“O Remember, Remember…”

Lately I’ve been feeling a little… weighed down? Empty? I’m not sure the best way to describe but I just haven’t been as excited for life as I have been before. Not in a depressed kind of a way but in a “I can’t wait for the semester to be over/I can’t wait to graduate/I can’t wait for so and so to come home/I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait…” type of way. Just in case anyone was wondering, that’s not exactly the way life was intended to be lived. Instead of the “I’ll be happy when…” attitude, you’ve got to remember to be happy NOW. Make the most of your day. Sure you can look forward to the future and be excited for it, but you can’t live for it. There are things happening now that are much more important than what hasn’t happened yet – you can’t make time go any faster and you can’t jump to a place you want to be without first living in the now.

Somewhere along the way in my Gospel learning, I was told that the word ‘remember’ is one of the most common and most important words in the scriptures. Since that point, it has become one of my favorite words and every time I hear it or see it, I think back to what I learned about it. Bear with me for a minute while I explain some definitions (words fascinate me and actually help me look deeper into the meaning of things).

Remember: be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).

Awareness: knowledge or perception of a situation or fact OR concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.

So, according to these definitions, if we are remembering something, we are bringing back an awareness of something that happened in the past. I personally like the second definition of awareness as it pertains to Gospel matters, so I’ll go with that one. If we are aware of something, we understand it and it means something to us. Therefore, when we remember, we are recalling something that is meaningful and pertinent to us specifically. Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at a famous scripture from the Book of Mormon that uses this word (TWICE):

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)

Now take a minute to think about why the word remember (as we just defined it) has been used TWICE here…

Our foundation needs to be Jesus Christ and our tool for maintaining that foundation is remembering. We need to remember our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember everything He has ever done for you. Don’t think about the scriptures that tell you about what He’s done for you (though that’s very important, too). Think about the specific things in your own personal life that He has done especially for you. Remembering those things is what strengthens our foundation. When you forget them, it’s easy for the devil to send forth his mighty winds and drag you down.

The past few weeks while I’ve been less enthusiastic about life are weeks where I’ve started to forget the things that are most important to me. Not on purpose, of course. But life – school, being social, etc – things that are draining and stressful for me distract me from the things that bring me happiness and strength (the Gospel, selflessness, service, etc). Fortunately, we don’t have to be dependent on ourselves to remember.

I’m very thankful for one of my dearest friends who is serving his mission in Brazil at the moment. Every week, he sends out his weekly email and every week, I look forward to reading it. Just last week, I was wondering what I needed to change to get back into loving everything about my life when I got one of these emails. There wasn’t really anything specific that stuck out at me, it was just that I could tell how much he’s loving his mission because of the wonderful missionary experiences he’s been having over the past 18 months. And it reminded me of my own mission. I remembered teaching people and seeing the joy in their entire countenances when they could see how the Gospel was changing and influencing their lives for the better.

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My trainer and I bringing treats to brighten people’s days!

I remembered the smiles on the faces of people who allowed us to serve them, no matter how small the task was. I remembered helping others to cheer up when it seemed as though their entire world was crashing down around them. This included companions, fellow missionaries, random people on the street, active members, less-active members, people who wanted nothing to do with religion. All of that made me remember just how important the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is.

In a nutshell: It reminded me that my life is so much better when it isn’t mine. And I will be forever grateful to my friend for that gentle, unintended yet much needed reminder.

Today, I invite you to evaluate your life and remember what’s most important to you. Then ask yourself why is it most important? Should it be most important? If not, then what should? Then take time to remember the times of your life when you’ve been the happiest. Why were you so happy? What makes the difference? Whatever it is, I invite you to incorporate it into your life again, to remember and keep that memory close to heart and mind. Remember who you are – a child of a loving Father in Heaven whom you should never take for granted or forget – and remember (or find out) who you can become.

 

Defender of Truth… ALL of it

In light of recent happenings throughout the world and the United States, I feel a need to share something that might get me a lot of hate. But that’s not going to stop me because I feel that a great injustice is being done to a certain group of people and more people need to understand what’s happening. That being said, if you’re just going to argue with me about this point, please don’t. First of all, it’s not my goal to argue and prove other people wrong. My goal is to inform people and get them to go to actual sources instead of believing everything they hear in the media, whether it’s the news on TV or an article you found online. Second, I’m not a professional. I don’t know everything there is to know about this topic. But because of what I do know, I can’t stand aside and let it just slide on by.

