Sunday, October 21, 2012

Step Up Men!

At the priesthood session of General Conference last week the men were told to step up and do better by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. He said "We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home... The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men will are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation."

This was one of the talks that had the greatest impact on me from conference. At times I have certainly acted the complete opposite of what the Lord expects of me. I have done what I needed to do to simply get by. My sense of urgency toward my responsibilities has been minimal. Why do more than necessary to make things happen? If I can build a home using one brick, why use two? Why use four when two would work? This seems to be the mentality of men these days.

I am trying to battle against this myself. I feel that I have come a long way when I look back upon my life, but when I look forward to the future I see how much more work I have to do to get even remotely close to where I need to be. It is a continual effort and requires a constant reminder from myself, for if I stop reminding myself of the necessary changes then I am simply falling back into the lazy manner I have been trying to get myself out of.

This past Saturday morning I woke up and went to a temple session. It had been too long since I had last attended and I needed the spiritual nourishment. My wife stayed home to watch the kids allowing me to do this and I sincerely appreciated her doing so. It's always nice to go together but Stephanie understood that I needed to go. As I sat on the temple I noticed that there were many more women in attendance than men. This is typical each time I attend the temple, but I recognized it more this time after Elder Christofferson's talk and it bothered me.

Before I continue on please understand that everything I have to say here applies to me as well. I am not excluded from what I have to say. I am certainly not saying that I am better than anyone else. I often feel the least of all men. This was my wake up call and I simply thought I'd share it with my brothers in the faith.

Men, where are we? I know we have work, home repairs, lawns to mow, cars to fix, and sleep to catch up on, but don't we also have a responsibility to ensure spiritual blessings for our families, as well as our own spiritual growth that will also benefit our families? Why are we not at the temple more? For those who don't have close access to a temple I'm sure that you attend as often as you can, but to those of us living within 30 minutes of a temple shouldn't we be there more often? Can we go to bed earlier so that we can get up early on a Saturday morning? Can we spend less time sitting and relaxing after we get home from a long work day and get things done that will free up some time to get to the temple later on in the week? Can we stand up from the computer or walk away from that game to get the important things done? Even as I write this I know there are other things I should be devoting my time to. I know we can make these changes because I've been able to work on doing this myself and I never thought I would be able to.

This doesn't just apply to attending the temple. This works for spending time with our families, giving our wives the attention and affection that they deserve, getting our home teaching done, as well as attending to our other callings and duties. Are our priorities set straight? Are we more devoted to the selfish or the selfless? Take your own personal measurement to see. After you've made your assessment know this - you are probably wrong. Show your findings to your wife and let her show you where you went wrong. She sees what you don't and that is a good thing. You may not always think so, but it is a very good thing.

Brethren, let us cast off the lazy, the procrastination, the minimal. Take upon yourself the burden, the exceptional, and the best. A swimmer gets to his destination faster by kicking than by lying still and floating. Kick brethren and get to where you need to be. If we all made these necessary changes and improvements can you imagine what the church would be like? Can you imagine the strength found in each family?

Allow yourself to see the potential in you that our Father in Heaven sees and all your improvements will come easier. Your desire will change. Your priorities will be refocused. Your relationship with your wife will improve, as it also will with your children. You will willingly accept your trials as moments of growth. Understand that your sacrifices will turn into your blessings. Throw yourself into the refiner's fire and great blessings will be yours. The perfection we are trying to attain may actually come within our reach. Brethren, that is how we will come to be like the Savior.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Bad Haircut

How I love listening to the leaders of the church during General Conference at this time of year. It is the perfect transition for me each time. The annual conference held in the spring is an awakening from the droll cold of the winter and the semi-annual conference held in the fall is like lighting a fire in a fireplace to stay warm because of the first snowfall. These blessings that occur every six months are so revitalizing and refreshing for me. I wish we could have conference once a month. I feel that they bring out the best in me and pull me closer to the Lord. They make me work harder to come closer to the spirit and the light of Christ. Things are said that make me start to think about different aspects of the gospel and how I can understand them better.

One thing that I've been thinking about lately is those who may have fallen away from the church due to the actions of another. We've all come across someone in the church who just rubs us the wrong way and it is hard to be loving and Christlike to that person because you just can't stand them. For some members they have left the church because of that one person. Others have learned to overcome their disdain for them and remain in the church. Some even overcome their dislike for those people so much that even try to befriend them.

I had one person from my youth that was a leader that I just couldn't stand. I remember sitting out in the hallway reading my scriptures one time and he came up to me and threatened me with a good 'whoopin' if I did get into my Sunday School class. I argued with him out the hall for a bit and finally gave in and went to class only because I couldn't stand to look at him anymore. Every time I saw him though during this time in my life I felt nothing but hatred for him. He made me not want to come to church. I let what he would say to me get to me and Satan took over from there. It was hard for me, but it did eventually change. (Don't ask me who it was - my feelings toward him now are nothing but love and gratefulness for his looking out for me.)

I started thinking about this the other day and how this happens to others. It will sometimes consume someone's soul so much that they lose all sense of the truthfulness of the gospel. They will actually think that this one person's actions or words define the whole church and the gospel. "This church can't be true because so and so did this to me!" "If the church allows people like her to be a member then I don't want to have anything to do with it!" I've heard people say these things. I've been to those points as well. It's hard to accept someone, especially a leader, when they make us feel so bad in someplace where we want to feel so good.

I'm not excusing anyone that has been rude to another, nor am I diminishing the sorrow felt by those who felt they have been slighted. Sorrow is sorrow no matter where it comes from. Hurt and anger are not always easily let go. It's hard to understand why these things happen or how we should act when these things happen. We are told to turn the other cheek, but it is hard to do so when that trust has been destroyed. I started to think about this the other day and something came to mind to help me understand it better. Hopefully it will help some of those who have lost the faith do some personal evaluating. We would love to have you back.

There once was a young boy who was becoming a teenager. All of his life his mother had cut his hair. She had always done a good job, but she only knew how to cut hair, nothing else. This boy wanted to start looking more grown-up because he was going to be starting junior high. His mother did not know how to cut his hair into the style that he so wanted. He wanted to go the barbershop and have a real profession - someone who really knew what they were doing cut his hair. His mother agreed to take him if he would earn the money to pay for it himself.

