor pleasure in disobedience to the commandments.
  • You cannot do everything by yourself all the time. 
  • You never stand taller than when you are on your knees.
  • True repentance is a continual process that changes lives.
  • How to have true love for people you serve.
  • Give it your all and get out to work!
The Lord truly blesses us with the lessons we need to learn and the people to teach them to us.  I am grateful for the chance I had to serve with each and every one of these missionaries, as well as all the missionaries whom I served around.  Without them, I would not be the person I am today, a dedicated disciple of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Elder Mortensen
MTC: July 15th - August 4th, 2009

Elder King
Worland: August 5th - September 14th, 2009

Elder Cook
Missoula: September 15th - December 7th, 2009
Elder Isham
Great Falls: December 8th, 2009 - January 18th, 2010
Elder Wardell
Great Falls: January 19th - March 1st, 2010

Elder Orton
Great Falls: March 2nd - May 24th, 2010

Elder Murillo
Great Falls: May 25th - July 5th, 2010
Elder Senior
Stevensville: July 6th - August 16th, 2010

Elder King (round 2)
Bigfork/Lakeside: August 17th - September 27th, 2010

Elder Carlson
Bigfork/Lakeside: September 28th - December 20th, 2010
Elder Moore
Shepherd: December 21st, 2010 - April 25th 2011
Elder Ika
Billings: April 26th - June 6th, 2011
Elder Garcia
Billings: June 7th, 2011 - present (will end on July 18th)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"The Very Jaws of Hell..."

About a year ago, my life changed significantly.  No it was not when I graduated high school or when I came out on my mission.  June 26, 2010, changed my life because of this moment...

My kitchen is where the big fireball is coming from

That house on fire, that was mine...

After a lesson we had in Great Falls, my companion and I noticed we had missed a call from President Gardner, our mission president.  Jokingly I turned to my companion and said something to the effect of "A surprise phone call from President is never a good thing."  I could not have been more accurate in that statement.  When I called him back that evening, he told me the news that my home in La Verkin had been burned to the ground.  A neighbor had been burning some weeds when the wind picked the embers up and lit the hill my home was on ablaze.  In a matter of minutes the house was consumed.  He told me that my family was safe and told me to call them.  I did so, and then found out my mom had been taken to the hospital due to smoke inhalation and that the fire was still smoldering.  As far as my family knew, we had nothing left.
The remains of the house

At first, my mind could not comprehend it all.  Soon I began to register everything and I became an emotional wreck.  I went out into our garage and did what missionaries do...I prayed.  I literally just poured out my confusion and anxiety and frustration and all my emotions to our Heavenly Father.  As I did so, three verses of scripture came to my mind.  They were...
  • Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Wherefore, your family shall live.  Behold, verily I say unto you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them. (D&C 31:5-6)
  • Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.  Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee. (D&C 121:9-10)
  • ...If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7, emphasis added)
The basement walls
I then felt the calm reassurance that all would be well.  Not a moment after I finished my prayer, an inspired ward mission leader called to check on how the work was progressing, and I was able to report all the good things that were going on in our area.  I then walked back into the house to be greeted by three of my best friends and fellow missionaries.  My family was safe and I realized that that is truly the greatest blessing of all.

Miracles abounded and love was felt by both myself here in Montana as well as my family back home.  People from all over the community began inundating my family with gifts of clothes and food and shelter.  My brother said it best in an essay he wrote for school when he said,
For weeks after the fire my family was asked everywhere we went how we were doing. And we would always say we were fine and thank them for their concern, but in truth we were far better than fine, because we had so many people there for us that we were just overwhelmed with love. (Wixom, Wil. "The Worst Day". West of Zion.)
Construction as of Jan. 2011
We may have lost almost all our material possessions that summer day, but the experience has truly been a blessing for my family.  We are closer and more united.  The doubts and concerns we had about the goodness of humanity were replaced by the knowledge that people care, are genuinely kind,  and have an innate desire to serve and to help.

