Easter Sunday: He Is Risen

So this weekend I had the opportunity to go home with my roommate to her parent’s house for Easter. I did a temple session with an amazing friend on Saturday (which is probably the greatest session ever. Haha). Today (Sunday) I was in a family ward (which was quite refreshing after living in a student ward) and it was a fantastic three hours. Family wards just feel so much more like home than student wards and today was a testimony of how true that is (for me). During sacrament meeting, I was really hit by two songs. The choir sang “I Believe In Christ”. Being a music major, I was pretty much analyzing how they were singing – was it in tune? This part could come out a little more. etc etc. Shame on me. But about halfway through, I stopped thinking about that and started to really listen to what they were singing and the way they were singing. There were people of all ages from youth to grandparents singing in the choir and the thing that really hit me the most was that they didn’t seem to care all that much about being perfect. They just belted it out with all their heart because they were singing praises unto the Lord. They may not have sung perfectly in tune nor were the parts equally sung (the melody was a little hidden). It was not perfect if you were analyzing the entire thing. But it was perfect because they were singing about Christ. They were singing the words:

1. I believe in Christ; he is my King!
With all my heart to him I’ll sing;
I’ll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ; he is God’s Son.
On earth to dwell his soul did come.
He healed the sick; the dead he raised.
Good works were his; his name be praised.
2. I believe in Christ; oh blessed name!
As Mary’s Son he came to reign
‘Mid mortal men, his earthly kin,
To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: “Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be.”
3. I believe in Christ–my Lord, my God!
My feet he plants on gospel sod.
I’ll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.
I believe in Christ; he ransoms me.
From Satan’s grasp he sets me free,
And I shall live with joy and love
In his eternal courts above.
4. I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I’ll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again
To rule among the sons of men.
It was this arrangement, the one that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir does all the time:
When they got towards the end where the sopranos do the descant, they were just belting it out and you could see how much they believed the words they were singing. I felt the Spirit strongly and and once I stopped thinking about how they were singing and focused on what they were singing, I felt my Savior’s love and I felt the love He has for each and every one of us. It was amazing to know and I just wanted to stand up and sing it with them. I believe in Christ and I know He is my King and my Savior, my Brother and Redeemer. He died for me. He died for you. He died for everyone who has come and is coming to this Earth. He died so that we may repent of our sins, be forgiven and live with Him again. We will be resurrected just as He was resurrected on this day so many years ago. He died on the cross and rose three days later. I can only imagine how majestic that would have been to see from the heavens. I’m sure we were up there rejoicing, knowing that we would all be saved through Christ and what He had just done. I believe in Him. He IS my King. He is with me wherever I go, whenever I need Him. I can’t wait for the day He comes again to rule among us. I can’t wait to finally meet Him here on Earth and I am happy, joyful, and proud to say that I know Him. I know He lives. He is risen. And I believe in Him.
The second song that was really awesome was “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. I just love it. Oh how we must have rejoiced on this day! I just want to shout this to the heavens! Christ the Lord is Risen Today! Alleluia!

