Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice!

Good morning, afternoon, evening – wherever you are! My week has definitely been an interesting one, but full of fantastic things! I truly hope each of yours has been the same.

So yesterday was absolutely amazing, mostly because the General Women’s Meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was broadcasted! Which means: Women around the world were specifically addressed by servants of the Lord. If you missed it, you can watch it here. Every time General Conference comes around (every 6 months, April and October), I say that it was the best conference ever. It really just keeps getting better and better. Either that, or I’m just understanding more and more, particularly about applying the doctrines and principles that are taught in my own life. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both. Whatever the case, General Conference is always amazing and it is definitely my favorite time of year.

This time around, it is even more special because we get to hear from our prophets and apostles and other leaders of the Church on Easter Sunday, the day that our Lord and Savior was resurrected almost 2000 years ago. I’ll discuss more of that next week when the occasion comes.

There is one point I want to elaborate on and that is what prophets are, what their purpose is. Many people today don’t believe that prophets are necessary. Prophets in Biblical times were servants of God who were called to speak His word and teach the world what the Lord needed His Children to do in order to survive the world and make it back Home to Him. Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Noah are only a few of the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ Himself was a prophet, and He is also the Savior of the world. Prophets were given in every dispensation (a time where the Gospel and the Priesthood were both on the Earth in their fulness) to guide the Lord’s people and clarify the teachings that had been recorded previously.

Moses parting the Red Sea

Moses parting the Red Sea

Today, we have probably thousands of different religions all over the world, most of them believe in Jesus Christ and believe the Bible to be the word of God. There are also many different translations of the Bible – King James, New King James, New Living Translation, New Revised, etc, etc. Honestly, if you read the same verse in each of these, you can get something completely different out of each of them. So how do you know which one is right? How do you know there aren’t things missing, or even added, from the original?

Jesus Christ teaches the people

Jesus Christ teaches the people

All that being said, how do you think our world today could benefit from having a living prophet – a servant of the Lord who has been called by Him to teach His word, who receives revelation straight from God and has the power of God to teach, to perform miracles and to give blessings, just as prophets of old did, just as the Savior did? What would that mean to you if there was someone like that here on the Earth right now? How would that change your life? Think about that. Seriously consider it. Read about the prophets. Study their words. Figure out how to apply it today. Finally, pray about it.

I testify to you that we DO have a living prophet on Earth today. His name is Thomas S. Monson, and I KNOW that he is a servant of God who truly loves the Lord and loves each of us. He genuinely wants us to come unto Christ, and to one day live with Him again. I know this because I have heard him speak. I have heard, seen and felt the words he has to say and I know that they come from God. I also know this because I feel the same. I love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and I know that it’s possible to live with Them again. I feel Their love for each of the people in my life, and even people I don’t even know, but know about. I pray for the welfare of others and in return, I have the capacity to love them unconditionally, no matter who they are. We have a loving Father in Heaven who doesn’t want us to be without His help here in this life. Because of that love, He has given us prophets to guide us through the time we have here.

The message comes from Jesus Christ, through His prophet, to us.

The message comes from Jesus Christ, through His prophet (today it is Thomas S. Monson, pictured), to us.

I invite each of you to share this message with your friends and to listen to the prophet, Thomas S. Monson, as well as other servants of the Lord who are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leadership for men, women and children. It’s happening Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5 at 10:00am (MST), 12:00pm and a session just for the men on Saturday at 6:00pm. You can watch it at lds.org, or on BYUTV. I try to watch all sessions because they all have different speakers, and all are absolutely amazing and wonderful. I know that you will find the Spirit to be there. You will find truth, especially if you bring a question as you listen, even one as simple as “Are these people truly following Christ?” Any question you have that you need an answer to whether it be simply looking for truth or guidance on what to do with your life, how to raise your children, how to come closer to the Savior, all of it can and will be answered if you have faith and an open heart and mind. I promise you that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Finding Faith in Every Footstep

