What I Know to be True: Book of Mormon

My testimony today is on the power of the Book of Mormon. It is a power that comes directly from God, therefore, it IS God’s power. Some of you may think I’m wrong or crazy or demented for even having the gall to say that. Some of you think there’s no way any book could have that much power. Some of you might be indifferent. If you are dead set against the Book of Mormon, I’m letting you know now that you might not like some of what I have to say today. I am choosing to bear testimony of what I know is true, and I feel that I need to share a few things that might singe your eyebrows a bit and possibly make you uncomfortable because of the boldness that I feel I need to use.

Whether it be because you believe it comes from Satan or that it teaches about Satan or that it might be a good book but still don’t consider it to be God’s word, whatever it is you think about the Book of Mormon, I’m not here to convince you otherwise. And I’m definitely not here to disregard the Bible because I fully believe that to be the word of God as well. However, I’m choosing to focus on the Book of Mormon because how much it has added to my testimony of scriptures in general and how much it specifically has changed my life. I’m here to share with you how I’ve found that it truly is the word of God and that I know it contains the power of God without any shadow of a doubt in my mind. I’m here to share with you why I would defend that book if my life depended on it and why I think you should take a little time to learn more about it if you are opposed to it. Why? Because if you think it comes from Satan, you either haven’t read it or you don’t understand it (see scriptures below) because the whole point of this wonderful book is to testify that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer and that the only way to find eternal life, joy, salvation and exaltation is through Him.

Throughout my life, I’ve read from the Book of Mormon on a regular basis, along with the Bible. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes both books to be the word of God – “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (Matthre 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1). But I never really studied either of them until I served a mission for 18 months. During that time, I read them together, which strengthened my testimony of both books and how much we need both of them TOGETHER. I mostly focused on the Book of Mormon, though, since that’s what we were teaching people about and I was able to read it completely through about four times. Even then I didn’t fully understand the significance of it in my life because I was immersed in it all day, every day. When I returned home and started to learn to adjust back to life as a regular person instead of a missionary, I began to struggle. Kind of a lot. Nothing terrible happened, I just realized I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wasn’t succeeding with what I wanted to do. Life just wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, particularly after being blasted by the Spirit of God for a full 18 months every day that I chose to let it. I felt a bit lost and pointless. I knew what was missing though – good daily scripture reading. I sometimes would go an entire day without realizing it until I was hopping into bed that I hadn’t yet read my scriptures that day. Some days I’d just say “well, I just don’t have time to study my scriptures the way I want to, like I did on my mission” (which was a full hour of personal study and then another hour of studying with my companion).

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One day I was voicing my troubles to my bosses and one of them said “You know the best advice I ever got when I got home from my mission? A friend told me to ALWAYS read from the Book of Mormon every day, even if you don’t have time to do anything else but read even just a couple of verses. Read the Book of Mormon every day and you’ll be just fine. And I did that and it was the best advice I ever got because guess what? I’m doing great!” So I took that advice and did just that. Every day that I read from the Book of Mormon, I have a better day. I can’t explain it except to say this: Almost every single page of the Book of Mormon mentions something to do with Jesus Christ. And because I made a point to read as much as I could every morning, every day began with my thoughts centered on the Lord. Now when I have a day where I get up late and can’t get to my scriptures until after I’ve gone through a couple classes, some practice hours and homework, I can literally FEEL the difference. I feel more stressed, more weighed down by the cares of the world rather than lifted up by faith, hope and love. I feel a lot more selfish, annoyed and frustrated with the people around me instead of willing to serve and love them the way I know I should. And all because I didn’t read the Book of Mormon.

So you think the Book of Mormon isn’t true, doesn’t teach righteous things or is something that goes against the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I testify that that is everything the Book of Mormon is NOT. The Book of Mormon is a book which testifies of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a book which uplifts, heals, strengthens, encourages and teaches good things. It is a source of comfort, peace, joy and guidance. Are any of those things good? Don’t all good things come from God?

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.” (2 Nephi 32:4)

“Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.” (Jacob 4:13)

“And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea. And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ. And this is not all – it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (Jacob 7:10-12)

“And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tonges; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them. For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.” (Mormon 9:7-10)

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)

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In closing, I want to just bear simple testimony – I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It fills me with such joy each day. I know that it was written to bear witness of Jesus Christ – who He is and what He’s all about. I know that because of what it teaches it can change your life in the same way (and in many other ways) that it has changed mine – for the better. It has been a major part of shaping me into who I am today and who I can become. It, most importantly, has taught me how to follow my Savior and become like Him in every way, though I’m still working on putting what I’ve learned into action and I am definitely still learning more every day.