He spent the next few weeks doing his chores and finding ways to earn extra money so that he could get his hair cut before school started. He wanted to show up on the first day with his hair done a specific way so that his friends would be impressed. He wanted to look classy and nice because he was tired of looking like a little boy. Finally a few days before school he had earned the money necessary for his haircut. He and his mother drove to the barbershop that he wanted to go to because he heard that his friends had their hair cut there as well.

The boy went inside, paid his money to the barber and told him how he wanted his hair cut. He described it in great detail because he had been looking forward to this for quite some time. He sat in the stool, the barber put an apron around his neck and started cutting. The boy sat there with his eyes closed in great anticipation of how great he was going to look once the barber was done. He heard the scissors snipping and felt his hair falling to his ears and onto the ground. The barber continued on for a few minutes before lower the stool and saying that he was finished. The boy slowly opened his eyes.

What he saw brought tears to his eyes. The barber had cut his hair nothing like he had asked him to. It was not even close. The poor boy was mortified. He didn't know what to do. He put his head down and walked quickly out of the barbershop without even stopping to say anything to his mother. She found him out on the curb in tears. She sat down next to him and asked what was wrong. 

He blurted through his tears that his hair didn't look anything like he wanted it to. The barber did not do what he had asked him to. The boy explained that he had worked hard to earn the money necessary to come get his hair cut in a certain way. He had given that hard earned money to the barber and expressed his desire and expectation to him. He trusted the barber to do what he was supposed to do and that barber did nothing even remotely close to it.

The mother said that his hair didn't look bad, but the boy continued to exclaim how horrible he looked and that there was nothing that could be done to change the predicament he was in. Now his money was gone, his hair looked terrible, and all of his friends were going to laugh at him when school started up on Monday. This mother suggested that he go to another barber and get his hair cut in a way that would fix the cut the last barber had given. The boy gave a very pointed answer, "I am never going to a barber to cut my hair again! The are all terrible and don't know what they are doing." The mother, in her infinite wisdom said to the boy, "Not all barbers are bad. Just because of one bad experience with one you cannot shun the rest of them. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. You must give the others a chance to do their job. One bad haircut does not deem that you refuse the service of those who are doing their best."

The boy reminded his mother that he was out of money now. There was no way that he was going to earn enough money to get his hair re-cut in time for school. The mother offered to pay for the next haircut if the boy would earn the money to pay her back. He was very reluctant, but with gentle prodding from his mother he finally agreed to another haircut.

They went to another barber - one that was a little out of the way from the popular spot. The boy was nervous but he went in to the barber and explained what had previously happened with the other barber. This new barber looked concerned and took the time to discuss in greater detail with the boy what he was going to do to his hair to help fix the previous cut. Again, the boy closed his eyes and waited in anxious anticipation for the haircut to be over.

When the barber finally finished the boy opened his eyes and looked in the mirror. His hair was exactly as this barber had told him it was going to be. The style was not exactly as he wanted it, but it looked good enough that he knew his friends at school on Monday would be impressed with it. Plus, as his hair grew out it would grow into the style that he had wanted all along. It was going to take some time and patience to get it to where he wanted it to be. He turned to the barber and threw his arms around him. "Thank you. You are one of the good ones. You are who I will return to when I need this done again." The boy and his mother returned home. On Monday the boy was greeted by his friends with compliments about his haircut and he finally felt as though he were grown up.

How many members of the church feel as this boy did after his bad encounter with the first barber? They even express either inwardly or outwardly that they are never going to go back to church because of what that ONE PERSON did to them. It is completely understandable to feel this way. Your trust was betrayed and you don't believe it can ever be restored. You have worked hard to gain your testimony. You have worked hard to feel the spirit and the blessings of the Lord. After what that person did to you you only feel as though your hard work was for nothing. I feel for you, but like this boy, something can be done about it.

There are those around you like this boy's mother. It may even be your own mother. For some it is the Savior Himself. This is a person who is watching out for you and your betterment. There are those who have a testimony that they can share with you to help support you during your moment of crisis. Like the boy who was given money by his mother, you can lean on those persons closest to you and their testimony. You can pray for guidance. You lean on them now and you may be called upon by them in the future for them to lean on you, but for now they give to you freely what they have to offer for help. Rely on those people. Their love for you is strong and they want to see nothing but the best for you.

Don't let that one person who wronged you destroy your faith in the church. Like the one barber who did it wrong - he does not represent all other barbers. One person in the church does not represent the entire church. That one person may not be taking the time to care for you as they should. They may not be a good position to take of you or even themselves. There are many other people out there in the church, in your stake, in your ward that could offer you the exact "haircut" that you are looking for. Find that person. Let them fix and repair the damage that has been done to you. As the boy in the story, you may not come out it looking exactly the way you want to, but with patience and time you will grow into what you want to be.

We all have had a "bad haircut" in our lives. How we respond to these haircuts is up to us. We can throw our hands up in the air and refuse to let another living person touch our hair. In some ways that may seem like the easiest option, but if we look for someone else to repair the damage done we may be happier with those results than what we originally wanted. Trials are there for our growth. Don't let them lead you to your destruction. Don't let one person control your own destiny in the church. That is yours to control and yours alone. Find your "mother" and let them pay for another haircut. Let me be that person if I can. Come back to the gospel of Jesus Christ and immerse yourself into the happiness that you use to know so well. Nothing will have changed except for you, and if you are coming back, you are improving upon the greatness that you already possess.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roll Up Your Window

Detail of a red house. Stockholm, Sweden (color)

As many others have had to do because of today's economy I have had to take on a second job in order to support my family. I found a job a few nights a week delivering pizzas for a couple of hours each night. I spend a great deal of time driving around in my car because of these responsibilities. I don't mind it because while I am doing so I am able to listen to conference talks on my phone. I thoroughly enjoy this time because I am allowed quiet time to listen and then ponder and understand the great words of the prophet and other leaders of the church.

The one bad thing about driving around in my car to do this is that my car has no air conditioning. When driving around a 15 year old car eventually things start giving out. My air conditioning was one of the first things to go, so as I drive around I have my window down for fresh air and to stay cool. Because of the time of day and the area of town I deliver in there is a high volume of cars on the road with me. I have a lot of experiences on the road with other drivers during this time that can often leave me frustrated, but with listening to things of a spiritual nature I find myself calm and collective.