First of all, let me remind you of a few things in history: In Christ’s time, Samaritans and Gentiles were looked upon as unclean because of their ethnicity/religion. World War II, where Japanese were put into internment camps in the US and Jews and other groups of people were thrown into concentration camps simply because of their ethnicity. In the 1830s, Mormons were massacred and driven out of the state of Missouri because of their religion.

Now look on what’s happening today: America wants to keep Muslims out of the country because of their religion.

Well, I have something to say about that. I am not Muslim. I don’t know a whole ton about that particular religion. I have not yet read the Quran. But I do know this: the religion called Islam does not teach terrorism. The majority of Muslims are peaceful people who are just trying to follow God in the way they know how. Unfortunately, yes there are people from that religion who have chosen to do terrible things throughout the world in the name of Islam and God and that brings a lot of sadness and pain to the world and to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually what their doctrine has taught them. In case you haven’t noticed, the natural man is an enemy to God. NOBODY is perfect. People interpret things completely differently than others sometimes, and those things end up getting skewed. Sometimes they get skewed big time. Just look at Christianity – how many denominations are there? How many versions of the Bible do we have? Why are there so many different types of the same thing? Because men have different ways of interpreting what was originally in place. It could be because they don’t like it so they change it. It might be because they don’t quite understand it so they just do the best they can. Whatever the case, Islam is no different than Christianity in that regard.

Now let me ask you another question: Before you go pointing fingers at another religion for all the things you don’t like about it or feel are wrong, why don’t you go study your own and make sure you know all the dark secrets about it? Do you know the doctrine taught by your own church? Do you know of any time throughout history where your religion had cases similar to what’s happening in Islam today? Cases where a group within the religion have decided to interpret the word of God in a completely wrong and different way? Because I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find at least one story that’s similar (I really enjoyed this article: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/13/opinion/sunday/13kristof-how-well-do-you-know-religion.html?_r=0 ).

I’d like to go back to the examples I used in the beginning and ask some more questions: Think of the Samaritans and Gentiles. Why did the Jews hate them? Because they believed differently and didn’t have the same standards as them. Think of the Japanese internment camps in World War II. Why were they all thrown into those? Because some other people from Japan had threatened the US so Americans freaked out, blew it out of proportion and punished the entire race just for being Japanese. What about the Mormons – why were they driven out of Missouri? Because the Missourians heard crazy rumors about the Mormons, didn’t like it and somehow skewed it in their minds that the Mormons were taking over when, in fact, all they wanted to do was live peacefully and do God’s will. A similar thing happened when Hitler threw all the Jews and gypsies and other people he didn’t like because of rumors or whatever else he heard about them that somehow made them all bad.

I don’t know about you, but I look back on these things and I think that it was the Jews, the US, the Missourians and Hitler who were all wrong in their actions here, not the Samaritans/Gentiles, the Japanese, the Mormons or the Jews. They judged an entire group of people based on either differences, rumors or the acts of a part of the group and that is NOT fair. It’s not fair because not all of the Samaritans/Gentiles even understood why they were hated simply for being different. It’s not fair because not all the Japanese were wanting to go to war with America. It’s not fair because not all… actually, almost none, if any of the Mormons wanted to take over Missouri. And the same for the Jews.

So why are we doing the same thing today with the Muslims?

Yes, we should be cautious because a lot of terrorists are Muslim. But that does NOT mean we need to bunch the entire religion into the category of “terrorist”. I’m sick of that happening, not just because it’s happened to Mormons and other religions and groups over time, but because it’s just plain wrong. It’s not Christ-like. It’s not compassionate or charitable and it’s not the truth.

When I chose to make covenants with God, I chose to stand for truth at ALL times, in ALL things and in ALL places. That doesn’t mean I only stand for truth when it’s convenient, or when it’s about my own faith, or when I’m standing in a room full of people who believe the same thing as me. No. It means I stand for truth whether people will hate me for it or not. It means I stand for truth even if it’s not my religion. I stand for truth and I defend it because that’s what God has asked of me, what I’ve promised to do and it’s also where God stands.

Where do YOU stand?

If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.
                                                  —Joseph Smith, 1843