Sunday, February 19, 2012

He Knows How to Succor Us

One of my favorite scriptures is Alma 7:11-12.
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
To me that is a beautiful scripture and speaks volumes about the love that the Savior has for us. The purpose of the atonement was to overcome physical and spiritual death. Through Christ's suffering in the garden and on the cross, his death, and subsequent resurrection, we will be resurrected and be able to overcome our sins. Christ paid the price for our sins through the atonement. Overcoming sin and death was what was required of Christ's atonement, but our Savior did so much more. He not only experienced the pain of our sins, but He voluntarily experienced our other pains as well. He chose to experience the pain of our weaknesses, sicknesses, infirmities, and temptations. He chose that because He wanted to be able to truly understand us and know how to help us when we hurt. Elder Henry B. Eyring taught, "He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience." (Adversity) What incredible love.
We all have pains, temptations, and weaknesses. I truly believe that sometimes the only way that we can come to know and understand the Savior is through the things we suffer, just as He came to know and understand us through the things He suffered.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Faith and Repentance

Recently I have been studying about faith and how faith helps us live gospel principles. One of the principles that is vital for us is the principle of repentance. For "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). How then is the principle of faith related to repentance? Romans 3:25-25 tells us that it is by faith in Jesus Christ that we can be redeemed. I'm not sure how to write all of this out, but these are some of the things that have been rattling around in my brain.

Here are some things that I know about faith:
1. In order to exercise faith in God unto life and salvation, we must have "a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes" (Lectures on Faith).
2. Faith unto salvation must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Faith is a principle of power and of action, not just a passive proclamation of belief.

If we don't understand that God is our Father, that he loves us, and that he has the power to forgive us, what reason would we have for repenting? It would be useless to pray to a god for repentance if that being did not have the power to forgive sins, or if he was not inclined to grant forgiveness to the petitioner. So before we can repent, we must know something about God and about the Savior.
There are some that believe that if there is a god he makes no real demands on us, that he will forgive all sin with a simple confession, even lacking a true intent to change. We are surrounded with a culture of moral relativism, where anything goes and we don't really need repentance because there is no universal moral code. None of those beliefs stem from a correct knowledge of God and his attributes.
Having faith then helps us understand the need to repent. Faith helps us understand that we must have a desire to change, a desire to become better, and a desire to get closer to God for true repentance to be possible.

Second, faith must be centered on Jesus Christ. It is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can repent and be forgiven. Without that atonement, no amount of desire or work would reconcile us to God. The Savior has said, "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (D&C 19: 16, 18). The Savior shouldered the burden of our sins so that we could have the chance to repent. His atonement allows us to receive mercy. He pleads for us. "Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him-- Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of they Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life" (D&C 45:3-5). 

"The Greek word of which is the translation [for repentance] denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined." We have to do something for repentance to take effect. We must turn our hearts and will to God. Constant striving to become more like Him is an act of repentance. Faith is a principle of action. Faith is what keeps us striving to do better.

I hope that some of this makes sense. Faith is not simply something that helps us with the principle of repentance. It is vital to repentance. They are so interconnected that I don't think you can have one without the other. If you have faith, you will want to repent, and you cannot repent without faith.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Freedom