Yesterday I was driving to a home a few miles away from our store to deliver a pizza. In my right ear I had my bluetooth headset to listen to a conference talk from April 2012 conference. My left ear had nothing in it and my driver's side window was rolled down. As I pulled up to the stoplight I could hear the thumping of some music blaring from the car I would stop alongside. The music was loud enough that I could hear and clearly understand the profanities that laced the song. I sat there for a moment not thinking anything of what was happening, but then a thought hit me very clearly. In one ear I had the words of the Lord and in the other were the words of the adversary. Here I was, in a position I had no control of on the road and I had to make the best of this situation. The answer to change this situation was obvious - I had to roll up the window.

How often do we find ourselves in the same place in life? We go about our daily routines with work, school, or whatever we may be doing. The adversary's presence has become more prominent than ever before. The influence of the Savior is widely ignored. We often find ourselves with the words of the Lord in one ear and Satan's in the other. How do we combat this? We simply must roll up our window to block out the evils and focus on the words of the Lord through his servants.

In Matthew 6:24 we read that "no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." These are the words of the Savior from His Sermon on the Mount. As I sat there in my car this scripture came to mind. I couldn't blindly sit there and listen to the Lord in one ear and Satan in the other. I had to choose who was going to have the greatest influence in my life. I had to turn away from evil and towards the Lord.

I have taught music in a public school for the last five years. As I go about the hallways here I often find myself having to push the evils of the world out of my head here as well. Students walk through the halls saying the most vile of things and without any indication that they understand that what they are saying is wrong. I often find myself engaged in a discussion with a student about the use of words defining our character. As teachers we are told to not teach religious views to our students. I try to share the influence that the Lord has on me with them strictly through my example. This requires me to also make sure that I am turning away from evil and towards the Lord at all times. If we drive down the road of life with our window down all the time we are going to hear things we don't want to hear. We will hear things we shouldn't hear.

In my car when I rolled my window up it instantly became hot and muggy. I had to endure it until the car with the bad music turned off the road that I was on and I could finally roll down my window again. It was such a relief to feel the evening air pour back through my open window and cool me down. Sometimes we have to endure a trial for a period of time. It may be a short period or an extended one. It may be hard to go through. In fact, sometimes it may feel as though we just need to roll the window back down and deal with the noise. To do that would be foolish. It would simply be an invitation to the adversary to enter our thoughts and tempt us. We must be stronger than that. We must endure it well in order to receive the blessings of heaven. After the trial comes the blessings.

There have been many times in my life when I should have 'rolled the window up'. There were times when I rolled it down and I shouldn't have. I always find myself more able to hear and follow the Spirit when there is nothing else on the road of life to distract me from its gentle promptings. The Lord Himself said that if we endure it well He will "open... the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it". Let us all make sure to recognize when we need to roll up our windows in life to protect ourselves. Let us all have the strength to endure the trials that accompany these moments. If these two things are followed eventually our windows will be opened and we will enjoy the blessings of the Lord.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Birds of North America

Years ago I taught myself how to play the guitar. I am not great at it. I am not even good at it. It's a nice hobby of mine that helps as I write music. I definitely do not play it as well as I play the piano, but I can hold my own with it. During my teenage years and early twenties I listened to a great deal of music and I wanted to be my own "rock star". Those stars in my eyes have faded with the choice of career, an eternal marriage, and the birth of my children. In short, I had to grow up. However, I still work in a career that heavily involves my use of music. I pick up my guitar all the time and find myself playing many of the songs that I am familiar with simply because I am so familiar with those songs.

I am a big, huge Beatles fan to a point of almost being ridiculous. I know way too much useless information about the Beatles and can random spout of bits of information when given the chance. One of my favorite songs of theirs is "Blackbird". It's such a pretty little song. There are no harsh overdubs to it - just Paul McCartney and his guitar. It was a goal of mine to learn how to play it once I started learning how to play guitar, but I never thought I'd be able to do it. Like I said, I am not a good guitar player and to me it sounded like a complex and twisting mass of fingers across the fretboard of a guitar.

I was excited when one of my friends that could play it started to show me how to play it. It was still hard to play though. There were some four fret stretches throughout the piece and I have tiny hands. I really couldn't stretch my hand to do it, but I kept trying. I got to a point where if I started playing the song other people could recognize the song, but I could never play it flawlessly and it was never in one tempo. In other words, I really couldn't play it.

Recently I came across the guitar tabs that show how Paul McCartney actually played it. I was dumbstruck to see that it was not the same way that I was playing it. For twenty years I have been playing this song this specific way and here I was looking at a different way to play it. It looked so much harder and every time I tried to play it I would revert back to the old way that I knew how to play - the way that felt most comfortable to me. The new way was anything but comfortable and I could never remember what came next. The new way looked wrong because I was not used to it. I was very firm in the fact that it was 'wrong' and that I couldn't play it the 'wrong' way. I figured that I would at best learn a little bit of the new way and other people would still be impressed with my playing the opening of "Blackbird", even though I really couldn't play the rest of the song.

One day I sat with the tab in front of me and started playing it slowly. As I did so I realized there were no longer any four fret stretches in this version. In fact, the biggest stretch was two frets! This was something my little hands could handle. The more I would with it the more I realized how much easier this tab was to play and it was even the original tab. After a few weeks I found myself able to completely play this song flawlessly. Even better - I completely forgot how to play the 'wrong' way. It has absolutely slipped my mind.

There are many people who have grown up and lived their lives in a way that appears to be most comfortable to them. They have been shown how to live their life from those around them. Most often they followed the easiest instruction to get them from point A to point B. They are set in their ways and believe that they are doing the best that they possibly can. Sadly this sometimes even includes those who commit criminal acts. To lie and cheat really is considered to be a normal and acceptable way to get ahead in the world today. Kindness is a rare moment and seems to be becoming a thing of the past.

When something new comes along many people's first instinct is to reject it. At work, at school, in life, change can be a hard thing to deal with. Many of us feel as though we have learned pretty well how to live our lives and to deal with whatever may come our way. We feel pretty intelligent and for someone or something to come along and tell us to make changes to our lives can be disheartening. That does not mean that the changes we may be asked to make are wrong.

I grew up in a loving family in which I was taught the gospel, however I did not adhere to that which was taught. I often rebelled against those very things that were being taught to me for my own benefit. Those teachings came from parents and other teachers and leaders at church in the various wards I attended growing up. I felt the spirit often in my life but I did not let it take root as I should have. I was very prideful and I felt that I knew better what I needed in my life than those around me. I got to a point that I was the smartest person and no one had anything to offer me.