Towards the end of the book, a prophet named Moroni shares his thoughts and asks us to do one thing:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)

I love this book with all my heart and I add my testimony to the many prophets, apostles and other disciples of Jesus Christ that it is TRUE. All of it. I know that without a doubt. I add my own personal invitation to that of this great prophet, Moroni – read the Book of Mormon with an open heart and mind and a desire to know if it’s true. Ask God specifically after you’ve read at least some of it and He will answer you if you are sincere and willing to listen for His answer. He wants His children to have truth and truth is all this book is about. I promise you that with all the power of my being and in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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“Feed My Sheep”

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Do you know what the difference between a shepherd and a sheep-herder are? A sheep-herder is one who herds the sheep – steers them where to go from behind, pushes them. A shepherd is one who leads, trusting that the sheep will follow. How is it that the sheep will follow him? Because they trust him, too. He takes the time to get to know them individually and make sure they know that he loves them, cares for them and that they can trust him. They know his voice and because they know they will be safe with him, they’ll follow and do whatever he says. If anyone else comes in that they don’t know, they’ll either run away or just not listen. THAT is the reason why Jesus Christ is often referred to as “the Good Shepherd.”

John 10:1-18 is one of my favorite passages. I’ve always loved the parable of the sheep and shepherd. Today as we discussed it in Relief Society, I came to love it even more. Verse 4 says: “…he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” It reminded me of a paragraph in Preach My Gospel (which full-time missionaries use as a study guide every day of their missions to teach and prepare them to be teachers of Christ’s Gospel) which gives a quote from President Boyd K. Packer: “A teacher of gospel truths is not planting something foreign or even new into an adult or a child. Rather, the missionary or teacher is making contact with the Spirit of Christ already there. The gospel will have a familiar ‘ring’ to them”.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not something we’ve never learned before. We lived with God before this life. He created our spirits and taught us the same truths we learn in our lives here. When we hear truth, occasionally we feel as if we’ve heard it before, even when we know we never had. At least, not in this mortal life. We feel that way because we HAVE heard it before. So when we hear Christ’s voice through the Spirit, or in truths, or wherever He might be, we KNOW who it is and we have the desire to follow Him. Whether we choose to or not is still up to us. We may feel the desire to follow very strongly or not quite so obviously, but that desire IS there. We choose to embrace it or push it away.

John 10:14 – “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” So who are His sheep? Who does He know and who knows Him? Well, we’ve already established that all of us know Him because every one of us on Earth once lived with Him. To me that means that He knows each one of us just as we know Him. Which means that each one of us are His sheep. Whether we acknowledge it or want it or don’t, we are His sheep and He knows each and every one of us. Some sheep are lost and wandering. Some are wild and refuse to listen to the Shepherd. And some are safe and have no reason to fear because they constantly choose to listen.

So which sheep are you?

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“In Jesus’ time, the Palestinian shepherd knew each of his sheep. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him. They would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. At night, the shepherds would lead their sheep to a corral or a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of the walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over. Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening and threatening them. Such a situation separated the true shepherd – one who loved his sheep – from the hireling who worked only for pay out of duty. The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in among the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger.”

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is exactly like the true shepherd. He HAS given His life for His sheep. He suffered in Gethsemane and on Golgotha so that we could overcome temptation, sin, pain, affliction and any other negative effects of this life. Without Him, we couldn’t survive the hungry wild animals that jump into the walls of our safe haven on occasion, and we most definitely won’t survive outside of the safe pen without Christ in our lives. If we do wander outside the walls He has created to keep us safe and happy, He is more than willing to leave the rest of the flock to come after us. He’s willing to jump in front of whatever danger we face because He loves us.