1. Christ the Lord is ris’n today,
Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say,
Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply,
Alleluia!
2. Love’s redeeming work is done,
Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the vict’ry won,
Alleluia!
Jesus’ agony is o’er,
Alleluia!
Darkness veils the earth no more,
Alleluia!
3. Lives again our glorious King,
Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save,
Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave?
Alleluia!
How amazing it is to know that I can be saved through the Atonement. I know that if I mess up (which I know I’ll do because I am not perfect. Not even close.), I can go to the Lord and beg forgiveness. I can repent of my sins and be forgiven. I know He is there. He is there! Christ the Lord is RISEN! He suffered for ALL of our sins. Oh my goodness! It is absolutely wonderful to know that I am saved! I still try my hardest to be the best I can be, but every morning and every night I beg Heavenly Father to help me with my weaknesses and help me to become better. I’m striving to be like my older brother. He was and is the perfect example that we need to follow. Every day of my life I want to sing praises unto Him for the amazing gift that has been given to us. It’s just… The hymn, I Stand All Amazed perfectly says what I’m feeling:
1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.
Oh it is wonderful that He should care for me, enough to die for me.
Oh it is wonderful! Wonderful to me!
 2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
 3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
We are not perfect, even if we are trying with all our hearts and souls to be. Isn’t it so amazing that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father love us anyway? Isn’t it wonderful that our Brother would suffer to the point that He bled from every pore just so that we could be saved and live with Heavenly Father again? I know with all my heart and soul that it is true, that that is how much they both love us. Heavenly Father is our FATHER. He is like any parent and would do what He can to bring us back to Him. As it says in John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. I know it in my heart, but it is so difficult to even comprehend how much love that really is. It is amazing to me that a parent could love their children so much to sacrifice one so that all of them would be saved. And Oh is it WONDERFUL!
Gordon B. Hinckley: He lives, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, whose Atonement came as an act of grace for the entire world. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has brought meaning to our mortal existence. He has given us the gift of eternal life. God be thanked for the gift of His Son, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the Prince of Life and Peace, the Holy One.

Thomas S. Monson: To most, there is something sinister and mysterious about this unwelcome visitor called death. Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown which causes many to dread its coming. The Savior’s words to the grieving Martha and to His disciples today bring comfort to us: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

I have one more hymn to share. I cannot even express how wonderful and amazing this is to me. There are no words to say it. I think music is the only way to even sort of describe it. He is Risen:
1. He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days’ prison;
Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory.
2. Come with high and holy hymning;
Chant our Lord’s triumphant lay.
Not one darksome cloud is dimming
Yonder glorious morning ray,
Breaking o’er the purple east,
Symbol of our Easter feast.
3. He is risen! He is risen!
He hath opened heaven’s gate.
We are free from sin’s dark prison,
Risen to a holier state.
And a brighter Easter beam
On our longing eyes shall stream.
He is risen! He is RISEN! ALLELUIA! My Lord and Savior, King and Redeemer is RISEN! I am saved by His grace. I can feel His love and peace surrounding me tonight as I write this with tears in my eyes. It is the best feeling in the world. This feeling right now… THIS is why I am serving a mission. This is why I’m dedicating 18 months of my life solely to Him. Because I know. I KNOW He is there! I want to share this knowledge with everyone else and I want them to feel what I feel and know what I know.
He is my Savior and Redeemer. Jesus Christ is my Brother and my King. I love Him and I know He loves me. I cannot wait to finally meet Him on this earth, run to Him, fall at His feet and kiss Him. Sing praises to Him and tell Him face to face that I love Him and can’t thank Him enough for what He has done.
HE IS RISEN!

Testimony Tuesday: Prepare for the Day, Trust in the Lord

Today, we live in a world full of crazy things, crazy people and crazy lives. We are constantly going, going, going with almost no extra time in the day to stop and catch our breath. Our busy lives sometimes keep us from remembering what is really important and what really matters. We might remember in the morning or as we’re going to bed, but do we remember during the day, during the most important time to remember that we don’t have to do anything alone?

Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I get down on my knees and pray. I don’t just mean “Dear Heavenly Father, thanks for the new day. Bless everyone to be safe. Bless that the day will be good. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” I mean sincerely pray. I talk to my Heavenly Father and thank Him for pretty much everything, big and little, that I have in my life. People, things, places, blessings, trials, opportunities, etc etc. And I mean it. I really am grateful from everything I have. I think about the day ahead, what I need to do, who I’ll be talking to, and I ask the Lord to be with me. I ask Him to help me with things I might struggle with during the day, to help me stay awake and alert, to understand what I’m learning, etc etc. My prayers are often close to five minutes in length. The key to having a relationship (relationship being defined as: the mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties, countries, people, etc) with God is talking to Him. He might know what’s going on in your life, but He wants you to be the one to tell Him about it. He doesn’t want to just watch it happen. He wants to hear about it from you, to know what you’re feeling in the moment. He is always there, waiting to hear from us, waiting to answer us. He is a loving parent. What child who has a relationship with their parent doesn’t speak to their parents and tell them about their day, what they have to do? That is the same relationship we need to have with our Heavenly Father.