I lived a good portion of my late teens and early twenties in this mindset. Many mistakes were made on my part, but I felt that my system of living was the right way and there was no better way to live - no easier way to live. While I was not completely happy, I thought I had everything figured out. I lived my life in a manner that those around me 'recognized' that I was living my life. As I said, I was filled with pride though and I was not going to humble myself into the changes that would make me happier.

I eventually realized that something was missing and that my perceived happiness was an illusion. I was figuratively able to play my life and have people recognize it as life, but I really couldn't 'play'. It just appeared that way. I had the correct way to 'play life' right in front of me. The 'tab' was there in my life but it appeared to be too hard to 'play' every time I looked at it. The correct 'tab' was the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, the words of the prophets, my parents and their advice, my patriarchal blessing, etc. Every time I looked to one of those things it appeared to be 'too hard to play' and I would throw up my hands in frustration and go back to living my life the way that I had done for so long. I had been doing it that way for long enough and while it was difficult I was familiar with it and thought I knew what I was doing.

All of a sudden one day I decided to sit down and really look at the new and proper music before me. I had always had it - I had just never allowed myself to break past the newness of it. As I tried to 'play it the right way' I realized that it wasn't quite as hard as I had previously made it out to be. I could do this with enough practice and dedication. I still make mistakes as I practice, but I recognize those mistakes and strive to not make them again the next time I get to that point. With living my life the way I should it took some time and effort to get to a good point, but I made it. And thanks to repentance and new habits I am able to forget about the way I used to 'play'.

Don't let prolonged periods of bad practices and habits keep you from stepping into the light of living the correct principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is so hard to swallow the pride we acquire in life towards ourselves. We often think we can do it all ourselves. I know I did. I also recognize how much different life was once I decided to regularly include the Lord in my life. I want to be very clear - my life did not change to a perfect state of being once I made the decision to change to that which I should be doing. Now when trouble came my way I was able to take it to Lord for guidance and I never really felt as though I was pushing through my trials alone. In fact, I recognized that they were trials instead of bad luck or simply something bad happening to me. I am able to see that the Lord is trying to mold me and stretch me into the person he knows I can be. Sometimes stretching can be painful, but it is always worth it in the end.

I invite those I love most to come back - come back and learn how 'play the song the proper way'. It is easier than struggling along in the manner that you been. At first glance you may believe it to be too difficult, but I promise if you will sit down and really look at the 'music' before you, you will see that it is not harder - that it is in fact easier. I promise that you will also find yourself completely able to 'play the song' in a manner that all those around you will recognize. You won't simply be muddling through a poor attempt. You will be playing and singing and flying and the joy that will come into your heart will elevate you to place you never even dreamed of.

May I make a suggestion? The first step that I invite you to take on this new and humbling journey is prayer. Get on your knees and pray to your Father in Heaven. Let Him know that you want to bring Him back into your life. Let Him know how scared you are. Let Him know how you don't think you'll be able to do it but that you want to try. Let Him know that you will probably still make mistakes and ask for His patience with you. Pour out your entire heart to Him - and do it often. One time is not enough. Start off with once a day. I guarantee that within a short period of time you will find yourself doing it more than once a day. Pray for humility in what you are doing. Pray for your eyes to be opened to the changes you need to make. Pray to be filled with the light of Christ. I promise you that it will happen. Come back. You are loved and missed. Come back.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Looking for Jesus

A few weeks ago I was sitting in sacrament meeting in our ward here in Memphis. It was Aleece, Lainey, Lennon, Steph's mom Heidi, and I. Steph and Harris were at home because he had just been born the week before. The sacrament started while Lainey was sitting on my lap. She started up a conversation with me while I was trying to reflect on the Savior. I asked her to make sure she was being reverent and I told her to try to see Jesus in her mind. This quieted her down and I closed my eyes, continuing to think of the Savior myself.

I didn't think anything of what I had told Lainey to do, but a few minutes later she put her hands on my cheeks and quietly said "I'm looking for Jesus, but I can't see him anywhere." It was so sweet the way that she said it to me. I said to her that sometimes Jesus is close to us, but we can't see him. Just because we can't see him doesn't mean he is not there.

What Lainey said to me go me thinking about a talk I heard given by a leader of the church not too long ago. I don't know who gave the talk, but in it they said something along the lines of the parents being responsible for making sure that their children would be able to recognize Jesus when He comes again. I couldn't get that thought out of my mind for quite some times after what happened with Lainey in sacrament meeting.

Let me be clear - Lainey and the rest of our children know what Jesus looks like based on the paintings they have seen of him. As I thought more about this I realized a very simple, but overlooked fact - we did not have a picture of Christ hanging in our home. We have a picture of the First Presidency, of Joseph Smith, and of the Nauvoo Temple - but there was no picture of the Savior on our walls. We used to have one, but it was somewhere in the mess of all our moving.

This all happened right before Easter and I thought that getting a picture of the Savior to hang in our home for the family for Easter honestly be the best gift we could give them. So I ordered one online and went and bought a nice frame for it. On Easter morning after the kids had destroyed their Easter baskets I went into our room and brought out this picture. I told the story of why I was doing this to the kids and Steph (she wasn't in on this gift) and explained to them that I wanted the picture of Jesus to hang in our living room with us because He is part of our family. The kids liked this idea and a few days later I was able to hang up the picture.

When I was a teenager living at home with my parents I wanted to hang posters up on my walls of my favorite musicians. Mom didn't have a problem with me doing this, but she said I had to have a picture of the Savior in my room first. She and Dad hung up a small framed picture of the Savior with a quote by it - "What would Jesus have me do?". I've never really thought much about the fact that the picture was in my room. I did write a song many years ago based on that quote, but I didn't realize until recently that my parents had a different motive to having a picture of Christ in my room. It was to help me recognize the Savior myself, not only when He will return to this earth to rule and reign, but also to recognize His influence in my life. When I look at a picture of Jesus I always have very strong and specific feelings that are associated with him. I recognize those same feelings when I am serving others, bearing my testimony, attending the temple, and loving my family. A picture of the Savior is not simply meant for physical recognition - it is also for spiritual recognition.

Now we have a painting of the Savior hanging in our home, right where we can all see him clearly and frequently throughout the day. I know that by doing this small thing that my children will be blessed in the future. They will be able to see the Savior in our home, as part of our eternal family. They will be able to recognize the physical characteristics of Him, but more importantly, they will recognize the spiritual characteristics that accompany Him and they will be able to recognize those in their everyday lives so that they can be led back to His presence as faithful servants.