What is faith? How would you define it? For me, I completely agree with the scriptures. All over the place we find it saying something along the lines of “Faith is believing in something without seeing.” Occasionally, we might also find it paired with action. Because what is faith without acting on your belief? It’s simply that – a belief. It doesn’t do much for us, and it definitely doesn’t drive us to change, to repent and become more like our Savior if all we’re doing is just saying that we believe in Him. In the Book of Mormon, in Alma chapter 32, it talks all about faith. We are a taught that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Later in the chapter, we are invited to experiment upon the word, to find out for ourselves if it is not true. Faith is compared to a seed that needs to be nourished in order to grow. In other words: Our faith won’t grow; in fact, it will die if we don’t do anything about it. We have to act on what we believe and know to be true or that belief will dwindle and become nonexistent. Lately, I’ve found myself saying it in a different way: “We don’t plant a seed assuming it won’t grow. We plant a seed knowing that it will grow into a tree, or a tomato plant or a flower. Because we know what it can become, we plant it and we also water it and make sure it has the right amount of sunlight. We do everything we can to try to keep it alive and growing strong. The same goes for faith. We don’t have faith while at the same time thinking nothing will come of it. We have faith and so we ACT.”

Obedience is a pretty large factor when it comes to growing our faith. Without obedience, we never really come to know what’s right or wrong, what’s true or not. We just live our lives as we want and nothing really, truly good ever comes from it. Not in the eternal perspective anyway. As we are obedient, our faith is confirmed, blessings come, and miracles happen.

Faith is the first principle of the Gospel. Why? Because it’s, in my opinion, the basis for everything else. It’s the reason we do ANYTHING in the Gospel. We develop faith and as we do, we repent and change, we learn to be more Christ-like and we WANT to be more like our Savior. We become more like Him as our faith increases. The Gospel of Jesus Christ in a never-ending cycle of Faith, Repentance, Baptism (or the Sacrament) and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Once we’ve gone through it the first time, we can’t stop. We have to continually be increasing our faith, changing and repenting and becoming clean again by taking the sacrament in order for us to always be guided by the Holy Ghost. Without Faith, that whole cycle crumbles and fails. We can’t improve and grow and become stronger. We can’t progress and be able to live with God again. Faith is the reason we even have the opportunity to apply the Atonement and become clean. It’s really as simple as that.

President Thomas S. Monson said: “Our Heavenly Father has placed an upward reach in every one of us. The words of scripture speak loud and clear: ´Look to God and live´ (Alma 37:47). No problem is too small for His attention nor so large that He cannot answer the prayer of faith. Prayer surely is the passport to spiritual power. You can pray with purpose when you realize who you are and what Heavenly Father wants you to become.“
Heavenly Father loves each of us. He didn’t send us down here to Earth to watch us struggle and fail. He sent us down here so that we could better learn who we are as His Children. We have the Light of Christ in us, every single one of us. It is there because it is who we are – Children of God. It reminds us that we are important and special and that we each have the divine potential to become as our Father and Brother are. And it helps us continue to develop our faith in order to reach that potential.
I know that I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and I am who I am because of that faith. It gives me the desire to be better every day. It helps me to share my thoughts and experiences with others so that their faith can also be strengthened. I want more than anything to see as many of my brothers and sisters living in the presence of our Heavenly Father and I know that I can’t just sit back and watch it happen. I have to act on my belief that it is possible – I have to do something about it before the end result actually happens. I have to have faith, and not just the faith I have now. I have to have increase my faith on a daily basis for anything to actually come of it.
I know this is true and I know that this is the reason for my joy and happiness. It’s who I am and I never want to change that, except to be better.
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Your Divine Potential

Ever since I’ve come to know exactly who I am, there has been one phrase that makes me cringe: “Why am I so special? I’m just little ol’ me.”

The message I have today is for those who have thought this once, twice, or on a regular basis. You think you’re not so special, just “little ol’ me?” Whether you mean that in a way that says “I’m not good enough” or in a way that says “I’m simply just another person,” you need to know, brothers and sisters, that that is the exact opposite of the truth. You are a beautiful, glorious and divine son or daughter of God, your Father in Heaven. You are unique and wonderful in each of your own ways. You have strengths and weaknesses that come together to help others who have strengths and weaknesses different from your own. Those things, your best and your worst, are what make you who you are. What you do with them determines who you become.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares this message about our true identity by comparing us to the story of The Ugly Duckling. He tells us that we often neglect to see who we really are and we let ourselves get down and upset over it. But instead, we should see that we ARE special. We aren’t “just little ol’ me”. We have the potential and the power to become as God is, to inherit all that He has and is. When we are able to see others in that way, as our brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of God, we have the desire to serve them and to do all that we can to see them happy. We don’t think twice about it because we love them, the way our Father in Heaven loves them.