The Lord truly watched out for my family and prepared a place for them.  My family was able to rebuild on the same lot that our home once stood.  Life has continued to go on as time keeps its steady beat.  My dad one week after the fire stated "Our life before was great, we couldn't imagine it being better. Right now life is good, but it will be great again. ("From Ashes-Blessings". West of Zion)"  I can now say that life has reached that unimaginable level of better, because we have grown and we ourselves have become better; for as the Lord says in 1st Nephi, "Behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (1st Nephi 20:10)"

The new home, a beacon of life and hope on the hill

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Lesson He Probably Thinks I Forgot

Right before I came out on my mission, I was asked to give a talk in church on Father's Day.  The topic I was assigned was "Traits my father has that I hope to have as a dad one day" and then to give examples of stories.  Needless to say, I relished the opportunity to share some stories, some maybe embarrassing, about my dad that not many people knew.  I shared lessons from camping trips, his example of taking care of his family, and others that have helped set me on the right course.  With Father's Day this weekend, I wanted to add a story to that list; a lesson my dad taught me.  I do not know if he remembers this encounter we had, but I sure do...

My sophomore year in high school I decided I wanted to get involved with the cross-country team at our high school.  In all honesty it started off because I really liked the coach and I felt that cross-country was the only sport I could do decently in.  Well, the first day of practice came and went and I was sore beyond all imagination.  I had never ran like that before and my legs did not enjoy it at all.  I felt terrible and did not want to keep pursuing the running.  My parents in an effort to help, which I was completely and utterly against at the time, decided that I needed to practice.  Their logic to me was..."You're sore, go run, feel better."  Needless to say I did not get it nor did I really want to at the time; however, they "strongly" convinced me to put the shoes on and go running while my dad followed on his bike.

I did not get very far before I gave up and started walking in rebellion.  My dad then began into the lecture about how I would not get better unless I practiced and how I would feel better.  All the while I was trying to ignore him and not happy with what I was doing and saying how I was giving up.  Then my dad, with all the simplicity and bluntness that fathers can produce, said in effect, "If you think this is hard and are going to give up, you are in trouble.  Your mission will be the hardest thing you do.  Are you going to give up when it gets hard then too?"  In my defiance I said no.  Besides, I thought that it would not be as hard as he made it seem.  Needless to say...I was wrong.

I did continue running with the cross-country team (I was manager my sophomore year and then ran with the team for two years), and my legs finally got the point.  I was tired but I kept going and got better.  One of my greatest memories is crossing the finish line of the Regional meet my senior year, knowing I had given it my all that race.  Likewise, I have grown and been strengthened on my mission in ways I did not know were possible.  I am grateful for the patience and support my dad has given me in all aspects of my life and for the lessons he taught me, even when he thought I was not listening. 

Happy Father's Day dad!
My dad

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What do a monkey, a fly, and a panic-stricken elder have in common?

Take a moment and see if you can figure out what a monkey, a fly, and a panic-stricken elder have in common by looking at these pictures.

In a meeting we had recently, a fellow missionary was leading a discussion about the desires of our hearts and how they drive us.  He mentioned our families and the desire to share the things that have blessed our lives.  I reflected on what drove me to come on a mission and the things that matter most to me.  And then the missionary said something that really stood out to me.  He said...
He then went on to explain that we have to continually be focused on what we want.  If we allow ourselves to be pulled this way and that, we will come to the end and realize we missed out on the joy and peace that could have been ours.

There are so many things that are clamoring for our attention.  School, career, family, friends, religion, hobbies, and events of life each call for a bit of us.  This life for each of us should be to focus on what truly matters, for we cannot call back the sands of time once they have passed on.  If we give into the numerous distractions that are all along our way, we will fall short of what has been promised us and what we truly desire. Thus, we become the monkey stuck in the trap due to food, the fly tricked by the sweet scents,or the accident caused by losing calm.  On the other hand, if we stay true to the course, we will be welcomed into the heavens with the knowledge that we have obtained our up-most desires.

My plan is to take some time and focus on what I really want and desire, to see what distractions there are that will keep me from those goals, and then do everything I can to overcome those distractions.  I want to say at the end, that I lived my life with no regrets.

Images taken from,, and the office of Elder Ives (no I was not the one driving the car)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The School Bus Episode

The other day as Elder Ika and I drove to the mission home, we saw all the kids heading to school.  A lot were on their bikes, some were walking, and some had gotten rides from their parents.  However, the most recognizable mode of transport was that of the big yellow school buses.  As I watched them drop off students, my thoughts took me back to an incident in my life that happened about fifteen years ago... 