If you don't have a picture of the Savior hanging in your home go out and get one. Place the picture somewhere prominent in your home where all can blessed by it. I promise that blessings will come from including the Savior more in your life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Second Article of Faith

"We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."

The Second Article of Faith is short and to the point. It simply states that we do not have to worry about the transgression that Adam committed, but we do have to worry about being punished for our own. We cannot escape our own punishment. There is no way around that. But what is this punishment that is mentioned? What exactly is sin? We must be completely aware of what these things are in order to understand.

In James 4:17 we read "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Sin is not doing good. Sin is willful disobedience to God's commandments. According to the Doctrine and Covenants we know that "God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance". God will not tolerate sin. Sin makes us dirty in a spiritual sense. If we are not clean we cannot be in the presence of God. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't want to stand in God's presence if I was not clean! We read in the scriptures about wanting to hide under rocks and mountains rather than stand unclean in God's presence. I completely understand that thought process.

The Lord said in Exodus "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." Being a teacher I often have students that move during the middle of the school year. Once they are gone I cross their names out of my grade book. When I do this I take a big fat tipped sharpie and cross out their name so that I can no longer read it, and I continue across the page, crossing out all of the grades they received while in my class. I imagine this happening with the Lord's book of us. When we sin and don't repent the Lord crosses our names out so that he can no longer read them. When a name is blotted out that person is no longer numbered among the people of God, the name is no longer on the records of the church - that person, by their own selfish and foolish decisions has cut themself off from the Lord. No one has made them do it except for themself. Even though that person has removed the Lord from their life, the Lord has not removed them from his love.

However, if we repent, its our sins that are blotted out. The sharpie crosses them out while our name remains readable. We are always known by the Lord. He will never forsake us, even when we have done the most horrible things. It doesn't matter if we have turned our backs on family members or indulged in addictions that pollute both the mind and the body - the Lord still knows us intimately. He knows our thoughts and our intentions. He is always looking out for us.

Remember, there are two types of sins - sins of ommission and sins of commission. Omission sins are those in which we fail do something we've been commanded to do by the Lord, such as paying tithing. When are asked to do something at work and we don't do it, we can be fired. It's the same concept. The Lord has given us a TO DO list. When we don't follow that list we are committing sins of omission.

The Lord has also given us a DON'T DO list. When we ignore that list and take part in doing those things we are then committing our sins of commission. The 10 commandments have a few "Thou shalt not" things to follow. Thou shalt not kill. Good advice, even if you don't follow the teachings of the Gospel. All of these things may seem blaringly obvious to many people, but to others - it just is confusing.

I always tell my kids that if they do what I or my wife tell them to do they will never go wrong. The same is true with the Lord. If we do whatever he asks to do or not do, we will never go wrong. Will we ever get hurt? Sure! Will we ever suffer? Of course! By doing whatever the Lord asks us to do will life be easier? NO! This may not seem like good reasoning to follow the Lord's commandments and abstain from sin, but look at the life of the prophet Joseph Smith.

One of the great things about this article of faith is that it also enforces the idea of free agency that we have all been given. Men will punished for their own sins. No matter what another person does I cannot be punished for their wrongs. We are each given our own agency to do as we please. What it all really boils down to is this - do we want to sin and be punished for it, or avoid the punishment and just abstain from sin? The choice is yours to make.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preparing for the Worst By Doing the Best

When we think about disasters in our lives we tend to think outwardly - natural disasters, job loss, economic disasters, death, or family issues. All of those things are awful. Homes and lives can be lost in natural disasters. During times of job loss or economy failures there are many other things that can happen, including losing a home, stress on our health, strain in family relationships. All of these things are terrible things to endure and we have all dealt with one or more of these things at some point in our lives. I would not wish any of these even on my worst enemy because I understand the struggling and suffering that accompany these situations. I still remember losing my job with the Davis Arts Council in Layton. I had a very pregnant wife, a small child and nothing else. The only thing that helped Steph and I get through that time was support of our families. Some of them stepped forward and offered a lot to us to help us get through it all. And we did.

In Elder's Quorum a few months ago we had a fantastic lesson on this subject. However, it was not about these disasters that I have laid out. It was about four other disasters that are in many ways worse than what has been said previously. I take most of this straight from a talk given by President Benson in 1986. The four other disasters are of an inward nature that can destroy us in ways that physical disasters never could. They are: despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression. These four disasters are Satan's greatest tools, especially in today's world.

Despair is simply put, the loss of hope. Hope is the want for better things. Discouragement means to dishearten or frighten. Again it deals with hope. According the Bible dictionary hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness. Despondency is feeling or showing profound hopelessness or gloom. With despondency the people around you see it. It shows in your demeanor and even on your face. People can see that you have something affecting you. Depression is sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason. Depression is probably the hardest of the four to deal with because it can last the longest.

All four of these are a struggle to deal with, and sadly, they usually accompany each other. It is a struggle - there is no denying that. It is especially hard in today's world. Every where you look there is negativity throughout the world. It is difficult to even watch the news at night because of these things. There is the economy, sickness and disease, evil things and people of the world. Often I wish I could be as Nephi and shudder at the very sight of sin. How do we struggle to keep our heads above the darkened waters of today’s world?

Abraham Lincoln once said "When I do good I feel good, and when I do bad I feel bad." What a simple and elegant statement! I can’t think of an individual that cannot understand what that phrase means. If you asked the people of the world they would understand and probably agree with it. Most would even say that they do it! A lot of people live their lives in such a manner. People function on their emotions. It was drives people of the world to do what they do. The overall problem lies within what the world defines as “good” and “bad”.

Look at what the world considers good in our day. There are few people who feel that premarital sex is bad. I remember hearing people ask me before I was married why Stephanie and I were waiting until after we were married. Most of the questions posed to me were of this nature: “How can you know if you are compatible?” It was easy to explain to people that the biggest reason that we were waiting was because we wanted to be worthy to enter into the temple and be sealed for time and all eternity. If we decided not to wait we would not have been worthy, and then, unable to enter the temple. We didn’t worry about that compatibility because we knew that the blessings found inside the temple were far more important.

