Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wasted Son

So today in church we learned about the prodigal son. I don't know what it is about this parable, but I absolutely love it and find so much meaning in it. Echoing my Bishop, I believe that at one point we are each the father, the prodigal son and the other son. We experience deep and profound forgiveness for others, we receive forgiveness from others and we are guilty of judging others when we believe that we are with out sin. That is quite possibly the worst sin there is and one that I know I am guilty of.

Luke 15:18-19, shows the ideals of how to be repentant, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

He gets the strength to call on his father, confess his sins, confess his unworthiness and asks for just a little more than he already has; he stays humble. This is probably the prime example as to how we approach our father when we need to make amends in our lives.

I love the next part. The father runs to his son. He doesn't wait for him; he doesn't prepare a lecture. He runs because of compassion. At Christ's time, this would be a very unconventional thing for a father to do; He treats his son as an equal and not as a son or a sinner. Yet every time forgiveness is granted, there are others who will find it wrong or stupid that the person forgave another.

And then the father takes it one step further and we understand our Heavenly Father so much better. He gives his son the best robes, rings, shoes, and a calf. These are things that the son probably had wasted away in prior years, yet it seems as if the father does not even realize that. To me he seems to be taking a huge risk giving this to the son that has failed him and has hurt him, yet because he has forgiven completely, he just gives it as he would someone that had never betrayed him. And that is what makes Christ's atonement so amazing. When it is forgiven, it is forgiven and he trusts us to have what we originally had. God is happy and wants to welcome back and give everything to those who had betrayed him

As humans, I want to argue that we too are to forgive completely, but perhaps, in some cases not forget because forgetting may put us in danger. What do you think?

I think this passage also teaches true charity. When the brother speaks, he uses the word 'I' countlessly, yet seems kind of miserable. When the father speaks, he speaks of joy and little of himself. We know at the end of the passage that the prodigal son is no longer prodigal but whole again, and that the father is happy. Yet the son who had been doing everything right becomes the tragedy; after doing the right thing, he becomes prideful and resenting and we don't know what happens afterwards. Of course, the reader almost becomes the other son after judging him for judging his brother and we learn how easy it is to fall short just as he did. The good news with all of this is that no matter what happens to the sons, they can always come back to a loving father who is willing to give to them entirely.

Forward with Faith

I am guilty of being one of those people who is scared about the future. I look at myself, in my 21 years, and realize I have only started living, though I feel like I have felt, thought and experienced a lot. Then I have the realization that life is going to be so different. I have come to the conclusion that I am an idealist, and as such, I experience a lot of disappointment when myself and others do not live up to my ideals. Thus, as a natural result of my idealism, I am also a pessimist. I get scare of failure, of change, of anything that people get scared of. Indeed I am guilty of living in fear.

But I guess I want to make this post not just for you, but also to teach myself that I have little to fear. In his conference address this last April, Elder Russel M. Nelson taught about how my faith now will effect my posterity's faith later. And I guess conversely, how my fear will effect my children's fear. Yeah, I definitely want to stop that.

So what am I to do about it? I will include an outline and then reiterate Elder Nelson's promises and challenge you and myself to follow those promises. Indeed everywhere we look there is reason to have concern. But the way we combat the sadness and evil starts with our families.

1. Teach of God, Christ and the Holy Ghost to our children with deep conviction.
2. Teach the plan of salvation.
3. Warn children that people will choose wicked things and pick and choose to live certain commandments.
4. Teach obedience to God through our own obedience and that it provides physical and spiritual protection
5. Pray with your heart. If we keep an eternal perspective, we can be confident that God hears them. Which I interpret as being patient for God's blessings.
6. To develop faith, being a full tithe payer is essential. Teach tithing to children

Elder Nelson then points out that the reason we need all these things is because "Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint." That can be kinda scary to me, especially as I look to raise kids. I want my family to be faithful. This is the only way I can have any hope that they do and it starts with me.

I keep noticing how he uses the word "faithful Saint." This goes to show that there is a difference between being just a member of the church and someone whose faith is in entirely. He says, "You faithful Saints do not have to fight life's battles alone. Think of that! The Lord declared, 'I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.'"

I want to quote President Monson with,

“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith."

This gives me strength that as I build my faith, I will have little to fear and that God will help my husband and me and our children as we teach and practice these things. I guess what I want to challenge myself and others is to better live those six things he described and so we can know of our security in the future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Three Separate Entities

It is always interesting to me to hear what people think Mormons believe. I've heard theories about worshiping salamanders (which, btw, I can explain where this belief comes from. Its actually pretty interesting) to theories that we worship the prophet Joseph Smith. None of this is true.