I know this mainly because I have improved my prayers, which you can read about here. As I’ve prayed daily to Heavenly Father, I’ve been able to strengthen my relationship with Him in a way that can never be achieved without a daily conversation. I know who He is and I know that He loves me more than I can even comprehend. I’m a VERY special to Him, and extremely important. I have a part to play and it is a critical one, no matter how small or large it is. Every day I have an influence on someone around me, whether it’s good or bad. In the scriptures, we read that we (the saints) make up the body of Christ, that each part is important. Everyone needs a heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Everyone needs a brain to think and do. Everyone needs lungs to pump oxygen to the rest of the body.Everyone needs eyes to see, ears to hear, mouths to eat. Everyone needs fingers and toes to walk and to type and play instruments and hold things. Everyone needs everything in the body. Yes, there are things we can survive without. But how much more can we accomplish with everything present and intact?

YOU are a part of the body. YOU are needed in order for the Lord to accomplish His work to the fullest. YOU are special and important. Your divine potential is great and you can accomplish so many wonderful things, but only if you can see yourself through heaven’s eyes.

The Power of Prayer

In my home ward, I have the great privilege of being a Young Women’s Laurel Advisor. This means that I get to teach 16 and 17 year old girls every week in church and I get to have fun with them every Wednesday, teaching them about the Gospel, life skills, and how to be themselves as well as a true and loving disciple of Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how amazing each of them are. They answer questions quite profoundly, in ways I’m definitely not expecting. It’s inspiring to me, the one who’s supposed to be their teacher, mentor and guide through these challenging teenage years. And because of their sweet spirits, I am filled with an immense love, which I know to be the love of God, for each of these beautiful young women.

Because I am fairly new to this calling (just a few weeks), I was unaware that I am teaching every week. I found out that nice little piece of information today… a few minutes before class started. Thankfully, though, I knew the topic (the Atonement) and I also have a bit of training on teaching on the fly (AKA following the Spirit) – 18 months of it, all day, every day.  So todays lesson was… well, it was actually really good. The girls participated, and I felt the Spirit guiding us the whole time. We read from Matthew 26 about Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, and as we read, I felt impressed to talk about prayer.

Prayer is something very dear to me. It is something I have a great testimony of, which I gained while serving in New Hampshire. I briefly served with a companion who taught me how important prayer is through her simple and quiet example. She was only in our trio for about five days before transfers happened, but in those few days, she changed me. At night, she would ask if either I or my other companion needed to use the restroom before bed, then she would go in, turn on the fan, and say her prayers out loud. It was the only privacy she could get, but I could tell how much it meant to her and how much greater and stronger her relationship with Heavenly Father was because she took that time and made it sacred and personal. When transfers came, just a few months before I returned home, I told my new companion, fresh from the MTC, that I wanted to improve my prayers by saying them out loud at night. We would switch off who went in the bathroom and who stayed in the bedroom. There would be the bathroom fan on and the regular fan in the bedroom to be sure we couldn’t hear each other in order for our prayers to truly be sincere and open.

To everyone who is reading this, I can’t express to you how powerful those sacred experiences were to me. Though I didn’t pray aloud every night, my nightly prayers turned from being about 30 seconds to being 20 minutes long. I learned on a deeper level that my Father in Heaven wants to know EVERYTHING that’s on my mind and in my heart. He loves me unconditionally, no matter what I do, say or feel. I opened up to Him more than I ever had before. I poured out my heart and soul during that time each night. Previously, I had simply said what I was grateful for, asked Him for things I needed and got into bed. Now, I do those things, too, but I also tell Him things that I’m afraid to admit, even to myself. I share with Him my worries, doubts, fears, joys, and every thought I’ve had throughout the day that is important to me. The time I spend on my knees is so precious and personal. But I don’t have to be on my knees to communicate with my Heavenly Father. I pray whenever I feel the need, which is generally at least ten times a day. Those prayers or mostly short, simple ones for strength, guidance, or gratitude. Because I take time every morning, day and night to get on my knees and have a real conversation with God, I know Him better, and I know and love myself better.