Language of the world today has taken a turn for the worse. It’s disheartening to be at school and listening to 1st and 2nd graders using language that is found in the sleaziest of establishments across the world. Some have no idea what they are saying, but some do. Very few people feel any wrong in littering their vernacular with profanities and obscenities of the most rank kind. In stating this I will be the first one to say that a few short years ago my thoughts were caught up with the way of the world’s. I felt no wrong in using colorful language because it helped me to “express who I really was”. As I think back to the language I used in high school I am quite ashamed because of the bad example I was to those around me, and for the damage control that had to be done by the youth of my stake because of my actions. The need for my “expression” was nothing but a public display of the lack of my intelligence. I see that now. I didn’t know “who I really was” at that point in my life. In later years I have come full circle to remember that I am a son of our Heavenly Father. I am a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am a priesthood holder and a father and a husband. There is nothing to be gained from such putrid and stained language. I have become rather fond of words now, and I am always trying to learn of truly colorful ways in which to express myself. Obscenities are not colorful – they are sour and dank, but in today’s world we are continually surrounded with them.

The list could continue on with pornography, homosexuality, alcohol, drug use, theft, embezzlement, lying, divorce, smoking – the list of what the world considers good far outweighs the bad.

The world has begun to think that the idea of a family, meaning a man and woman legally married raising their children, is not such a need anymore. It’s been given a “what’s the point” attitude. Few people see the benefit of it anymore. “Why marry someone if you are just going to get divorced in a few short years?” “You don’t have to be married to have sex.” “My kids will be just fine with my wife raising them. They don’t need me.” Oh, the frailties and foolishness of people. They don’t realize that by destroying their current family they are more than likely, but not always, destroying their children’s future family. We are definitely products of our surroundings and if that is how a child is raised, that is what they tend to grow up being. It is hard for children to deal with such things. I have literally been laughed at in some of my classes by different students, who when misbehaving I have said “I’m going to call your mother” and then had the student only reply “Good luck finding her” or “If you get in touch with her tell her hi from me”. That is no exaggeration. They don’t understand the concept of a family unit and how beneficial it can be in their lives. This all falls back on the parents and their own selfish desires in their lives.

A simple thing like religion is frowned upon anymore as well. 15% of Americans do not identify themselves with any religion. That number may seem small, but it is up from 14.2% in 2001 and 8.2% in 1990. 27% of Americans believe that religion is old-fashioned and out of date. 34% of Americans would like to see religion have less of an influence in this nation, while only 24% of Americans would like to religion have more of an influence in this nation. These numbers have been steadily increasing year after year for the last 30 years. It says a lot about the direction that this nation is headed. The worst is yet ahead.

We as members of the church understand that these are the last days before the Savior’s return to the earth. We know that darker roads are ahead than the ones we are travailing right now. We know that things will get worse. This is not a pessimistic outlook – it is an outlook of faith. We recognize the signs that are found in the scriptures. We have faith that the Savior will return one day soon and by having the faith that that even will occur, we also have the faith the hard times of the future, as well as the good times, will come. We are preparing for such times. Satan’s forces grow stronger every day. His legions grow mighty in number. The whispers of sin are getting to be louder and more deceptive. We recognize these things and we are not afraid. We have a prophet who leads and guides us. We have our scriptures to turn to, as well as our patriarchal blessings. We have prayer and priesthood blessings to help us through the emotional disasters of despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression. We truly have no reason to let these four tools of the devil break our eternal stride.

If any of these disasters are plaguing you, turn to the Lord. Find a quiet, secluded spot and pour out your heart to him. He is listening. He is actually just waiting for you to turn to him so that he can provide the comfort that you are so earnestly seeking. Pray out loud. Many times in my life I have gone for a drive in my car to a peaceful spot where I would most likely be undisturbed and I have vocally prayed to my Father in Heaven for the guidance that was necessary in my life at that time. It always helped me feel the love of our Heavenly Father and it reminded me of what he wanted to do. Pray by yourself. Pray with your spouse. Pray with your family. If you are unsure of what the Lord would have you do, ask him. Many of us driving lost through the neighborhoods of life and will not “get out and ask for directions”. Just do it so you can get back on the correct path.

If you have the opportunity to receive a priesthood blessing from a worthy priesthood holder, do so. The wonderful thing about blessings is there has been no limit placed up the number or frequency of blessings that you receive. Many of us fall far short of what we should have received. Never be afraid to ask for the blessing you are in need of, especially if you do not feel worthy to receive said blessing. Remember, the Lord never turns his back on us – it’s we who turn our backs on him.

If there is a temple in your area – GO! There are very few acceptable excuses for a temple recommend holder to not attend the temple at least monthly. There is a peace to be found within the walls of the temple that cannot be obtained anywhere else on the earthly sphere. If you are not able to attend the temple at this time make the proper repairs to your life that will allow you to receive your temple recommend and then spend as much time there as you can. You will bless so many others by doing so, and in turn you will bless yourself. We know that the Savior walks the halls of His holy temples. Go there and be nearer to him.

Satan has the ‘4Ds’ – despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression. The Lord, through his prophet President Hinckley, gave us ‘6Bs’, and later added 3 more to them – be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, be prayerful, be positive, be still, be involved. These ‘9Bs’ are the perfect defense to the '4Ds'. If we are nurturing our lives using the ‘9Bs’ there will be no time in our lives for the ‘4Ds’ to take root and start weeding us out. We always come out ahead. We will always remember who we are and what we stand for. We will lengthen our stride. We will turn from bad to good and from good to better, and eventually, from better to best. We will always have the Lord there to “lead me, guide me, walk beside me”.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The First Article of Faith

“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

This is the First Article of Faith for our church, but why is this specifically the first article? In most situations where there are things that are listed it done in order of importance. Now, I’m not saying that the thirteenth article of faith is less important than the first, but for the rest of the world that looks in upon our religion this first article of faith is the most important for them to see. This article of faith establishes the fact that we, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, are Christians. This fact can be stated no clearer. How people can say that we are not Christians I will never understand. It is right there – “We believe … in His Son, Jesus Christ”.

This Article of Faith clearly sets the stage for our religion because not only does it state that we believe in the Savior, but it also states that we believe in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as three separate individuals. Many religions claim that they are one in the same; however we claim that the Godhead is three very separate and very distinct persons. Our scriptures tell us that the Godhead is one in purpose – not in body. Their purpose is to forth the immortality and eternal life of man. It is the same as a husband and wife being one in purpose with raising their children. In our home my wife and I are one because we both want our children to grow and develop properly so that they can be functional in society, while living every aspect of the Gospel and being temple worthy members of the Church. That is a generalized statement for my wife and me because it entails so much, but I am simply trying to get my point across.