Today I had to give an hour long presentation in my leadership class. We were supposed to read a book on leadership and then present it with a partner to the rest of the class. The book that I chose was The Founding Fathers on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips. As part of our presentation, we played a clip from the John Adams movie where the congress passed the resolution to declare independence and then it showed the declaration being read to and by the people. I know that this is not the kind of thing that gets discussed in the academic world, but I could feel the Spirit of God as we watched that clip and heard the words of the Declaration. Reading through the book about some of the events that took place during the American revolution, reaffirmed for me that God had his hand in the creating of this nation. There is no way we should have won that war. George Washington was going up against the strongest military power on earth at that time. The American troops were ill equipped, poorly trained, and few in number. Somehow they managed to gain victory. It is my firm conviction that without the aid of God, America's independence would never have been realized. The Spirit of God is the spirit of freedom. I don't know if you have ever had the opportunity to go to the archive building in Washington D.C. and have seen the Declaration and the Constitution of the United States. I have only been there once, but what an amazing experience. Standing in that rotunda, I felt such a strong spirit of peace and goodness. I know that God, our father is a champion of freedom. His son, Jesus Christ suffered and died so that we could one day be completely free. Free from the sting of death, free from the pain of sin, free from the hurts and troubles of our mortal existence. That freedom may not be immediate and it may not come in the way that we anticipate, but Christ can and will make us free. And in the meantime, God continues to spread freedom throughout the world. It may not happen as quickly as we would like, and we must do our part, but if we want to be truly free, we must rely on Him. During the constitutional convention, when disagreement threatened to tear the convention apart, Benjamin Franklin said this: "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?" I truly believe that God does govern in the affairs of men. Let us turn to Him as we seek for freedom. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Elizabeth and Zacharias

Here are just a few thoughts I have about Elizabeth and Zacharias. In Luke 1 it says that both Elizabeth and Zacharias were "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." They had been unable to have children even though they had prayed for that blessing and were now "well stricken in years." While Zacharias is working in the temple an angel comes to him and tells him that Elizabeth will have a son and that his name will be John.
I have wondered why the Lord sometimes makes some of us wait to receive our righteous desires. Sometimes we are told that if we just made more of an effort or had greater faith that we would receive those blessings. But Elizabeth and Zacharias were faithful. They were blameless before the Lord. They were doing their duty and remaining righteous. Why did the Lord make them wait? I think sometimes there is something that the Lord needs us to learn before we can receive the sought after blessings. Sometimes the blessings are delayed because the Lord is preparing us to be of service to others. I think that this may have been part of what was happening with Elizabeth and Zacharias. Elizabeth was a cousin to Mary, who would be the mother of Jesus. Mary was young, unmarried, and was going to be the mother of the son of God through a miraculous conception. We don't know much about Mary's family, but certainly she would have needed some people to accept and understand her situation. What better place to find acceptance and understanding than from your cousin who has just had a miraculous conception of her own? I think that Elizabeth was uniquely prepared to be someone that Mary could go to. I think that just maybe this was one reason that Elizabeth had to wait for so long to have a child. It was not because she wasn't doing her part. It was not because she didn't have enough faith. The Lord knew that Mary would need someone, so he prepared Elizabeth to help fulfill that need.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Beginnings

It's a brand new year. Time to figure out what was wrong with our life in this past year and start on the process of remaking ourselves...again. We had a lesson in church this last Sunday on setting goals. What kinds of goals to set. How to set goals. Why we should set goals. Yes, I think goals are important. We should be constantly striving to become better people and make changes in our lives that are necessary. However, while I was listening to the lesson on Sunday, I was struck by the thought that it is only because of our Savior, Jesus Christ that we have the ability to truly work on remaking ourselves and becoming better. It is only through the atonement that we can let go of our mistakes and have a new beginning. Christ is the one who inspires us in our quest to be better and He is also the one that will guide and help us through the process.
During the lesson the teacher also talked about the number of times that we intend to make changes but they just never occur. Most of us have made new year's resolutions that somehow don't even last through the end of January. Why is that? Maybe it is because we are trying to accomplish the remaking and reshaping of ourselves all by ourselves. I think that if we made an effort to prayerfully consider some goals for our lives and then consciously petition heaven for help to achieve them we might end the year with a greater sense of accomplishment and fewer regrets. Just a thought. We may still find ourselves unable to accomplish everything we desire, but I think we will have learned something about ourselves and maybe just a little bit more about aligning ourselves to God's will. We might also gain a deeper understanding of the atonement and a closer relationship with the Savior who truly makes it possible for us to become new.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Gratitude