So I’ve asked which sheep you are. Let me ask you this: Which shepherd are you? Do you herd sheep from behind? Do you flee from the danger? Or do you love the sheep enough that they know they can trust you and follow you wherever you go without having to fear any danger? Would you do anything to keep your sheep safe and make sure that none of them are lost or killed?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a talk in the October 2012 General Conference entitled The First Great Commandment. It’s one of my favorite talks from conference and one I don’t think I could ever get tired of reading and studying. He retells the story of Christ asking Peter “do you love me?” and adds a few thoughts to enhance the story. I can’t even begin to say what Elder Holland says so I’ll share his own words:

“Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.” To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my non-scriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.” Then, turning to all the Apostles, He might well have said something like: “Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees? As Herod and Pilate? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did not my life and my love touch your hearts more deeply than this?””

If we are part of the fold who has been found and willingly listens to the True Shepherd, then we are called to be shepherds. As we go through this mortal life and choose to listen and follow our Savior, we learn through His example to be shepherds as He is.

The reason the sheep follow their shepherd when they hear His voice is because they love Him. The reason they love Him is because He loves them and shows it through every action and word He does or says. “The crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty” (Elder Holland). Because our Savior shows His loyalty to us, no matter what we ever do, all we ever feel from Him is love. Jesus Christ will always lead us to safety and never lead us astray. As sheep, and shepherds in training, it is our decision to allow ourselves to feel His love, see His loyalty and show the same in return.

As we follow the teachings and love of the Lord, we will always find peace and safety. On those occasions where a hungry wolf jumps into our safe shelter, we need only choose to trust our Shepherd as He gives everything He could ever give to protect us from harm. Following the Shepherd does not mean we can never be harmed. There are trials and difficulties in life we cannot escape, but the loyalty and love of our Savior can ease the burden and give us the strength we need to come through it all into a state of peace, comfort and joy.

I choose to be a sheep who willingly follows my Shepherd, and I choose also to be a shepherd in His stead. There are gifts, talents and experiences I can offer to the other sheep of the fold and to those who are lost and afraid. Because of who I am and what I’ve learned in my life, I can be a shepherd to others who have no one else to love and lead them. I’m not perfect and showing love isn’t always the easiest thing for me to do, but I am trying and I intend to continue trying as long as I continue to follow the True Shepherd.

Be Not Afraid by Greg Olsen

Be Not Afraid
by Greg Olsen

The Effects of Following the Spirit… or Not

So today is going to be short, sweet, and to the point. I just wanted to share an experience I’ve had that has actually been a really good life lesson. It’s one I’m sure I’ll have to learn again one day, but I really hope not. Since July I’ve been doing really well with staying focused and getting into a schedule and getting things done. It feels so good to do what I know I need to be doing in order to be accomplished, productive and successful. These are the things Heavenly Father needs me to do in order to become more like Him.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:124 it says: “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”

I may have written about this scripture a couple months ago, but I’ve learned a little bit more about why this particular verse is so important. I take these things that Heavenly Father is telling us to cease from doing or that we need to be doing as commandments. I’ve noticed that I’ve started to slip in my schedule and study habits and started being idle and just laying around…. “relaxing” is how I’ve justified it. “I deserve a break every once in a while, right?” RIGHT! But the way I’ve gone about taking my breaks is NOT the way I need to be taking breaks! I end up watching a movie or an episode of a TV show and then staying on the computer for a lot longer than I meant to (and even staying up later and having to sleep in later the next day because of it) especially when the episode ends in a cliff-hanger. But the worst part is that I consciously am choosing to stay on longer. I clearly have the thought “I need to stop now and do homework” but somehow I end up justifying it and don’t stop when I’m told.

I think that because I’ve been doing so well at not doing that for the past few months, the effects of not following the promptings of the Spirit are a lot stronger because I can more easily recognize when the promptings just stop because I just brush it away instead of embracing and listening to it. Let me tell you – when you don’t follow the Spirit, especially after having listened to it for a while, it wears down on you. For me, I can feel that I’m more grumpy, exhausted, annoyed at little things and selfish. I stop feeling happy and good. And I hate it! I know that I don’t like it and I want to change, but at the same time, I don’t. I just want to crawl into a hole and wait for it to change on its own. Changing your attitude can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, but I know what I need to do to keep it from happening again: LISTEN!

It takes discipline and the ability to recognize and listen to the promptings Heavenly Father is sending us because He knows what we need to be successful. It’s difficult and not always what we want to do, but I know that it’s completely worth it because my happiness, selflessness and fun levels go way up! So my goal this week is to always listen to the promptings, especially when I know I’m getting them. And when I want to take breaks, do something that will strengthen me instead of weaken me, like reading a good book or cooking instead of watching a movie. And if it’s something I need to do later, I want to also do better at writing them down and reviewing them later so that I will always be able to receive the knowledge and guidance I need to be better in my own life. I share this with you to keep myself accountable with something I really want to change in my life. And as much as I don’t enjoy learning lessons like this, boy am I so grateful for them because it teaches me time and time again what a loving Heavenly Father I have and the ability I have to change because of Him and my Savior.