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”. Again, we believe in Jesus Christ. He is the backbone of our religion. If we did not believe in the Savior there would be nothing for us to do. There would be need for us to attend church because there would be no sacrament to take. There would be no need for us to have temples because there would be no need for redeeming the dead. There would be no need for the Book of Mormon because it’s another testament of Jesus Christ. There would be no need for the Bible either. Our church wouldn’t even have a name if we didn’t believe in the Savior’s role.

But we do believe in the Savior and we have all of these things because we believe in him. We do believe that he was born of Mary in a lowly stable because no place would take Mary and Joseph in. We do believe that the angels sang at his birth and that a new star appeared in the sky. We believe that he was found teaching in the temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph at the age of 12. We believe that he grew and waxed strong. We believe that Jesus came unto John the Baptist and was baptized by immersion. This was not done for the remission of his sins, for he had none. He did this to provide us an example. We believe that he spent three years of his life teaching people the correct way to live their lives in order to return to their Father in Heaven. We believe that the Savior performed many miracles, such as the fishes and the loaves, the healing of the blind and the sick, and the raising of the dead. We believe that the Savior stepped foot into the Garden of Gethsemane knowing full well what awaited him there, that he knelt in prayer, was left alone both physically and spiritually, and then took upon himself all of our sins, the weight of which actually caused him to bleed from every pore. He felt every pain, every sorrow, every ounce of loneliness and difficulty that you or I have ever felt in our entire lives. He did this for every soul that had been or ever would be. This unspeakable pain was all done willing. We believe that he was betrayed by one of his own with a kiss. We believe that he healed the ear of one of the soldiers who came to take him to his accusers. We believe that he stood before the people and was condemned to death by crucifixion. We believe that he was scourged and whipped to the point of death, only to be made to carry his own instrument of death up to the summit of Golgotha, where he would willing lay down upon that cross so that nails could be driven through his hands, feet, and wrists. We believe that he was hung on the cross and continually mocked by those who were in attendance to witness this heinous act. We believe that as he hung on the cross in agonizing pain, looking down upon those who put him in this place, he asked his Father to forgive them because they had no idea what they were really doing or who they were doing this to. We believe that a soldier pierced his side with a spear while he hung upon the cross already to the point of death. We believe that the Savior realized his mission thus far had been completed, acknowledged to Father in Heaven that “It is finished” and then he willingly gave up the ghost. He didn’t die – he removed himself from his body. But this was not the end. We believe that on the third day the Savior took his body up again and broke the bands of death. The Savior was the only person with the ability to do so. He knew his role required that this act be done, so he came back. He showed himself to those closest to him. He let them feel the wounds in his hands and feet. He continued to teach them. He organized his church with his apostles, knowing full well that this Gospel would be taken from the earth within a short time. Once this was done he ascended into Heaven.

At some point after this the Savior descended from Heaven and showed Himself to the people on the American continent. He taught them the same things that were spoken of in the Old World. He organized his church in its fullness here in the Americas. He taught them the sacrament. He prayed for the people here. He blessed all the little children. He let these people feel the wound that he had received from his crucifixion. He gave unto them many words and teachings which they could live their lives by. Again, he ascended into Heaven after this time.

Over a thousand years passed before the Savior came to a small grove of trees in upstate New York, but he didn't come alone this time. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost all were present for Joseph Smith's humble prayer that took place 190 years ago this coming spring. They were all there and each testified of each other in that sacred event. Father in Heaven confirmed the fact that he was pleased with the Savior and what he had done during his short time on Earth. We believe that Joseph Smith did see both the Father and the Son standing above him in the air. They spoke with him, even calling him by name. They knew who he was and why he had come to them in holy prayer. Again, the Savior taught and this time he taught Joseph that there was no church on the earth at that time that carried on the authority that he had left with his apostles before his ascension into Heaven. All that once was needed to be restored, and the boy prophet would soon be the vessel of this great and marvelous work.

The Savior appeared once again to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey in the Kirtland Temple many years later. He appeared in the temple and both Joseph and Oliver testified of this. They spoke of how the Savior looked and sounded as He spoke. They said his eyes were like fire, his hair was as white as snow, his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and his voice sounded as the rushing of great waters. They spoke of His acceptance of the newly built temple. He testified of who He was and what He had done for all. He spoke of the many rich blessings that would come because of the building of His house.

"We believe in God, the Eternal Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." I know this. I believe this. I can be no clearer in the sharing of my testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. These three individuals do exist. They are a very real part of my life. I would be completely lost and helpless without Their merciful and loving influence in my life. I know they live and I love them dearly. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Love and forgiveness

Before I start this I have to apologize for not keeping up with this blog. My summer was long and busy and I never really had much time for reflection and thought. I plan on doing much better with this.

All day long I have had a scripture running through my head. I've thought a great deal over it and feel somewhat inclined to write about it. The scripture is found in Matthew 5:46 -

"For if ye love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publican do the same?"

This verse comes from the Sermon on the Mount in which the Savior is clarifying many of the teachings that had been in existence since at least the time of Moses. Previous to this verse the Savior had said:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." After this is when he says "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have you?"

I've heard this a thousand times before. Instead of being mean to those who are mean to me I should love them. That idea is easy to understand. It's the scripture that I've quoted in verse 46 that keeps coming back to me. To put it in English the Savior is saying "Really? You think that to love someone who already loves you is so hard? Anyone can do that! Look at the publicans over there - you detest them, you excommunicate them for becoming publicans because they are doing the taxes for the Romans - they can love those who love them. That's the best you can do?" The trial that is our refiner's fire is in loving those whom we cannot stand - and showing them that we love them so that they know it.

It is hard to love someone who may have wronged you. One of my biggest pet peeve is a bad driver. There are millions of them out there. When someone cuts me off or exhibits their poor driving skills, my blood starts to boil. I literally fight the need to jump out of my seat and chase them down. That is the right way to do it - under the old law that Jesus clarified during the Sermon on the Mount. Now he wants me to love this person. He would rather that I get out of the car and go put my arms around this horrific driver and let them know that I love them. He wants me to let go of the bitter feelings that I have towards that person. I ask - what is the good in that? Am I saying that I don't mind that this person is a bad driver? Am I embracing the idea of bad driving? Should I start to drive as bad as those I see around me? Of course not.