My family and I were living in Colorado at the time.  I was either in kindergarten or first grade and decided that I wanted to ride the bus to and from school.  My mom walked me down to the corner which served as the bus stop, gave me a hug, and told me that she would be waiting for me after school at the corner.  It was a lot of fun riding the bus with my friends and school was of course all that little kids want.

On the way home while on the bus, I tried to pay special attention to where we stopped because I wanted to make sure I got off at the right stop.  Well, there was a stop on the corner with a hill leading up just like the road that I lived on.  So of course I got off.  Then it hit me...I was not at the right corner.  Terror and fear filled my little six-year old body and I did what any kid would do.  I burst into tears.  Luckily the bus driver had waited to make sure we all went on our way, noticed my anguish, and told me to get on.  The next stop we went to guess who was at the corner.  It was none other but my mom.  I had forgotten that she had promised that she would be there.  What relief and joy filled me at that moment.

This morning as I reflected on this experience my mind was taken to a scripture found in the Book of Mormon.  It is 2nd Nephi chapter 31 verse 20, which states "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ...wherefore, if ye shall press forward and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the shall have eternal life."  Endure to the end, it is definitely one of those phrases that is easier said than done.  Endure to the end means to keep going and stay true to what we know and the commitments we have made to our Heavenly Father.  Endure to the end means that each day we need to do a little more and be a little better.

Christ's Embrace
I learned the lesson of enduring to the end on the school bus, I just did not realize it.  Had I trusted in my mom's promise and looked for her at the corner, I could have avoided the fear that came with getting off the path early.  We never know when our "end" is; however, as we work each day and trust in the Lord's promises, He will be there to comfort us and give us strength.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tribute to my mom

At six months old
Since tomorrow is Mother's Day, I felt it appropriate to write a post about my mom who has given me so much.

Ann Evadna Dickamore was born on July 8th, 1966, to Henry and Janet Dickamore.  She is the oldest of seven children, six girls and one boy.  As such, she spent a lot of time baby-sitting her siblings, a duty that came with many stories to pass on.  She attended Clinton, Sunset, and South Weber elementary, North Davis junior high, and Clearfield high, graduating in 1984.  After graduating she went on to Ricks college in Rexburg, Idaho, and Stephens Henegers.

All seven kids
On June 21st, 1988, Ann married Richard Dean Wixom.  In 1990, their first born (and coolest I might add) son was born, followed by two more sons and two daughters in the up-coming years.

My mom has taught me so much in the years, even though most of the time it did not seem like I was paying attention.  She taught me first of all the importance of family.  I will always remember one dinner conversation in my teen years in which she rebuked my brothers and I for fighting.  She made it personal and taught us from the scriptures using Alma and his sons.

Ann and Rick
Another lesson I learned from my mom was to encourage others to develop their talents.  In seventh grade when I started to learn to play the trumpet, I know I drove her crazy with the noise; however, she just put me in the corner and told me to keep practicing.  She supported me in everything I wanted to do in life and told me to go for it.

Mom, Dad, and 18-month Hunter
The last lesson I want to mention that my mom taught me is that no matter how much taller or faster or "stronger" than your mom you are, she will always win.  There was one incident when I was younger and in my infinite knowledge of youth challenged her lack of knowledge.  Well, she picked me up, I tried to run up the wall, we almost both fell over, she dropped me and then grounded me for a week.  You would have thought I would have learned, but of course not; that lesson was bound to repeat itself in the years to come.

 I know I would not be who I am today if it were not for my mom.  I am grateful for her help in my life.  Sure do love you mom.  Have a Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Story: Passion of the Christ

Jesus and the eleven apostles journeyed to a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Here at this point called Gethsemane, the Savior's ultimate triumph would begin.

As they approached the gate, eight of the apostles were left at the entrance as Peter, James, and John followed the Savior deeper into the garden.  After a time, the Master turned to his followers and told them to "tarry..and watch with me (Matt. 26:38)."  Jesus Christ proceed a little further and began to pray.  In agony He pled with the Father saying "all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me" but as obedient as always added "nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt (Mark 14:36)."