I hope all of you will want to and choose to do the same because I know how it can change you and strengthen you and bring you closer to your Father in Heaven. I promise those things can happen if you’re simply just willing to listen to those things you can know and feel are right rather than those things that make you feel unhappy and groggy mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I promise your life will change for the better if you make a conscious effort to follow those promptings!

Have Fun and Don’t Die!

Always the one to have fun!

Always the one to have fun!

Today’s message is actually not really from me. It’s from my brother, Tyler. And it actually goes pretty well with General Conference. Anyone who knew Tyler knew how devoted he was to becoming a better disciple of Jesus Christ every day. He loved others and served them when he saw a need. He always had a desire to share his testimony with anyone who would listen. He definitely was full of joy and loved to laugh and joke around to make others laugh, too. (If you don’t know his story, you can read about it here).

Lately I’ve been remembering things about him and just really relishing each memory that comes to mind. I love thinking about all the fun times we’ve had, the advice he gave, the serious discussions we enjoyed. But a few times this week, I had a saying come time mind that he always said instead of saying good-bye. “Have fun and don’t die!” Usually it was just his way of saying “Good luck!” but it always made me laugh. This week, though, it hit me a little differently. I’ll come back to it in a bit.

The world we live in today is pretty scary, if you ask me. There’s a lot that’s going on that makes me cringe every time I get on the computer, look at a TV, or turn on the radio, but then it also makes me so much more grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the testimony I have. I’m so thankful for the prophet and apostles we have to guide us through today and keep what’s right constantly on our minds. This weekend in conference, a lot of the general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have touched on how we need to remember that if we keep our end of the deal, Heavenly Father will keep His in allowing us to always have His Spirit to be with us. Keeping our end of the deal means that we always remember Him and Jesus Christ, that we are always striving to be exactly obedient in keeping the commandments and our covenants and that we are willing to take His name upon us (AKA always be an example of Him in word and in deed). Those are the things that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have promised to do.

As difficult and painful as this mortal life, especially in this world, may be, we are taught: “Adam fell that man might be; Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). As we keep our covenants and are obedient to the Lord’s commandments, we WILL have greater joy ((watch a wonderful video about obedience and why they are so important to our eternal happiness here)! I know this because I see and feel it in my own life. I can honestly say that I have truly been happy for the past year since figuring all this out. In another verse of the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 28:7-8) it says in regards to our day and time (the latter days):

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us. And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”

We canNOT afford to think the way the world thinks because it is not the way God thinks and we ARE children of God. The Lord is full of grace and truth, but there is also justice. It’s one thing to make a mistake, but it’s completely different to say: “Well, I know it’s wrong, but I’m just having fun and God wants me to be happy, right?” According to 2 Nephi 2:25, yes, God DOES want His children to be happy! He wants more than anything for us to be happy for eternity and He knows better than we do that that isn’t going to happen if we do whatever we want. He doesn’t want us to live in sin and because we are human, it’s inevitable for us to make mistakes. But there’s no reason for us to encourage that behavior. No unclean thing can dwell with God and He wants every single one of us to live with Him again! Romans 8:6 teaches us that we can’t think like the world. We can’t live the way everyone else does and gain eternal life. We HAVE to stand above the world and live according to the way the Lord would have us do because THAT is the path to eternal life and happiness. Living the Lord’s way instead of our way is the only way that we’re ever going to be able to reach our full potential as divine sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven.

He's rooting for you!

He’s rooting for you!

So. Tyler’s message to us all is still the same as it ever was: “Have fun and don’t die!” but this time, instead of a simple good luck, he’s rooting for us to be happy, enjoy life and stay alive spiritually. I know that the only way to achieve all of these things together is by submitting my will to God’s. I know that, I know Tyler knows that, and I know God knows that and that is why all of us are cheering for YOU to come to know it for yourself and to do everything you can to act on that wonderful precious knowledge if you don’t already.

So now that I’ve told you, do you know it? If you do, then what are you going to do about it?