Before sharing some of these thoughts with my wonderful Young Women today, I asked if any of them had prayed for 20 minutes before. Only one said yes. I asked her why and she replied “Because it was a really hard time and I needed it.” My heart swelled with love for this sweet girl. I thanked her for sharing and added my testimony to the power of prayer during hard times, but I also had a question that I want each of you to think about. If our response during hard times is to pray for 20 minutes because we need it, what would happen if we prayed during the good times for 20 minutes? The reason would still be because we need it, but not because we’re struggling. It would, for me at least, be because I love my Father in Heaven and I want and need His input, His love and approval and guidance on everything that I do. And all that, because I want to do it for Him. I want to do what will make Him happy, what will make me happy and most of all, what will bring me closer to Him and teach me more to be like Him.

One day, we will stand before God and be judged according to what kind of faith (which leads to action) we have had throughout our lives here on Earth. And on that day, I am determined to stand before my Father and tell Him that I did everything I could to do His work and will. Brothers and sisters, I am convinced that our ability to say those words when the day comes is directly influenced by how often, how sincerely, and how intently we pray. I say that because that is what directly influences our relationship with God. Without prayer, we don’t know Him. With prayer, we know Him and once we know Him and what He is all about, we will have the desire, faith, love, strength and determination to become like Him and do His will.

Prayer has the power to heal, to strengthen, to carry and to comfort. Prayer has the power to help you reach your divine potential, to become your Father’s son or daughter. The power of prayer is a piece of God’s power. He has given it to us to do with it what we will because He knows we need it. If we use it in the way He intended, miracles will happen. I testify to you of that because I have seen it in my life. Prayer is the reason I am who I am, and it is the reason I have the strong testimony and conversion that I have. Prayer has changed my life and made me a better person. And I will never be able to express how grateful I am to be able to talk with my Father in Heaven whenever I want and need to. He loves me, and each of us, and so has given us this beautiful gift of communication.

How will you use the gift?

Let Yourself Be Changed

Serving a full-time mission for 18 months or two years, during which you dedicate yourself completely to focusing on serving the Lord, is something that will change you forever in so many ways, but only if you let it. That was the best advice I ever got – to let the mission change me. What grew and strengthened the most while I served in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission was my faith and testimony in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Before I went, I knew it was all true. But I didn’t necessarily know how to apply what I believed. I just knew it. Now, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, just as there is a difference between testimony and conversion. Knowledge, or testimony is basically just having information. Wisdom, or conversion, is knowing how to use the knowledge you’ve gained, especially in a way the Lord would use it. So, while my childhood and teenage years gave me knowledge and testimony, serving a mission gave me wisdom and conversion. I’m definitely not perfect, though so I don’t have all the wisdom and knowledge. That will take a lifetime to gain, but at least I have more in the areas that really pertain to my eternal salvation.

From the very beginning when I was set apart to serve the Lord, to the time I was released, I was tried and tested in many different ways. Each time, I received more experience and strength. There were things that happened in my family just as I was leaving that might have made others question if there was even a God. But right then, I knew I was being tested to see if what I knew was what I would actually do. I knew my Heavenly Father and Savior needed me to serve them full-time, and I wasn’t about to let anything stop me. Because I chose to serve anyway, despite the circumstances at home, I was greatly blessed and given so much strength for me to go on, and so was my family. I learned better how to rely on the Lord and how to allow others to comfort and serve me when I needed it. But I also gained experience that let me be a comfort and a beacon of hope for those I served. I was able to let my light shine in a way that strengthened my companions, my leaders and my ward families.

My faith was tried and tested as I received companions that I had to get used to. I was reminded daily that my companion was someone who I needed to love, serve, communicate with and open up to. I couldn’t keep everything in the way I was used to doing. My prayers became more earnest and sincere as I pleaded with the Lord to give me strength and patience. Because of that, my relationship with Him grew stronger and I became more and more comfortable sharing what was really on my mind and in my heart, both with Him and with my companion.

Every day, we faced people who hated us, slammed doors in our face, called us devil-worshippers, or blamed us for problems. We struggled to find people who might be interested in the Church, let alone those who were interested in being baptized. There were times when my companion and I had to stop for a minute, hug each other, maybe cry a bit, say a prayer and continue on. Sometimes the tears were because we didn’t know if we could keep going, but most times, the tears were for someone else who was struggling or who had rejected the opportunity to learn more about their Savior.