"No Greater Love" by Greg Olsen
In this moment, our dear Savior took upon himself the sins of the world.  He also took upon himself all of our physical, emotional, social, and mental pains.  Any suffering we go through was magnified in that moment for our Lord;  He who is greater than all descended below all things.  So great was the suffering that blood flowed from every pore and the Savior suffered both in the body and in spirit (see D&C 19:18).

After the suffering was over, Jesus was greeted by the traitor, Judas Iscariot, and his followers.  Judas betrayed Christ with the sign of a kiss.  Even in his suffering, the Savior's presence shook the soldiers who came for him.  Christ willingly gave himself up to save not only his apostles, but that the will of the Father might be done so that all man-kind could be saved.  Thus commenced the Savior's last night in mortality, being arrested for crimes he did not commit and betrayed by one of his closest friends. 

The Savior's love is overwhelming to me.  How grateful I am for His willingness to take upon himself not only my sins and my pains, but the sins and pains of the entire family of God.  I cringe to think how many drops of blood were shed on my behalf, especially the ones I caused through my own stupidity and pride.  I know that we can feel His love continually and find peace as we give the Savior our burdens which he has already carried. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easter Story: From Palms to Passion

There is a church here in Billings advertising this week's sermon on their marquee.  It is entitled From Palms to Passion.  As the Easter season is upon us and tomorrow is what Christianity generally refers to as Palm Sunday, I felt it appropriate to look at the Savior's last week of mortality, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem up until He and His disciples leave for the Garden of Gethsemane.

"Christ's Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem" by Harry Anderson

On the Sunday morning before the Passover ceremony, the Savior and some of His followers were approaching Jerusalem.  Jesus Christ instructed two of the disciples to go to a nearby town and retrieve a certain donkey, a white colt.  As they returned, Jesus rode into the great city of Jerusalem on the colt.  As he entered the city, the people shouted for joy and laid their clothes in the path and waved palm leaves.  In this moment, one of the prophecies of the prophet Zechariah was fulfilled (see Zechariah 9:9).  Unfortunatley the zeal for the Savior and His cause would not last very long.

Jesus then spent the week teaching in the temple everyday.  He was giving His final directions and instructions relating to the gospel to the Jewish nation as a whole.  Some of these include the parable of the ten virgins, the law of marriage, signs of the Second Coming, and counsel to render to God's that which is rightfully His. 

As the Passover commenced, Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles met in the upper room of a home.  Here the Savior taught those who would be continuing the church after His death.  He taught them to love one another, promised them that they would receive the Holy Ghost, and offered the great intercessory prayer.  At some point during the meal, Judas Iscariot left to go find those with whom he and conspired against his Lord with.

"In Remembrance of Me" by Walter Rane
Above all the words and works in that upper room, the sacred ordinance of the sacrament was instituted by the Savior Himself.  He blessed and broke bread, explaining that it was in similitude of His body.  The Savior then blessed wine and taught that it was in similitude of His blood which would soon be shed for the sins of the world.  Evening had come and after singing a hymn, Christ began the walk to Gethsemane, followed by the eleven remaining disciples.

What does this last week of Jesus' mortal life have to do with us?  Everything!  Were it not for the sacrament, none of us could have the continual remission of our sins from day to day.  I am grateful for the Savior's teachings in this His last week.  It all leads up to the most important event to ever occur in human history.  Check in soon for the next part of the Easter story, "Passion of the Christ"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I am a mighty oak

There is a poem that the former mission president in our mission, President Fisher, loved and shared with all the missionaries.  I never had the oppurtunity to meet President Fisher; however, this poem has lasted and been a source of inspiration and motivation for my misison.  It is entitled "The Oak Tree" and was written by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.  It says:
A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree's leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Oh, we've got trouble..."

When I was growing up I loved listening to soundtracks from musicals.  Some of my all-time favorites include: Chess, Phantom of the Opera, Into the Woods, 1776, Singing in the Rain, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Another one of my all-time personal favorites is Meredith Wilson's play The Music Man.  Earlier in the week one of my favorite songs from that play entitled "Ya Got Trouble" popped into my head.  In the song, Professor Harold Hill is explaining to the people how much trouble is caused by having a pool table in their comunity.  His main reason for making such a big deal about it is so that he can then proceed to get people to buy into his boy's band scheme.  After only a little time, Professor Hill has them wrapped around his finger just like he hoped.