We have recently received counsel from God's prophet to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. President Monson said, "Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God's love. We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings."
I think that this is something that I need to work on. While I see beautiful things all around me, I also have a tendency to notice the flaws. I remember a story I read years ago that was in the Church News. My mom sent it to me on my mission. It was part of an article called Look for Good (August 1998). It talked about a philosopher who would spend hours in the woods studying nature and then sharing what he learned with the people in his village. One day as he was getting ready to go, three of his friends stopped by. They each asked him to bring home something so that they could study those things that the philosopher had given lessons on. One asked for a hawthorne twig, one asked for a rose, and the third asked for a lily. When the philosopher returned that night he gave each of his friends the requested item. The first man complained that there was a dead leaf on his hawthorne twig. The second one was upset because there was a thorn on his rose, and the third man found dirt on the roots of the lily. The philosopher took each gift back and removed the offending items. Then he gave the dead leaf, the thorn, and the dirt to the three men. Then he said, "Now, each of you has what attracted you first. You looked for the dead leaf and found it. You looked for the thorn; it was there. You found the dirt on the roots of the lily. You may keep what attracted you first. I will keep the hawthorn twig, the rose and the lily for the beauty I see in them."
That story has stuck with me. It is easy to look at the world and see everything that is going wrong. It is easy for me as a teacher to notice the students that are not doing what they are supposed to do. Maybe it takes a little bit more of an effort (at least for me) to notice the good things. I don't think we need to ignore the bad. We can't help correct it if we just look the other way, but we should be making an effort to recognize the blessings that we have been given. Some people are very good at this already. I am blessed to have several such people in my life: family members, co-workers, and friends. How wonderful it is to have people around you that are optimistic and grateful. They are good examples for me.
I have been very blessed. I have a wonderful family. We all get along, and like to be together. I was watching some television show the other day and the character in the show was saying how much she hated Christmas because she had to spend time with people she didn't like (including family). I don't understand what it is like for some people to not get along with their family members. I love being with my family. When we have a chance to all be together we have a lot of fun. I have beautiful little nieces and nephews that are just a delight to be around. I am very grateful to have such a loving family and that all of us have testimonies of the Savior. I have also been blessed with health. I'm around sick children frequently as a teacher, but I haven't gotten sick very often (I hope I didn't just jinx myself). I have a good job, and fantastic people to work with. Financially I have been able to meet all of my needs and even have some of my wants. I am so very thankful for the gospel and for the Savior's love and forgiveness. I am thankful for the knowledge I have that He lives.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I had intended to go to bed early tonight, but I can't sleep, so I thought I should work on this blog. A couple of months ago I went to the state fair. I was walking around and looking at the animals. One building housed the sheep and goats. One of the pens had four or five little goats. As I was walking by, a girl came in to check their water and feed and then she left. I watched those little goats try to follow her, and start bleating for her. It reminded my of the one year that I took a lamb to the fair. I had two little lambs, Elbert and Louise. All summer long I took care of them and got them ready for the fair. Sometimes, I would even just go sit with them or walk around with them. They would always follow me. They were sweet little companions for me. When fair week came I was really downhearted because I knew that I would have to sell my lambs at the end of the week. After the lambs were sold, they put them all together in one big pen. Someone had told me that they weren't going to feed or water the lambs that next day. Well, I didn't want my little lambs to go without food and water so I went to find them. I wasn't sure how I would find them. They were in a very large pen with a lot of sheep that all looked pretty much the same. As I was approaching the pen, two of the lambs moved toward me. They came running over to me and I recognized them as my little lambs.
Seeing those goats at the state fair reminded my of that experience and it made me think about a scripture. John 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Though I don't understand how He does it, the Savior knows each of us individually. Out of all of the billions of people on this earth, He knows my name. He knows and recognizes me, but do I always know and recognize Him? Have I spent sufficient time with Him to know His voice and trust Him enough to follow? I do want to come to know Him better. I want to gain a real relationship with Him. I have been thinking recently that this is something I need to spend more time on. There are a lot of things going on in my life right now, and I think they are all important, but I really feel that I need to build a better relationship with the Savior. Sheri Dew has said that in the days ahead a casual commitment to Christ will not be enough to see us through. I think that to gain that relationship with the Savior I need to spend more time with Him, and spend more time trying to follow Him. I want to be numbered among His sheep.