My faith was strengthened as I grew in the knowledge of the scriptures and words of the modern-day prophets and apostles. I heard the testimony of my companion on a daily basis, and my leaders’ testimonies on a weekly or monthly basis. I shared thoughts during companionship study, as did my companions. I learned to follow the Spirit on a regular basis because without it, it would have been impossible to continue forward, doing what the Lord had called me to do. My faith was strengthened as I listened to the trials other people were going through. Compassion and the pure love of Christ flooded through me on each occasion, and I wanted nothing more than to help them in any way that I could. On all of these occasions where my faith was tested, tried, and strengthened, I began to understand on a deeper level who Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are and how much they truly love us, despite all of our shortcomings.

Before returning home, I started to wonder if I would be able to continue progressing as much as I was while serving non-stop, day and night with nothing to think about but other people. I was a little worried that I would fall into bad habits I’d had before, or that I wouldn’t be able to feel the Spirit as much or continue seeing the way God sees. Until I was released, it seemed as though my mission was just another chapter that I was finished with and would never get back, only through memories.

Thankfully, within just a couple of weeks, I was proven to be quite wrong about all that. Because my mission was teaching me how to apply what I had previously learned, that knowledge and wisdom became more deeply ingrained into who I am today. I still feel God’s love for me and those I see every day. I still feel the Spirit guiding me and helping me when I need it. I may not be able to study for two hours every day, or spend all day, every day serving people. I might not have the opportunity to teach the Gospel as much as I did on my mission. But I can still share my testimony monthly, weekly and even daily. I can still serve those around me. And I know that I will always continue pressing forward, as long as I remember the Lord and always strive to do His will instead of mine.

I believe that before serving my mission, I was just trying to figure out how to deal with and getting used to having a body and being away from my Father in Heaven. Anyone during that time, and sometimes even longer, has to explore the natural man and figure out how to control it. Your mission, whether it’s serving full-time or another section in your life where you learn to serve, put others before yourself, and grow closer to your Savior is when you learn to re-connect with yourself spiritually, who you were before this life when you lived with Heavenly Father. I’ve felt that my mission was more of a training center for life than anything else, especially now that I’m home and am having to apply what I’ve learned. Because now, I get to see that my mission truly taught me how to have an eternal perspective and love. It taught me how to forget myself and care for the welfare (spiritually and physically) of others. If you learn to start thinking the way your Father in Heaven and Savior do, then your mission is most definitely not the only time in your life that you recognize great blessings and are close to the Lord. Your mission is only to train you how to BE – it’s simply just the beginning.

Mosiah 3:19 says: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” After a mission, you now know yourself as a spiritual being as well as a physical being, or a natural man. So now, your job is to figure out how to balance the two – worrying about yourself enough to keep yourself strong physically and spiritually, but still serving others more than yourself.

It’s quite the fascinating journey, but I love it so much! I have continued to be amazed each time I look back at where I started and where I am now. Just when I think that there is no way I could progress anymore, the trials, lessons, then miracles and blessings pour down even more abundantly. I have learned to love trials and even look forward to them because I know that they are something that will make me better and stronger than who I was before. If we never fail to remember the Lord in every instance, true happiness and joy will always follow. Once we learn to look through heaven’s eyes and have unshakeable faith in our Savior, then we will be amazed at how much simpler, how much happier, and how much greater life is. You don’t have to serve a full-time mission to learn all these things. You just have to be searching for truth, peace and joy. That’s what the Gospel of Jesus Christ does for us. It brings us each of those things! It teaches us how to be like God in every way.

I know this not just because I’ve served a mission, but because I have faith and hope in my Savior Jesus Christ. Alma 32:27-28 says:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

  Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

Faith starts as a seed. It takes time to cultivate, to help it grow into a large, strong, beautiful tree. If your seed of faith is one that you continue to strengthen, it will enlarge your soul and bring you closer to Christ. All it takes is a tiny seed of faith to bring knowledge of truth and wisdom of how to use it.

I know my Savior and my Father, and I look forward to strengthening that knowledge and testimony every day for the rest of my life. Life truly is wonderful. The Lord is magnificent. I love them both. This knowledge has blessed me. It has allowed me to look forward with excitement and joy to the future, to trials and hardships, to happy times and to sad times. I know that it can do the same for you, but only if you let your life mission change you.