As I was pondering on the message of the song and with upcoming General Conference, I realized that the prophets in a sense are doing the same thing Professor Hill was, only they are warning us of actual dangers and giving their warning voice to the world.  I have decided to share some of their messages since, "Oh we got trouble...With a capital "T" that rhymes with "P" [and "D"] that stands for [pornography, drugs, and debt]."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We Believe: Christlike Lives

Article of Faith #13: We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

We believe that when all is said and done, the most important thing is who we are.  Are we men and women who embody that which is good or do we not?  Are we sons and daughters of God who have spent our time in the service of our brothers and sisters, or did we focus on ourselves and our own desires?  How are we going to feel when we look at Christ at the final judgment with the remembrance of all we did.  Are we going to be pleased with our time here on the earth?

We believe that the attributes of God that we can develop are gifts from our Heavenly Father to become more like Him (see Preach My Gospel pp.115).  These attributes include, but are not limited to: faith, charity, virtue, diligence, humility, and benevolence.  As we continue to develop the characteristics of godliness, we can feel closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior as well as find greater peace and joy in this life.  The apostle Paul taught it wonderfully when he said, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)."  The Savior's invitation to "Come, follow me" is more than just staying in his footsteps, but an invitation to become like Him.

We believe that wherever good is found comes from God.  As the prophet Mormon taught, "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God...for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God (Moroni 7:13,16)."  No matter where good is found, we can learn from it and continue to grow.  Truly we should seek after good, no matter how far or how difficult.

I know that our Heavenly Father is the ultimate source of goodness in the universe.  I know that Jesus Christ is our perfect example of service and the way we should live our lives.  I know that as we put forth the effort to become more like our Savior, that our lives and our relationship with others can only improve.  I am grateful for the chance that I have had to study more fully the Articles of Faith and to share what we believe and what I know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We Believe: Citizenship

Article of Faith #12: We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

We believe that governments are a central part of our life here on earth.  In the Doctrine and Covenants we read, "We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society (D&C 134:1)."  Governments are established to provide order and a system where justice and mercy can be established.  Citizens are protected from chaos and anarchy because of governments in place; as long as, the leaders are intent on helping people and that the laws of the land are obeyed.

We believe that laws are how peace and order are maintained; were it not so, anarchy and chaos would prevail.  The Lord declared that He caused the Constitution to be established here in the United States of America (see D&C 101: 77, 80).  The Lord on another occasion said, "Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet (D&C 58: 21-22)."  As we honor and sustain the laws of the land, we are preparing ourselves to live the rest of God's laws, especially in preparation for when Christ is to rule.

We believe that along with all the principles of the gospel, patriotism and being a good citizen are necessary principles to teach to our children.  Elder Phineas Richards, an early member of the church, in 1849 said,

"Brethren and friends, we who have lived to three-score years, have beheld the government of the United States in its glory, and know that the outrageous cruelties we have suffered proceeded from a corrupted and degenerate administration, while the pure principles of our boasted Constitution remain unchanged… As we have inherited the spirit of liberty and the fire of patriotism from our fathers, so let them descend [unchanged] to our posterity.”

May we continue to be good citizens of our countries wherever in the world we may be.  Let the fire of patriotism never fail in our lives and let us continue to stoke the flame in the lives of others.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Believe: Religious Freedom

Article of Faith #11: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

We believe that central to the importance of man's existence is religion and faith.  Whether it be the Christian religions that dot the earth to the ancient beliefs originating in Asia to the tribal beliefs of those in Africa and Native American tribes, belief is a driving factor for living.  