After praying, I open the scriptures and read and study. You see, scriptures are where we can receive answers to our prayers. The relationship between me and Heavenly Father requires communication on both ends to be considered a relationship. I pray to Him, He answers through the scriptures, the prophets, and other resources that we have His word written in.

scriptures

6 AM is the best part of my day. Sometimes I may not want to get up, but once I do and I talk to Heavenly Father and read His word, my day has just gotten about a million times better even though it’s just barely started. Why? Because we need God in our lives to help guide us and direct us through the craziness of life. As soon as we wake up, Satan is working on us to try to get us to step over the line just once. Once we step over, he tries to pull us farther and farther away from the goodness in life. We need Heavenly Father’s guidance. We need to give Him our hand and trust that He will bring us safely through the fog, the darkness, the trials that come in life. Without Him, we aren’t going to make it through anything in life. Put your faith and trust in Him. He will guide you because He loves you – He is your father in Heaven.

This video is a great analogy to this concept.

Testimony Tuesday: Temples

Not all of the videos posted wanted to be embedded, so you’ll have to click on links. Sorry about that! But please, watch at least one of them, and get to all of them when you can!

Boston MA temple - this is the temple in my mission.

Boston MA temple – this is the temple in my mission.

As young children in Primary, we are taught a song with the words:

I love to see the temple. I’m going there someday. To feel the Holy Spirit. To listen and to pray. For the temple is a House of God, a place of love and beauty. I’ll prepare myself while I am young. This is my sacred duty.

I love to see the temple, I’ll go inside someday. I’ll covenant with my Father, I’ll promise to obey. For the temple is a holy place where we are sealed together. As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth: A family is forever.

The temple really is a holy place, a house of God and a place of love and beauty. It’s a small part of heaven on earth. I know these special buildings are dedicated to the Lord and every time I am there to do baptisms, I can feel the Spirit. I can even feel it outside, just on the temple grounds. He whispers to me that it is true; that the work that goes on inside a temple is the work of the Lord.

As I prepare to go through the temple for the first time, I have come to really appreciate the blessings of the temple even more than before. Watching the videos I’ve posted below has strengthened my testimony, too. I see the temples spread throughout the world – we have 140 operating, and even more announced or under construction – and I know that the Lord’s work is going forth. More and more people in more and more countries can receive the blessings of the temple. I can see in their faces, the youth all over know just what the temple means: We can enter in the temple, make covenants with God, and feel His presence for a couple hours at a time. And they are so excited to have one nearer to them, and to see the prophet dedicate them. They know it is true. Even if the temple is hours, or even days away, the people in the church know the importance of it, and put their faith and trust in the Lord. They sell their belongings so they can make it to the temple. They know the importance of it and would give anything to make it there. They know that if they get to the temple even just once in their lives, they can receive Heavenly Father’s blessings.

Another thing I want to testify of is President Monson. He is a prophet. I can see his smiling face in each of these videos and even though I’m not right next to him, I’m watching on a computer screen, I can see the truthfulness of what he says on his face. He loves the Lord and the Gospel. He is a prophet of God who has the power to reveal God’s will to us in these the latter days. We need the Lord’s guidance so much more now than ever before as the world becomes more and more wicked, and the prophet is one way to receive that guidance. President Monson is a prophet of God. He loves the Lord. He loves the Gospel. And he loves the church and everyone in it. He is a prophet.