I think I am going to devout some of my next posts to different Articles of Faith. Joseph Smith actually wrote them, so it is interesting that the very first thing he wanted people to know is the following:

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

So what can I take from this one sentence? A few things. "We believe" indicates that any LDS member should believe whatever is stated following the phrase. In interviews to get baptized, our bishops will ask "Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?" This is the first thing that is asked and is therefore the most basic of our religion; God is our Father and His Son is our Savior. Sounds like most any Christian belief.

However, what makes our faith in God and Christ different from those of other faiths, is just that: God and Christ are two different beings. This is sometimes hard to grasp, as traditional Christianity teaches that they are one spirit. I believe that accounts found throughout the New Testament, including scriptures in John 5 and John 17, show that the two are two different beings.

For example, in John 5: 17-47, Christ continually testifies of His Father. He says in verse 30,
"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."

He says that judgement is just because it is not a manifestation of His own will, but is a manifestation of His Father's. They have two separate wills and are two separate beings.

I also believe, that just as Christ testified of He and the Father being two different beings, that Joseph Smith saw both God and Christ and that they were two different beings. Smith says in his History,

"It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (v.17)

From this sacred moment, Iunderstand that there are two different beings and that I worship God, my Father, and rely on Christ for redemption.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Obsession with King Lamoni...and All Righteous Kings For that Matter

Not to be redundant or anything, but I am kind of obsessed with King Lamoni and all righteous kings for that matter. For example, one of the things I admire most about George Washington is that he refused to be king. I think it would be safe to say that he probably would not have abused his power, but he understood man's nature enough that he sought to figure out a way where man would be in check of his ambition rather than being completely subject to giving in to his ambitions. That said, George Washington was one awesome guy, though we know that it was in God's plan to have a free nation.

As I was reading Alma 18 in the Book of Mormon the other night, I came across a few verses that really stuck out to me and taught me attributes of a good king and more importantly, the hope we can have when Christ establishes His kingdom here during the millennium. Verse one reads, "And it came to pass that king Lamoni caused that his servants should stand forth and testify to all the things which they had seen concerning the matter." The next verse is their testimony and his acceptance of what they said.

As I read this, I realized how remarkable it was that a king during a time where so many people were so wicked, was good enough to listen to the "lowest of people." And it was not just for show, as he truly trusted their testimonies and was humble enough to really "learn" what they had to say (verse 2).

There is obviously a trusting relationship between the king and his servants. They know that they can speak and not be condemned and he knows that he can trust them. I find this to be hopeful as we live in a time where people are persecuted on so many different levels by people who profess to be their leaders. But there is not this open communication or respect on either of the parties parts; common people are subject to their leaders just because they have to.

This is what makes me so excited about the gospel and about how Christ will reign as king in the millennium. We can have a real relationship with Christ and Heavenly Father as we pray and listen to the guidance we receive. We can be honest and repent and only fear when we are not doing those things. We also can become servants of our Heavenly Father and live a life so that when we meet our Savior, he will learn and believe our testimonies of the things that we did and felt and thought.

One more point I would like to make is how in verse thirteen, the servants end up calling the prophet Ammon their great king. Although we are not to call our prophet and leaders kings, we should revere them and trust what they say. We should have an attitude of learning from them and experimenting on their words so that we are as prepared as possible for when we meet our true king, Jesus Christ.

An Unexpected Epiphany

It is no surprise that in many ways the life I live is very different from those of my age group. For one, I am living a religion that many cannot understand and where we have practices that are right but arguably different from the world norm. One of these practices is when we have a testimony meeting one Sunday a week where people in the congregation can come to the pulpit and share their beliefs. Sure, that definitely runs the risk of uncomfortable things being said (and believe me, I have done my fair share of staring down at the ground and singing to myself wishing for people to just sit down), but it is cool that everyone has a chance to speak and testify of what they know.

Last week, I learned something simple that spoke to me in a profound way. First, you must understand that I am a communications disorder major, meaning that I want to be a speech language pathologist and that I have a strange love for grammar. So as I was sitting in this testimony meeting, a girl said, "And I know that God is always there for me."