According to the scriptures, as people forgive each other, they treat one another with Christlike love and have no bad feelings toward those who have offended them. Notice how love comes first in this statement. Unless love is present there can be no forgiveness. How can someone actually say that they have no bad feelings toward someone who has offended them if there is no love towards that person as well? It is literally the same as trying to start a fire without a match, flint and steel, or some other fire starting device. The fuel is there - but there is no ignition. Love is the ignition of forgiveness. If you remove those bad feelings toward whomever has offended you without applying love those bad feelings will return. In fact, they never truly go away. They are hidden just out of sight in your heart, but easily accessible to revisit.

President Monson once told a story by Samuel T. Whitman about an iron wedge that was left in the crook of a walnut tree by a young boy who forgot to take it to the shed. It lay there for years as the tree grew around it. One night an ice storm brought down three of the trees large branches. The tree was completely unbalanced by the loss of those limbs and the remaining part of the tree toppled to the ground. This mighty tree had been completely destroyed because of one small iron wedge. An iron wedge that didn't allow the limb fibers of the tree to grow together properly.

There are two things that stick out to me about this story. First, notice that it wasn't until a storm came that the tree toppled. The tree was fine and appeared to be strong when the storms were not raging. It wasn't until the storm pounded against the tree that it was destroyed. Much like our lives we each can appear to be strong and sturdy until life's storm rages against us, and the "iron wedge" in our hearts will cause us to topple and be destroyed. Our true characters are only revealed when we show how we stand in a storm. Second, the wedge in the tree was an iron wedge. Iron is one of the heaviest and most dense metals upon the face of the earth. Think about the weight of carrying around an iron wedge in your heart. It is hard work to carry that wedge (which is the equivalent of a grudge). It is tiring. It slows you down. It does not feel good. Where is the benefit of this grudge? What is the cause of the grudge? There is a one word answer for that - pride.

We must remember that forgiveness is not just a good thing for the person who has wronged us. President Uchtdorf said -

"Extending forgiveness is a precondition to receiving forgiveness. For our own good, we need the moral courage to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Never is the soul nobler and more courageous than when we forgive. This includes forgiving ourselves. Each of us is under a divinely spoken obligation to reach out with pardon and mercy and to forgive one another. There is a great need for this Christlike attribute in our families, in our marriages, in our wards and stakes, in our communities, and in our nations".

How true this is! Is there a greater feeling than forgiving someone? Short of getting married or having a child there is nothing grander than the "iron wedge" of pride to be wretched from our hearts and for the healing fibers of love to start taking hold and repairing the long time damage that has been done. This healing may take time, but the healing cannot begin until the wedge is removed.

I have wedges to remove in my heart. Until I do so there will be no healing. I am nothing short of a publican at this point because I am great at loving those who love me back, but my enemies get no love from me. I am not gaining anything through only loving those who love me back. It's like developing an unnecessary skill. What good is not loving my enemies going to bring to me? Nothing. If I start to love them then I will be able to continually develop the ability to love everyone, regardless of who they are, and that is Christlike love. That is what the Savior is saying when the sun rises on the evil and the good and the rain falleth on the just and unjust - he means that there is no one who is undeserving of his love or our love. If we want the Savior to look at us with any degree of forgiveness and love we must first be the ones to show him that we understand what forgiveness and love are by showing it to everyone we come in contact with.

Throw out your heavy iron wedges. Love those who you feel you can't love. Forgive those who do not deserve it. Look at the Savior's ultimate example when he said to those me who actually drove nails through the palms of his hands and feet - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". If the Savior can do it, we have to do it, but only if we want to return to him. These things I know with all my heart. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Comfort of the Spirit

It's wonderful to be able to have the Spirit with you guiding and directing you for good, but it is also a blessing to have the Spirit with you comforting you and speaking peace to your heart. It is important for us to share these experiences with others because the experiences can lift those in need. Our experiences can warm the lonely in heart and strengthen those whose knees are faltering.

We are told that fear is of the devil. He thrives on it, wielding it as one of his greatest weapons. He constantly puts things in our lives to be fearful of - people, sickness, death, the economy, family relationships just to name a few. When we are filled with fear we struggle to feel the Spirit because that fear can be so overwhelming that nothing else can penetrate our senses. Satan knows this. He even knows specifically what we are fearful of. People often overlook the fact that Satan remembers us from our pre-existent state. He remembers who we were and what we did and what we can become. He almost knows us better than we know ourselves and he uses that against us daily.

As we battle against Satan we can lose some of that fear that will hinder us in our eternal progression. Once that fear dissipates our spiritual senses can awaken to be more in tune with the promptings of the Spirit, allowing us to achieve more in our lives than we could without it - and we don't have to be afraid anymore.

In my own life I've been trying to remove those things that will not allow me to be in tune with the Spirit. Not only that, but I have been doing those things which will allow me to invite the Spirit more into my life. It's not easy. Sometimes I have a craving to listen to some music that would definitely drive the Spirit away. For those of you that know me, you know that is a huge struggle for me.

In the priesthood session of General Conference President Monson told the priesthood brother to do three things daily - study diligently, pray fervently, and live righteously. I've really be trying to work on those, but the one that I have spent the most time on is praying fervently. One thing I have been praying fervently for in my prayers is to be more in tune with the Spirit in my life - for my heart and mind to be more understanding of the gently promptings that the Spirit may offer to me.

Today I received a letter at work telling me that I was not going to be rehired for the 2009-2010 school year. Last year and I received the same letter and I was so twisted up over it and what I was going to do to support my family. Luckily I was able to get everything sorted out before the beginning of the school year this year and I was rehired. Today when I opened the letter there was no fear that accompanied this letter. In fact, I knew that there was nothing to be concerned about because I have already taken care of everything to make sure that I can work next year. I knew that there was nothing to be afraid of because the Spirit told me so. I felt prompted to head down to the school board and speak with my contact down there about the letter just so she could explain what it meant. Luckily I did not have a class during this time and I was able to drive over there and speak with her. She let me know that the letter is poorly worded and what it means is that I will not be able to teach next year with my teaching license from this year because it expires August 31, 2009. I will be receiving a new license before that for the 2009-2010 school year that will enable me to teach next year.

As I was driving back to my school after this conversation I reflected on the fact that the Spirit did tell me that there was nothing to be concerned about. The Spirit told me the truth because It cannot lie. I followed Its promptings and was able to understand exactly what I needed to, and there was no fear. Following the promptings of the Spirit now allows us to be more receptive to future promptings. It's not rocket science - when you do what you are told you will be rewarded, and I feel richly blessed. I know that the Spirit can guide each and every one of us, as long as we allow It to, and there is no limit as to what can be accomplished with the guidance of the Spirit.