I LOVE that there are celebrations of the temple, because the temple really IS something to celebrate! Temples are going up everywhere! These cultural celebrations show how diverse the church is, but unify us all. We are all the same in God’s eyes. It is wonderful and amazing to see just how far and wide the Gospel has gone, to places I’ve never even heard of. This is a testimony to me that the church is true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. It’s all true!

The church is true. God is real and loves and knows us each individually. President Monson is a prophet, just as Joseph Smith was in his. I know the Brethren in the leadership of the church, President Uchtdorf, President Eyring, Elder Holland, Elder, Christensen, and all the others are all apostles, just as Peter, James, John, Paul, and all the others were apostles in their time. I am so grateful for this knowledge and am so blessed to have it and I feel those blessings every day of my life! I love God and the church, the prophets and apostles, and the temples. I love it all with my entire soul and I know it is all true!

I hope that our temples can stand in places where everyone can see them and know that they are something different and special. I hope it inspires them to ask questions about it, and about the church. I know it is true. I want others to feel the happiness that I get from this knowledge.

Part 2: Seeing Others As God Sees Them

Last night after I went to bed, I thought of something else in particular that I wanted to touch on about judging others. It is specifically about how others judge missionaries, or rather others who judge people who haven’t served missions. I have often heard of girls who refuse to date any guy who isn’t a return missionary, and every time I hear about it, my heart breaks. Who are they to judge them? They haven’t served missions, and all they’re looking for is a husband. Who’s to say the men won’t say the same thing now (I mention this again below)? I may be being a bit of a hypocrite and I don’t mean to. Those girls are beautiful and wonderful daughters of God, who are only looking for the best for their future families. But we need to remember that each person is of great worth to the Lord. He knows what is best for us, and though we might not understand it at the time, things happen for a reason – God is in charge. There are some people who already know they cannot serve a mission because of medical, mental, or other physical disabilities, so they don’t apply to be a missionary. Some people find out after they receive their call, just as they’re about to leave or even in the middle of their mission that something is wrong and they can’t serve anymore. The Brethren of the church state that  these people are honorably excused from missionary service and can choose to serve at home if they so desire. Sometimes it isn’t a medical reason. Sometimes a person doesn’t serve a mission because they are a convert due to their boyfriend/girlfriend’s missionary efforts to bring them into the Gospel. Whatever the reason, if someone doesn’t serve a mission, it doesn’t automatically make them unworthy to hold the Priesthood or receive temple blessings. It doesn’t make them a bad person. Actually, I believe that many who find out they can’t serve become stronger and all the better for it. It is a hard trial to go through for some of them and that is, of course, the main purpose of being on Earth – to be tested and learn from our trials. If someone hasn’t served a mission and isn’t going to, love them, no matter the reason. Most likely, specifically those that can’t, they already feel bad or guilty about it, so please don’t make them feel worse. Love them and lift them up.

I know several young men who can’t or haven’t served and they are some of the most spiritual and worthy men out there. Hey, even President Monson didn’t serve a mission… And he’s the prophet for crying out loud! These men are sometimes spiritual giants. They are closer to the spirit than anyone else I know and they  are amazing. I love each and every one of them for their examples.

As the missionary age has changed (quite significantly for women), I hope that the tables don’t turn and young men start judging the young women who don’t serve. Women are not obligated to serve. We are taught that if marriage is an option at the time and it is the right thing for us, that is the way we should go because families are so important. It is so sad that people judge others for things they have no control over. Heavenly Father knows each of us. He knows our desires, our wants and our needs. He knows what is best and that should be enough for us to trust in Him. If you meet someone who hasn’t served a mission and isn’t going to, get to know them. Find out who they are. They are most likely good people who love the Lord and are trying to do everything they can to follow Him.

One of the two most important commandments? Love thy neighbor as thyself . Anyone we meet is considered our neighbor. Love them and do unto them as you would have them do unto you.