We believe that governments have a duty to provide an atmosphere for religious freedom.  In a statement regarding the importance of government written in 1835 states, "We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief (D&C 134:7)."  Freedom of religion grants all men to follow the dictates of their conscience and help them develop a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior through their own means and faith.
The stoning of Stephen

We believe that all men have the freedom to believe what they want as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others (see D&C 134:4).  Persecutions and bitterness towards our fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel push us farther and farther from God.  Christ organized a church that we may all "come in the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13)."  I once heard it said that Satan's battle plan is to divide and conquer, turn us on one another so that we do not have the unity needed to have faith, true joy, and lasting peace.  In the Book of Mormon we read that as persecutions were abounding Mosiah, the king of the time, issued a proclamation that "there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men; that they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself (Mosiah 27:3-4)."  Peace then followed as the people began to care about each other and allowed them to have their faith.

I know that religious freedom is absolutely important.  As we continue to strive and learn from our neighbor's and their beliefs, we can continue to grow in our own faith and draw nearer to God.  As we persecute and harass, we separate ourselves from the peace of God.  May we continue to allow men to worship the way they see fit and that we may continue to have that privilege in our own lives.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

We Believe: Missionary Work and the Millennium

Article of Faith #10: We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

We believe that now in the last days, many great events are going to take place.  In the Bible we read the account of how the descendants of Israel were separated and scattered, first by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians.  This of course was due to their wickedness and their turning away from God (see 2nd Kings 17, 25).  Before the Second Coming of our Savior, the gathering of the tribes of Israel will commence, for as the Lord taught, "they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them (3rd Nephi 17:4)."  The Lost Tribes will be gathered back and into the land of their inheritance (see Jeremiah 16:15).
We believe that along with the literal gathering of Israel, there is an accompanying spiritual gathering. Jeremiah prophesied of this gathering when he said, "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks (Jeremiah 16:16)."  Missionaries are going forth throughout the world, searching for those who are prepared to hear the gospel message.  As people accept the gospel and the covenants that come along with it, they inherit the blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity.

We believe that when Jesus Christ comes again, the world will be cleansed and the Millennium will begin.  The Millennium is the thousand year period of love and peace which follows the coming of Christ and the beginning of His reign on the earth.  The world will be renewed and enter into a state similar to that of the Garden of Eden.  Peace and love will abound and we will be guided and led by the King of Kings Himself, for as Isaiah prophesied "The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called...The mighty God...The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)."

I love the opportunity I have to be a missionary serving in Montana.  I have been able to witness people finding peace and joy in their lives that once was lacking as they come to accept the gospel message.  The Lord is truly gathering His elect from the four corners of the world (see D&C 33:6-7).  I hope and pray that when He comes again I may be ready and worthy to be with Him.

Monday, February 28, 2011

We Believe: Continuing Revelation

Article of Faith #9: We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.  

We believe in all that God has revealed, both through ancient prophets and the former prophets of this time.  The scriptures are full of prophecies about Christ and about things that are going to take place in these days.  Prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel foretold events pertaining to both the birth and second coming of Christ.  John the Beloved had his great vision recorded in the Book of Revelation found at the end of the New Testament, which is all about the last days and things that are to come.  Prophets in our time have given us warnings and counsel from God on how we can best prepare for upcoming events in our world.

We believe that God continues to reveal His words today.  We are led by a prophet who reveals God's will in these times for us.  Every six months we have a General Conference of the Church in which the prophet, apostles, and other church leaders address us and direct us in what we should do. 

We believe that along with revelation coming through God's prophet and the General Authorities, we are each entitled to personal revelation from God.  These revelations are for us in our own personal lives, things we should do, people whom we can give aid, places and situations that are dangerous, and a witness about truths of the gospel from the Holy Ghost.  Elder Oaks, speaking of these two kinds of revelation in our day said, "We must use both the personal line and the priesthood line in proper balance to achieve the growth that is the purpose of mortal life...The children of God need both lines to achieve their eternal destiny. The restored gospel teaches both, and the restored Church provides both (Ensign Nov. 2010)."

We believe that God will yet reveal many things necessary for us in our days.  Just as God did not reveal to Adam how to build the ark nor to Moses the plans to build the Salt Lake City temple, God has not revealed everything necessary for us.  The heavens are not sealed, which is one of the greatest truths brought back through the Restoration of the Gospel.

