May 26, 2014
Hey Hey Hey!
Congratulations to my sister and Andrew on their graduation! Also congrats to all the other grads out there!
First off: So do you all remember Cheryl Bastarache from my last area, Canterbury who was awesome and progressing a ton? Well, I’ve received word that she is getting baptized on July 6th!!!! HOORAY!!!! I’m SO excited for her!!!! WOOT WOOT!!!!
Second of all: The area has been moving so slowly! It’s kind of frustrating, but at the same time, we’re finding other things to do, finding new ideas to find and trying our best to find find find! (That was a lot of finds). We’ve mostly been focused on getting to know the members better, because while we know a few really well (mostly where we live) and we do know them and talk to them at church or other activities, we don’t KNOW them like we really should. Members and missionaries really need to work together to get this work done the way the Lord needs and wants it to be! So that’s what we’re focused on for now. We put together “emergency gospel kits” with pamphlets, pass-along cards and a Book of Mormon so that when they are ready to share the Gospel with a friend or family, they have supplies at the ready! It’s awesome!
We had lunch at the Battline’s again yesterday after church. I have really come to love them. When I first got to the area, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of them. But the more I talk with them, spend time with them and get to know them, the more that I realize what great examples they are, how hard they are trying to do the right things and the sacrifices they make every day to serve the Lord. They’re an example that I will try hard to always remember and learn from! 🙂
The Erickson’s. They’re another family I’ve come to know and love so much! We went over on Tuesday to share a lesson and we talked about how they can help others to find Christ since they’ve already found Him. We tried to do a card trick, but that failed (we’re still trying to figure out what went wrong), so we just talked about it and shared the Mormon Message video “Your Day for a Mission”. It was awesome! Because 1: I love that family! They’re excited for missionary work and they’re pretty good at it! and 2: The Spirit was there and I LOVE when I can recognize it guiding me! 😀
Something that has kept coming up this week throughout my studies and our making lesson plans has been two things actually: The talk “His Grace Is Sufficient” by Brad Wilcox, and the upcoming date of June 1.”His Grace Is Sufficient” is the most amazing talk I’ve ever read and is now by far, one of my favorites. Brother Wilcox explains simply what grace is and what it does. He gives examples that show more clearly what Christ’s Atonement does. It’s absolutely amazing. There is one section of the talk that I really want to focus on because it really hit me the way he explains it. After explaining that even though grace covers our sins, we still have plenty of work to do saying: “You have plenty to do, but it is not to fill the gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plant to stay there”. Do you remember talking about the Plan of Salvation and the three Degrees of Glory – Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial? That’s what he’s referring to. We have work to do, but it’s not for the same reason that Christ paid for the sins. He says it perfectly, so I’ll just quote it. It’s a little long, but I love it so much, I have to share it! He says:
“Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used – seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, ‘Follow me’, ‘Keep my commandments’. If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”) maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance NOT because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange for his paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is CHANGE.”
I (Brad Wilcox) have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to EARN your way to heaven.”
I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are LEARNING heaven. We are preparing for it. We are practicing for it.”
They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
I answer “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully – yes!”
Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been CHANGED by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.”
… grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior… Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God, but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to… heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.”
I LOVE the way that explains so simply why we have to work. I love the whole talk and I would just copy and paste it all for you to read, but that would make it too easy. If you want to really know it all, click on the link below. It’s not any harder to do that than for me to copy and paste it all for you. 🙂 My challenge is for each of you to read it, study it and apply it.
Continuing on the topic of the Atonement, there’s another talk that touches on what the Atonement covers. It was given by Chieko N. Okazaki and some of it says:
“We know that on some level, Jesus experienced the totality of mortal experience. It’s our faith that He experienced everything. Absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think about the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family.
That means He knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes lock and the car starts to skid. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
His last recorded words to His disciples were, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” What does that mean? It means He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your 5th grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has down syndrome. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when your 50th wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for 2 years.
He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that.
But He’ll stay [outside] if you put Him there. The door to Him is always open, but the door to you can be closed and stay closed – if you choose to close it. If one great constant in the universe is the unfailing love of the Savior, the other great constant is His unfailing respect for human agency. He will not override your will, even for your own good. He will not compel you to accept His help. He will not force you to accept His companionship. He leaves you free to choose. I beg you to open the door and let Him out of that room.
Give Him your whole heart – all the pieces, and let Him heal you.”
The more I’ve read that and thought on it, the more I’m reminded of that poem, Footprints in the Sand. I’m sure most of you know it. I wish I had it memorized to share with you, but the gist of it is that there’s a man who’s walking on a beach. He looks back on the footprints he’s left throughout is life and realizes that most of the way, there are two sets of prints: His and the Lord’s. But sometimes, there is only one set, and at those times, he was having the hardest time of his life. When he asks the Savior why He left him at those times, the Savior replied “I never left you. It was then that I carried you.”
I love that poem. Most people do. It’s touching and means a lot to so many of us who have gone through hard times that seem so dark until we realize that the Savior was/is carrying us. A few weeks ago, my mom wrote to me and shared with me that a woman we know lost her father when she was about 25. She stayed strong for a year, but then crashed and felt the pain. She learned that the Lord had carried her for that year and helped her to be strong, but eventually, He put her down because Heavenly Father needed her to learn through the pain. My mom said, “There are some lessons that we need to learn and Heavenly Father will teach us in His time.”
Well, it’s almost been a year. This coming Sunday will be June 1. I’ve been strong for a while, but the more I think on this, the more I know that all of this is true. I will “crash” some time. My Savior is carrying me, helping me to be strong and do what is needed at this time, but at some point, He’s going to put me down. At some point, I’m going to need to learn to walk on my own, with only His hand to guide me and help me to stay on my own two feet. He will never leave me, but just like parent teaching a child to walk, He knows He has to let me go, let me fall a little, help me back up and let me go again. When I first realized this would eventually happen, I didn’t know what to think. I don’t want to deal with it. I just want it to all go away and not have to worry. But as I study the Atonement, I realize that I would be defeating the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. The Atonement is there for us to use so that we can be healed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is there for us to use so that we can be strengthened and guided, so that we don’t have to be alone. All of this – life, experiences, trials and testing, happiness, sadness, commandments, church, scriptures, leaders, friends, family – all of it is there so that we can make it through this life with help, but still make it through and be able to walk into God’s presence on our own two feet, ready to stand and say “Father, I know I wasn’t perfect. I know what you gave me was hard and I may have handled it better. But I know that what my Savior did for me was what got me through. And I know that because I used it, I am clean.”
Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ which strenghteneth me.”
Joshua 1:9 says “…Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest.”
1 John 4:19 says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…”
I know who my Savior is and what He did for me. I know that even though at some point He’s going to put me down and it’s going to be HARD, I can do it. I know it will make me stronger and I know that He does it for me because He knows me and loves me and has faith in me, that I can live up to the divine potential that is a part of me.
Doctrine and Covenants 6:36-37 says “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold, the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.”
He is with me always.
Study these scriptures and the talks. He can be with you always, too. Will you use the Atonement and be healed?