I know the Lord loves us. He hears our prayers and knows us each individually. I love Him with all my heart and am striving to do all I can to come closer to Him. I know He will guide me whenever I need it, if I ask, and I know that He is there whenever I need Him. I love my Savior and I love this Gospel. I know it is true, without a shadow of a doubt. I’m not perfect, nor will I be any time soon. I just know that if we strive to be the best we can be, God will help us the rest of the way.

I say this in the name of the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, amen.

Testimony Tuesday: Seeing Others As God Sees Them

I feel like my thoughts are really jumbled and I’m just writing them down as they come, so I think I go off on random tangents a lot. Especially today. I’m not really proof-reading any of my posts, so if they don’t make any sense, I sincerely apologize. Let me know, though, too. 🙂

People in the world judge others based on their outer beauty. This is definitely not fair to those of us who may not look the greatest, who may not have the most stylish clothes because of finances, or who don’t have the best reputation because of the family they were born into. In many ways, those are the people who are the most beautiful. You may have frizzy hair, a crooked nose, a funny smile. Your body may not be the average weight or be the “perfect size”. You might think you are unimportant to those around you, especially as youth thrown into a world that doesn’t understand or care about who you are as a person. Everyone is judged by their looks, money, family, or some other ridiculous thing. But let me tell you something:

None of that matters.

What matters is who you really are. We are trying to live worthily in a world that doesn’t understand how rich a person truly is based on how they show kindness, love, gratitude, faith, joy, and other divine characteristics. These are the things God judges us by. He sees who we are and knows us each personally.

1 Samuel 16:7 says: “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for theLord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 says (a personal favorite of mine): “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The girl who taught the Relief Society lesson on Sunday said: “Don’t put mortal limits on an immortal God.”

Though the lesson was about something completely different, I think this quote goes PERFECTLY with these scriptures. Man is mortal. We don’t know everything about anyone, but God does. He is the only person who has the right to judge anyone.

Matthew 7:1-2, 5: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again… Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Who are we to judge others? Remember the story of the adulteress? She committed adultery and the people found out about it and wanted to stone her. But Jesus showed up and said “Ye that are without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Nobody, except Jesus, is perfect. We have all sinned at some point or another, probably already this week. I know I have. (Sin is not just big things like murder and adultery. It is small things too like little white lies, judging others (the whole point of this post. hemhem), etc etc. I’ll say it again NOBODY IS PERFECT. So we have no right to judge others.

HOWEVER, we do need to judge others so we can say whether or not they are trustworthy or good people. This type of judgment is called righteous judgment. It is explained pretty perfectly in a quote that I really love by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

    • “…There are two kinds of judging: final judgements, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgements, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles. I will speak about gospel judging. We should refrain from anything that seems to be a final judgment of any person, manifesting our determination to have final judgments to the Lord, who alone has the capacity to judge. In the intermediate judgments we must make, we should take care to judge righteously. We should seek the guidance of the Spirit in our own decisions. We should limit our judgments to our own stewardships. Whenever possible we should refrain from judging people until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts. So far as possible, we should judge circumstances rather than people. In all our judgments we should apply righteous standards. And, in all of this we must remember the command to forgive.” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I have a hard time with this every day. As soon as I see someone for the first time, I automatically look at what they’re wearing, the why they do their hair or make-up, the tattoos and piercings (if I’m not on BYU campus), etc and my first judgment of them is made. Often times I’ll catch myself and remember that they are sons and daughters of God, just like me. I remind myself that I need to assume they are probably good people until I meet them and get to know who they are for myself. I know that as we learn to see others the way God sees them (service is a great way to do that), we can develop a deep love and care for them and the worldly view of them will soon disappear.

Aaaaand I’ve gone WAY off course. My apologies. I meant this post to be about inner beauty and how women in the church (and many outside it as well) tend to have the gifts of seeing others in their true divine beauty.  I suppose that will be next week’s Testimony Tuesday. Or maybe later this week. 🙂 Enjoy your day. Love those around you and try to see them (and yourself) as God sees you.