'Doesn't she mean to say that He is here for her?', I asked myself. But then it got me thinking. She was right. She could have said here or there and it would still be grammatically correct. I then realized that the 'there' she had used was not what my classmates had learned as the "existential there" and therefore God was more of a real being than just some existing idea.

Now I will give you a brief explanation as to what this 'existential there' is, as it is key to understanding the point I will make. Existential there means is more of a filler than an actual place. If you can substitute the word 'here,' which is always a place, then it is not existential. For example, the sentence, "There is no more candy," would have an existential there because it is not a location and it would not be grammatically correct with the word 'here.' But the sentence, "The candy is over there," would not be existential because it is a location.

So away from the grammar lesson, and back to my epiphany. When I realized that God was not an existential there, I realized that he must be somewhere at an actual location, and not just some obscure idea that he only exists. He lives and is active in our lives and is real as if I she had said, "And I know that my best friend is always here for me." Yes, He exists, but He is more than that. He participates in my life, gives me meaning for my life and treats me as a daughter because I am His daughter. I think I have always known this, but being able to realize it in a small moment in such a powerful way is something that I really value.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We are Poor Little Lambs and We Have Lost Our Way

Sometimes I attend church expecting to not learn anything. Of course this is not the ideal attitude, but then again, sometimes, in my human weakness, I do not live up to the ideal. However, last week, a man in my ward addressed a very typical and common topic but in a very simple yet profound way. It is my hope that this posting will touch you as it did me.

Sheep are stupid. They are one of three species that will literally eat themselves. And I am not talking cannibalism; I am saying that a single sheep will eat itself. Being stupid animals, they will often follow the stupidest sheep there is.

There once was a sheep named Dolly who had giant buck teeth that went upwards, instead of the expected downwards. Dolly also was ridiculously cross eyed. She had nothing intelligent to offer, and so of course most of the sheep just followed her and they followed her blindly. On this same farm on which the sheep lived, was a baby sheep that was able to learn directly from the shepherd instead of Dolly. This baby sheep learned how to follow the way that the shepherd expected and the two formed an actual relationship. For example, if the shepherd was guiding the baby sheep and the sheep felt like it wasn’t receiving enough attention, it would softly push its head into the shepherd’s leg to indicate that it needed more attention.

Here is the bad news: we are each like the stupid sheep. As much as we wish we weren’t, thinking that we have been raised to be a smart sheep, we really belong in the stupid category. I do not mean to dismiss that our experiences in our lives have been for naught, but I am suggesting that even though we may believe and experience great things, we are still prone to fall into human weakness and stop following the actual shepherd. However, just because we are stupid does not mean that we are hopeless. When we choose to follow our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, we become more like that sheep that relied on its shepherd, and less like the sheep that followed Dolly. We learn that when we follow his path, we will not simply fall out of our weakness, but we come to rely on him to guide us through our weakness. The sheep that followed the shepherd was still a sheep and was prone to the stupid behavior, but it learned through experiences to rely on its shepherd. I also know that I am just human; I mess up, and hurt myself and others. Yet I can learn to avoid that and come closer to God when I rely on His Savior to guide my life and when I choose to humble myself and follow what my Shepherd has in store.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Priesthood and the Church

“Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life."
- President Ezra Taft Benson, Thirteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This last October, Elder L. Tom Perry of the 12 Apostles addressed the men in the Church about the responsibility of being a worthy priesthood holder. He first recognized how the world is becoming more and more tolerant of wickedness and that we as members of the Church can not be a part of the trend. I really liked what Elder Perry taught about Daniel in the old testament. He said the things that kept him faithful when he was faithful was as follows: (1) keeping his body healthy and clean, (2) developing his mind and becoming wise, (3) being strong and resistant to temptation in a world that is filled with it, and (4) trusting the Lord, especially when he needs His protection. All of these qualities require that a person actively choose to do what is best with himself. Elder Perry acknowledged that not only will doing these things help a young man when he is a deacon and a missionary, but it will also help him stay close to the Lord in whatever the Lord asks him to do throughout his life.

Elder Perry also promised the young priesthood holders that "the Lord is bound by solemn covenant to bless your lives according to your faithfulness." All that is required of them is to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and to follow his direction. Elder Perry also says that in doing so they will be blessed with added "wisdom, knowledge, power and glory."

I know what Elder Perry said is true. I believe that as men act with faith in living the Gospel and act with the power and authority that was given to them when they received the priesthood, that they will be blessed and will bless others throughout their lives. I have seen the result of both young and old men following what Elder Perry has said and I know that they are blessed for it.