I am grateful for revelation in my life.  I love the words of Joseph Smith when he said “Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it (History of the Church, 3:389)."  I have been blessed in my life greatly from the revelations of God, both in times past and in the present time.  I know I have received revelations on how I can be better and am taught each day by the Spirit as I continue to serve God and to try and stand a little taller each day.  As the Proverb teaches us, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart...and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We Believe: Scriptures

Article of Faith #8: We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. 

We believe in the Bible as the word of God.  The Old Testament is the record of God's dealings with the ancient Israelites and their journeys to the promised land as well as the history of what happens afterwords.  The Old Testament is also the collection of prophecies concerning the coming of Christ.  The New Testament is the record of Christ's life and the miracles that he performed.  It also contains the epistles, or letters, written by the apostles to the church during that time.

We believe in the Book of Mormon as some more of God's words to his people.  As the Introduction to the Book of Mormon says, "The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel."  The Book of Mormon begins with the story of Lehi and his family as they leave Jerusalem in 600 B.C.  and leave for the American continent.  The Book of Mormon contains their history and the history of their descendants.  It too, like the Bible, contains prophecies of the coming of the Savior to the world and the climax of the Book of Mormon is when Jesus Christ appears to the people in the Americas after His resurrection and ascension.  That is why the subtitle to the Book of Mormon declares it as "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".

We believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon go hand-in-hand.  Just as in using a GPS to find a destination requires two coordinates, our journey back to Heavenly Father needs these two volumes of scripture.  The Bible compliments the Book of Mormon and the Book of Mormon answers questions the Bible leaves unanswered.  As the Savior himself declared, "Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.  And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever (2nd Nephi 29:8-9)."  

We believe that along with these two volumes of scripture, God has continued to reveal His word and that we have more scriputes.  We believe in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a collection of revelations given through Joseph Smith and other modern day prophets.  We believe in the Pearl of Great Price, which contains some of the writings of Moses and Abraham along with Joseph Smith's testimony.  These four volumes, the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, compose the standard works.

I am grateful for the scriptures in my life.  I have received guidance and answers to prayers to help me on my way.  I have been blessed with a knowledge of the truthfulness of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.  The great message is that you too can know for yourself.  The promise found at the end of the Book of Mormon declares, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:4-5)."  The Holy Ghost truly does bear record of the scriptures and teaches us all that we must know to find peace and happiness.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

We Believe: Spiritual Gifts

Article of Faith #7: We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

We believe in all of the gifts of the Spirit; or in other words, the gifts that come from the Holy Ghost in our lives. Because there are so many different spiritual gifts, it would take too long to write enough about each one.  So instead, I am going to focus on just a few of them.

We believe that healing is a gift from God.  The Savior went about doing good and healed many people.  Two of the gifts of the Spirit that go hand-in-hand are the gifts of having the faith to heal and the faith to be healed (see D&C 46:19-20).  Both gifts are necessary in order for a person to be healed of their afflictions.
Peter healing a crippled man
We believe in the gift of tongues and in the interpretation of tongues (see D&C 46:24-25).  Just as with the spiritual gifts for healing, these two gifts are intertwined.  The gift of tongues is given to men at times when it is necessary to speak the gospel in a language that is unfamiliar to us.  The Lord blesses us for a time to be able to express are thoughts in that language.  At times, it is also important to receive a message from God in a language we do not understand.  In those circumstances, we may receive the gift of interpretation of tongues so that we may know what God's will is.

We believe in the gift of discernment (see D&C 46:23).  This is a gift of the Spirit that allows men to discern whether something is of God or of the devil.  The Lord can also bless us to understand a situation and grant us the knowledge to know what His will is.

We believe in the gifts of knowledge and wisdom, along with the gift to be able to teach (see Moroni 10:9-10, 1st Corinthians 12:8).  These gifts of the Spirit help us understand people and circumstances as well as how to handle them.  The knowledge of God and His plan comes only through the Holy Ghost.  Paul wrote, "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (1st Corinthains 12:3)."

How grateful I am for the different gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts of the Spirit allow us to bless the lives of each other (see D&C 46: 16, 26).  I have been blessed in my life by many who exercise their spiritual gifts on my behalf.  I know that the gifts of the Spirit are given so that we may all learn and find peace in this life.  They truly are gifts from God to help prepare us to receive the greatest gift, that of eternal life (see D&C 14:7).
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